The AKAL-C platform and Satellite imagery of it (Franz)


UFOs over Mexico 2004 solved?

by Tim Printy August 2004

Updated January 2005

It is interesting that the case is almost solved at this point. One can quibble over small items but it seems to me the work by Capt. Franz and a few others (James Smith and Laurent Leger) is pretty convincing in regards to the source of the FLIR images. The radar contacts rapidly deteriorate under examination as being probably "earthly" in nature and not that extraordinary. The lack of any visual confirmation also puts the damper on this case. All the praise that was heaped upon the Mexican military's cooperation was far too quick. In reality, it now appears the Mexican military is nothing more than a second-rate organization that couldn't figure this out or did not bother to seriously try. Additionally, it seems that many of the UFO investigations were also poor as noted by James Smith, who stated that this event "demonstrates the woeful general state of basic UFO investigation and analysis" (Smith).

In the September/October 2004 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer, Robert Sheaffer published the results of his investigation. His analysis added some to the body of knowledge by providing information regarding the FLIR instrument obtained from interviews with a certified "Pro from Dover" (actually from Oregon), John Lester Miller, who has written several books on electro-optics and Infrared technology. Robert Sheaffer's analysis agrees with conclusions of this article in that the FLIR images have a lot to do with oil well fires and nothing to do with extraordinary craft operating in the earth's atmosphere. He also had several biting remarks for the UFO Updates forum's response to this hypothesis:

The UFO believers who participate in the online UFO Updates forum, which includes many "leaders" of the UFO movement, laughed off the valid explanation of oil well fires as flippantly as they did the absurd ones...By their reaction, the "leaders" of UFOlogy have shown themselves incapable of distinguishing logical from illogical thought, and science from pseudoscience. The lesson of the Mexican Infrared UFO video illustrates once again the inability of the UFO movement to perform critical thinking. (Sheaffer 40)

As one can see from my section on how UFOlogists responded to the initial news of the event and Captain Franz revelations about the oil well fires, Sheaffer is fairly accurate in his assessment. With the exception of Amy Hebert and Richard Hall, not one person bothered to caution the list about overreacting to the videos. Additionally, when Franz initially presented his case a few weeks later, none of the senior UFOlogists on the list made a statement suggesting that people should not be so quick in dismissing this possible solution. Instead, the list was overly dismissive and full of derisive comments. For a group that claims to be interested in scientifically investigating UFOs, this forum failed to put aside their prejudice in evaluating the hypothesis put forward. This had been noted before. Specifically, in 1997 a panel of independent scientists were exposed to some of UFOlogy's best cases. The panel noted some problems with UFO research. One of their comments was, "to be credible to the scientific community, such evaluations must take place with a spirit of objectivity and a willingness to evaluate rival hypotheses" (Sturrock 121). Instead of carefully evaluating the oil well hypothesis, many simply dismissed it with, apparently, little thought.

A better example of how the discussion should have transpired may be seen in the James Randi forum on the subject. There were moments of heated debate but the list did seem to make progress with time and gave good examination to all the claims made. Clearly, there is a contrast in the two forums. One pontificated about the events while the other grouped together to critically examined the evidence.

Those that were "investigating" the case have become increasingly silent with the exception of Brad Sparks outburst on UFO updates concerning Dr. Poher's work. They have yet to reveal what they discovered regarding the FLIR images. This is probably because they don't want to reveal that Captain Franz/The Randi Forum are close to the correct answer. Even UFO proponent Dr. Bruce Maccabee seems to have become more receptive to the oil well fire hypothesis:

...he may be correct in identifying the lights as oil field fires. Notice I said "may". In my opinion it is premature to state a conclusion. An important experiment has not yet been done to test the oil fire hypothesis. (Maccabee)

His experiment has to do with the Mexican military reproducing the flight. I doubt the Mexican military is going to do this because it has potential embarrassment written all over it. Maybe Maussan can shell out some cash to reproduce the flight. I would not hold my breath based on his track record.

The response by Mexican UFOlogists have also been silent except for Santiago Yturria, who made the following comments:

Your article OIL FIELD FLAMES BEHIND MEXICAN UFOs? is inaccurate and has been disqualified by the authorized Mexican research team. The original author of this theory, as well as German debunker Werner Walter, failed to answer how it was possible that the Merlin C26A Radar also detected the objects moving, changing directions and increasing their speed at certain intervals.

The Merlin Radar cannot detect oil flames at any distance and the detected objects performed manoevres as solid objects.

Second: How can some oil flames be invisible for the human eye at 2 miles distance? This was not answered.

If Radars could be deceived by some oil flames then even the most powerful and sophisticated strategic and military systems in the world like NORAD would be highly vulnerable. (Yturria Oil)

If this were posted in early May, I would consider this a knee-jerk response. However, it was posted in June. The facts of the case are not what is stated in this posting. Yturria is misleading people and himself because he knows that the lights and radar contacts are not related in any way as this webpage and many other sources have shown. His claims that the "Mexican research team" disqualified this theory demonstrates that the "team" is incompetent and more interested in sensationalizing the case.

When Dr. Poher announced on UFO updates that he had photographs of the oil well fires that tended to confirm the oil fire well hypothesis, Yturria again attempted to keep the case alive and implied that this explanation was nothing more than a hoax!

Last Sunday in Mexico the Cantarel oil flames hoax was exposed on national television during the two-hour live broadcast of the Grandes Misterios TV show presenting the facts and official information that exposed and disqualified the hoaxer once for all. The pro-cover up campaign an it's attempts to discredit the Mexican Air Force, their officials and Secretary of Defense after the UFO disclosure failed when the conspiracy was discovered and exposed on national TV. The reactions of the Mexican people were massive sending messages to the tv station of support to the Air Force and officials for opening the UFO case to the people. During the broadcast every element of the Campeche case was analysed, proving and confirming the unknown origin and nature of the phenomena. The exposition was clear and definitive and the hoax chapter was closed. (Yturria Re:29)

Notice that Yturria does not provide any evidence of showing how the explanation is a "hoax" and only states that Maussan's television program exposed the "hoaxer" (who is not named but appears to be Captain Franz). Considering the amount of evidence that points to the oil wells as the source of the images, one can only guess as to how Maussan exposed this as a "hoax". Did Captain Franz and others move the oil wells to match the images in the video? This is the level of absurdity that UFOlogists seem to be perfectly happy to accept. After Ytrurria made his post on UFO Updates, there seemed to be no serious objection by, as Sheaffer called them, "leaders of UFOlogy". With the exception of Royce Myers, who wrote an ambiguous piece that did not specifically object to Yturria's inane posting, and Amy Hebert, who demanded he present his case against the oil well theory (Yturria replied that his case is on the internet but did not give a web address or any specifics), the rest of UFOlogy's best and brightest remained remarkably silent. When skeptics initially fumbled around with various explanations as to what the source of the videos could be, there were plenty of comments about how ridiculous skeptics were behaving. However, Yturria's comments received very little objection reinforcing Sheaffer's argument.

Other UFO organizations appear to be unwilling to look into the matter. A case in point is the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anamolous Phenomena (NARCAP), which supposedly specializes in aviation related UFOs. Over two months after the case became public, the best this group of individuals could state was:

An examination of the materials that have been made available may offer a mundane explanation however, verification of any conclusion may depend upon the missing radar data...The interrupted evidentiary chain of custody combined with the incomplete nature of the materials that have been released will severely inhibit any objective analysis of the incident. (NARCAP)

Not once is there any mention of the potential explanation for oil well fires producing some of the images. Surely, they could at least address this issue. Apparently, they are either too busy to attempt any analysis or don't want to get involved and step on people's toes with the "flying oil wells" explanation.

(UPDATE ON NARCAP: NARCAP has contacted me and has corrected me that they are conducting an investigation into the case. It was my interpretation of their statement that they would not be investigating the matter. As a result, I have struck out the text regarding this but left it so one can see how I originally wrote the text. I stand corrected on this matter. One can only hope that their efforts will be completed soon so it can be compared with the conclusions of Franz et. al.

December NARCAP update: In late October 2004, NARCAP did amplify on how their invesitgations had progressed. They seemed fairly convinced that the oil well hypothesis was the correct answer to the event and congratulated Captain Franz for his work. They then proceeded to suggest a full report would be completed soon. After almost a half-year of work, one would think it would have been completed by now. After all, Captain Franz and others did most of the legwork for them.

January NARCAP update: NARCAP now informs me that they did not have the resources to complete the report at the time of their October 2004 update and that, becaue it was not a US case, had low priority on personnel resources. They also pointed out it was a low quality case because it had a broken chain of custody for the evidence and the data available was incomplete. They promise to have their report completed soon but I don't expect too many new revelations. It will probably mimic much of what has already been revealed since they are already directing people towards Captain Franz's website.)

As Yturria was busy trying to ridicule the oil well hypothesis, Dr. Maccabee continued to await for the important experiment of the Mexican Air Force duplicating the flight. Meanwhile Captain Franz was on a flight in September of 2004 that passed through the area. His results were interesting and he presented a video he took for all to examine at his website. Most interesting is how one clip shows lights very similar to the "Twins". Captain Franz's test did not take the same route and did not fly at the same altitude as the Mexican AF plane. As a result, his images are seen from a different angle and distance. Still, they do look very similar. Recognizing that the case had lost some of its luster, a few on the UFO updates forum responded differently this time and praised him for his efforts. Others continued to demonstrate the same attitude and knowledge that was present on the list shortly after the videos had become public knowledge. Most notable were Jim Deardorff, John Velez, and Alfred Lehmberg.

The FLIR video of March 5th has been shown to a rather wide audience by now. E.g., Maussan showed it at the Bay Area UFO Expo. For these viewers as well as the airplane's crew, it is indisputable that the objects could not have been well-gas flames. During one section of the video, the most notable objects were in a doubled triplet formation, pacing the airplane off the port side, and are seen to have passed _in_front of_ a nearby cloud top, then pass _behind_* an even closer cloud-top fragment, then emerge. Thus, it seems silly to press the case for a well-gas-flame explanation, in which flames show up in the visible, not just the infrared, to anyone who has viewed the March 5th video. (Deardorff) (Note: without a time tag it is hard to address his argument. However, it seems similar to the one addressed earlier concerning Bruce Maccabee's objection, who now states that there are no good examples of the lights conclusively being in front of any clouds.)

That these qualified Mexican mission specialists - and ten hours of actual flightime is _plenty_ of training by the way - even conservatively speaking can't, because of a proclaimed lack of training and experience, be able to tell their asses from their elbows... is simply ludicrous and a strain on my credulity, Sir. (Lehmberg)(Note: Lehmberg's response was to Captain Franz, who was trying to explain that the crew probably lacked the training and experience to determine the source of the images)

Franz, and one or two others, continue to put more and more make-up on this pig of a theory - dismissed months ago by both the liason of the Mexican military and the crew - in hopes of making it pretty enough to sell to the public. It's a joke. The objects that were recorded on the FLIR were moving _faster_ than the airplane (which was traveling at 230+ mph - the objects were recorded while they were moving _past_ the airplane. And, as Jim has pointed out, they passed the plane while flying in formation - i.e.; while maintaining equal distance and position to each other. Unless oil wells - or pigs - can fly, Franz's 'theory' holds about as much water as the Gobi Desert. (Velez Re: Mexican) (Note: Velez's objections sounds a lot like Yturria's argument. What Velez fails to understand is that there are no videos of the objects flying past the aircraft. In almost all cases, the azimuth readers are moving towards the rear of the aircraft as time passes! As has been stated numerous times, there are no matches between the radar contacts and the FLIR images. Velez may have been informed off line of this error because he would later change his opinion about the importance of these FLIR images when he referred to them as an "Albatross around the neck of this investigation" (Velez Re: 29) and that the real UFO was a radar contact in the vicinity of Carmen. After so many months, one would expect that he would have acquainted himself with the facts of the case.)

These arguments are based not on an understanding of the case but more on a desire to believe in the video showing something extraordinary than something as mundane as oil well fires seen from a distance.

Failure for all these investigators to reveal any findings suggesting that there is a better theory for the images demonstrates they are unwilling to reveal what they have found or they have found nothing significant. The evidence seems fairly convincing that the lights were oil well fires. I am sure there will be plenty of sophisticated analysis by these investigators in an attempt to rehabilitate the case so that it remains "unknown". This is the apparent goal of most UFOlogists.That being, to make sure a case is never completely solved as demonstrated by Santiago Yturria's posting on UFO updates where he stated,

During the broadcast every element of the Campeche case was analysed, proving and confirming the unknown origin and nature of the phenomena (my emphasis). The exposition was clear and definitive and the hoax chapter was closed...Words mean nothing, the phenomena means everything. (Yturria Re:29)

For the rest of us, it does not take a rocket scientist to tell the difference between a rocket and a paper airplane.

Works Cited

Deardorff, Jim. "Re: Mexican FLIR video and story on sale" 15 September 2004.UFO Updates Mailing list. On line posting. Available WWW:

Franz, Alejandro. Mexican Air Force FLIR images are oil well flames! Available WWW:

Lehmberg, Alfred. "Re: A Picture of video is worth a thousand words" 14 September 2004.UFO Updates Mailing list. On line posting. Available WWW:

Maccabee, Bruce."Re: Dr. Poher's Mexican Airforce UFO video" 1 August 2004.UFO Updates Mailing list. On line posting. Available WWW:

NARCAP. NARCAP News July 20, 2004. Available WWW:

Sheaffer, Robert. "The Campeche, Mexico 'Infrared UFO' video." Skeptical Inquirer September/October 2004: 36-40.

Smith, James C. "The Mexican Air Force UFO affair: Aliens, ball lightning, or flares?" E-Skeptic #28, July 24, 2004. Available WWW:

Sturrock, Peter. The UFO Enigma. New York: Warner Books 1999.

Velez, John. "Re: Mexican FLIR video and story on sale" 16 September 2004.UFO Updates Mailing list. On line posting. Available WWW:

- . "Re: 29 photos confirming oil flame identification" 5 October 2004.UFO Updates Mailing list. On line posting. Available WWW:

Ytturia, Santiago. "Oil field flames behind Mexican UFOs?" UFO dimension news. Available WWW:

-. "Re: 29 photos confirming oil flame identification" 29 September 2004.UFO Updates Mailing list. On line posting. Available WWW:


Some other sites that are worth examining concerning the case (some are in French or Spanish)

Sr. Andres Duarte's analysis:

A french UFO organization's analysis:

Dr. Claude Poher's analysis:

A collection of information regarding the event:,%20June%202004%20part2.doc

Captain Franz's first webpage:

Captain Franz's second webpage:

Thomas Stunch's indepth study: (Now a dead link)

(note: Thomas Strunch is presently "updating" it with more information. It was a pretty good objective analysis but he took it off and placed the "updating" note instead. There was some very good information there and one can only hope his work is back on line soon.Thomas has since gave the impression that he will not update the webpage, which is a shame. One can follow many of his comments and thoughts on the James Randi Forum)

James Smith's indepth analysis: and

It was James Smith's tireless efforts that produced the excellent landsat image of the oil wells and the 3D models that can be found on his second website. Smith's work was key in verifying the true nature of the FLIR images.

Amy Hebert's analysis from May 16, 2004: (Now a dead link)

Additionally, one might read Robert Sheaffer's article in September/October 2004 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer, which is now available on line.

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