What is this film about?
Back in 2017 when I first heard about the Superhornets intercepting UFO’s on both the USS Nimitz in 2004 and again in 2015 on another aircraft carrier, I was fascinated. Then when the New York Times and Tom Delonge’s company To The Stars Academy began releasing ATFLIR videos and descriptions of the events and we read the Fightersweep.com article by Francesco “Paco” Cherici about the “There I was” story of Cmdr. Dave “Sex” Fravors close encounter engaged with what he called a “47 foot long Tic Tac” I was hooked.
In my mind I imagined the jets in after-burning, turning and burning, zorching across the sky in pursuit of the bogey UFO. I imagined the strange scene that greeted Lt. Col “Cheeks” Kurth as he arrived on station in his F/A-18 only to see an several hundred foot long unknown underwater object just below the surface of the ocean. Yet, as these images were in my mind, the scenes playing out and the jet’s radios crackling with shouts and calls to the ship. Being a film maker and animator, I had to figure out a way to make them come alive on screen so everyone, even those who don’t care about UFO’s, could see what the pilots and radar operators saw.
So a little less than a year ago I began researching the story bit by bit. Putting a timeline together of who, what, where, and when. I quickly discovered a number of witnesses were missing. After all, Cmdr. David Fravor had come forward with Lt. Cmdr. Jim “Clean” Slaight. So where were the other two flight crew members since each jet has two crew members? I learned that Jim was in the 2nd jet of the Fast Eagles flight. But was he the pilot? In all the accounts I read I began to suspect a woman was flying that jet. Namely Paco Cherici wrote how “She and her WSO put her jet into high cover”…I asked Paco and he confirmed my theory. “Yes, the 2nd jet was piloted by a woman, Dave. And she does not want to come forward.”
Fair enough. So now I had a pilot of jet #2 and a very detailed story of an event that took all of 30 minutes or so to unfold and a big fat $0 budget to make it. How how could I make a short documentary with no money? No footage, no sound, no nothing?
That’s where 30 years in the television and film industry come in. First I used the DoD’s Defense Visual Information center’s searchable database of public domain military footage filmed by military service members. There are hundreds of hours of film of Navy operations from the proper time frame. So I had my live action bases coverage. Next, I secured permission from Kari Delonge from TTSA to use the Cmdr. Dave Fravor interview from To The Stars Academy COI website.
Finally I began creating CGI of 3D animated planes, set in a ocean environment. The actors? Virtual pilots and jets come together with voice acting from all my friends and even some Easter Eggs you’ll have to discover on your own. So far I’m way over budget. I had to spend about $100 on 3D models. The rest is what we call “sweat equity” and many hundreds of hours of 3D rendering on my home Mac. Usually over night – all night long. You see – 10 seconds of animation may take 10 hours to render!
I’m very excited to release The Nimitz Encounters as a work of historical fiction. The fiction part because I was not there to hear the conversations or actions of the fighter pilots, controllers and weapons system officers. I can only imagine that. So that part is a work of fiction that helps tell the story through recreations based on actual accounts of the first hand witnesses including the USS Princeton’s Senior Chief Kevin Day and Petty Officer Gary Voorhis from CIC. They both were invaluable in providing me with guidance on the events and proper radio brevity – meaning trying to be somewhat accurate without making the radio calls an unknown language with terms not familiar to most people. And Francesco Cherici, I discovered his love of film-making by chance. After his stint as an active fighter pilot he went on to document his love of naval aviation and his service branch by telling the heart gripping story of two cones, new recruit fighter pilots in Speed and Angles. You’ll never imagine my surprise when I learned the star was a woman! One of the first to fly the Tomcat both a tremendous achievement for any person, let alone woman at that time in history. Aka Tail Hook.
The press all reported Jim Slaight was Dave Fravor’s wingman in the hundreds of world wide news reports on AATIP, And the icing on the cake? Well no one believed me when I said the wingman was a wingwoman and I knew who she was. (well almost everyone). When TTS member Chris Mellon “accidentally” left his website open and a summary document was leaked that listed all of the pilots including my wingwoman! Bingo. If she ever does come forward, she has my utmost respect and admiration, as do all of the service members. Heroes one and all. When that day comes, I’ll have to re-edit that part and give her a name as part of one of the most badass intercepts ever.