|AKA:||Frederick Valentich disappearance|
Steve Robey (ATC)
|Location:||Bass Strait, Australia|
|Date:||21 October 1978|
|Status:||(Missing) Presumed dead[original research?]|
The Valentich disappearance refers to the disappearance of 20-year-old Frederick Valentich while on a 125-mile (235 km) training flight in a Cessna 182L light aircraft over Bass Strait in Australia on 21 October 1978.
Described as a "flying saucer enthusiast", Valentich radioed Melbourne air traffic control that he was being accompanied by an aircraft about 1,000 feet (300 m) above him, that his engine had begun running roughly, and finally reported, "It's not an aircraft."
There were belated reports of a UFO sighting in Australia on the night of the disappearance, however Associated Press reported that the Department of Transport was skeptical a UFO was behind Valentich's disappearance, and that some of their officials speculated that "Valentich became disorientated and saw his own lights reflected in the water, or lights from a nearby island, while flying upside down."
Frederick Valentich was born on 9 June 1958 in Melbourne. He lived at home with his parents and three siblings in Avondale Heights and at the time of his disappearance was a shop assistant at an army disposals store at Moonee Ponds. Frederick attended Keilor Heights High School in East Keilor up until year 10, then he continued his studies at a private college.
He 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).[original research?]
Valentich radioed Melbourne Flight Service at 7:06 PM to report an unidentified aircraft was following him at 4,500 feet 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. Valentich said the aircraft was "orbiting" above him and that it had a shiny metal surface and a green light on it. Valentich reported that he was experiencing engine problems. Asked to identify the aircraft, Valentich radioed, "It isn't an aircraft" when his transmission was interrupted by unidentified noise described as being "metallic, scraping sounds" before all contact was lost.
Search and rescue
An sea and air search was undertaken that included oceangoing ship traffic, a P-3 Orion aircraft, plus eight civilian aircraft. The search encompassed over 1,000 square miles. Search efforts ceased on 25 October 1978.
A two-week long Department of Transport (DOT) investigation into Valentich's disappearance was unable to determine the cause,[original research?] but that it was "presumed fatal" for Valentich.[original research?] A report published on 27 April 1982 summarised the radio conversations on the evening of 21 October 1978 between Valentich and Robey. On 6 July 1983, five years after VH-DSJ went missing, an "engine cowl flap" was found washed ashore on Flinders Island.[original research?]
In July 1983 the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation asked The Royal Australian Navy Research Laboratory (RANRL) about the likelihood that the cowl flap might have "traveled" to its ultimate position from the region where the plane disappeared.[original research?] The bureau noted that "the part has been identified as having come from a Cessna 182 aircraft between a certain range of serial numbers" which included Valentich's aircraft. The bureau also noted that while it is possible for cowl flaps to separate from aircraft in flight, this had not happened with any recent aircraft.
It has been proposed 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.
Another 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 fed fuel system, making prolonged inverted flight impossible in this model.
Another proposed possibility is suicide, although it has been suggested that he had a content lifestyle.
A 2013 review of the radio transcripts and other data by astronomer and retired U.S. Air Force pilot James McGaha and author Joe Nickell proposes that the inexperienced Valentich was deceived by the illusion of a tilted horizon for which he attempted to compensate and inadvertently put his plane into a downward, so-called "graveyard" spiral which he initially mistook for simple orbiting of the plane. According to the authors, the G-forces of a tightening spiral would decrease fuel flow, resulting in the "rough idling" reported by the pilot. McGaha and Nickell also propose that the apparently stationary, overhead lights that Valentich reported were likely the planets Venus, Mars, and Mercury along with the bright star Antares which would have behaved consistent with the pilots description.
UFOlogists have speculated that extraterrestrials either destroyed Valentich's plane or abducted him, asserting that some individuals reported seeing "an erratically moving green light in the sky" and that he was "in a steep dive at the time." Ufologists believe these accounts are significant because of the "green light" mentioned in Valentich's radio transmissions.
Phoenix, Arizona- based UFO group Ground Saucer Watch claim that photos taken that day by plumber Roy Manifold show a fast moving object exiting the water near Cape Otway lighthouse. Though the pictures were not clear enough to identify the object, UFO groups argue that they show "a bona fide unknown flying object, of moderate dimensions, apparently surrounded by a cloud-like vapor/exhaust residue."
- Department of Transport Aircraft Investigation Summary Report Page 8
- Department of Transport Aircraft Investigation Summary Report Page 9
- Department of Transport Aircraft Investigation Summary Report Page 10
- Australian Government National Archives Search
- Bass Strait Triangle, the area where Valentich and his plane disappeared
- Westall UFO, a 1966 case reported in Melbourne
- Australian ufology
- Department of Transport, Victoria-Tasmania Region - (Commonwealth of Australia) (1982-04-27). "Aircraft Accident Investigation Summary Report". [File:] DSJ - Cape Otway to King Island 21 October 1978 - Aircraft Missing (Valentich), Series B1497 Control symbol V116/783/1047. National Archives of Australia.
- "UFO Enthusiast Missing After Reporting Craft". Associated Press. October 10, 1978. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
- P.R., Graham (10 December 1981). "DSJ - Cape Otway to King Island 21 October 1978 - Aircraft Missing (Valentich)". National Archives of Australia. p. 52. Retrieved 10 September 2013. "On two occasions he sat for and failed all five CPL subjects and during July 1978, sat for three CPL subjects and failed them. He had penetrated Sydney Control Zone during a flight...and just prior to this flight he had received a counselling letter..."
- "Search for pilot who saw UFO, then disappeared discontinued". United Press International. October 26, 1978. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
- "After spotting UFO Pilot disappears". United Press International. October 23, 1978. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
- Doc 12 - National Archives of Australia Record Search and do a Basic search using Keywords "DSJ - Cape Otway to King Island 21 October 1978 - Aircraft Missing (Valentich)". http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/NAAMedia/ShowImage.asp?B=10491375&S=12&T=R
- Doc 14 - National Archives of Australia Record Search and do a Basic search using Keywords "DSJ - Cape Otway to King Island 21 October 1978 - Aircraft Missing (Valentich)". http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/NAAMedia/ShowImage.asp?B=10491375&S=14&T=R
- Melbourne Age, 28 October 1978, p. 1
- The Australian, 24 October 1978, pp. 1-2
- Discussed on the ABC television programme Can We Help? in 2007
- Kemp, Miles (6 July 2012). "'Truth' was out there after all". The Advertiser. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
- McGaha, James and Nickell, Joe, "The Valentich Disappearance: Another UFO Cold Case Solved",Skeptical Inquirer, November/December, 2013
- Clark, Jerome (1998). The UFO Book: Encyclopedia of the Extraterrestrial. Visible Ink. ISBN 1-57859-029-9.
- News Story (1980-07-23), The Standard (Melbourne)