Arguably the most crucial inconsistency in the entire Nimitz event pertains to the length of time the four pilots in the two Super Hornets actually lay their eyes of the tic tac. Fravor has said, “There was four of us in the aeroplanes literally watching this thing for roughly 5 minutes”.
In another interview Fravor has quite unambiguously re-emphasised this point, “The four of us looked at it for five minutes with our eyes”.
Dietrich who piloted the second Super Hornet has a decisively different recollection of how long she saw the tic tac for, “Visual for 8-10 seconds after merge plot”
. She has again reaffirmed this timeframe by saying, “I only had visual of Tic Tac for 8-10 sec from high cover”.
Additionally, Dietrich has cast aspersions on a 5-minute timeframe, “If I had a full 5 min with it I would have been able to give you a make, model and serial number!”
Dietrich has also said “5 min would be a lifetime for a visual and dogfighting”.
When Fravor was told of Dietrich’s 8-10 second estimate of her visual on the tic tac, he responded “We saw it hovering and flew around the circle and then cut across to get closer. Based on a slow turn rate and slow descent I say roughly 5 minutes. Could have been less but it was way more than a few seconds”.
The next inconsistency relating to Fravor’s encounter with the tic tac pertains to the precise nature of the manoeuvrings by both Fravor’s Super Hornet and the tic tac. In the ‘Fravor’s Engagement with the Tic Tac’ section further up this article, Fravor described steering his Super Hornet downwards in a clockwise motion whilst travelling in a circular trajectory. Fravor also recalled the tic tac consistently staying on the opposite side of the circle to him as it ascended. When the two craft were at an equitable altitude, Fravor cut across the circle, headed for the tic tac and the tic tac accelerated out of sight.
According to Slaight who had a bird’s-eye-view vantage point of the encounter, in the rear seat of Dietrich’s plane, the tic tac and Fravor’s manoeuvrings were significantly different to how Fravor described. The beginning of Slaight’s recollection matches Fravor’s memory- Fravor headed downwards towards the tic tac. Slaight then believes that the tic tac travelled in a direct line towards Fravor’s plane before changing its course and physically circling Fravor’s Super Hornet. According to Slaight, the tic tac then stopped and hovered for between 1 and 2 seconds in mid-air before it accelerated rapidly from the scene.
The next potential inconsistency in the events involves the tic tac and its relation to the white water when it was first observed by the four pilots. Dietrich has commented, “I saw the Tic Tac cross directly over the water disturbance”
. These words by Dietrich seem to suggest that the tic tac happened to be flying across the white water, somewhat akin to a missile. In the Nimitz Report, Dietrich described the object initially traveling from left to right over the white water at 1,000-3,000 feet in altitude. She additionally described the object as travelling in a straight line at between 300-500 knots.
The Executive Summary of the tic tac encounter quotes Fravor’s WSO who shares a similar observation of the tic tac’s initial movements to Dietrich. It states that “His (the WSO’s) report differs from CDR Fravor in that he reported the object travelling level at approximately 500-1000 feet at approximately 500 knots”.
This part of the report refers to the period before Fravor began his descent.
In contrast to Dietrich and the Event Summary accounts (which reports Fravor’s WSO’s recount), Fravor has said, “What we see is this white tic tac looking object, just above the surface of the water, pointing north-south. It’s going (moving): north, south, east, west. It’s just radically moving: forward, back, left, right at will. It’s moving around the disturbance, the white water that we see”
. It is not clear from Dietrich, the event summary (based on Fravor’s WSO’s recollections) and Fravor’s accounts whether the object was initially spotted simply crossing the white water or whether it was bouncing around erratically above the white water.
There are a number of further possible discrepancies between the pilot’s recollections and the Event Summary, which was written many years before the pilots made their recollections public.
Fravor has specified that when the tic tac vanished, “It takes off and it goes south”.
The Event Summary mentioned that the “Last visual contact had capsule at 14kft (14,000 feet) heading due east”.
Fravor has said, “It’s unrestricted visibility, you can see all the way to the horizon”.
In contrast, the Event Summary states that Fravor’s plane, “Lost visual ID of capsule in haze”
. Dietrich has been asked to clarify this ambiguity. She has said “As you get further towards the horizon, there is a marine level of haze”
. Dietrich has suggested that there is typically a natural haze on the distant horizon and that there was a perfect level of visibility leading up to this standard, horizon haze. This seems like a reasonable resolution however it still remains uncertain whether the pilots viewed the physical tic tac as it made its way to the horizon or whether they lost sight of it as it sped past the nose of Fravor’s plane.
Dietrich and Fravor both recall being navigated to the intercept of the UAP at 20,000 feet. In contrast, the Event Summary states that the UAP was travelling at 25,000 feet and that the Super Hornets arrived at 24,000 feet.
Day has said, “As soon as he (Fravor) got to the merge plot position, the object which he was intercepting, dropped from 28,000 feet down to 50 feet above the water in 0.78 seconds as I found out later, the next day”
. Kurth who arrived in the UAP’s vicinity before Fravor has said “I accepted their vector toward the Unidentified Contact. I had Fravor’s flight on radar and was directly over the top of them when they were visually observing the Supersonic Tic Tac”
. The question arises- if Kurth was first on the scene, did the tic tac drop down on his approach?
Fravor has quite clearly described the shape of the white water as cross shaped. In contrast, Dietrich and Kurth recall the white water as resembling a slightly elongated circle, perhaps more similar to an oval shape.
Fravor has recently estimated that the tic tac took between 30 and 40 seconds to travel to his CAP Point. In an interview in 2018
, Fravor provides a different timeframe. “The whole time that’s elapsed is maybe a couple of minutes for us to turn those jets around and do what we did and this thing appears 60 miles away so you can do the math but let’s just say that’s really fast. Faster than we can go”.
This comment by Fravor seems to indicate a “couple of minutes”
of travel time for the tic tac to arrive at the CAP Point. Day has characterised the tic tac’s movement to the CAP Point as “Instant”.
Dietrich has said “It didn’t make sense in terms of a time-distance problem how it would have done that. Either it was supersonic and able to get there super-fast or it dropped off and something else popped up that had the same radar signature”.
The inconsistencies and uncertainties concerning Fravor’s interception of the tic tac are by no means intended to doubt the general sequence of events that occurred. They should serve to emphasise that there are details of the event that are both contentious and unknown. There have been some questions raised about the accuracy of some of the documents written about the event and by eliminating these documents as a source, some of the discrepancies vanish however a number of inconsistencies between witness accounts remain.