UFO or not UFO? Area 51 declassifying pours cold water on theory

A former engineer at the top secret airfield "Area 51" in Nevada has spoken out about UFO sightings in the region in the 1960s, saying the witnessed flashes of light were part of top secret US aircraft experiments.

In an interview with ABC News, Thornton "T.D." Barnes, 72, a former special-projects engineer at Area 51 said: "No one really knew we existed. Even our wives didn't know where we were going when we left Monday morning and came back Friday evening."

Barnes was an electronics engineer for NASA who also specialised in advance radar and Soviet MiG fighter aircraft and was asked to join a team of CIA experts who would work on secret military projects at the infamous base.

UFO folklore has it that Area 51, about 80 miles north northwest of Las Vegas, is where captured aliens and their spacecraft have been stored by the US military. The conspiracy theory comes in part because of the preponderance of strange, unaccounted for lights that have been seen in the region of the top secret military base.

However Barnes poured cold water on the theory saying the "alien spaceships" were in fact light flashes from top secret spy planes being flown at 2,000 miles per hour at altitudes of 90,000 feet.

The experimental planes produced light flashes that some interpreted as alien spaceships and this was considered helpful by the team in covering their activities.

"We considered it to be a bonus," said Barnes. "They made it easier to conceal what we were doing."

However some ufologists have said the area has only been partly declassified and UFO work at the base may well have carried out though in a region unknown to engineers such as Barnes.

"Those guys who came forward may very well be telling the truth, with the caveat that they wouldn't know if there was something going on," said Stanton T. Friedman, a nuclear physicist, lecturer and top UFO researcher.

Friedman added that evidence coming out of places such as Area 51 proved how much was going on in the country without peoples' knowledge.

"National security has a real place in all of this stuff. There is no way to tell your friends without telling your enemies," he said. "A lot of Americans woke up to the fact that there's a lot going on that they don't get told about."

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