How a pilot VANISHED after spotting UFO and reporting ‘that’s no aircraft’ – as pic ‘shows orb emerging from sea’ | The Sun

How a pilot VANISHED after spotting UFO and reporting ‘that’s no aircraft’ – as pic ‘shows orb emerging from sea’ | The Sun

October 21, 2022

FREDERICK Valentich's last words to air traffic controllers sparked an intriguing mystery that has puzzled investigators for 44 years.

After describing a "long metallic" object circling at speed, he said: "It's hovering on top of me again… it's hovering and it's not an aircraft."

Melbourne controller Steve Robey then heard a "metallic scratching" sound and the transmission cut out.

Frederick, 20, and his rented Cessna 182L were never seen again.

The story made the front page of the Australian newspaper under the headline "UFO Mystery" and soon spread around the world.

And in the days that followed, Frederick's own father said he hoped he had been abducted by aliens and was still alive.

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Guido Valentich said: “The fact that they have found no trace of him really verifies the fact that UFOs could have been there.”

He added in another press interview he believed his son was being “held by people from another planet.”

He also used the words “someone from another world,” and added: “They may want to hold him for a week or so before returning him.”

It was only the start of an enduring mystery that has fascinated UFO watchers and aviation history fans ever since.

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Several witnesses came forward saying they had seen a strange object flying off Cape Otway, 100 miles southwest of Melbourne.

Bank manager Colin Morgan and his wife reported seeing a large glowing star-shaped object hovering for nearly an hour near Geelong, further up the coast.

“It seemed to be cruising almost above us as we drove down a highway,” Morgan told Australian media.

“It was bright and had green flickering lights at one end.”

The details matched Frederick's own description of a green light in his frantic six-minute radio call.

'Dark blob'

Authorities tried to quash the reports and insisted they did not believe a UFO was involved.

But excited reports at the time suggested Frederick was the victim of Tasmania's "Devil's Triangle" – the southern equivalent of Bermuda's infamous mystery zone.

Then Roy Manifold – a plumber on holiday with his wife Brenda – came forward with photos taken 20 minutes before Frederick's radio call.

He said he stopped to snap the sunset over the Bass Strait from Crayfish Bay – and only noticed something strange when he got the film developed.

His fourth pic showed a dense "black lump" which seemed to be stirring up the sea, and the sixth showed a dark mass rising in the sky – with what look like blue "exhaust" vapours trailing behind.

The most astonishing evidence came from a farmer on Cape Otway, who reported seeing a 100ft object flying over his property on the evening Frederick vanished.

He claimed there was a small aircraft attached to the side which was leaking oil.

Alarmed by what he saw, the famer etched the plane's tail registration number on his tractor – VH-DSJ – the same as the missing Cessna.

The fact this sighting only emerged 36 years later has not stopped some from seeing this as convincing proof of an abduction.

'Alien obsession'

Frederick Valentich had dreamed of a career as a pilot since he was a young boy.

He was also fascinated by UFOs – his girlfriend later said he was convinced aliens would visit and he would "go back with them – but not without her".

He joined the air cadets, but was rejected twice by the Royal Australian Air Force and also failed his commercial pilot exams.

He did have a private pilot's licence, but got in trouble for three safety breaches – for flying into restricted air space and flying into cloud.

With 150 flying hours under his belt, he was authorised to fly at night under "visual meterological conditions".

The weather was clear on October 21, 1978, when he hired a Cessna and lodged a flight plan to fly 121 nautical miles to King Island.

He told airport authorities he was going to pick up friends and loaded four life jackets on board.

Mysteriously, this later turned out to be untrue and the real reason for his flight is unkown.

Some have speculated he wanted to go looking for UFOs.

He took off from Moorabin near Melbourne at 6.19pm with a full tank of fuel.

At 7.00pm he reported his location at Cape Otway. From there it was a 20 minute flight across the sea to King Island.

But at 7.06pm he radioed Melbourne controllers with an urgent question: "Is there any known traffic below five thousand (feet)?"

Controllers said there were no other craft nearby.

Frederick said he could see a "large aircraft" with "four bright it seems to be like landing lights".

He said it passed overhead at "unknown speed", and then it was "approaching now from due east towards me".

He added: "It seems to me that he’s playing some sort of game he’s flying over me three times at a time at speeds I could not identify."

The pilot then said he was circling at 4,500ft to observe it, and added: "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."

Frederick said the mystery craft "vanished" then reappeared "now approaching from the southwest."

He then reported his engine was "rough idling" and "coughing".

His final words at 7.12pm were: "My intentions are 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."

At least eight military aircraft scoured the area in a major search operation but no trace was found.

'Hoax' claims

Frederick's girlfriend Rhonda Rushton, 17, even hired her own plane to search inland – believing he would have turned back for a safe landing.

“He always told me that’s what he’d do if he got into trouble over the sea,” she said.

He had also told her “if a UFO did come to Earth he’d go back with it",but not without her, according to reports at the time.

Frederick's father denied claims the disappearance was a hoax prompted by his UFO obsession and that his son was hiding.

Guido Valentich said UFOs were just a "hobby" and added: “He was not the kind of person who would make up stories. Everything had to be very correct and positive for him.”

An official crash report in 1982 said it could not determine the cause of the disappearance.

Ever since, sleuths have put forward their own theories.

For some, the explanation is more down to earth.

In 2013, retired US Air Force major James McGaha said Frederick could have become disoriented – a danger for even the most experienced pilots.

Writing in the Skeptical Inquirer, he said the four lights Frederick saw were probably planets and a star which were aligned at the time.

Distracted by looking for the "UFO" he was not concentrating on vital flying tasks and may not have checked his instruments.

He could have fallen victim to the "tilted horizon illusion" – when pilots falsely think they are flying level – and tipped into a fatal turn called a "graveyard spiral".

Some have suggested Frederick may even have turned his plane upside down without realising.

The lights he saw could have been his own aircraft lights reflected in the water, it is claimed.

That theory was rejected at the time in 1978 by Arthur Schutt, described in press reports as a “veteran aviator” and “head of an aviation company.” 

He said: “In that half-light the pilot would have soon known if the aircraft had started to turn upside down.

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Forty-four years on, there is no sign of any agreement on what really happened that night over the Bass Strait.

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