Image Credit: Creative Commons

Frederick Valentich was just 20 years of age when he disappeared mysteriously in Australia in 1978. The mysterious circumstances behind this disappearance have puzzled many for years.

Valentich had was on a 125-mile training flight when he radioed air traffic control to say he was being accompanied by an unidentified object. Valentich subsequently vanished, with him and his aircraft never being seen again.

This article looks into this case. Many theories have been put forward and will be analysed – with Ufologists paying particularly close attention to this case. There is a reader’s poll at the end of the article where you can cast your vote on which theory you believe is most accurate.

Valentich vanished in Australia


Frederick Valentich was born in 1958 and was an Australian national. He dreamed of a career as a pilot and had a strong passion for the aviation industry.

He had tried to enlist for the Royal Australian Air Force, however he was rejected twice due to poor educational qualifications.

Instead, he signed up to the Royal Australian Air Force’s Air Training Corps. He was able to complete flying training because of this. At the time of his disappearance, he had accrued approximately 150 hours of flying time.

In this 150 hours, Valentich had caused some controversy. He had flown into a restricted flying area and intentionally flown into a cloud – resulting in him becoming well-known to Australian aviation officials.

The Disappearance

On October 21st 1978, Valentich, just 20 at the time, was flying on a 125-mile training flight in the dark – enroute to King Island, Australia.

At 7:06pm he contacted Melbourne Air Traffic control to say an unidentified object was following him. Traffic control responded by saying they couldn’t see any other traffic in his vicinity.

Valentich was at 4,500 feet at the time, but traffic control determined that no other aircraft was flying at this altitude.

Valentich said that he could see four bright lights that illuminated the object. He told traffic control that the object was moving at a fast speed which was approaching him.

Valentich said that the aircraft was “orbiting” above him. He gave a description of it having a shiny metal surface and a green light on it,

Soon enough, he reported that he was having engine problems. The traffic control responded by asking him to identify the aircraft, to which Valentich responded by saying “it isn’t an aircraft”.

The transmission was soon lost, which was followed by what was described as unidentified “metallic” noise. Valentich disappeared from air traffic radars and was not heard from again.

The Investigation

Air traffic control realised that Valentich had disappeared and was likely in a state of disarray. They repeatedly tried to reach him, but were unable to.

A search and rescue attempt was launched, with multiple aircrafts trying to find Valentich. The focus was on the immediate area in which Valentich vanished in.

In total, 1,000 square miles was searched, before the search was called off after four days. In this time, searches were unable to find any trace of Valentich and his aircraft.

In the absence of any physical evidence, there was very little that investigators could do other than carry out searches, which they did.

Investigators into the disappearance believed that Valentich had been unwittingly flying upside down. They argued that the lights he had been seeing were his own – albeit reflecting from the water. The belief was that sadly he crashed into the water.

But they were unable to say this with any certainty and instead based this off of the circumstances involved in the disappearance. The gaping hole in this theory concerned the whereabouts of Valentich and his aircraft.

Later Developments

As time went by, the case became of more interest to Ufologists and those who have looked to prove the existence of extra-terrestrial life. The fact that Valentich’s aircraft was not found and the supposed existence of an unidentified object led many to say that extra-terrestrial life might have been present.

It has been theorised that the engine of Valentich suddenly not working could have been to do with the UFO, Perhaps Valentich and his aircraft were abducted by the UFO.

Ufologists have claimed that others spotted a UFO in the area on that night. Given the lack of explanation behind Valentich’s disappearance, this has resulted in significant speculation that Valentich was abducted by extra-terrestrial life.

Valentich’s father went on record to say that his son was an active believer of UFO’s and was worried about a possible attack or invasion from extra-terrestrial life. This led to some arguing that Valentich was fabricating his story and instead crashed into the water.

In 1983, an engine cowl flap washed up on the shore of Flinders Island, Australia. After an investigation, investigators were unable to determine if the flap had come from Valentich’s aircraft.

However, they noted that the part had most likely come from a Cessna 182 aircraft – the same aircraft that Valentich had been flying on the fateful night. This made some believe that the plane must have crashed into the ocean. But this wasn’t ever proved.

For Ufologists, this is an important case


There are three main theories in this case. Realistically, it is highly likely that anything outside of the three below theories would be near-impossible.

Now, we take a look at the evidence for each of them:

Theory One: Frederick Valentich was flying upside down and crashed

Much circumstantial evidence would point in the direction of Valentich flying upside down. The lights he described seeing would be his own, reflecting off the water.

It was dark at the time and Valentich was also relatively inexperienced at flying. Moreover, Valentich had a penchant for doing unexplained things – such as driving into the restricted flying area.

He could arguably be seen as an attention seeker. This might have been another stunt that sadly went wrong. There wasn’t a sign of another aircraft from air traffic control. It does seem likely that he sadly met his fate in the water.

This theory could also explain the finding of the part of the Cessna 182 aircraft – if this was indeed Valentich’s aircraft. It would certainly be logical.

However, the major flaw in this argument is that Valentich and his aircraft were never found. Yet a huge search took place for Valentich. Is it really feasible that the aircraft wouldn’t be found despite the 1,000 square mile search? While the ocean is obviously huge, it does seem unlikely that Valentich or his aircraft wouldn’t be found.

Theory Two: Frederick Valentich staged his own disappearance

Another theory is that Valentich staged his own disappearance in an effort to start a new life. It could have been something he had planned for a long time.

During their investigation, Melbourne Police received reports of a mysterious aircraft making an unannounced landing near Cape Otway (close to his vanishing point), on the night of his disappearance.

However, Valentich would have surely found it very difficult to not reappear. Staying away from his family would have been challenging and also, his face was well-known – meaning he might have been recognised.

But it is possible that Valentich did stage his disappearance and that he lived in a different area for the rest of his life, evading any suspicion.

Theory Three: There was extra-terrestrial involvement in Frederick Valentich’s disappearance

While Valentich liked doing stunts, there isn’t much of a reason for him to lie about another aircraft being there. If this is the case, then there is a chance that there was some extra-terrestrial involvement.

This would explain why Valentich and his aircraft were never found. Valentich appeared to be sure that an object was following him, and was able to give it a description that seemed to match those of other apparent sightings in the area – though these have never been verified.

Perhaps the UFO abducted Valentich and his aircraft and took it somewhere else. They may have killed Valentich in the meantime after potentially running tests or interrogating him.

While this theory can never be proved, it would explain what happened to Valentich and his aircraft. The chances of there being extra-terrestrial life somewhere seems high – but would they get involved in such a case?

We would be ignorant to think that there is absolutely no chance that extra-terrestrial life has visited Earth. This case is highly-revered by Ufologists – for good reason too.

Reader Vote

With the above theories in mind, we now invite you to cast your vote on the theory that you believe is most likely in the poll below.

What Happened to Frederick Valentich?


While this mysterious disappearance hasn’t received the publicity that other cases have got, it is still an interesting case. It is a very sad case, with many questions over Valentich’s disappearance.

Many believe that Valentich’s proclivity for engaging in stunts add weight to the theory that he was flying upside down. However, for many this is evidence of the existence of extra-terrestrial life.

Header Picture Credit: Australian Department of Transportation, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

You may also like

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in:20th Century