THIS IS A PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT OF A
TV NEWS SEGMENT FROM WPLG IN FLORIDA.
WHAT'S IN THE AIR?
THE MILITARY USES THE SUBSTANCE.. TO PROTECT THE LIVES OF PILOTS. BUT EVEN THE GOVERNMENT SAYS IT DOESN'T KNOW JUST HOW SAFE THIS STUFF MAY BE! THE CHANNEL 10 INVESTIGATORS HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR ANSWERS... AND TONIGHT RAD BERKY IS HERE TO EXPLAIN... WHAT'S IN THE AIR. RAD?
IT IS CALLED "CHAFF" AND UNLESS YOU'VE SPENT ANYTIME AROUND MILITARY AIRCRAFT, YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT IS, LET ALONE WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE. BUT WE FOUND OUT THERE IS A LOT OF IT OUT THERE... AND A LOT OF QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW SAFE IT IS. ON ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE, THE SUN IS SHINING OVER THE FLORIDA KEYS. BUT ON THE WEATHER RADAR AT CHANNEL 10 THE PICTURE IS VERY DIFFERENT. IT LOOKS LIKE LARGE BANDS OF RAIN ARE PASSING OVER...SO WHAT IS THAT? OUR DON NOE KNOWS.
(DON NOE #2 16:36) "The green stuff you are seeing down here is all chaff...all false return." CHAFF? WHAT IS CHAFF? FIGHTER PILOTS KNOW VERY WELL WHAT CHAFF IS THIS IS CHAFF...FINE STRANDS OF METAL COATED FIBER...IT IS PACKED IN TUBES LIKE THIS AND LOADED ON MOST MILITARY AIRCRAFT. WHEN A PILOT IS TARGETED BY ENEMY MISSILES, THESE CHAFF CANISTERS ARE FIRED DISPENSING LITERALLY THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF FIBERS THAT NOW SHOW-UP ON THE ENEMY RADAR.
(Sgt. Steve Richmond #1 1:29) "An aircraft would fly over a designated area, dispense the chaff and then fly to another area. Meanwhile everyone is concentrating on this area where the chaff is, trying to look for an aircraft that is not even there."
IN OTHER WORDS THE ENEMY IS SHOOTING AT THE CHAFF AND OUR PILOTS GET OUT OF THE WAY. (COLONEL BOBBY D'ANGELO #1 19:07) "Chaff itself might be the difference between a fighter pilot's life and a surface to air missile-induced fireball." SO, AS PART OF THEIR TRAINING, PILOTS FROM THE HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE PRACTICE SIMULATIONS USING CHAFF. MOST OF THOSE PRACTICE RUNS ARE OUT HERE OVER THE GULF OF MEXICO. BUT WHEN WE SHOWED OUR RADAR PICTURES TO COLONEL BOBBY D'ANGELO HE DOUBTED WHAT WE WERE LOOKING AT WAS CHAFF.
(D'ANGELO #1 13:50) "That would be so much chaff I can;t imagine we would ever use that much." (me) "This was a beautiful day and a crystal clear night when this image showed up." "Well, it looks like an awful lot of chaff."
BUT JIM LUSHINE OF THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HAD NO DOUBT IT WAS CHAFF WHEN WE SHOWED HIM OUR TAPE. (Jim Lushine/Nat. Weather Serv. #3-- 35:37) "Well, this one here is real easy because of the extreme longation to it. Very continuous filaments."
DOCTOR FRANK MARKS OF THE HURRICANE RESEARCH CENTER ALSO RUN BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AGREES. (FRANK MARKS/HURRICANE RESEARCH CENTER #4 1:01) "These are lines of chaff." (ME) "You have no question in your mind that's chaff?" "No, see that the way they change and you can see them undulating in the wind as they change altitude."
WHILE THE MILITARY IS USED TO SEEING CHAFF ON ITS RADAR.. WEATHER FORECASTERS HAVE TO BE ESPECIALLY CAREFUL. IN FACT VERY CAREFUL, BECAUSE ACCORDING TO (PRE-PRO)THIS REPORT ON CHAFF BY THE GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTING OFFICE, CHAFF LOOKS LIKE PRECIPITATION AND CAN "result in inaccurate wanings of severe weather." HUMANS CAN SORT OUT THE CHAFF FROM THE REAL CLOUDS, BUT COMPUTERS ARE OFTEN FOOLED LEADING TO MISTAKES IN THINGS LIKE RAINFALL TOTALS. AND INCREDIBALY, ACCORDING TO THE GAO REPORT, CHAFF LED TO (PRE PRO) INTERFERECNE WITH NORMAL WEATHER OBSERVATION DATA IN AT LEAST TWO SPACE SHUTTLE LAUNCH ATTEMPTS.
(Me to Lushine #3 28:53) "How often does the military call you up and say,'We're going to chaff today so don;t be surprised?" "We've never ever reecieved a report from the military that tells us when we're going to have chaff."
SHARING THE SKIES WITH THE AIR FORCE IS THE NAVY THAT FLIES NUMEROUS SORTIES FROM THE NAVAL AIR STATION AT BOCA CHEECA. (STANDUP #7 13:21) "Fighter squadrons from around the country come here to Boca Cheeca. They practice dog fights and other manuevers in the waters off the lower and middle Keys. They use chaff and lots of it."
(LT. MIKE CONNORS/US NAVY PILOT #7 6:12) "DEpending on how high we are it may completely cross the keys and land up in the Atlantic Ocean." BUT WHAT HAPPENS TO THE MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF CHAFF PARTICLES THAT FALL ON THE KEYS AND IN THE CRYSTAL BLUE WATERS OF THE ISLANDS? THAT'S A QUESTION THIS ENVIRONMENTALIST FROM NEVADA SAYS WE SHOULD BE ASKING IN SOUTH FLORIDA (GRACE POTORI/ALLIANCE FOR MILITARY ACCOUNTABILITY #8 6:50) "All you have to do is touch a piece of chaff and you'll know that we have a potentially signifcant human health risk."
WE EXPLAINED WHAT CHAFF IS AND HOW IT MAKES WEATHER FORECASTING PROBLEMS. BUT WHAT EFFECT DOES IT HAVE ON US? NOT ONE ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP WE SPOKE WITH IN SOUTH FLORIDA HAD HEARD OF CHAFF OR ITS POTENTIAL PROBLEMS MENTIONED IN THE GOVERNMENT'S OWN REPORT. WE'LL HAVE MORE ON WHAT THOSE CONCERNS BELOW
It looks like a normal radar image. But it could be something more sinister. (("one of the most important concerns we have is, can we inhale it?")) Now -- the nightbeat asks you just one question:
IT'S CALLED CHAFF.. AND IT'S SO SERIOUS THAT IT PLAYS TRICKS WITH WEATHER RADAR, AND HAS EVEN AFFECTED SPACE SHUTTLE LAUNCHES. INVESTIGATOR RAD BERKY UNCOVERED THIS PROBLEM, AND IS HERE TO TELL US ABOUT THE POTENTIAL HEALTH RISKS. RAD! NOT A SINGLE ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP WE TALKED TO IN SOUTH FLORIDA HAD EVER HEARD OF CHAFF...HAD NO IDEA WHAT IT WAS OR WHAT THE POTENTIAL HAZZARDS ARE. AND ONE MILITARY OFFICER TOLD ME PRIVATELY, "WE'D LIKE TO KEEP IT THAT WAY." BUT IN OTHER PARTS OF THE COUNTRY CHAFF IS AN ISSUE, AND ENVIRONMENTALISTS SAY WE SHOULD BE ASKING THE SAME QUESTIONS HERE.
(COL. BOBBY d'aNGELO/US AIR FORCE #1 --19:03) "We use the stuff because we need to use it. it is a very important part of our training." THE COLONEL IS TALKING ABOUT THIS: CHAFF. CHAFF IS THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF TINY HAIR-LIKE FILAMENTS. CHAFF IS SPREAD BY FIGHTER PILOTS WHO DISPERSE IT AND DODGE AWAY.. FOOLING THE ENEMY'S MISSILES INTO GOING AFTER THE METAL CHAFF INSTEAD OF THE PILOT'S PLANE.
(SGT STEVE RICHMOND/US AIR FORCE #1 5:24) "It'll fire as soon as the airflow catches it. It'll just blow out along here and the thrust of the engine will actually spread it out." THESE METAL-COATED FIBERS FILL ONE TUBE. SOME AIRCRAFT CAN CARRY AS MANY AS SEVEN BOXES OF THESE TUBES. AIR FORCE AND NAVY PILOTS ROUTINELY USE CHAFF IN THEIR PRACTICE SESSIONS IN THE WATERS OFF THE LOWER AND MIDDLE KEYS.
THE EXERCISES THAT TAKE PLACE OVER THE MANGROVES, THE BEACHES AND DEEP WATERS SHOW UP ON THE CHANNEL 10 WEATHER RADAR. IT ISN'T RAIN, IT'S CHAFF, A LOT OF CHAFF. THE QUESTIONS IS WHERE DO THESE MILLIONS OF METAL FRAGMENTS FINALLY FALL TO EARTH AND WHAT DAMAGE IS DONE TO WILDLIFE AND EVEN TO US.
(COLONEL D'ANGELO #1 18:44) "If there is a hazard it is a very subtle one. If there is any at all. It has never been concluded there is an actual hazard." "One of the most important concerns we have is can we inhale it? Can animals inhale it."
GRACE POTORTI LIVES IN NEVADA, NEAR FALLON NAVAL AIR STATION WHERE CHAFF IS USED BY FIGHTER SQUADRONS WHO TRAIN IN THE SKIES OVER THE RUGGED TERRAIN. GRACE AND HER ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP, THE ALLIANCE FOR MILITARY ACCOUNTABILITY ESTIMATE MORE THAN A TRILLION CHAFF FIBERS HAVE BEEN DROPPED ON PUBLIC LANDS IN NEVADA OVER THE YEARS. WE TOLD HER WE COULD FIND NO ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP IN SOUTH FLORIDA THAT HAD HEARD OF CHAFF.. EVEN THOUGH WE FOUND IT BEING USED BY MILITARY PLANES OVER THE FLORIDA KEYS AND THE EVERGLADES.
(GRACE #8-- 2:15) "What happens if you get this in your lungs? It is silica coated with aluminumn and definitely has some potential problems." IN ITS OWN REPORT ON CHAFF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTING OFFICE SAYS THERE ARE (PRE-PRO) DATA GAPS IN THE RESEARCH AVAILABLE ON CHAFF AND RECOMMENDS THAT THE LONG-TERM RISK AND CHRONIC EXPOSURE OF INHALED FIBERS BE EVALUATED. THE AIR FORCE ACCORDING TO THE GAO REPORT, EVEN HAS OLD STOCKPILES OF LEAD-BASED CHAFF...LEAD OF COURSE HAS BEEN BANNED FROM EVERYTHING FROM HOUSEHOLD PAINTS TO GASOLINE BECAUSE OF HEALTH CONCERNS. COLONEL D'ANGELO SAYS THE LEAD-BASED CHAFF IS NOT BEING USED BY AIR FORCE PILOTS FROM HOMESTEAD.
(D'ANGELO #1 21:13) "It is no longer used for training of any kind and it is designated and well marked so it will not be used for training." NAVY FIGHTERS FROM BOCA CHECA NAVAL AIR STATION JUST NORTH OF KEY WEST FLY AS MANY AS FOUR TRAINING MISSIONS A DAY AND USE A LOT OF CHAFF.
(LT MIKE CONNOR/NAVY PILOT #7 5:38) "It coasts along with the prevailing air stream. So it basiclly flies along with the air like a leaf would blow from a tree." LEAD-BASED OR NOT, ENVIRONMENTALISTS LIKE GRACE POTORTI WHO HAVE BEEN CALLING FOR IN-DEPTH, NON-MILITARY SPONSORED STUDIES OF THE EFFECTS OF CHAFF, SAY THERE IS REASON TO WORRY.
(GRACE #8 6:36) "If there are no studies, in the Pentagon's eye, quote, un-quote, there are no risks." BUT FROM THE MILITARY'S POINT OF VIEW USING CHAFF CAN SAVE THE LIVES OF PILOTS, WHO ARE EVEN NOW FACING REAL MISSILES IN YUGOSLAVIA AND IRAQ.
(col d'angelo #1 19:14) "So this is something that we don't want to give up, but we certainly want to listen to the concerns and work something out." ALONG THE LINES OF WORKING THINGS OUT, THE NAVY HAS BEEN WORKING TOWARD DEVELOPING A BIODEGRADABLE FORM OF CHAFF, A SORT OF ECO-CHAFF...BUT THERE'S NO WORD ON WHEN IT MIGHT BE AVAILABLE.