Former fighter pilot Lt. Cmdr. Alex Dietrich finds herself in the center of a media storm ahead of a highly anticipated government report on UFOs, a subject she has had little interest in even though she might has actually seen one.
“I don’t consider myself a whistle blower… I don’t identify as a UFO person,” Dietrich says from her hotel room in Boulder, Colorado where she is temporarily located.
During a routine training on the USS Nitmiz off the coast of Southern California in November 2004, Dietrich and her then commanding officer Cmdr David Fravor were asked by another aircraft carrier, USS Princeton, to investigate possible UFOs in the area that were moving in an inexplicable fashion.
“We noticed something in the water that seemed to be disturbing the water or making it churn. And in all of us looking down into that same side of water, we were able to then visually pick up what we describe as a Tic-Tac, because that’s what it looks like, this white oblong shaped object that was moving very fast and then Cmdr Fravor turned to engage with it, pulled a maneuver to try to get some angles on it, and it appeared to respond in a way that we didn’t recognize and it surprised us because it didn’t appear to have any visible flight control surfaces or means of propulsion,” Dietrich recalls, adding she went through a “roller coaster of emotions” when saw the object.
A video recording of what Dietrich and Fravor saw that day, now popularly known as the Tic-Tac video, will be part of the upcoming government report along with two other declassified videos shot aboard U.S. Navy fighter jets in 2015 that purportedly show UFOs or unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP).
The grainy black-and-white videos, titled “GIMBAL”, “GOFAST” and “FLIR1” were released over a period of four months in 2017 and 2018 by To The Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences.
The videos generated even more attention when in September 2019, the U.S. Navy confirmed to various U.S. media outlets they were authentic.
Dietrich, now a mother of three, is in the middle of relocating to another state across the country.
Working from the hotel room which she shares with her three children and two dogs, Dietrich addresses dozens of video calls from journalists curious to know exactly what she saw in November 2004. Her answer remains the same, as it has for the last 17 years.
“We don’t know what it was, but it could have been a natural phenomenon in human activity. But the point was that it was weird and we couldn’t recognize it,” Dietrich says.
Juggling media queries amid a cross-country move is exhausting but Dietrich wants to reduce the stigma attached to reporting UFO sightings and hopes more people can speak up without fear of ridicule.
“Folks might be concerned about their careers or their church or something like that. They don’t want to be the kooky UFO person, so I guess I’m trying to normalize it by talking about it,” Deitrich says.
Public fascination with unidentified flying objects has been stoked in recent weeks by the forthcoming report, with UFO enthusiasts anticipating revelations about unexplained sightings many believe the government has sought to discredit or cover up for decades.
The report is due to be released by the end of June, but according to preliminary details reported by the New York Times, U.S. intelligence officials found no evidence that unidentified aerial phenomena observed by Navy aviators in recent years were alien spacecraft, but the sightings still remain unexplained.
Senior U.S. officials cited in the Times article said the report’s ambiguity meant the government was unable to definitively rule out theories that the unidentified phenomena might have been extraterrestrial in nature.
Dietrich has no opinion on the report. She would like to hear more from pilots who have had similar UFO sightings.
“I recognize that,” Dietrich says of the GOFAST video, in which excited pilots can be heard reacting to what may be a UFO. “That sounds just like we were on that day in November of 2004. So there’s a common humanity, I guess, of being a little bit shocked, a little bit delighted, a little bit nervous, confused, all of that. And so recognizing that in another human, that can be comforting in a way.”
UFO believers, sceptics and conspiracy theorists have pursued Dietrich in the years since she reported her UFO sighting. As UFOs receive mainstream attention, with even former president Barack Obama weighing in, Dietrich hopes the interest in this controversial subject will gradually die down.
“I hope I’m not the UFO, Tic-Tac person for the rest of my life. This is not what I envisioned for myself,” she laughs.
(Production: Pavithra George)