Since science fiction rose in popularity in the 1950s, there have been an infinite number of reports from people around the world claiming to have seen aliens and UFOs. Some have even gone so far as to allege that they had been abducted by these extra terrestrial beings. With questionable evidence such as crop circles and shared flashbacks of probing experiments— not to mention conspiracy theories surrounding Area 51 and governmental coverups— it’s difficult to deny the possibility that something not of this earth might be out there. It is also quite possible that some people, like Frederick Valentich, might not ever return to our home planet to tell their story.
Frederick Valentich had always dreamed of having a career flying the friendly skies. As a member of the Air Training Corps in Australia, Valentich was enrolled as a part-time student to become a commercial pilot. He had 150 hours of flight time under his belt and his instrument rating was a class-four, which allowed him to fly after sundown as long as weather conditions were safe. However, Valentich was not what the Corps would consider a model pupil. Rejected twice by the Royal Australian Air Force due to his inept intellect, Valentich had also failed all five commercial pilot exam subjects multiple times. He had been reprimanded for steering a plane into a controlled area in Sydney and he was nearly prosecuted twice for flying into a cloud. Meanwhile, Frederick’s father was a firm believer in the existence of alien life forms and would fill Frederick’s young mind with concerns of UFO attacks.
On October 21, 1978 at 7:06PM, Valentich reached out to the Melbourne Flight Service on his radio reporting an unidentified flying object that he believed was following him at 4,500 feet in the air. The air traffic controller assured Valentich that his aircraft was the only one currently in flight; traffic was clear. Valentich began to describe the unknown aircraft as having a shiny metal exterior and being lit up by four bright green landing lights. He explained that it was approximately 1,000 feet above him and was on the move with increasing momentum. A distressed Valentich then reported that the aircraft was heading toward him, orbiting above him. Valentich informed Melbourne Flight Service that his plane was experiencing engine malfunctions. Immediately instructed to describe the strange aircraft, Valentich replied, “It isn’t an aircraft,” just in time before the radio transmission was distorted by “metallic, scraping sounds.”
A search party was executed in air and sea that included several ships, a Royal Australian Air Force Lockheed P-3 Orion aircraft, and eight civilian planes. The search covered more than 1,000 square miles and was brought to an end on October 25, 1978. Frederick Valentich was never found.
In July 1983, an engine cowl flap was discovered on the shore of Flinders Island, northeast of Tasmania, Australia. Upon examination by the Royal Australian Navy Research Laboratory, evidence suggests that the flap could have come from Valentich’s aircraft. And despite authorities still being unable to determine a cause for Valentich’s disappearance, a few theories have surfaced. One theory is that Valentich had planned an escape to Cape Otway as his aircraft had enough remaining fuel to travel approximately 500 more miles. Entertaining the plausibility of this theory, Melbourne Police officers had reports of an aircraft making an unexpected landing near Cape Otway at the same time that Valentich disappeared. Another suggestion is that Valentich became disoriented while in flight and his plane turned upside down, the lights from his own aircraft reflecting in the ocean and causing him to take a nose-dive into the water. Of course, let’s not rule out the possibility of aliens.
Ufologists (yes, that’s a word) have theorized that alien life forms either obliterated Valentich’s aircraft or abducted him. According to some inhabitants of the area, there was an “erratically moving green light in the sky” and Valentich was “in a steep dive at the time.” Although photos taken from the night of Valentich’s disappearance are not sharp enough to clearly identify the aircraft in question, Phoenix, Arizona-based UFO group Ground Saucer Watch has examined the photos and have concluded that the photos depict “a bona fide unknown flying object, of moderate dimensions, apparently surrounded by a cloud-like vapor [or] exhaust residue.”
Frederick Valentich has been missing without a trace now for nearly forty years. What caused those screeching metallic sounds over the radio waves? Had his father’s hysteria finally consumed his grasp on reality? Or did something abduct him? We may never know exactly what Valentich saw in the night sky.