On the evening of October 21, 1978, a 20-year-old Australian pilot flew a familiar route from Melbourne airport to King Island.
From all reports, it wasn’t a difficult one. But for the young Frederick Valentich, whatever happened while flying over the Bass Strait proved fatal.
He never come home, and his body was never recovered.
In the latest episode of Unexplained, a podcast about mysterious real life events that continue to evade explanation, the team delve into the unexplained disappearance of the young Melbourne pilot.
And it makes for some bizarre listening.
On the evening of the 21st of October, 1978, Frederick wanted to take his new fiancee, Rhonda, on a flight with him. He had proposed to the 16-year-old only the week before, and the two were keeping quiet on their intention to marry until she had turned 17 in the coming December.
However, when Rhonda was unable to swap out of work, he took the flight alone, intending to be home later that evening to take her to a local dance. It would be the flight that claimed his life.
On his journey home, Frederick radioed Melbourne air traffic control at 7:06 pm to say he was being accompanied by an aircraft about 300 m above him. Although Mellbourne air traffic control confirmed there was no known traffic at that level, Frederick continued to claim he could see a large unknown aircraft which appeared to be illuminated by four bright landing lights above him.
In the flight recording revealed soon after his disappearance, he is on tape describing the aircraft as “metallic” and “shiny on the outside”.
“It’s approaching from due east towards me,” Valentich said. “It seems to be playing some sort of game… flying at a speed I can’t estimate. It’s not an aircraft. It’s… It is flying past. It is a long shape. I cannot identify more than that. It’s coming for me right now.”
A minute later: “It seems to be stationary. I’m also orbiting and the thing is orbiting on top of me also. It has a green light and a sort of metallic light on the outside.”
His last words were: “It is not an aircraft.”
So did a UFO really cause Frederick’s disappearance?
At the time, the media went into overdrive, reporting on UFO sightings from the months prior and suggesting his appearance was the most compelling theory for the existence of UFO’s yet.
Adding to the mystery was the fact Frederick had accessed confidential RAAF reports about UFO sightings just months before he went missing. Despite this, the Department of Transport was skeptical a UFO was behind Valentich’s disappearance. According to family and friends, he also identified as a ‘flying saucer enthusiast’.
So if it wasn’t a UFO, what was it?
Another proposed explanation is that Frederick became disoriented and was flying upside down. In this case, the lights he saw would be his own aircraft’s lights reflected in the water and he would then have crashed into the water
On top of that, others have suggested the young pilot may have been suicidal. According to Unexplained, Frederick had failed a few of his pilot exams coming into his disappearance and was yet to tell his family. However, as The Advertiser reported in 2013, interviews with doctors and colleagues who knew him virtually eliminated this possibility.
After two weeks, the search for the 20-year-old was called off. He was never found, nor was there ever an explanation as to what really went on.