PILOT AND HIS CESSNA 182 DISAPPEARS OVER AUSTRALIA
OCTOBER 21, 1978
It was the extraordinary disappearance of pilot Frederick Valentich (left) over Bass Strait on October 21st, 1978, that thrust the subject of UFOs into the news headlines around the world. The Valentich mystery has endured as an insoluble enigma. The crux of the mystery is just what happened to the young pilot and his 182 Cessna light aircraft – VH – DSJ (Delta Sierra Juliet) – during that October evening. The circumstances behind the total disappearance of both pilot and plane have since been elevated into one of the premier mysteries of aviation and for many one of the most intriguing elements of the UFO phenomenon. The fact that the mystery has lasted so long is a direct result of the incredible aspects at the heart of the affair. Twenty year-old Frederick Valentich, 47 minutes into what should have been a routine 69 minute flight from Moorabin, Victoria, to King Island, reported in a radio conversation with Melbourne Flight Service Unit controller, Steve Robey, of seeing an unidentified “aircraft” near him. The only official report to emerge on the affair was an Aircraft Accident Investigation Summary Report, reference No. V116/783/1047. The basic relevant events and transcript of the conversation between Valentich and Robey – a “radio encounter of a weird kind” – included in the report are given here: The pilot obtained a class Four instrument rating on 11 May 1978 and he was therefore authorised to operate at night in visual meteorological conditions (VMC). On the afternoon of 21 October 1978 he attended the Moorabbin Briefing Office, obtained a meteorological briefing and, at 1723 hours, submitted a flight plan for a night VMC flight from Moorabbin to King Island and return. The cruising altitude nominated in the flight plan was below 5000 feet, with estimated time intervals of 41 minutes to Cape Otway and 28 minutes from Cape Otway to King Island. The total fuel endurance was shown at 300 minutes. The pilot made no arrangements for aerodrome lighting to be illuminated for his arrival at King Island. He advised the briefing officer and the operator’s representative that he was uplifting friends at King Island and took four life jackets in the aircraft with him. The aircraft was refuelled to capacity at 1810 hours and departed Moorabbin at 1819 hours. After departure the pilot established two-way radio communication with Melbourne Flight Service Unit (FSU). Valentich reported in this transmission that “a large aircraft” appeared below him, then apparently passed over his aircraft. He felt it was an “unknown aircraft” particularly because of its apparent speed. It approached him from the east and seemed to be “playing some sort of game”, “flying over me two three times at speeds I could not identify”. Frederick Valentich emphasised, “It’s not an aircraft … it’s flying past, it’s a long shape.” Then he described, “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.” One minute later Valentich said the object was approaching his aircraft from the Southwest. Then the Cessna’s engine started rough idling. Frederick Valentich’s last transmission was, “…that strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again. It is hovering and it’s not an aircraft.” 17 seconds of open microphone followed with metallic like sounds hear, perhaps like the rapid keying of the plane’s microphone, and then silence. An intensive air, sea and land search followed over the next 4 days. No trace of pilot or plane was ever found. The weather in the Cape Otway area was clear with a trace of stratocumulus cloud at 5000 to 7000 feet, scattered cirrus cloud at 30000 feet, excellent visibility and light winds. The end of daylight at Cape Otway was at 1918 hours. The Alert Phase of SAR procedures was declared at 1912 hours and, at 1933 hours when the aircraft did not arrive at King Island, the Distress Phase was declared and search action was commenced. An intensive air, sea and land search was continued until 25 October 1978, but no trace of the aircraft was found. NOTE: The above image is a rendering.