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Type: Lake Michigan Triangle
Date: April and May 2000
Location: Lake Michigan Triangle
Source: UFO Roundup
, Volume 5, Number 21, May 25, 2000
RADAR SPOTS "GHOST PLANES" IN LAKE MICHIGAN TRIANGLE
For the past five weeks, air traffic controllers at the
O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois have been seeing
images of "ghost planes" on their radar sets, usually in the skies of
the Lake Michigan Triangle. The Triangle is an area of Lake Michigan
which runs from Ludington, Michigan south to Benton Harbor, Mich., then
across the lake to Manitowoc, Wisconsin and then back to Ludington.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, "False radar images have been
popping up on the screens of O'Hare International Airport's air traffic
controllers, forcing pilots to take sudden turns unnecessarily."
"At least a dozen 'ghost planes' have been reported during the last few
weeks, the newspaper said, citing documents from the Terminal Radar
Approach Control Center in Elgin, Illinois (population 78,000)."
"Controllers said that at least a few times they have ordered pilots to
take sudden turns to avoid what appeared to be planes on their radar,
potentially putting passengers at risk."
"'The ghosting is a complete terror for air traffic controllers,' said
Charles Bunting, president of the Elgin local the National Air Traffic
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesman Tony Molinaro "said
there have been 13 ghost images in the last five weeks rather than the
usual eight or nine the FA would normally expect in this time period.,
'meaning we shall need to look into them.'"
"But Mike Egan, vice president of the controller's union at Elgin,
accused the FAA of playing down the problem. 'Maybe 130, but not 13,'
Egan said Friday (May 19, 2000). 'We had a couple of them today, as a
matter of fact. They know there's a problem.'" (See the Chicago
Sun-Times for May 21, 2000. Many thanks to Steve Wilson Sr. for this
FYI I've posted the full article below. - Jim
(UFO Roundup Editor Joseph Trainor's Comment: It's possible that the
recent upsurge in solar activity is behind this phenomenon. Either
causing the "ghost plane" echoes themselves. Or by "opening the
Triangle" and allowing the O'Hare radar sets to sweep the skies of the
past...or the future.)
Source: Chicago Sun-Times, May 21, 2000
Ghost planes plague O'Hare
BY ROBERT C. HERGUTH TRANSPORTATION REPORTER
Air traffic controllers who handle flights around O'Hare Airport are
seeing a frightening increase in "ghosts," bogus radar images of
airplanes that don't really exist or are actually hundreds of miles
Over the last few weeks, at least a dozen such images have mysteriously
appeared on radar scopes at the Terminal Radar Approach Control
facility in Elgin, according to interviews with air traffic controllers
and documents obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
At least a few times, controllers said, they have ordered pilots to
take sudden evasive actions: "immediate right turn," "immediate left
turn," "descend immediately." Such maneuvers, which can put passengers
at risk, were later found to be unnecessary.
No near collisions have occurred, but documents give details of the confusion caused by ghost radar images.
On April 19, an air traffic controller spotted a "target" 18 to 20
miles northeast of O'Hare, when the aircraft in reality was departing
DuPage County Airport.
Earlier this month, an airplane appeared on the scope north of O'Hare,
at 4,000 feet, when actually it was on final approach to Midway
Airport, the documents show.
"The ghosting is a complete terror for the air traffic controllers,"
said Charles Bunting, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers
Association local at Elgin.
The control center in west suburban Elgin handles traffic within a
40-mile radius of O'Hare, the world's second-busiest airport. The
area's other main air-traffic centers are in Aurora and at O'Hare.
Another problem has cropped up on the same Airport Surveillance Radar-9
scopes, which have been used since 1992. Controllers have seen
malfunctions of radar software that displays aircraft altitude, flight
numbers and airspeed.
The problems apparently are unrelated but together are increasing
opposition by air traffic controllers to the planned resumption of a
test procedure that can squeeze more arrivals into O'Hare airspace.
The procedure, known as CAPS, or Compressed Arrival Procedures,
vertically stacks airplanes around O'Hare. Already tested on some
O'Hare flight corridors, the CAPS procedures would allow stacking of
planes only 1,000 feet apart.
"The airlines and the FAA want to do this . . . to reduce delays within
the system and get the aircraft here quicker," said Bunting, of the
"Our problem is--and we want to do everything we can to enhance the
efficient flow of air traffic into the facility--in light of this radar
situation that's developing here, we don't feel it's a viable time to
conduct these tests when safety can be compromised because of it."
CAPS testing might resume next month, Tony Molinaro, a spokesman for
the Federal Aviation Administration, said Friday. But a final decision
on whether to implement the stacking on an arrival corridor northeast
of O'Hare hasn't been made. Currently, arrivals are typically single
Molinaro said the testing wasn't designed to coincide with an expected
jump in flight operations caused by the phaseout of O'Hare flight
And Molinaro said that neither the stacking procedures nor the radar "glitches" should worry airline travelers.
"Over the past five weeks there have been 13 unsubstantiated reports,
meaning we still need to look into them and see if they're
substantiated ghosting events," Molinaro said. "Over that time period
you'd expect eight or nine reports from controllers, so it's a little
more than normal.
"At the surface they look random, and that's why managers feel they're
not a significant problem, but we'll still look at every single one. If
someone puts up a construction tower or crane temporarily, those type
of things can cause" a ghost image.
But Mike Egan, vice president of the controllers union at Elgin, said
Friday the FAA is downplaying what has been an increasingly common
"That's a bald-faced lie," he said about the FAA's figure of 13 ghost
incidents. "Maybe 130, but not 13. We had a couple of them today, as a
matter of fact. I had one this afternoon. . . . They know there's a
Bunting added: "When they first installed [the radar equipment], we had
problems. For whatever reason, something has happened. Not only is it
back, it is worse than before."
An American Airlines pilot with more than 20 years of experience who
frequently flies to O'Hare said he never has had to take evasive action
for a "false target." However, he has been asked by controllers to
search for an aircraft while he was airborne, only to find out it was a
He said he's not worried by the increased number of false images,
citing his confidence in the onboard Traffic Collision Avoidance
System, which alerts pilots of dangerously close aircraft.
But he wishes "the federal government would dig into the trust fund and
update the air traffic control system." With new hardware, such
glitches could probably be minimized, he said.
Paul Hudson, executive director of the watchdog group Aviation Consumer
Action Project, agreed. Noting that some equipment is so old "they
don't make it anymore," he said the age alone sometimes contributes to
Controllers said another safety problem stems from the radar software,
which displays airspeed, flight number and altitude on the ASR-9 scope.
The Automated Radar Terminal System has been getting knocked out when
the number of flight plans filed by flight crews tops 250. That happens
on busy days, when radar might be needed the most.
The FAA said it is working on the problem. "What we found out a few
months ago is, if too much flight plan data was stored, the computer
program would kick out some data," Molinaro said. "But we found that
out immediately, and we do have a contingency for that now. Our
technical folks, whenever it's a busy day, they monitor the data
storage and every 15 minutes . . . they take out any secondary data so
the primary important data would not be touched."
He said an FAA technical center is "working on a patch to fix the
glitch, and we expect to get that installed" in August at Elgin. "It
truly hasn't caused any delays or posed any safety problems."
But he conceded that some of the software problems, which have taken
different forms since new software arrived two years ago, persist at
the Elgin center, which last year handled 1.36 million operations.
That's a lot of airline passengers, said David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association in Washington.
"The air traffic control system only runs efficiently when the
controllers have confidence in their equipment," Stempler said. "This
is not good." The FAA "should get it fixed immediately before we do
have a safety problem."