Luis Sanchez, Chilean Director of Skywatch International said this was the first time such an organization had attached its name to a confirmed UFO observation statement. La Direccion General de Aeronautic Civil wrote that they publicly recognised that Chile was experiencing UFO sightings and that the phenomenon was real, not a natural, convntionnal phenomenon such as meteorotic or climatic.
The event that started this official recognition was a very seriously documented observation by the staff of an air traffic control tower at the Chacalluta International Airport in Arica, the northernmost city in Chile. On Monday, 31st March, 1997, at 12:55am, three UFOs were visually seen by the staff from the control tower and recorded on radar. They were tracked at speeds up to 8,000 mph according to the eyewitnesses, over the Pacific Ocean, near Morro de Arica. They remained there for two hours. At about 3.00am, the objects "flew away at very high speed," heading for the Andes.
The Airport's director, Julio Schettner stated that the UFOs hovered "at an altitude between 3,000 and 4,500 metres and emitted blue, red, green and yellow lights which made them clearly visible to the naked eye. In our tower, it was not possible to track them on radar, so we contacted the radar control rooms in (Arequipa) Peru and Santiago (de Chile). None of them had flights registering in Arica at that moment."
Schettner said that he had been doubtful about the existence of UFOs, but not anymore," adding that they left Arica "at an astonishing speed."
On Wednesday 2nd April 1997, the Direccion General de Aeronautica Civil (DGAC), Chile's civilian aeronautical ministry, announced that the three UFOs in Arica had been confirmed on radar, DGAC radar and Fuerzas Aereas de Chile (FACh) Air Force radar tracked the Arica UFOs "travelling at speeds of up to 12,800 kilometres (8,000 miles) per hour."
In the capital, Santiago de Chile, a DGAC spokesman said, "Chile is experiencing OVNIs" (Spanish acronym for UFO).
The other top reason that explains Chile's recognition and openness about the UFO question is that General Ramon Vega, former Commander of FACh, the Chilean Air Force, has personnally observed UFOs on two occasions while in the air.
The well known J. Antonio Huneeus reflected this official recognition with this article in Date Magazine:
CHILEAN GOVERNEMENT ESTABLISHED UFO BUREAU:
by J. Antonio Huneeus
Consulting Editor, FATE Magazine
At the end of 1997, Chile joined the handful of nations which at one time or another have conducted official UFO probes.
The Chilean Air Force (FACH) recently announced the formation of CEFAA, the name of which translates into English as the Committee for the Study of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena. CEFAA is attached to the General Administration of Civil Aeronautics (DGAC), the Chilean equivalent of the FAA. It will study aircraft and radar cases, but will not collect UFO reports from the public.
The director of the School of Civil Aeronautics, Colonel Enzo Dinocera, will head CEFAA. Gustavo Rodriguez Navarro, a retired air traffic controller with an interest in pilot UFO sightings, will serve as secretary.
According to La Tercera, Chile's largest daily newspaper, the promoter of the project was General Ramon Vega, former FACH commander in chief and head of its Foundation for Aerospace Studies, who is also a senator.
A few months before the official announcement, I had the opportunity to interview General Vega and Gustavo Rodriguez during a visit to Chile. I was attending a UFO symposium at the University of Santiago. One of the speakers was Dr. Mario Dussuel, a psychiatrist who studies abduction cases. He arranged a meeting in General Vega's private office. Argentine Ufologist and filmmaker Alex Chionetti was also present at the informal conversation.
From the start, it was obvious that General Vega was totally convinced of the reality of UFOs and wasn't interested in discussing whether they exist. He said he was working on "a project to collect UFO aircraft and radar cases" and he was well-acquainted with UFOlogical, aeronautical, and metaphysical subjects.
General Vega acknowledged he had had two UFO sightings during his FACH career. One looked like a fireball flying horizontally above a mountain outside Santiago. The other occurred in the north when he was flying in formation with two other jets. The base notified the pilots it had picked up an unknown object in their vicinity. "I looked up from the cabin and I very briefly saw something like a white sheet passing above my jet," recalled General Vega. "Everything went so fast that one of the other pilots never saw it."
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