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Frederick Valentich’s Unresolved Mystery: Vanishing into Thin Air

The Eerie Evening of October 21, 1978

It was a seemingly ordinary evening on October 21, 1978, when the tranquility of the Bass Strait was pierced by an unsettling mystery that continues to baffle the world. The disappearance of Frederick Valentich, a 20-year-old Australian pilot, turned a routine training flight into an enduring enigma. Intertwining the unexplainable with the tragic.

Frederick Valentich: A Young Pilot’s Aspirations and Anxieties

Frederick Valentich, harboring dreams of a career in aviation, faced numerous setbacks in his pursuit. Despite his determined efforts, evidenced by over 150 hours of flying time. And also a class-four instrument rating, Valentich’s path was marred by failed examinations and flying incidents. His belief in UFOs, as recounted by his father, added another layer to his complex profile. Ultimately hinting at the fears that might have played a role in his final flight.

A Flight Shrouded in Mystery: The Unanswered Questions

The flight of October 21 took off from Moorabbin Airport, with Valentich at the controls of a Cessna 182L. His stated destination was King Island. However, conflicting accounts and unverified purposes for the trip added layers of mystery. The absence of a clear motive and the contradictions surrounding his stated intentions to pick up crayfish or friends only deepened the intrigue.A picture of the type of airplane, a Cessna 182L, Frederick Valentich flew in when he disappeared

The Last Communication: A Distressful Encounter

Frederick Valentich’s Initial Report

  • Valentich’s First Call: “Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet. Is there any known traffic below five thousand?”
  • Melbourne’s Response: “Delta Sierra Juliet, no known traffic.”
    • Analysis: Valentich’s initial inquiry about traffic suggests he might have seen something unusual. The response from Melbourne Flight Service confirms there were no other known aircrafts at his altitude, intensifying the mystery of his subsequent observations.

Sighting of the Unidentified Aircraft

  • Valentich’s Observation: “Delta Sierra Juliet, I am, seems to be, a large aircraft below five thousand.”
  • Follow-up Question: “Delta Sierra Juliet, what type of aircraft is it?”
  • Valentich’s Description: “Delta Sierra Juliet, I cannot affirm, it is four bright, it seems to me, like landing lights.”
    • Analysis: Valentich describes an ambiguous sighting, unable to identify the type of the aircraft. His mention of “four bright… like landing lights” could indicate a larger aircraft, yet his uncertainty adds to the eerie nature of the encounter.

Frederick Valentich disappearance - Artist rendition of the 4 lights viewed from the cockpit

The Aircraft’s Movement

  • Valentich Reports Movement: “Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet, the aircraft has just passed over me at least a thousand feet above.”
  • Continued Description: “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.”
    • Analysis: Valentich’s report suggests a confusing and erratic movement of the unidentified aircraft, especially with it seemingly “orbiting” above him. The mention of a green light and metallic surface could be construed as unconventional, differing from typical aircraft descriptions.

The Distressing Conclusion

  • Engine Trouble: “Delta Sierra Juliet, the engine is rough idling, I’ve got it set at twenty three twenty four and the thing is coughing.”
  • Melbourne’s Query: “Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, what are your intentions?”
  • Valentich’s Alarming Response: “My intentions are to go to King Island. Melbourne, that strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again… It is hovering and it’s not an aircraft.”
    • Analysis: Valentich’s mention of engine trouble adds a layer of danger to the situation. His final, chilling statement was, “It is hovering and it’s not an aircraft,” It contradicts the initial description and suggests a transition from curiosity to alarm. This statement, coupled with the unexplained engine issues, heightens the suspense of the encounter.

The Final Words of Frederick Valentich 

  • Valentich’s Last Words: “Delta Sierra Juliet, Melbourne…”
  • Melbourne’s Final Call: “Delta Sierra Juliet, Melbourne.”
  • Final Transmission: Occurred at 7:12 pm and 28 seconds.
    • Analysis: The abrupt end to the communication, marked by incomplete sentences and the lack of further response from Valentich, leaves the encounter shrouded in mystery. The lack of closure in the conversation mirrors the unresolved nature of Valentich’s disappearance.

This detailed analysis of Valentich’s last communication with Melbourne Flight Service reveals a series of perplexing statements and observations. Ultimately culminating in an unresolved mystery. To this day, it continues to intrigue and baffle researchers and enthusiasts alike. The combination of Valentich’s detailed descriptions, his increasing concern, and the sudden cessation of communication contribute to the enduring enigma of his disappearance.

Theories and Speculations: From Alien Abduction to Pilot Error

The lack of conclusive evidence has given rise to various theories. Some speculate about alien abductions or Valentich staging his disappearance. Others suggest he might have been disoriented, potentially entering a graveyard spiral due to an illusion of a tilted horizon. Despite these hypotheses, the true nature of Valentich’s final moments remains obscured by the passage of time and the lack of definitive proof.

The Continuing Enigma: A Case That Still Captivates

Decades have passed since that fateful night, yet the story of Frederick Valentich continues to captivate and mystify. The combination of his personal beliefs, the peculiar circumstances of his flight, and the mysterious final transmission have cemented this case in the annals of unexplained mysteries. The disappearance of Frederick Valentich remains, to this day, a poignant reminder of aviation’s unpredictable nature and the ever-present unknowns of our skies.


A short movie has been made about this mysterious event. You can find more information here.

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