Saturday, 15 March 2014

The Disappearance of Frederick Valentich

In 1978, a young private pilot named Frederick Valentich rented a single-engine Cessna and literally flew off into the sunset, never to be seen again. Sadly there's nothing unusual about that; the fact is that small planes crash every so often. But something is different this time. The case of Frederick Valentich has benn called Australia's most famous aviation mystery; not because he disappered, but because his final radio transmissions reported a UFO. Ever since, a subculture of Australians, notably including Valentich's own father, believed he was abducted by aliens and may yet be alive somewhere.

Frederick was only 20 years old, a member of the Air Training Corps, a volunteer youth cadet program sponsored by the Royal Australian Air Force.In October 1978, he showed up at Moorabbin Airport in Melbourne to rent a plane in order to fly out to King island. He was turned away due to bad weather over the ocean. So he returned a few days later to try again, and this time got his plane, a single-engine Cessna 182L.

He took off at about a quarter after 6pm in the evening of October 21, for what would be his first and only night flight over water. Frederick's flight proceeded uneventfully. About twenty minutes after sunset, he turned away from the coast at an altitude of 4500 feet and began the long stretch over water. It was at that moment when he made his first radio call. Here is the (slightly abridged) exchange (with punctuation and capitalization added), taken from the transcript of the audiotape

Valentich: Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet. Is there any known traffic below five thousand?

Melbourne: Delta Sierra Juliet, no known traffic.

Valentich: Delta Sierra Juliet, I am, seems to be, a large aircraft below five thousand.

Melbourne: Delta Sierra Juliet, what type of aircraft is it?

Valentich: Delta Sierra Juliet, I cannot affirm, it is four bright, it seems to me, like landing lights.

Melbourne: Delta Sierra Juliet.

Valentich: Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet, the aircraft has just passed over me at least a thousand feet above.

The conversation continued this way for some five minutes:

Valentich: 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.

The conversation finally concluded after Valentich reported engine trouble:

Valentich: Delta Sierra Juliet, the engine is rough idling, I've got it set at twenty three twenty four and the thing is coughing.

(Twenty three twenty four means his engine power settings were typical.)

Melbourne: Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, what are your intentions?

Valentich: 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.

Melbourne: Delta Sierra Juliet.

Valentich: Delta Sierra Juliet, Melbourne...

Melbourne: Delta Sierra Juliet, Melbourne.

His final transmission was at 7:12pm and 28 seconds. Melbourne declared an alert, which was escalated to a distress situation 21 minutes later.

No comments:

Post a Comment