Some UFO Stories Are Just “Too Hard” to Explain Away

“David Fravor, commander of a Navy squadron aboard the USS Nimitz, had an encounter with a UFO that is hard to explain. Thirteen years ago, the Windham, N.H., resident was a veteran US Navy pilot at the controls of an F/A-18-F fighter jet flying off San Diego when he sighted an unidentified flying object and tried to intercept it. ‘I want to join on it. I want to see how close I can get to it,’ Fravor, 53, said, describing his thinking as he began the pursuit. Then the object, which looked like a 4o-foot-long Tic Tac candy, ‘goes whoosh, and it’s gone.’ he said. It accelerated rapidly and disappeared like no aircraft he had ever seen in his career.” The Boston Globe

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

David Fravor, commander of a Navy squadron aboard the USS Nimitz, had an encounter with a UFO that is hard to explain. Photo- M. S. Brauer, The New York Times

Excerpt: This former Navy pilot, who once chased a UFO, says we should take them seriously

“David Fravor is a recognizable type. Affable, neatly dressed, with a men’s regular haircut and semi-rimless glasses, he’s a retired military man who works as a consultant in the Boston area. He could be standing in front of you in a Starbucks line and you wouldn’t notice him at all. But the story he has to tell is literally out of this world.

An F:A-18E Super Hornet prepares to land on the flight deck aboard The-aircraft-carrier-USS-Nimitz-

Fravor has been in the news recently after the New York Times broke the story that the Pentagon had a secret program that investigated reports of UFOs. The Defense Department says it closed down the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program in 2012 after five years, but the program’s backers say it remains in existence, investigating UFO reports from service members while carrying out other duties.

‘I know what I saw,’ said Fravor. The incident occurred on Nov. 14, 2004. It was about 140 miles southwest of San Diego, Fravor said. The commander of a squadron of more than 300 service members aboard the carrier USS Nimitz, he was flying a brand-new plane with a weapons systems officer in the back seat. Another fighter from his squadron, with pilot and weapons system officer aboard, was flying with him. It was a perfect Southern California day. A radio operator from the cruiser USS Princeton directed them to an area where the Princeton had been tracking mysterious objects for two weeks…When the two fighters got to the assigned location, they spotted a disturbance under the water, Fravor said.

F:A-18-F fighter jet.

To him, it looked like something the size of a Boeing 737 airplane was underneath, causing waves to break over it. ‘Then we see this bright white object’ above the disturbance, moving erratically, back and forth, left and right, bouncing around like a ping pong ball, he said. Fravor’s jet and the other jet were circling the spot. The other jet was high, Fravor’s jet lower. Trying to get a closer look at the Tic Tac, he began an easy, circular descent toward it. The object ‘starts mirroring me,’ beginning its own circular ascent from the ocean, he said.

At that point, he said, he decided to cut across and head directly toward the mysterious object. He turned, dove, then pulled up his plane’s nose — and it zoomed away. Fravor then looked for the underwater object, and saw that it, too, had disappeared… Nearing the end of a 24-year career in the Navy and Marines, Fravor had plenty of experience encountering other aircraft in the sky, but this one was different, he said. It was bright white, cylindrical, with rounded ends. It had no wings, no windows, no exhaust plume. He came within nearly a half-mile of it, he estimated. He and his back-seater as well as the men in the other plane saw it with their own eyes for 3 to 5 minutes, he said.

‘What’s unique about [our encounter] is we physically interacted and chased it,’ he said. ‘We literally engaged it.’ Does he think he will ever see a UFO again?

‘Never say never. But there’s, what, 7½ billion people in the world? — and I chased it,’ he said.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about  the topic.  Next, have students look at the picture(s) in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Debrief as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

Brainstorming chart by UIE


II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. David Fravor  was a commander of a Navy squadron.
  2. The story of Fravor’s close encounter accompanied the expose.
  3. According to Fravor, no clouds marred the sky.
  4. The bright white object  was moving erratically back and forth.
  5. The object started mirroring Fravor’s fighter jet.
  6. The  UFO accelerated rapidly.
  7. The fighters conferred and  headed to a rendezvous point 60 miles away.
  8. The speed of the UFO was impressive.
  9. More fighters were launched.
  10. Later, Fravor  told his back-seater that he was pretty weirded out.

Vocabulary Cluster By


Reading Comprehension


Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

He got plenty of___back ___the carrier. But he said he was___at the lack of___the Defense Department showed about the___, which happened in an___well-known as a ___training ground.

WORD LIST: Navy, area, encounter, curiosity surprised aboard, ribbing,

Grammar Focus Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

The $22 million/millionaire  reportedly spend/spent on the five-year Pentagon program/programs was like a “rounding error” in the Defense Department’s massive/mission budget, he said. With better funding/funds, he believes a breakthrough could happen. “With the right money/monkey and the right ficus/focus, you can figure this out,” he said. “I think there’s enough brilliant/brilliantly, open minds.”

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss the following statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. Do you believe that UFOs are actually beings from another planet? Why or why not?
  2. Have you or someone you know ever seen a UFO? If so please describe the experience.
  3. David Fravor, is a Navy commander  with a 24-year career in the Navy and Marines. Do you believe his story?  Why or why not?
  4. In your opinion, should the U.S. continue to spend money on programs that investigate UFOs? Explain why or why not.


Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.


Category: Military, UFOs