The Valentich Mystery: Was It a UFO?

On October 21, 1978, just south of Melbourne, Australia, a single engine Cessna lifted off from Moorabbin Airport. The pilot was 20-year-old Frederick Valentich, who had been flying for 2 years, had logged over 150 hours of solo time, and was instrument rated. Headed for King Island, his flight plan called for a 40-minute trip west along the Australian coast. Then, at Cape Otway, he would head south for a half-hour run over Bass Strait. It was a fairly normal flight, but what happened after 45 minutes of flight remains one of the great mysteries of Australian aviation. Valentich was in contact with a flight service center on the ground when he reported a large aircraft that passed 1,000 feet above him several times. He wasn’t to the point of panic, but he was concerned and sounded confused. Valentich reported that the craft was stationery, hovering in mid-air as he flew around it. It had a green light that was described as being “sort of metallic, like shiny all over.” Suddenly, an unidentifiable clicking noise came over the radio. The sound lasted 17 seconds, and then there was nothing but silence. For 4 days, a flotilla of search vessels crisscrossed Bass Strait, but there was no sign of the Cessna or any evidence that there had been a crash. An eyewitness suggested that Valentich had encountered a UFO, but said he had never seen whether the plane crashed or not. Six weeks later, amateur photographer Roy Manifold came forward with even more startling evidence. He had been setting up to photograph a sunset at Cape Otway, which was almost directly under Valentich’s flight path. He took 6 photographs of the sun disappearing into the sea, but when the photos were developed a strange metallic object enveloped in a cloud of exhaust appeared in one of the photos. Unfortunately, Manifold didn’t see it and didn’t hear anything that night either. It’s been 45 years since Fredrick Valentich flew off into his uncertain fate and his plane has never been found.