The story of Frederick Valentich, a 20 year-old Australian pilot, is one of the most chilling in all the annals of UFOlogy. On the evening of October 21, 1978, Valentich was flying his Cessna aircraft from Melbourne to Kings Island. Valentich had been flying for two years and logged over 150 hours of solo time. It was a routine flight, made just as darkness was setting in, which was expected to take just over an hour.
Ken Llewelyn of the Royal Australian Air Force had this to say about Fred's flight:
It was a fairly normal exercise. He had an appropriate instrument rating for the trip. It was a very straightforward flight, and I could see no reason why it shouldn't have concluded successfully.
Just 47 minutes after he took off, Valentich got in touch with Melbourne air traffic control to say that he could see a large aircraft above him. When it passed over him at extraordinary speed, he asked if there were any military aircraft in the vicinity. He was told there were not.
Stephen Robey was the ground controller communicating with Fred:
He wasn't to the point where he was panicking, but he was genuinely concerned by what he saw, with what he saw. He was worried. He sounded confused. Then, as he described what the aircraft was doing, I became a little bit concerned, too.
What Fred reported was that the craft was stationery, hovering in midair as he flew around it.
The following is a transcript of the radio communication:
Fred: It's got a green light that's sort of metallic, like it's shiny all over. It's just disappeared. Is this some sort of military aircraft or what?
Tower: Delta, Sierra, Juliet, is the aircraft still with you?
Fred: Delta, Sierra, Juliet. Now approaching from southwest. Delta, Sierra, Juliet, the engine's gone into half idle. I've got it set on 23, 24. This thing's just coughing. This strange aircraft's just hovering on top of me again. It's hovering, and it's... it's not an aircraft.
Suddenly, an unidentifiable clicking noise came over the radio. The sound lasted 17 seconds. Then silence.
The Cessna never arrived at Kings Island. A full scale search & rescue operation was launched but not a trace of Valentich was ever found.
People could only speculate as to what really happened, until a witness came forward with a firsthand account. Around the time of Valentich's disappearance, an eyewitness and his family were returning from an afternoon outing when they noticed unusual activity in the sky. The witness has asked that we do not reveal his identity:
I looked up and saw this long green light about 1,000' or 2,000' above the aircraft. So we sat there and watched it for a few seconds. And the green light crept closer to the plane. I said: That plane is coming down pretty steep. It's on a 45° angle. He said: 'I think it's going to crash'.
The eyewitness account suggested that perhaps Valentich had an encounter with a UFO. He never saw whether the plane crashed. The only certainty was that Valentich had vanished. Six weeks later, an amateur photographer came forward with even more startling evidence.
On the evening of the flight, Roy Manifold had been setting up to photograph a sunset at Cape Otway, which was almost directly under Valentich's flight path:
I'd done the normal thing, had the camera on automatic exposure, and I took six photographs of the sun disappearing into the sea. When developed, Manifold said one of the photographs displayed a peculiar blemish:
I observed this mark on the print that looked like a developing error or something. They mussed it up. I said, 'Just a minute, that night I took that is exactly the night that this guy disappeared.
A leading Australian photo lab found neither dirt nor damage on the negative, determining that the strange mark was actually in the picture. The negative was later sent to the United States for computer analysis by a team of UFO researchers. They claimed that the blot was actually a solid, metallic object. To them, it appeared to be enveloped in a cloud of exhaust situated about a mile from the camera. A second, analysis, however, stated that the mark could be a developing error. Either way, Roy Manifold believes the photograph does show something of consequence:
Unfortunately, I didn't see it, and I didn't hear anything that night, either. First time I've had something on my printings, and I've done thousands of photographs, and without any incidence of anything like that on them.