1910: Sky Spotters
This comic explores how people with various hobbies notice strange things in the sky.
In the first panel the plane enthusiasts White Hat and Hairy notice that there is a Piper PA-24 Comanche in the sky (apparently the most recent of several), belonging to a holding company that has filed no flight plans. Flight plans do not need to be filed for many short flights at lower altitudes in good weather, so for a small aircraft like the PA-24, the missing flight plan alone should not be unusual. Many government or company planes used for secret purposes, like FBI planes registered to fake companies, go a step further and are blacklisted from major databases. Regardless, it makes White Hat and Hairy wonder why, enough that they decide to post about it on their plane spotter forums. (See 1669: Planespotting). The reference to red trim on the Piper PA-24 Comanche could be a reference to the livery of Janet Airlines which operates clandestine flights between Las Vegas, Area 51, and other desert military bases, although these planes are in fact registered to the Department of the Air Force, rather than a holding company.
In the second panel Hairbun and a male bird enthusiast are wondering why there is a broad-winged hawk in the area in November when many broad-winged hawks should have migrated south to areas like Florida and Central America. They decide to send a message to their birdwatching e-mail list. (See 1824: Identification Chart and 1826: Birdwatching). The two birdwatchers in this panel look like the old version of Cueball and Megan in 572: Together.
In the last panel, a committee from what appears to be the National Security Agency wonders how to disguise their drones so that people will not pay attention to them. The boss at the end of the table is lamenting the fact that both their bird- and plane-disguised drones have been noticed because of all these people constantly checking out the sky, also indicating that there are even more subcultures who are obsessed with things in the sky than the two mentioned already. Ponytail asks what else they could disguise their (secret) surveillance drones as, and Cueball suggests a weather balloon. But Ponytail shoots this down, since such a disguise would attract both the UFO enthusiasts and the "weather people" (presumably some regulation board that checks unauthorized use of meteorological survey balloons, or otherwise hobbyist meteorologists or perhaps even members of the Cloud Appreciation Society). She then jokes that she doesn't know which is worse. Since most people consider UFO enthusiasts to be into conspiracies, the "weather people" may be annoyed by this. Maybe Randall is indicating that people trying to predict the weather are correct as often as those claiming to have seen a UFO...
There are numerous instances of weather balloons being labeled as UFOs by enthusiasts, one of the most notable being the Roswell UFO incident, which for years was explained by the US military as a weather balloon crash, but turned out to be a nuclear test surveillance balloon. It is now known as the most thoroughly debunked UFO claim.
In the title text, it is suggested that "lost birthday party balloons" should not attract too much attention. But then it is noted that it might make marine wildlife people angry, their concern probably being that balloons ultimately end up in some water body, which causes marine wildlife to get trapped in plastic and other synthetic material that was dumped in the water. (see Marine debris) "Marine wildlife people with sharks" may be a reference to 585: Outreach, which also features a balloon carrying a shark. Another possible issue with disguising drones as "lost balloons" is that such balloons are quite rarely seen, and a sudden increase in the number of "lost balloons" seen would certainly raise suspicion even without a "spotting community" that focuses on them.
Among other types of people looking at the sky, the comic doesn't even get around to mentioning the subject of comic 1644: Stargazing. It also fails to mention that something could be disguised as a regular cumulus cloud, which is usually ignored by the average person .
- [White Hat and Hairy are standing in front of some buildings. White Hat points to the sky while holding his smartphone in the other hand, while Hairy holds his smartphone up in both hands as he looks at the screen.]
- White Hat: That's odd—another PA-24 Comanche with red trim. Registered to a holding company, no recent flight plans.
- Hairy: I'll ask the forums if anyone knows who operates those.
- [Hairbun and an old man with a white sailor cap are standing in a field with rolling hills behind them. Hairbun is looking at the sky through her binoculars, which she has on a string around her neck. The man also looks up but he is holding his string attached binoculars down in front of him.]
- Hairbun: Goodness, I think that's a broad-winged hawk!
- Man with sailor cap: In November?! They should be long gone by now!
- Hairbun: I'll email the list.
- [Five people sit around a table in a boardroom, which presumably belongs to the government as the table has a circular insignia with an eagle in the center and unreadable text in the ring around the eagle and beneath the insignia. A man with slick black hair is sitting at the end of the table in an office chair. The other four are sitting behind the long side of the table; from the left they are Cueball, Megan, another version of Hairy with spikier hair, and to the right, Ponytail.]
- Man at the end of the table: Dammit, why are there so many different subcultures obsessed with staring at the sky?
- Ponytail: What else could we disguise our surveillance drones as?
- Cueball: Weather balloons?
- Ponytail: No, that gets the UFO people and the weather people.
- Ponytail: Don't know who's worse.
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