"I tried contacting our military and the FBI — and just got the runaround."
Knights Who Say NIBBB
Pour one out for the men of the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade (NIBBB), a hobbyist ballooning group that flies and tracks relatively small and inexpensive "pico" balloons for fun.
As Aviation Week reports, one of their balloons is "missing in action." And while they haven't officially pointed any fingers, members of the broader ballooning community seem pretty convinced that the Pentagon is to blame.
And honestly, the evidence is pretty compelling. Per Aviation Week, the missing silver balloon's last known location, reported back on Feb 10, was just off of Alaska's west coast. Using a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasting tool called HYSPLIT, the balloonists were able to determine that their absent inflatable would have been hovering around central Yukon Territory on Feb 11 — the same day, Aviation Week notes, that the US military fighter jet shot down a similar object, at a similar altitude, in the same general area.
Circumstantial? Sure. But intriguing nonetheless, especially considering that two other objects, also fitting the description of pico balloons, were blown out of the sky on Feb 10 and Feb 12, respectively. And given how much of the Pentagon's time, money, and artillery — specifically, powerful and expensive sidewinder missiles — were put into downing these mystery objects, it would be a pretty terrible look for the US government if said objects were indeed just a few of these amateur inflatables.
"I tried contacting our military and the FBI — and just got the runaround — to try to enlighten them on what a lot of these things probably are," Ron Meadows, founder of Silicon Valley balloon-making firm Scientific Balloon Solutions (SBS) and ballooning expert, told Aviation Week.
"They're going to look not too intelligent," Meadows added, "to be shooting them down."
Justice for NIBBB
As for the White House? Per The Washington Post, POTUS and co are still keeping things relatively close to the vest.
"Our intelligence community is still assessing all three incidents," said President Joe Biden, adding that "the intelligence community's current assessment is that these three objects were most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific research."
Hmmm. In any case, to our friends at NIBBB: our thoughts are with you. None of your balloons deserved to be — allegedly — smashed to smithereens by a sidewinder. Fly on, boys. Fly on.
READ MORE: Hobby Club's Missing Balloon Feared Shot Down By USAF [Aviation Week]
More on balloons: China Wants the Corpse of Its Balloon Back after the US Killed It with a Missile