The Frederick Valentich Disappearance by Paul Norman

During the evening of October 21, 1978, twenty year old Australian Pilot Frederick Valentich disappeared over Bass Strait, while flying from Melbourne’s Moorabbin Airport to King Island, off the coast of Victoria. His last communication occurred at 7:12 p.m., during the largest UFO flap in Australian history. Nearly fourteen years after that fatal Saturday evening, no trace has ever been found of either the pilot or his blue and white Cessna model 182 aircraft.

During my travels and correspondence, I have found many false stories circulating around the world regarding this most important case. I have found that these inaccurate statements are coming from individuals at home and abroad. These are people who live thousands of kilometres from the scene where the action took place, newcomers to the field, journalists who write about everything and are experts on nothing except misquotations and out of context reporting and last but not least, "Professors of Impossibility" from the scientific community who have concocted preconceived opinions and have tried to make their ideas fit around them.

Frederick Valentich was not the only person who reported a strange object over and near Bass Strait that day and night. Researchers have found over fifty reported observations in that area which occurred before, during and after his encounter. Most of this information would never have been found without the diligence of researchers from the Victorian UFO Research Society, based at Moorabbin, near the location from whence the mysterious flight originated.

The Bass Strait Flap had been building up for over six weeks prior to the pilot’s disappearance. The UFO flap reached a peak that very weekend of October 21st. More daytime sightings were reported that day than in any flap period that we have ever investigated. Many of these reports have been published in the VUFORS publication, AUSTRALIAN UFO BULLETIN, the MUFON UFO JOURNAL, the INTERNATIONAL UFO REPORTER and other publications throughout the world.

It is a confirmed fact that many UFOs were reported in the vicinity of King Island and the area around Bass Strait on that day and night. Two months prior to this fateful event, we were receiving increasing telephone calls from individuals reporting strange lights in the sky. About this same time UFO reports were being passed on to the police and the King Island News. We were not aware of the reports occurring on this island until they were forwarded to us after news of the pilot’s disappearance became known.

On that same day and night something strange was taking place in the Melbourne and Victorian skies as well as over Bass Strait. That is the inescapable conclusion from startling files of evidence compiled by investigators in the vicinity. Documented interviews with people from unrelated locations up to 300 kilometres apart told similar stories of round objects, star-fish shaped objects and silver cigar shaped UFOs moving slowly in the sky apparently with no visible means of propulsion, no wings and no sound.


The transcript portion of the communication between Valentich and Melbourne Flight Service as released by the Australian Department of Transport follows: (FS - Flight Service, DSJ - Frederick Valentich aircraft designation).

  • 1906:14 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.
  • 1906:44 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.
  • 1907 FS Delta Sierra Juliet.

  • 1907:31 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 it’s travelling, is there any air force aircraft in the vicinity?
    FS Delta Sierra Juliet, no known aircraft in the vicinity.
  • 1908:18 DSJ Melbourne, it’s approaching now from due east towards me.
    FS Delta Sierra Juliet.
  • 1908:41 DSJ (open microphone for two seconds.)
  • 1908:48 DSJ 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.
  • 1909 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?
    DSJ Affirmative.
    FS Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, stand by.
  • 1909:27 DSJ Melbourne, Delta Sierra Juliet, it’s not an aircraft it is (open microphone for two seconds).
  • 1909:42 FS Delta Sierra Juliet, can you describe the -er- aircraft?
    DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet, as it’s flying past it’s a long shape (open microphone for three seconds) cannot identify more than it has such speed (open microphone for three seconds). It’s before me right now Melbourne.
  • 1910 FS Delta Sierra Juliet, roger and how large would the - er - object be?
  • 1910:19 DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet, Melbourne, it seems like it’s 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.
    FS Delta Sierra Juliet
  • 1910:46 DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet (open microphone for three seconds) It’s just vanished.
    FS Delta Sierra Juliet
  • 1911 DSJ Melbourne, would you know what kind of aircraft I’ve got? Is it a military aircraft?
    FS Delta Sierra Juliet, Confirm the - er ~ aircraft just vanished.
    DSJ Say again.
    FS Delta Sierra Juliet, is the aircraft still with you?
    DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet; it’s (open microphone for two seconds) now approaching from the south-west.
    FS Delta Sierra Juliet
  • 1911:50 DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet, the engine is rough-idling. I’ve 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 - 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.
    FS Delta Sierra Juliet.
  • 1912:28 DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet. Melbourne (open microphone for seventeen seconds).

No official conclusion has been given for the strange sound which was heard that interrupted the last statement of the pilot.

The Valentich encounter is almost a carbon copy of the experience of a four man crew aboard an Army helicopter who encountered a frightening event on 18 October, 1973, almost five years to the day prior to the Valentich disappearance.

Captain Lawrence Coyne was flying near Mansfield, Ohio at 2500 feet when a crew member notified the captain that an object was approaching on a collision course. Coyne then initiated a ‘Control descent to 1700 feet. The UFO took up a position just ahead of the helicopter which was flying at 100 knots. The pilot was amazed his helicopter was climbing even though his controls were in descending position. At 3500 feet there was a thump when the helicopter broke loose from the object.

During this period Coyne tried to contact air fields nearby but both UHF and VHF frequencies had failed. Coyne also reported that his compass was rotating slowly. The shape of the object was described as cigar or long shaped and its manoeuvrability was identical to the one reported by Valentich. The instruments were later checked out in Cleveland and found to be satisfactory. In this case Larry Coyne and his crew got back to tell the story, Frederick Valentich did not.

While military and civilian aircraft searched the area over Bass Strait, VUFORS investigators concentrated their efforts with interviews of witnesses who had reported objects they had seen flying that same day and night. Some examples of reports follow: (Names are on file with VUFORS) Currie, King Island, 2:00 p.m.: The sky was clear, except one large cloud directly overhead. Out of this cloud came an object similar to a huge golf ball about a quarter-size of the moon. The object was white or silver in colour. It moved slowly to the west toward the sea. The UFO stopped at an angle of 70 degrees above the horizon, then started moving back in the direction from whence it came. At that time there was no wind. The cloud remained stationary. The UFO was the only object seen to be moving in the sky. No balloons are released at King Island on the weekends.

Beginning less than one hour after the King Island UFO was seen, twin cigar shaped objects were reported to be moving from west to east over Victoria, near Bass Strait. They were last seen about 4:30 p.m. when suddenly they changed colour from silver to white, made a sweeping curve to the north and sped away. The movement of these objects was traced by interviewing witnesses scattered along a flight path until the objects sped away. The observers nearest to the UFOs were almost directly udder the objects. They described them to be about three-quarters the size of a Boeing 747 aircraft, joined together with two silver beams. They were last seen over the ranges near Cape Otway.

At 6:45 p.m., just 21 minutes before Pilot Valentich radioed Melbourne Flight Service that he was encountering an unknown aircraft, Roy Manifold, of Melbourne, photographed on 35mm film, an object hurtling in a blur of speed and mist out of the water neat Cape Otway lighthouse. All modes of computer analysis were used to gain data. including edge enhancement, colour contouring, digitising and filtering. The analysis was made by GSW and critique issued by William H. Spaulding, GSW Director. The photos were also examined by other photo specialists.

Publication of the photos brought "Professors of Impossibility" out of their arm chairs for another debunking attempt. They decreed that the photos showed "a cloud or a puff of smoke". VUFORS advisors quickly exploded this hasty announcement. The object appears only in two of the six pictures, taken while the camera was in automatic sequencing. The time interval between each photograph is confirmed by the setting sun’s Position. In the last picture the so called cloud is already nine degrees into the shot. This means it would have been moving at 200 miles per hour. It is not possible for a cloud or puff of smoke to move at this speed on a calm day.

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. During that time, twenty people located in different areas around Bass Strait observed a green light in the same direction and at the same time the pilot was reporting the approach and description of an object with a green light.

In addition, other reports have been forthcoming, such as: In the southern suburb of Frankston, a mother and four teenagers reported what appeared to resemble a sky rocket, although the object was stationary. The colour appeared to be a mixture of red, pink and white. The witnesses estimated the object to be a quarter-size of the moon. The mother said that at the time of the sighting she did not realise it was a UFO, until later when she learned that other people had seen the same object. At the same time, a bank manager and his wife, while driving on the highway west of Melbourne, observed a star-fish shaped object out over the Strait. They noticed green flickering lights at the ends. The couple are of the opinion that it was the same object that Valentich was reporting before the strange sound jammed his radio transmission.

Another sighting was reported from Ormond, a suburb in southern Melbourne, occurring at 7:15 p.m. when lights were noted in a cigar shaped arrangement. The lights were described as looking like "silver rain" as they appeared to fall or else were turned off from top to bottom.

Two lads were out in the street communicating with their walkie-talkies when they saw a star-shaped object appear at a low altitude over their heads. It was moving slightly faster than an aircraft as if oh an approach run to an airport. During the observation both witnesses recall a sound like a low pulsating ,hum was associated with the object. Each of the walkie-talkies first became jammed with static then communication was lost altogether, even though the lads were only a short distance apart. Communication was restored when the UFO flew away. Their description was of an object with bright white lights placed intermittently at each tip of a star-fish shaped object and at Various points along the arcs to the tips.

There were many other similar reports of flying objects throughout southern Victoria during that same day and night and they continued for several days following this strange encounter. These reports were being referred to VUFORS from various sources.

An outstanding sighting was reported on Monday evening, 23 October, 1978, only two days later. It occurred at 9.00 p.m. as two families were preparing to leave the beach. They saw a cigar shaped light speeding low over Port Philip Bay, from the direction of Bass Strait. When it reached a position about halfway across the bay, between the observers on the Frankston beach and Williamstown on the opposite shore, the UFO flashed a brilliant white ray of light. Following this event a smaller red light was noted to have detached itself from the larger object. As the large UFO sped away to the north, the smaller red one flew at a much slower speed toward the beach where the observers were standing. As the smaller object approached the beach, the nine people observed that the object was shaped like a star-fish with red lights at each tip. They could also hear a low humming sound as it flew nearby. When the red lighted UFO was a mile or so past the group, it stopped in mid air for a few minutes. It then accelerated away at a much faster speed in the direction of Bass Strait where the larger lighted object had first appeared.

One of the best indications from observers that a UFO was involved in Frederick’s experience came a few years after the event when four witnesses came forward to report sighting both the aircraft and the UFO flying directly above the Cessna. They had hesitated reporting outside their immediate friends because of fear of ridicule. They came forward when they did because the information bore on their conscience.

An uncle, his son and two nieces were rabbit hunting at Cape Otway. A niece looked up and saw the green light and called to her uncle, "What is that light?" The uncle looked up and answered, "An aeroplane light". The niece then said, "No, the light above the aeroplane". Frederick was the only pilot flying in the area at that time. Sight of the aeroplane and object was lost when they flew behind the hills. This sighting completely rules out all speculations and fictitious stories - other than that a UFO was involved in the pilot’s disappearance.


The Frederick Valentich encounter provides an excellent case for study. It is an incident that can be compared with several other encounters where objects have revealed similar characteristics such as magnetic effects, ignition failure as well as communication failures etc. There is no doubt in my mind that the disappearance of Frederick Valentich and his Cessna was caused by a UFO. 1 do not know whether he went up, down or was disintegrated. The electromagnetic effect from the UFO may have stalled his engine (since he did report the engine was rough-idling or "coughing") and caused him to crash into the water. There is also the possibility that the mystery sound which ended the transmission between Melbourne Flight Service and the pilot was the sound of his aircraft in the early stages of disintegration. Another possibility is that his radio frequency may have been jammed deliberately by persons or entities.


  • Australian UFO Bulletin: Victorian UFO Research Society (VUFORS)
    P.O. Box 1043, Moorabbin, Victoria 3189, Australia.
  • International UFO Reporter:
    J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies, 2457 West Peterson Ave., Chicago, Illinois 60659, USA
  • Melbourne Episode: Case study of a missing pilot,
    Dr Richard F. Haines, L.D.A. Press, Los Altos, California, 1987
  • MUFON UFO Journal:
    Mutual UFO Network, Inc., 103 Oldtowne Road, Seguin, Texas 78155, USA
  • "The Bass Strait Flap":
    Norman, Paul, Australian UFO Bulletin, December 1978 and 1979,Bulletins.
  • "Mystery Deepens in Pilot Disappearance Case",
    Norman, Paul, MUFON UFO Journal, No. 141, November 1979, pp.5-7.
  • "Frederick Valentich Encounter Update":
    Norman, Paul, BUFORA BULLETIN, June 1983: British UFO Research Association(BUFORA),
    40 Jones Drive, Whittlesey, Peterborough, PE7 2HW, England
  • "Pilot Valentich, Death or Abduction?",
    VUFORS Committee: The Australian Annual Flying Saucer Review: 1981 edition published by VUFORS.

Copyright © 1996 Victorian U.F.O. Research Society Inc.
P.O. Box 1043 Moorabbin Victoria, Australia 3189

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