Frederick Valentich.

On the night of October 1st 1978, at 6:19pm a 20 year-old Frederick Valentich took off in his Cessna 182lt, a light plane from Moorabbin in Melbourne on route to King Island. An island halfway from the mainland and Tasmania, and a round trip which should have taken him about three and a half hours to do. It was supposed to be just a training flight, Valentich having just clocked 150 hours of flight time and was eager to get started, it was after all going to be his first solo night flight. Now pilots don’t fly out straight out towards King Island, as that would mean that they would be out over water most of the time, so they they usually hug the coastline until they reach Cape Otway, which is the nearest point to King Island and cut across. Ask any pilot and they will tell you that flying close to land is a lot safer that across water so this line, though a little longer, is the main flight path that aircraft are want to take and it was the path that Valentich took.

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The first part of his flight seems uneventful, at 7.00pm not long after the sun had set, he reported reaching Cape Otway and was turning away from the coastline and heading out towards King Island. At about 7.06pm he contacted Melbourne Air Traffic Control asking if there was any traffic in his area to which he was informed that there was no known aircraft in his vicinity. He told air traffic control that there was an aircraft above him and it appeared to be playing games with him. Here follows the actual transcript of the communication between Valentich and Melbourne Air Traffic Control.

Time (GMT) | From | To | Text
9:06:14 DSJ FS Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet. Is there any known traffic below five thousand?’
9:06:23 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet—No known traffic.
9:06:26 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet. I am—seems (to) be a large aircraft below 5,000.
9:06:46 FS DSJ D Delta Sierra Juliet—What type of aircraft is it?
9:06:50 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet—I cannot affirm. It is four bright … it seems to me like landing lights.
9:07:04 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet. [This statement affirms to the pilot that the person on the ground heard
his transmission.]
9:07:32 DSJ FS Melbourne, this (is) Delta Sierra Juliet. The aircraft has just passed over me at least a
thousand feet above.
9:07:43 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet—Roger—and it, it is a large aircraft—confirm?
9:07:47 DSJ FS Er, unknown due to the speed it’s travelling… is there any air force aircraft in the vicinity?~
9:07:57 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet. No known aircraft in the vicinity.
9:08:18 DSJ FS Melbourne … it’s approaching now from due east~ towards me.~
9:08:28 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet.
9:08:42 DSJ FS //Open microphone for two seconds//
9:08:49 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet. It seems to me that he’s playing some sort of game.’—He’s flying over me
two—three times at a time at speeds I could not identify.’
9:09:02 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet—Roger. What is your actual level?
9:09:06 DSJ FS My level is four and a half thousand, four five zero zero.~
9:09:11 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet… And confirm—you cannot identify the aircraft.
9:09:14 DSJ FS Affirmative.’
9:09:18 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet—Roger… standby.
9:09:28 DSJ FS Melbourne—Delta Sierra Juliet. It’s not an aircraft’… it is //open microphone for two
seconds// [This duration measured as three seconds. No information appears to have been removed
from the tape.]
9:09:46 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet—Melbourne. Can you describe the…er—aircraft?
9:09:52 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet… as its flying past it’s a long shape’ //open microphone for three seconds
// (cannot) identify more than that. It has such speed //open microphone for three seconds //. It is before
me right now Melbourne.’
9:10:07 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet—Roger. And how large would the —er—object be?
9:10:20 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet—Melbourne. It seems like it’s (stationary).
Transcript of Frederick Valentich’s Final Communications with Melbourne Air Traffic Control 2 of 2
[The author, Richard F Haines (USA) has determined that this word should be, ‘chasing me’, based on
special filtering]. What I’m doing right now is orbiting, and the thing is just orbiting on top of me also’ …
It’s got a green light,’ and sort of metallic (like)~. It’s all shiny (on) the outside.~
9:10:43 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet.
9:10:48 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet // open microphone for 5 seconds // [measured as 3 seconds] It’s just
vanished.’
9:10:57 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet.
9:11:03 DSJ FS Melbourne would you know what kind of aircraft I’ve got?’ It is (a type) military aircraft?’
9:11:08 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet. Confirm the… er—aircraft just vanished.
9:11:14 DSJ FS Say again.
9:11:17 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet. Is the aircraft still with you?’
9:11:23 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet… It’s ah… Nor //open microphone for two seconds// (now) approaching
from the southwest.
9:11:37 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet.
9:11:52 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet – The engine is, is rough idling. —I’ve got it set at twenty three—twenty
four… and the thing is—coughing.
9:12:04 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet—Roger. What are your intentions?
9:12:09 DSJ FS My intentions are—ah… to go to King Island—Ah, Melbourne, that strange aircraft is
hovering on top of me again //open microphone for two seconds// it is hovering and it’s not an aircraft.
9:12:22 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet.
9:12:28 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet—Melbourne //open microphone for 17 seconds// [A very strange pulsed
noise is also audible during this transmission.]
9:12:49 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet, Melbourne.
End of official DoT transcript
Key
— normal pause in communications (based on the first author’s flying experience)
… longer than normal pause (several seconds)
‘ upward ending voice inflection (such as an interrogative question)
~ downward voice inflection
Parentheses ( ) enclose words that are open to interpretation because they are not clearly audible

 

c15befb26722d6b81360fbd743a7dd5aValentich shortly before he disappeared

 

Fredericks final communication was at 7:12pm and 28 seconds. An alert was declared and a distress emergency declared soon after. After a massive search the search and rescue effort was called off and no trace of Valentich or his plane was ever recovered and an opened verdict of missing presumed dead was announced.  The story made national headlines, indeed many people came forward saying that they had seen erratic green lights around the area where Valentich disappeared. An interesting point is that are also the same reports which had been made years before the transcript or any reports that Valentich had seen four green lights of the craft above him. In fact there is a long history of strange sightings around the area.

Now I would be remiss if I failed to mention the many (and there are many) sticking points to this story. There is a lot to make you sit back and reevaluate what you think you know bout the disappearance of Frederick Valentich. Firstly, he had lied to pretty much everybody as to what he was actually doing on the night he disappeared. He told Moorabbin that he was picking up a group of passengers but there were no passengers waiting to be picked up, he told his family that he was getting some crayfish but there are no crayfish at King Island. He also told his girlfriend that he would be back at 7:30, she was in fact waiting at her place for him to pick her up for a date, but there was no way he could have made it on time. He also had a history of breaking the rules when it came to flying, having strayed into controlled airspace above Sydney airport and twice flying into clouds though he was not yet rated to do so. Also, and the main one which plays on my mind is his call into Air Traffic Control is very similar to the opening scenes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (my favourite film), which was only released a year before. But I also have to ask that if a pilot was reporting seeing something above them wouldn’t that be the way it would sound? Frederick Valentich was also a man who while he may not have been the worlds most brilliant pilot, he studied hard (he would usually turn up to an airport hours before he was due to fly and study) and I believe he took risks because he was trying to make himself the best he could be. However, he had also applied twice to the RAAF but was rejected due to poor education qualifications, he had also been studying to become a commercial pilot but had failed twice all the five commercial license subjects. He was determined though, he kept studying and he also never stopped applying to take the tests. He was set on making his dream of becoming a pilot a reality.  Some believe that it was spatial disorientation that caused his crash, that with to visible horizon and he simply became confused and crashed, that he staged his own disappearance (though he had a girlfriend who he loved and wanted to marry and was close to his parents this seems unlikely).

A couple of years after his disappearance an engine cowl belonging to a Cessna 182lt washed up on Flinders Island (another island in the chain) and it’s numbers belonged in the range of the type of plane that Valentich has been flying. Though said cowl has since gone missing or been misplaced. A man by the name of Roy Manifold  was taking photo’s of the sunset the night when Valentich disappeared and he claimed to capture what he said was a UFO with a plane attached to it’s side leaking oil. Though, to me, it kinda looks like a bug.

Ufo_disappearance1_roy_manifold's_photo

 

It’s impossible to say what actually occurred that night almost 42 years ago. While there are so many things about him which are contradictory I think Frederick Valentich did see something in the skies with him and whether he was abducted or he simply panicked and crashed into the dark Bass Strait waters we may never know. In any case, Frederick Valentich remains one of our most baffling mysteries in our Australian Sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Search Of………. Part 1

When I was a boy in the early 80’s information, especially information on “fringe” topics was much harder to come by. I grew up in the era where there was no internet and the only computer that most of my friends had was the Commodore 64. Books on UFO’s were contained to one maybe two books in the local library shelf or perhaps late night tv special if I was lucky. To discover anything about the subject one had to be patient and grab anything that came along the line. Learning about UFO’s was kinda of a waiting game.

Luckily, I also grew up in the ear of In Search Of. As a child every Saturday afternoon at 5:30 you would find me sitting cross legged on our living room floor glued to the tv as Leonard Nimoy guided me through the world of the strange, the paranormal and UFO’s. I loved every second of it.  I don’t know if this is where my passion for UFO’s was first sparked but it is certainly my first recollection of being exposed to the phenomena. As time went by I was able to get more and more information, I joined a local UFO group in my home state and received a booklet every month in the mail filled with sightings, articles and opinion pieces which brought me into a whole new area with stories of encounters in my own country.  See as a young boy all I could find to read about were the American stories, Roswell,  Barney and Betty Hill, Aztec New Mexico. I had little to no idea that my own country of Australia also had a rich history of sightings and contact and wouldn’t learn about them until much later. As time trickled by, and as I slowly grew, the way information was made available also grew. Above Top Secret by Timothy Good was released as was Communion by Whitely Strieber. UFO stories sprung up in newspapers and fluff pieces at the end of news casts. Even though I was only young I still recall the stir that the disappearance of Frederick Valentich made in our news services in 1978. So like a slow engine the UFO machine began to kick into life and suddenly there was half a shelf at the local library and even a couple in the bookstore at the local shops.

Then the Internet was born.

Websites were built, photos were shared, and a cacophony of voices erupted in cyberspace and everyone, everyone had their own take on the situation. What was a small trickle of the availability of knowledge became a flood which in turn, became an ocean. So where does someone who happens to discover all this begin their own journey? With so many personalities and so many differing opinions how do you find an opening and dive in? How do you differentiate between the people who truly believe and who truly want to share all they’ve learned from the charlatans and the hoaxes who, sadly, litter the field. There are a lot of them. One of the greatest things to happen to the UFO field in as a means to impart information my opinion is podcasts. They really allow you to listen to some of the best of the field has to offer, pretty much you’ll find a cast about any of the major stories and news and from there is your starting point. The trick is, as with any subject to separating the truth from the bullshit. And there’s a lot of bullshit. A lot of bullshit. There are many actors on the stage peddling their wares like a carny sideshow, from the absurd to the just plain stupid, all get their time in the sun and all get to peddle their wares. In a perfect world all these players would be pushing something they are passionate about, a theory or idea they truly believe in but in the realm of the UFO some are just out for money, or in some cases just to have their names in a spotlight. For every charlatan however there are ten people striving and doing their best find something tangible, a shard of truth in the quagmire of  confusion.

Over the next few months I will be delving into a few cases which I find most interesting, starting with one of Australia’s most infamous cases, that of Frederick Valentich a young pilot whose encounter with something in the skies over Bass Strait forty years ago this year, ended with tragic results.