Pacific Flyer lets me down

I am a fan of, and happy subscriber to, Pacific Flyer magazine. Anyone who loves aviation should be. Pilots are a conservative bunch, and occasionally Pacific Flyer will veer toward anti-government conspiracy mongering; but I forgive them that since the info on classic planes, air shows, aviation news, and current events is the best available.

But in their March 2012 issue, I had to write in about a particular article. It was a very positive review of a book, Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base by Annie Jacobsen. I haven’t read it, and don’t intend to; you’ll see why in a moment. Sadly, I came across the following in the review:

The spacecraft that crashed at Roswell were actually flying saucers and they did have crews, she reports. But they didn’t come from outer space; they came from Russia, built by a couple of Nazi brothers captured by the Russians at the end of the war.

And the crew? Children with large, misshapen heads, outsized eyes, and other imperfections designed to create a “War of the Worlds” scenario in the US. Stalin was apparently hoping to create a panic among the US populace when word got out about what they found.

But the builders left equipment inside that had cyrillic lettering, making the source obvious. Wisely, the US clamped down on all publicity, claiming they were just weather balloons (there were two of them). This fascinating insight takes up an entire chapter.

I was less fascinated by the “insight” than the reviewer. I will claim to have serviceable expertise on a number of points mentioned in Pacific Flyer’s review; notably, Nazi UFOs and the Roswell incident (which never had any connection to Area 51). I wrote the following letter to the editor:

I had to do a double-take, and am still reeling, from your publication of a positive review of a book promoting Nazi UFOs and the “crash” at Roswell. This has no place in responsible aviation reporting.

I’d hoped my letter might get printed. I doubt it will be, as I quickly received the following reply (in its entirety):

Read the book; then you’ll be qualified to criticize it.


I left it there. Some battles are best left unfought.

About Brian Dunning

Science writer Brian Dunning is the host and producer of Skeptoid.
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12 Responses to Pacific Flyer lets me down

  1. Henk v..The TV remote is still stuck??? says:

    This always happens when you start of investigating the achievements of Dr. Albert Hofmann and end up reinventing the typewriter from spaghettios and corn chips and putting it to “good use”..

    Thankfully, Ive confined my 35 year investigative research into famous people to Keith Richards and Ron Wood..Things get a little tough after about 6pm but other wise reality remains reality.

    These ridiculous claims still do not support the fact that alien or no, a flying saucer requires some pretty nifty technology that has immense energy implications…why, after having a hot number like that in their hands would the CCCP build simple and expensive BWR’s post WW2?

    If it were undecipherable and unfathomable alien technology to fly and guide (or relativity so…forgive pun) there would be a hell of a lot of technology disseminated into society almost immediately and we would have had a much better grip on life sciences.

    Alien or no, unguided incredibly energetically efficient craft that just has safe landing issues would have foreshortened current wars with a spread of international bon homie with regard to cheap and efficient energy.

    Mind you, the number of air traffic controllers would had increased ten fold..apparently the buggers are a bitch to land..

    But then again, this could have been a wild application of Schrödinger’s thought experiment…what is in that box I am too lazy to open.

    Christmas and birthday’s may have great anticipation around the authors household..They could all be empty presents.

  2. Louise Hudson says:

    Maybe you should have written back, “Read my letter then you may be qualified to criticize it.”

    If l were you, I’d give up on Pacific Flyer but I’d write letters and articles about it for other publications. Have you tried Skeptical Inquirer? This sort of thing needs publicity.

  3. Popular Mechanics had a nice article about the book. The conclusion is that she wrote a pretty well-written, though inaccurate, book and threw a bunch of Nazi UFO crap in at the end. I can’t believe her editor let her get away with it.


      Mike, a;

      “a pretty well-written, though inaccurate, book and threw a bunch of Nazi UFO crap in at the end.”

      is appropriately called fiction.

      I’d prefer to watch Helboy 2…at least that covered some great mythologies in a truly inventive ways. Dammit, thats almost tantamount to saying Raiders was a documentary..

      Writing a well written book that is inaccurate and includes a bit of gargle at the end is hardly a nice review..Unless Pop Mech has changed since I was a kid..

    • Brandon says:

      I remember reading that Popular Mechanics article. The Air Force personnel she interviewed seemed very upset about the stuff she stuck in at the end.

      • Henk v. says:

        This, sadly is very common for fictionalising authors..There are may ways to include conspiracy into a tome or documentary.

        Sadly, I am going to get “looky heres” about Roswell, nazis etc etc because somebody is perpetuating a myth that started in the late sixties.

        Roswell clearly is a conspiracy..but it aint a guvmint one.. its from the fertile imagination of the glory seeking inept.

  4. Wayman Dunap says:

    Boys, boys. It’s the reviewer’s job to tell you what’s in the book. You’re shooting the messenger again. He didn’t say he believed it, he told you what the author said. Why does that make the newspaper (Pacific Flyer) inauthentic? No matter, it went out of business anyway.

    Wayman Dunlap
    Former Editor
    Pacific Flyer

    • Nate Wilburn says:

      You know you did a great job with your publication when people are still crying over itty bitty things that really don’t make a pinch of difference. I personally miss Pac Flyer and always will. It was like a death in the family. A void that probably never will be filled. Hope retirement is treating you well, Wayman.

    • Brian Dunning says:

      Wayman, my read was that the reviewer was endorsing the nonsense promoted by the author. If my read was bad then I apologize, but it might have been better if the reviewer (clearly more knowledgeable than the hapless Jacobsen) had more clearly pointed out that Jacobsen’s conspiracy nutbaggery was pure fiction.

      I am very sad to longer be enjoying Pacific Flyer. I hope it finds a comeback.

  5. Pacific Flyer is out of business?!?!?

  6. Nate Wilburn says:

    Yep. Unfortunate for those of us who really enjoyed reading it. I even enjoyed the letters to the editor that nit-picked and belly-ached, because Mr. Dunlap always had a great comeback line. And if he knew he had goofed, he would apologize and take full credit. There isn’t a replacement for the Pacific Flyer. You might thumb through a copy of Air Classics or Flight Journal for a bit of relief from Pac Flyer withdrawls, but the satisfaction won’t be complete. The finest aviation newspaper has gone the way of Wings and Airpower magazine.

  7. Jackie Lanpher says:

    Hey Wayman,

    Sorry to hear about the Pacific Flyer. It would be great to hear from you so sent me an email. Say Hi to Candy.

    Jackie Lanpher

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