Valentich disappearance refers to the unexplained disappearance
on 21 October, 1978, of 20-year-old Frederick Valentich
while piloting a Cessna 182L light aircraft over Bass
Strait in Australia. He intended to land at King Island
and return to Moorabbin Airport.
the 127-mile (235 km) flight, Valentich advised Melbourne
air traffic control that he was being accompanied by an
aircraft about 1,000 feet (300 m) above him. He described
some unusual actions and features of the aircraft, saying
that his engine had begun running roughly, and finally
reported that the "strange aircraft is hovering
on top of me again. It is hovering and it's not an aircraft."
and his aircraft were never found, and an Australian Department
of Transport investigation concluded that the reason for
the disappearance could not be determined.
reports of a UFO sighting in Australia on the night of
the disappearance led Ken Williams, a spokesman for the
Department of Transport, to tell Associated Press that
"it's funny all these people ringing up with UFO
reports well after Valentich's disappearance."
Valentich was born on 9 June, 1958, in Melbourne. He lived
at home with his parents and three siblings and at the
time of his disappearance, was a shop assistant at an
army disposals store at Moonee Ponds.
had twice applied to enlist in the Royal Australian Air
Force but was rejected because of inadequate educational
qualifications. He was a member of the Air Training Corps,
determined to have a career in aviation. His student pilot
licence was issued 24 February, 1977, and his private
pilot licence the following September. Valentich was studying
part-time to become a commercial pilot but had a poor
achievement record, having twice failed all five commercial
licence examination subjects, and as recent as the previous
month, had failed three more commercial licence subjects.
He had been involved in flying incidents, straying into
a controlled zone in Sydney (for which he received a warning)
and twice deliberately flying into cloud (for which prosecution
was being considered).
firm believer in UFOs, Valentich had accumulated numerous
articles about them and watched movies on the subject,
and had told his father Guido that he was worried what
UFOs could do if they attacked. His father told investigators
that Frederick and his mother had watched a UFO move off
at great speed, earlier that year.
had a Class Four instrument rating and 150 hours flight
experience, when he filed a flight plan at Moorabbin Airport,
Melbourne, on 21 October 1978. His stated intention was
to fly to King Island in Bass Strait via Cape Otway, to
pick up passengers, and return to Moorabbin. However,
he had told his family, girlfriend and acquaintances that
he intended to pick up crayfish. During the accident investigations,
it was learned there were no passengers waiting to be
picked up at King Island, he had not ordered crayfish
and could not have done so because crayfish were not available
was flying a Cessna 182-L, with a cruising speed of around
256 km/h (160 mph), and visibility was good and winds
were light. He departed Moorabbin at 18:19, contacted
the Melbourne Flight Service Unit to inform them of his
presence, and reported reaching Cape Otway at 19:00.
19:06, Valentich asked Melbourne Flight Service Officer
Steve Robey for information on other aircraft below (5000
ft, 1524 m) and was told there was no known traffic at
that level. Valentich said he could see a large unknown
aircraft which appeared to be illuminated by four bright
landing lights. He was unable to confirm its type, but
said it had passed about 1,000 feet (300 m) overhead and
was moving at high speed. Valentich then reported that
the aircraft was approaching him from the east and said
the other pilot might be purposely toying with him.
19:09, Robey asked Valentich to confirm his altitude and
that he was unable to identify the aircraft. Valentich
gave his altitude as 4,500 ft and said the aircraft was
"long", but it was traveling too fast
for him to describe it in more detail. Valentich stopped
transmitting for about 30 seconds, during which time Robey
asked for an estimate of the aircraft's size. Valentich
said the aircraft was "orbiting" above
him and that it had a shiny metal surface and a green
light on it. This was followed by 28-seconds silence before
Valentich reported that the aircraft had vanished. There
was a further 25-second break in communications before
Valentich reported that it was now approaching from the
southwest. Twenty-nine seconds later, at 19:12:09, Valentich
reported that he was experiencing engine problems and
was going to proceed to King Island. There was brief silence
until he said "it is hovering and it's not an
aircraft". This was followed by 17 seconds of
unidentified noise, described as being "metallic,
scraping sounds", then all contact was lost.
search and rescue alert was given at 19:12. Valentich
failed to arrive at King Island by 19:33, and a sea and
air search was undertaken, and two RAAF P-3 Orion aircraft
searched over a seven-day period. Search efforts continued
until 25 October, 1978. Analysis of a fuel slick found
roughly near where Valentich had last radioed Robey proved
that it was not aviation fuel, and no trace of the aircraft
was found. The aircraft was equipped with four life jackets
and an emergency radio beacon, and was designed to stay
afloat for several minutes.
two-week long Department of Transport (DOT) investigation
into Valentich's disappearance was unable to determine
the cause, but that it was "presumed fatal"
for Valentich. A report published on 27 April 1982, summarised
the radio conversations on the evening of 21 October 1978
between Valentich and Robey.
Valentich's final recorded transmission to the Melbourne
Service Unit, seventeen seconds of unexplained noise,
described as being "metallic, scraping sounds,"
were recorded by DOT Air Traffic Control audio tape.
Paul Norman and John W. Auchettl received an edited copy
of the original voice tape from the DOT. Auchettl had
a copy analysed by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
(RMIT) and another was taken to the United States by Norman
for analysis by Dr. Richard F. Haines, a former researcher
with NASA-Ames and Associate Professor of Psychology at
San Jose State University.
described the sounds as "Thirty-six separate bursts
with fairly constant start and stop pulses bounding each
one," and said that there were "no discernible
patterns in time or frequency." The significance
of the sounds, if any, has remained undetermined.
before Valentich's last reported contact with Robey, plumber
Roy Manifold set up a time lapse camera and tripod on
the shoreline in order to photograph the sun setting over
the water. When his pictures were developed they appeared
to show a fast moving object exiting the water near Cape
Otway lighthouse. Manifold gave the time that the pictures
were taken as being approximately 6:47 pm (18:47 hrs),
or 20 minutes before Valentich reported having difficulties.
pictures were later examined by Phoenix, Arizona-based
UFO group Ground Saucer Watch (GSW) and by a number of
independent experts. Though the pictures were not clear
enough to identify the object, UFO groups argue that the
distance that the object moved between frames, relative
to clouds in the background, indicate a speed of roughly
Haines wrote of the photographs: "Based on the
computerized data of the pictures, it is the consensus
of the GSW technicians that the images represent a bona
fide unknown flying object, of moderate dimensions, apparently
surrounded by a cloud-like vapor/exhaust residue."
The suggestion that the objects are solid has been dismissed
by UFO skeptics who believe the object to be a cloud formation.
No skeptical explanation has been given to account for
the object's speed.
news of Valentich's disappearance became public, a number
of individuals reported witnessing unusual activity in
the area. Some people claimed to have seen "an
erratically moving green light in the sky" and
in one instance witnesses, located about 2 km west of
Apollo Bay, Victoria, stated that they saw a green light
trailing or shadowing Valentich's plane, and that he was
in a steep dive at the time. Ufologists said these accounts
were significant as most were recorded several years prior
to the 1982 release of transcripts in which Valentich
had described the object above him as having a green light.
from Valentich's father
to an Associated Press report, Guido Valentich, the father
of the missing pilot, said "he hoped his son had
been taken by a UFO and had not crashed. 'The fact that
they have found no trace of him presents a possibility
that UFOs could have been there.'" Guido Valentich
also told the AP that "his son used to study UFOs
as a hobby using information he had obtained from the
air force. He was not the kind of person who would make
up stories. Everything had to be very correct and positive
explanations have been put forward for Valentich's disappearance:
The possibility remains that Valentich staged his own
disappearance: even taking into account a trip of between
30 and 45 minutes to Cape Otway, the aircraft still had
enough fuel to fly 800 kilometres; despite ideal conditions,
at no time was the aircraft plotted on radar, casting
doubts as to whether it was ever near Cape Otway; and
Melbourne Police received reports of a light aircraft
making a mysterious landing not far from Cape Otway at
the same time as Valentich's disappearance.
proposed explanation is that Valentich became disoriented
and was flying upside down. What he thought he saw, if
this were the case, would be his own aircraft's lights
reflected in the water. He would then have crashed into
the water. This was ruled out by aviation authorities,
as the Cessna 182 has a high wing with a gravity feed
fuel system, making prolonged inverted flight impossible
in this model.
2000, a private investigation of the incident concluded
that Valentich had become disoriented and experienced
engine and radio problems that caused him to crash into
the sea. It further suggested that the Bass Strait's strong
prevailing currents might have carried his relatively
light aircraft a long distance before it finally sank.
explanations for Valentich's disappearance include speculation
by ufologists that the unexplained aircraft with the green
light that he reported was a vehicle of some kind, which
in turn either abducted Valentich or caused the destruction
of his plane in some fashion.
that a UFO was involved has been fueled by a number of
factors, including Valentich's last transmission, in which
he described the aircraft shadowing him as "hovering"
and "not an aircraft", the unexplained
sounds that were heard at the end of his transmission,
and a rash of UFO reports from the area.
Government's Department of Transport file was opened in
2012 under the 20-year rule. The file reference on this
document was V116/783/1047 "DSJ - Cape Otway to
King Island 21 October 1978 - Aircraft Missing (Valentich)"
is 315 pages and is open at the NAA.
Department of Transport's Marine Operations Centre, a
MARSAR (Marine Search and Rescue) file also in the 2012
open category is listed in the National Archives of Australia
(NAA) file series A4703, control symbol 1978/1205 is titled
"VH-DSJ Light aircraft overdue King Island".
of the transmissions