~Evidence a video exists of his encounter~
With recent release of the DNI UAP report to Congress, not to mention any number of obscure videos seeming to appear from nowhere, it is rarely mentioned now that there is one video everyone would have liked to see. That would be the actual video of the 2004 Nimitz encounter witnessed by Navy pilots David Fravor and Alex Dietrich. Their encounter still draws the most credible interest in conversations and news broadcasts, though only recently has Dietrich been willing to publicly talk about her own experience. From the beginning however, the public was led to believe there was no video of the object Fravor encountered that day. But now, an in-depth look at the available facts shows there is good reason to think there is an actual videotape recording of Fravor’s encounter with the “Tic Tac”.
Fravor has consistently implied there was no video recording made, usually referring to having not turned on his helmet-cam. Nevertheless, there have been times he has made reference to ‘his tapes’, leaving the question hanging. In most of his interviews the talk usually shifts from his own experience to discussion of the “FLIR1” video (allegedly taken by Chad Underwood some hours later). Occasionally, the story of his own encounter followed by talk of this video seems to blur the line between his flight and Underwood’s later flight. Nevertheless, for all the respect I have for David Fravor and the others involved, several things lead me to suspect there is more to the story. It is worth remembering there were three aircraft and five people present during the encounter. Fravor and his weapon systems officer, Alex Dietrich and her WSO…and Douglas Kurth circling above them the entire time.
The release of the FLIR1 video was reportedly obtained by Lue Elizondo in 2017 (and possibly leaked to Chris Mellon). Subsequently, a series of email exchanges and documents were revealed appearing to substantiate Elizondo’s efforts. Through a security review process called a “DOPSR Request”, Elizondo asked to have the FLIR1 video and 2 others released as “Unclassified”. In an email dated Aug 9, 2017, someone (name redacted) responded to Elizondo and Michael Russo (of DOPSR) saying:
A few minutes later this same person apparently wrote again to say:
Obviously this person had information that NAVAIR had some control over one or all of the videos, and then also felt the need to reaffirm to Elizondo and Russo that until further notice the files were still to be considered SECRET. In a subsequent Clearance Request for Public Release form stamped Aug 24, 2017, the Remarks section contains the wording “OCA is NAVY” indicating the original classification authority was the Navy. In the same section on the opposite side of the form is also stamped “Cleared for Open Publication”, presumably indicating that as of that date the three videos were unclassified and could be used for whatever Elizondo intended.
In 2019 when I filed a FOIA request with ONI for all records related to the Nimitz encounters—including videos—that request was denied in full citing the potential for “grave damage” to national security. At the same time however, ONI did acknowledge there was a video classified SECRET for which the original classification authority was NAVAIR…the same command contacted in 2017 regarding Elizondo’s requests! If at the time of my 2019 request ONI had been referring to the FLIR1 video, the same video widely seen today, then it had already been declassified two years earlier for Elizondo. So what video was still secret at the time of my 2019 request?
After the “grave damage” denial I immediately filed my own follow-up with NAVAIR requesting a copy of the video to which ONI had referred. In May, 2020 I wrote again, this time asking directly whether the video in question was one of the three that had already been released to Elizondo. FLIR1 would have been the only one relevant to the 2004 Nimitz encounters, in which case it might have made my earlier request moot. But the reply I received did not even mention my question and only said they are still backlogged. So the question remains—if FLIR1 had already been declassified two years earlier, then what video could NAVAIR have related to the Nimitz events that is still classified Secret?
A second reason to wonder about the existence of an actual video of Fravor’s encounter comes from a rather unique description of the events given by David Fravor himself. During a 2019 interview with Vincent Aiello on “The Fighter Pilot Podcast”, further along in their conversation Fravor again says there was no video of his encounter and discusses Underwood and the FLIR1. But early in this interview, in a more casual conversation about what happened when he first got back to the carrier, the conversation sounds decidedly different. I have asked several people to read this narrative carefully and give their opinion of whose “tapes” Fravor is referring to, and the answer is always the same… (Begins at 36:02 in the audio):
VA: “So when you landed, as we usually do, you’d probably run down to CVIC…Combat…I don’t even remember what it’s called anymore.”
DF: “Carrier Intelligence Center. CVIC.”
VA: “Okay, there you go. Thank you. And you’re probably talking about it and, I mean I’m just curious. So the Air Wing Commander or Ship’s Commander, anyone come in and ask you about it?”
DF: “No. This is where it gets…at first we thought…okay this is, this is kind of odd. We’ve got something that we have…we can’t control. We can’t, you know…for the performance of it, you know, anything that hovers like that, does not accelerate like…you know. And you’ve seen…you know, I’ve seen airplanes doing 1.8 going by me doing the high fast like at Top Gun where guys are, you know, you just see the CONS coming. But to see something that literally accelerates. ’Cause even if you go to Mach II, think of a rocket that takes off. You watch it and those things accelerate relatively quick but you can watch them for a
significant period of time. This thing literally disappeared in a matter of, you know, less than a second. It was in front of me and it was gone.”
So, we think, “Oh yeah, someone’s gonna come and talk to us.” So, we had the tapes. My back-seater went down ‘cause he was junior. He did the debrief in CVIC. And, you know, you gotta tell them what’d you do: “Oh we chased this thing. We have no idea what it was.” And then, of course, they’re laughing ‘cause they think it’s funny. And he comes back to the ready room. And there’s some other stuff that went on. So, we’re like, ‘Okay, maybe someone’s gonna come. And the next thing you know, the intel guy comes down and says, “Hey, we want…we need your tapes. They’re gonna start this investigation.” And they’re making like it’s a big deal. The problem was it wasn’t a big deal because we figured out they thought it was a big funny joke that they would do this. So I remember going down there and I told my…I told Del, I said, “I’ll be back…I’m gonna go get those tapes.”
VA: “Del was your XO?”
DF: “Yeah. And I went into the uh…I went into CVIC and I said, “Hey, I need my tapes” and everyone just looked at me and I said, “I’ll tell you what. You got about two minutes to give me those tapes or I’m gonna tear this place apart and there’s not a damn thing you’re gonna do about it.” And the Lieutenant that was in there…and I said, “You can go get your boss if you want ‘cause I’ll have the same talk with him.” And within about thirty seconds I had the tapes in my hand and we took those back to the ready-room because they’re actually our property.”
VA: “Right. And they’re classified equipment.”
DF: “Yeah. So we copied them, believe it or not, because we use those tapes again. So we copied them and we wrapped them up and stuffed them in the safe. They were wrapped in a piece of yellow paper that said ‘For CO’ and they stayed there. We came back from cruise, they were in the ready-room safe, and then somehow…they disappeared. No one knows where they went.”
None of the above sounds like Fravor is referring to Chad Underwood’s tapes! The time frame is clearly soon after he landed because his back-seater had gone to CVIC for the debrief, and when he returned from the debrief an intelligence officer came to the ready room and got the tapes. At that point Fravor went to CVIC himself and demanded “my tapes” back. All this clearly suggests they were tapes made during Fravor’s own encounter, tapes either directly from his aircraft or perhaps the other aircraft in his flight. Even if the copies disappeared from the ready-room safe—where would the originals have gone after the copies were made?
In a paper written in 2019 I pointed out other very suggestive statements by two pilots aboard the Nimitz at the time. First, was an astonishing statement made in an email message from one of Douglas Kurth’s fellow pilots. This email message was obtained during Robert Powell’s efforts to gather FOIA documentation on the Nimitz encounters. After countless requests and subsequent denials, a query by Navy FOIA officials received a reply from LtCol Rob “Dahigi” Tomlinson, one of the marine pilots aboard the Nimitz at the time. In his email, Rob Tomlinson stated…
It is clear Rob Tomlinson is not confusing Kurth, his CO, with David Fravor. Furthermore, he names several other pilots he believes also saw the video. In particular, he says Fravor “had the video footage on his ATFLIR” (definitely not the helmet camera Fravor says he did not turn on)! And, for some reason Tomlinson believes Douglas Kurth also saw the tic-tac, something that was also hinted at in the following interview.
In a December 2019 interview in the New York Magazine “Intelligencer”, Chad Underwood, the pilot who reportedly took the FLIR1 video widely seen today, made a point seemingly for emphasis that in hindsight echoes what Tomlinson indicated above. Underwood had launched from the Nimitz after Fravor returned, and in describing his thoughts on the experience in the years since, Underwood said:
For full disclosure, in an email exchange with this author Kurth has stated “I never saw the object physically myself”. While that could be interpreted a number of ways, it is still notable that a member of Kurth’s own VMFA-232 Marine squadron and a member of Fravor’s VFA-41 Navy squadron would both believe that Kurth saw the ‘tic-tac’. And it still leaves the question why Rob Tomlinson would specifically state that Fravor had gotten “video footage on his ATFLIR”?
Even with all the above, what may be the strongest evidence that there is a video tape of Fravor’s encounter comes in an interview done before all the news headlines broke at the end of 2017.
In recent months, Alex Dietrich has come out publicly to add her voice in support of what happened in 2004. As the other Black Aces pilot accompanying Fravor when they encountered the aptly named “tic-tac”, her credibility and professionalism speaks volumes. The same certainly applies to her account of what happened after they returned to the Nimitz that day.
In August 2018 a number of documents were reportedly found by Twitter user @Jay09784691 on a website owned by Christopher Mellon. Included with copies of the three videos were a number of slides and pictures, as well as several pages of a 2017 interview with none other than Alex Dietrich. An excellent synopsis of these documents was produced by Keith Basterfield on his blog, and redacted (and edited) versions of the pages from the interview were eventually posted on the TTSA website. (I was able to obtain unredacted copies for this article). Pictures of the full unredacted interview show it was done in September 2017 in Arlington, VA with Alex Dietrich shown as the ‘Source’. For our purpose here, the important part appears on the fourth page.
At this point in her interview she is describing events after returning to the Nimitz when she, her WSO (OK-1), Cmdr. Fravor (OK-2), and his WSO (OK-3) are in the ‘ready room’. Her testimony echoes Fravor’s frustration that on their return they did not receive an intelligence debriefing, which apparently should have been routine, but then…
How convincing does evidence need to be? David Fravor’s own words combined with the statement by Tomlinson and finally the absolute clarity of the account given by Dietrich herself (emphasizing that Fravor made a copy of the “‘gun tape from his F-18”) leave little room for doubt. More so, the fact that NAVAIR is withholding a still secret video strongly suggests either Fravor’s original tape or a copy likely made its way to NAVAIR.
It would be interesting to ask these pilots on their honor whether they know of any video footage, of any kind, showing the actual white object Fravor encountered that afternoon in November 2004.