What Did Frederick Valentich See?

No one has ever been able to explain exactly what UFOs are, although the most common theory is that they are either top secret military aircraft or aliens. Despite the lack of solid information, there are many who find the topic of great interest, such as one Australian man named Frederick Valentich. Aside from being a UFO enthusiast, Valentich was a pilot who unfortunately disappeared while flying on October 21st, 1978. What sets the disappearance of Valentich apart from other pilots lost at sea is how before he disappeared, Valentich frequently discussed a UFO flying nearby and how even today no trace of him or his aircraft has ever been found.

Frederick Valentich
Frederick Valentich

The twenty year old Frederick Valentich had a history of flying, having applied to the Australian Royal Air Force twice, although he was rejected both times. He had also attempted to become a commercial pilot, although Valentich had failed the five tests required twice. Even so, it was clear that Valentich was motivated to become a pilot regardless of how many times he failed and before he disappeared he had logged over 150 hours worth of flying time. Aside from his interest in flying, Valentich was also interested in the UFO phenomenon, so much so that his own father Guido Valentich later told authorities after his disappearance that Frederick had been a firm believer in UFOs and that he also worried abo ut being attacked by them.

As for the infamous disappearance, Valentich was flying a small, lightweight Cessna 182L aircraft over Bass Straight near Australia on October 21st, 1978 when he reported a strange aircraft flying nearby at about 7:00 PM. Upon seeing it, Valentich (FV) radioed controller Steve Robey (SR) with the Melbourne Air Flight Service (DSJ, or Delta Sierra Juliet, refers to the aircraft designation of the Cessna Valentich was flying).

FV: Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet. Is there any known traffic below five thousand?

SR: Delta Sierra Juliet, no known traffic.

FV: Delta Sierra Juliet, I am, seems to be a large aircraft below five thousand.

SR: Delta Sierra Juliet, what type of aircraft is it?

FV: Delta Sierra Juliet, I cannot affirm, it is four bright, it seems to me like landing lights.

About thirty seconds later, Valentich radioed in that the aircraft had begun moving around his own.

FV: Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet, the aircraft has just passed over me at least a thousand feet above.

SR: Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, and it is a large aircraft, confirmed?

FV: Er- unknown, due to the speed it’s traveling, is there any air force aircraft in the vicinity?

SR: Delta Sierra Juliet, no known aircraft in the vicinity.

FV: Melbourne, it’s approaching now from due east towards me.

After a brief pause, Valentich continues describing the aircraft’s unusual actions.

FV: Delta Sierra Juliet, it seems to me that he’s playing some sort of game, he’s flying over me two, three times at speeds I could not identify.

Australia, with the Bass Strait in blue
Australia, with the Bass Strait in blue

Eventually, Valentich is asked by Steve Robey at Melbourne to describe the UFO that is engaging his aircraft.

SR: Delta Sierra Juliet, can you describe the er- aircraft?

FV: Delta Sierra Juliet, as it’s flying past it’s a long shape- cannot identify more than it has such speed- it’s before me right now Melbourne.

SR: Delta Sierra Juliet, roger and how large would the, er, object be?

FV: Delta Sierra Juliet, Melbourne, it seems like its stationary. 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.

Almost thirty seconds pass.

FV: Delta Sierra Juliet- it’s just vanished!

SR: Delta Sierra Juliet.

FV: Melbourne, would you know what kind of aircraft I’ve got? Is it a military aircraft?

SR: Delta Sierra Juliet, confirm the er- aircraft just vanished.

FV: Say again?

SR: Delta Sierra Juliet, is the aircraft still with you?

FV: Delta Sierra Juliet, it’s- now approaching from the south-west.

SR: Delta Sierra Juliet.

FV: Delta Sierra Juliet, the engine is rough-idling. I’ve got it set at twenty-three twenty-four and the thing is coughing.

SR: Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, what are your intentions?

FV: My intentions are, ah, to go to King Island, ah, Melbourne. That strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again. It is hovering and it’s not an aircraft.

Frederick Valentich with his aircraft
Frederick Valentich with his aircraft

After speaking his last words, the microphone was open for seventeen seconds, during which weird “metallic, scraping sounds” could be heard before contact with Valentich was permanently lost. Two experts were brought in to examine the metallic noises at the end, but were unable to remotely identify them. Like most such disappearances, it was assumed that Valentich may have crashed into the Bass Strait, although to date, no wreckage or signs of a possible crash were ever discovered. Roughly nine aircraft and multiple ships at sea were brought in to search for anything that might give a clue as to what happened to Valentich, but after searching over 1,000 square miles no evidence was discovered and the search was eventually called off.

Today, many suggest that Valentich had actually seen the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, and the star Antares rather than four lights on a UFO, and that the “long” and “metallic” object that the four lights were attached to had merely been purely imaginary. As for the green light emitted by the UFO, skeptics also argue that it was actually one of the navigation lights on the end of the Cessna’s wing, and that Valentich was actually seeing either the light on his own wing or the light’s reflection on his windshield. Even if Valentich was a rookie in terms of flying, he still had over 150 hours of flying time before his disappearance so it seems strange that he would not only mistake four celestial objects and his own aircraft’s lights at the same time.

Another aspect is how some suggest that Valentich had seen lights from his own plane in the water or a nearby island while flying down. Obviously, it seems strange that a pilot would not notice he’s hanging upside down. There was also a wave of UFO reports after the Valentich incident in which people claim to have seen a green light flying over the Bass Strait from the Australian shoreline. It is important to note that many of these reports came out after the case was made public, although it has been theorized that the green lights people were reporting were actually Valentich’s aircraft. However, this theory actually lends credence to Valentich rather than skeptics, since if the aircraft was close enough to be seen on land than Valentich would have clearly been able to see land as well. How could he have been flying upside down when the Australian coastline was nearby? And if Valentich had been flying upside down and crashed into the Bass Strait, how was it that the seventeen seconds of open microphone didn’t include any sounds of a crash, or possibly a loud splash from the aircraft hitting the water?

Guido Valentich, holding a photo of his son
Guido Valentich, holding a photo of his son

There is the factor of how Frederick Valentich was a firm believer in UFOs, which leads some to suggest that Valentich’s imagination got the better of him, or that Valentich intentionally committed suicide, using the UFO sighting to give his death much more publicity. However, an investigation into his friends and family totally ruled out the suicide theory. Valentich’s own father stated however that even though Frederick was very interested in UFOs, he was very serious about the topic, and that it was “a hobby using information he had received 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. The fact that they have found no trace of him really verifies the fact that UFOs could have been there.” This shows that even if Valentich was inclined to believe in UFOs, he was focused on finding actual proof from legitimate sources and not one to base his beliefs on sensationalist claims.

An interesting aspect of this whole disappearance is the fact that Frederick Valentich’s airplane disappeared in an area known as the Bass Strait Triangle, a term not used until after Valentich’s disappearance although the area had always possessed a troubled history. Like its counterpart in Bermuda, the Bass Strait Triangle sees a lot of air and marine traffic and numerous ships and aircraft have gone missing over the years, especially during World War II when multiple bomber aircraft went missing. It has also been stated that in the six weeks prior to Valentich’s disappearance, a wave of UFO sightings had been reported in the area.

Who knows what Fredeick Valentich encountered that fateful day. Perhaps he imagined something, perhaps he saw something, but ultimately it resulted in the loss of his life, except that today there’s been absolutely no trace of Valentich or his plane. The only evidence we have is the audio of his last conversation, which itself is somewhat chilling to listen to considering the mystery surrounding Valentich’s final fate.

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