“It’s Not an Aircraft”: Chilling Disappearance of Frederick Valentich

A Mystery Unfolds On a seemingly ordinary evening in October 1978, the calm of Melbourne Flight Service was shattered by a haunting message: “It’s not an aircraft.” These chilling words were the last ever heard from pilot Frederick Valentich. Suspended in this eerie silence, his plane disappeared without a trace, leaving behind a mystery that rivals any Lovecraftian horror tale.

Frederick Valentich
Frederick Valentich

The Man Behind the Controls 

Born on 9 June 1958, Frederick Valentich wasn’t just any ordinary pilot. With 150 total hours of flying experience, he was licensed to navigate the skies even at night, given the right meteorological conditions. His dreams were set sky-high, with two attempts to join the Royal Australian Air Force. Despite his rejections due to educational qualifications, his spirit remained undeterred. He was a dedicated member of the RAAF Air Training Corps and was on a part-time quest to become a commercial pilot.

Yet, not all was smooth in Valentich’s aviation career. He had a patchy academic record, failing several commercial licence exams. His flying record wasn’t spotless either, with a few incidents tainting his logbook. However, what stands out most prominently was his deep fascination with UFOs. This obsession became a cause of worry for his father, Guido Valentich, who revealed that Frederick feared an extraterrestrial encounter. As for his fateful flight’s purpose? Its destination was King Island. But why he was headed there remains shrouded in uncertainty. Misleading statements, conflicting stories, and an overlook of “standard procedure” thickened the plot.

A Cessna 182 similar to the aircraft involved
A Cessna 182 similar to the aircraft involved Photo: Robert Frola

A Frightening Encounter

At 7:06 pm, Frederick broke the radio silence, reaching out to Melbourne Flight Service. An unknown entity, he claimed, was tailing his aircraft. Despite being told that there was no traffic at his altitude, Valentich persisted, describing a mysterious aircraft illuminated by bright lights. This unknown entity, moving at high speeds, seemed to circle above him, with a shining metallic surface and an eerie green light.

As he continued his communication, distress crept into his voice. Engine problems were now complicating his situation. Pushed for identification of the strange object, his reply was bone-chilling: “It’s not an aircraft.” Suddenly, the radio transmission was cut off, replaced by disturbing metallic scraping sounds. And just like that, Valentich was gone.

Artist's impression of the incident
Artist’s impression of the incident

Search, Rescue, and Investigation 

The alarm raised, a massive sea and air search operation was launched. This ambitious search spread across 1,000 square miles, roping in naval and air assets. Yet, after days of combing the area, on 25 October 1978, the search was called off without any results. The official investigation, carried out by the Australian Department of Transport, could only declare Valentich’s disappearance as “presumed fatal.” Five years on, in a twist, an engine cowl flap belonging to a Cessna 182 was found on Flinders Island. After close inspection, it was deduced that it could indeed belong to Valentich’s aircraft.

Australian Department of Transportation report on the Valentich Disappearance (page 2)
Australian Department of Transportation report on the Valentich Disappearance (page 2)

Deciphering the Enigma

The baffling circumstances of Valentich’s disappearance have sparked countless theories. One suggests that this might have been an elaborate vanishing act by Frederick himself. Eyebrows were raised when Melbourne police received reports of a mysterious aircraft landing near Cape Otway, timed suspiciously close to the pilot’s disappearance.

Another theory paints a disorienting picture: Valentich, they suggest, might have been flying upside down, mistaking his own aircraft’s lights reflected in the water. This would imply a tragic crash into the water. However, experts argue that the Cessna model he piloted wouldn’t sustain inverted flight due to its fuel system. A darker theory whispers the word ‘suicide’, but those who knew him have vehemently rejected this possibility.

In a 2013 study, a blend of astronomy and aviation expertise offered another perspective. The theory suggests Valentich could’ve been deceived by a tilted horizon, pushing his aircraft into a fatal spiral. The lights he reported? Possibly, the celestial glow of Venus, Mars, Mercury, and the star Antares. An illusion, a deception, or a genuine extraterrestrial encounter, the truth behind Frederick Valentich’s last flight remains a haunting enigma.