I have nothing left to say about this dopey story, but after two posts yesterday and upwards of a thousand comments, we need closure.
Let’s call this … the official version:
The Department of Defense said Wednesday that it was satisfied the event was likely caused by an airplane.
“With all the information that we have gathered over the last day and a half about this condensation trail off the coast of southern California on Monday night, both within the DoD and other U.S. government agencies, we have no information to suggest this was anything other than a contrail caused by an aircraft,” said Col. David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman…
Lapan said the government looked at lots of data sources other than the CBS news tape. He would not get into the details of what those data sources were, but said that evidence helped determine this was most likely an aircraft. But most importantly, it was the response from all other government agencies saying they did not launch anything that convinced them this was likely an aircraft.
An intrepid blogger thinks he’s actually pinpointed which flight it was — U.S. Airways 808, en route from Honolulu to Phoenix and spotted by that Cali news copter while it was over the ocean and headed inland. Follow the link and have a peek at the screencap he grabbed last night from a webcam that looks out over the ocean. The contrail from yesterday’s Flight 808 sure does bear a striking resemblance to the “missile launch” on Monday night.
And yet, questions remain. Let’s call this … Truth:
Doug Richardson, the editor of Jane’s Missiles and Rockets, examined the video for the Times of London and said he was left with little doubt.
“It’s a solid propellant missile,” he told the Times. “You can tell from the efflux [smoke].”
Richardson said it could have been a ballistic missile launched from a submarine or an interceptor, the defensive anti-missile weapon used by Navy surface ships.
Jane’s is a respected outfit as far as I know and the Times of London is of course a respected paper. There’s no reason to believe that this guy’s a crank, although he could of course simply be mistaken. Which, according to the editor of GlobalSecurity.org, he is:
John Pike, a defense and aerospace expert who runs GlobalSecurity.org: “This thing is so obviously an airplane contrail, and yet apparently all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t find someone to stand up and say it.” He added, “I guess the president’s out of town.”
The object, Pike said, was moving too slowly to be a missile, adding: “There’s a reason that they’re called rockets.”
Here’s an interview with a Fox News expert from this afternoon’s Studio B. Verdict: It’s a plane, dummy. Safe to put this one to bed now?