The Valentich disappearance describes an event on 21 October 1978 when 20-year-old Frederick Valentich disappeared in unknown circumstances while piloting a Cessna 182L light aircraft over Bass Strait, Australia. His intention was to land at King Island, pick up three or four friends there, and return to Moorabbin Airport.
During the 127 mile (235 km) private flight, Valentich advised Melbourne air traffic control he was being accompanied by an aircraft about 1,000 feet (300 m) above him. He described unusual actions and features of the aircraft, reported that his engine had begun running roughly, and finally reported before disappearing from radar that "That strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again. It is hovering and it's not an aircraft".
No trace of Valentich or his aircraft was ever found, and a Department of Transport investigation concluded that the reason for the disappearance could not be determined.
The report of a UFO sighting in Australia attracted significant press attention, in part due to the number of sightings reported by the public on that night. Ken Williams, a spokesman for the Department of Transport, told the Associated Press that "it's funny all these people ringing up with UFO reports well after Valentich's disappearance."
A pilot with a Class Four instrument rating and 150 hours of flight experience, Valentich filed a flight plan from Moorabbin Airport, Melbourne, to King Island in Bass Strait on 21 October 1978. Visibility was good and winds were light. He was flying a Cessna 182-L, with a cruising speed of around 256 km/h (160 mph). He departed Moorabbin at 18:19 local time, contacted the Melbourne Flight Service Unit to inform them of his presence, and reported reaching Cape Otway at 19:00.
At 19:06, Valentich asked Melbourne Flight Service Officer Steve Robey for information on other aircraft at his altitude (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.
At 19:09 Robey asked Valentich to confirm his altitude and that he was unable to identify the aircraft. Valentich confirmed his height and began to describe the aircraft, saying that it was "long", but that 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 replied that 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.
A 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.
A 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.
According to an Associated Press report, Guido Valentich, the missing pilot's father, 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 for him.'"
Several explanations have been put forward for Valentich's disappearance:
Frederickís last communication that fateful day was at 7:12pm and it is this communication which has propelled this story from a simple disappearance into an intriguing mystery.
Here is a transcript of the communication which took place:
DSJ Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet. Is there any known traffic below five thousand?
FS Delta Sierra Juliet, no known traffic.
DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet, I am, seems to be a large aircraft below five thousand.
FS Delta Sierra Juliet, What type of aircraft is it?
DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet, I cannot affirm, it is four bright, it
seems to me like landing lights.
FS Delta Sierra Juliet.
DSJ Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet, the aircraft has just passed over me at least a thousand feet above.
FS Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, and it is a large aircraft, confirmed?
DSJ Er-unknown, due to the speed itís travelling, is there any air force aircraft in the vicinity?
FS Delta Sierra Juliet, no known aircraft in the vicinity.
DSJ Melbourne, itís approaching now from due east towards me.
FS Delta Sierra Juliet.
DSJ (open microphone for two seconds.)
DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet, it seems to me that heís playing some sort of game, heís flying over me two, three times at speeds I could not identify.
FS Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, what is your actual level?
DSJ My level is four and a half thousand, four five zero zero.
FS Delta Sierra Juliet, and you confirm you cannot identify the aircraft?
FS Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, stand by.
DSJ Melbourne, Delta Sierra Juliet, itís not an aircraft it is (open microphone for two seconds).
FS Delta Sierra Juliet, can you describe the -er- aircraft?
DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet, as itís flying past itís a long shape (open microphone for three seconds) cannot identify more than it has such speed (open microphone for three seconds). Itís before me right now Melbourne.
FS Delta Sierra Juliet, roger and how large would the Ė er Ė object be?
DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet, Melbourne, it seems like itís stationary. What Iím doing right now is orbiting and the thing is just orbiting on top of me also. Itís got a green light and sort of metallic like, itís all shiny on the outside.
FS Delta Sierra Juliet
DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet (open microphone for three seconds) Itís just vanished.
FS Delta Sierra Juliet
DSJ Melbourne, would you know what kind of aircraft Iíve got? Is it a military aircraft?
FS Delta Sierra Juliet, Confirm the Ė er ~ aircraft just vanished.
DSJ Say again.
FS Delta Sierra Juliet, is the aircraft still with you?
DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet; itís (open microphone for two seconds) now approaching from the south-west.
FS Delta Sierra Juliet
DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet, the engine is rough-idling. Iíve got it set at twenty three twenty-four and the thing is coughing.
FS Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, what are your intentions?
DSJ My intentions are Ė ah Ė to go to King Island Ė ah Ė Melbourne. That strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again (open microphone for two seconds). It is hovering and itís not an aircraft.
FS Delta Sierra Juliet.
DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet. Melbourne (open microphone for seventeen seconds).
Communications between Valentich and Melbourne Flight Service were recorded from 7:06 to 7:12 p.m., before an unexplained sound abruptly terminated the voice communications.
This encounter almost mirrors another incident that occurred on the other side of the globe in Mansfield, Ohio on October 18, 1973, five years prior to the Valentich, when Capt Lawrence Coyne and his crew also encountered something mysterious.
They were flying at 2500 feet when a crew member alerted the captain that a strange object was approaching. Coyne dropped his altitude down to 1700 feet but the object followed the helicopter down and then settled in a position in front of it. The object and the helicopter were flying at 1200 knots at the time.
Although Coyne had his controls set for a descent, he found that the helicopter was in fact in an ascent. At 3500 feet the crew heard a loud Ďthumpí and the helicopter broke loose from the object. During this period, Coyne tried to radio air fields, but neither the VHF or UHF radios were working.
This craft was described as being cigar shaped and moved in a nearly identical manner to the one reported by Valentich.
Coyne and his crew were lucky to make it back in one piece Ė
Valentich was not so lucky.
It would be easy to dismiss the Valentich encounter and subsequent disappearance as an unfortunate accident and that the whole UFO angle was perhaps just a delusion. However other evidence came to light which supports the UFO claim.
At 2pm on that fateful day, witnesses saw a UFO emerge from a strange cloud over Curry Island. The sky was clear except for the cloud and the only moving object was the UFO.
At about 4:30pm, two cigar shaped objects were reported over Bass Strait. They described them to be about three-quarters the size of a Boeing 747 aircraft, joined together with two silver beams. The movements of the objects were confirmed by a string of witnesses along its flight path.
At 6:45 pm, merely 21 minutes before Valentich first radioed the tower to report the unknown object, Royy Manifold photographed an object coming out of the water near the Cape Otway lighthouse. These photoís have undergone intense analysis and so far have been proved to be real.
Researchers have found over fifty reported observations in that area which occurred before, during and after his encounter. These were compiled and investigated by the Victorian UFO Research Society.
Taking all the evidence together, this has become one of the most compelling incidents to prove the existence of not only UFOís, but of UFO abductions as well.
Only one question now remains: Where is Frederick Valentich now?