NARCAP and unexplained phenomena

NARCAP is the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena, a private, non-profit organization dedicated to studying unexplained aerial phenomena (UAP) and aviation safety for the public's benefit. NACAP has compiled a database of thousands of aviation-related UAP and that has published a number of technical reports and research papers on the subject.

What are unexplained aerial phenomena (UAP)?
Unexplained aerial phenomena (UAP) are what the name implies, phenomena in the sky that have an appearance or behavior that doesn't suggest a conventional aerospace vehicle and that defies explanation even after scrutiny by relevant experts. NARCAP uses the term UAP rather than the more popular term UFO because UAP more accurately reflects the broad range of descriptions in reports that they have processed. The term UAP also leaves open the possibility that the phenomena may not represent an object, and may arise from several different sources.

Why are UAP relevant to aviation safety?
Unexplained aerial phenomena are important to aviation safety because some of these events are associated with effects on an aircraft's navigational or flight control systems, and also because sightings may cause flight crews to take abrupt, unplanned, and potentially hazardous maneuvers because the UAP is perceived as a threat to the aircraft.

How do you report unidentified aerial phenomena
If you are a pilot, air traffic controller, radar operator, or other aviation professional and you would like to report a sighting or other incident that you believe is caused by an unauthorized or unconventional aircraft, or if you have witnessed a novel or unexplained atmospheric phenomena, you have several options for reporting these events:

  • Contact NARCAP: NARCAP encourages aviation professionals who witness UAPs to send a confidential report to their organization. These reports form the basis of the UAP research conducted by NARCAP. These can be recent events, or historical UAP incidents and observations.
  • Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS): This is a confidential reporting system that aviation professionals, particularly pilots, can use to report on aviation safety incidents reports. This database is managed by NASA, and one benefit is that in some cases, submitting a report to this database may allow the reporter to escape an FAA penalty if the safety report is associated with an FAA regulatory violation.

Interview with Dr. Richard Haines of NARCAP

In August 2013, Dr. Todd Curtis interviewed Dr. Richard Haines, the chief scientist of NARCAP, where they discussed his organization's efforts to reduce threats to aviation caused by unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP).

Dr. Haines, who founded the organization in 1999, provided several examples of why unidentified aerial events may have put aircraft and their occupants at risk in the past, and also explained that such events happen to a significant fraction of active airline pilots. Dr. Haines also encouraged crew members who have observed such events to contact his organization at and file a report on any past sightings.
Listen to the interview (1:01:28)

NARCAP resources and research studies
NARCAP advice to pilots
Report unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP)
NARCAP technical reports on UFOs and UAPs

For more insights about UFOs and UAPs from Todd Curtis and, please check out the following resources:

NARCAP and unexplained aerial phenomena -- Revised 3 June 2021