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THE public may never learn of the recent UFO sightings made by pilots in our skies thanks to a piece of EU legislation, it has emerged.
Airline staff report a number of strange sightings to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) every year, it is understood.
The Sun reports since the MoD closed its UFO desk in 2009, the CAA has become the last British government organisation to retain an interest in UFOs and keep files on incidents involving civilian aircrews.
But it has decided not to release a dossier detailing sightings or incidents between 2011 and 2017.
Government files of this kind are normally available under the Freedom of Information Act, which allows any member of the public to request files from the government.
But the CAA is now using a piece of European legislation from 2014 to block access to its record of “occurrences”.
It states: “Occurrence information can only be used for the purpose of maintaining or improving aviation safety, and the release of occurrence information to the general public or the media, including in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, is not permitted.
“However, if you require occurrence information for the purpose of maintaining or improving aviation safety you are able to make an application to the CAA.”
One of the purposes of the legislation is to protect the identity of pilots who come forward to share details of strange sightings in the sky.
However, information obtained using FOIA is typically “redacted” to remove any identifying features like names and addresses.
David Clarke of Sheffield Hallam University’s department of journalism has previously been granted access to the files, but was shocked when his FOI request was refused earlier this year.
He told The Sun Online: “These have been collected and logged by the CAA since at least 1976.
“For many years the CAA has released this information under Freedom of Information without any evidence that commercial secrets or safety have been harmed or compromised.
“Indeed in 2012 the chief executive of Britain’s National Air Traffic Control Services, Richard Deakin, admitted in a BBC Radio 4 interview that his agency received reports of UFOs from civil aircrew somewhere in the world every month.
“But then they seem surprised that curious individuals might want to see details of these incidents using Open Government legislation.
“Now they are using a piece of European Regulation to block public access to these records.
“The only conceivable reason for this change of policy is embarrassment on the part of the aviation industry. It does not want to admit that its pilots do occasionally report things in the sky that are difficult to explain.
“To improve public confidence in air safety, the authorities should be proactively promoting open access to records of this type.”
The move to block the release of these records is certain to set conspiracy theorist’s tongues wagging.
But when quizzed, the Civil Aviation Authority told the Sun Online that the files were available — if you could prove you were going to use the information to further safety in the sky.
It is not available to journalists or the general public.
A spokesman said: “The Mandatory Occurrence Reporting (MOR) scheme requires individuals and organisations within the aviation industry to report safety occurrences to the CAA, with the intention that these reports are used to constantly improve safety levels.
“Information held by the CAA under the MOR system may be made available, for the purpose of improving aviation safety, subject to completing this application form.”
It’s unclear whether Brexit will open up the files to the public again — but there’s a two year wait until the divorce is settled.
When asked if Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority collects similar information, news.com.au was told there was no database of information.
However, CASA said its view of UFOs is that if they follow the aviation safety rules they are welcome to share the skies.