Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New Developments in the Frederick Valentich Disappearance: An Airplane Abducted by a UFO?


Valentich and his aircraft

A famous "unexplained" UFO case (or more precisely, a case where the solution is probable, but not clearly proven) is the 1978 disappearance of Fredrick Valentich, a 20 year old pilot in Australia.  On October 21 1978  he was piloting a Cessna 182L  light aircraft over Bass Strait in Australia. He intended to land at King Island and return to Moorabbin Airport.

However, he never made it to King Island, 127 miles away. The final exchanges between Valentich (DSJ) and air traffic control are as follows: (from Wikipedia)


19:06:14 DSJ [Valentich]: Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet. Is there any known traffic below five thousand?
FS [Flight Services; Robey]: Delta Sierra Juliet, no known traffic.
DSJ: Delta Sierra Juliet, I am, seems to be a large aircraft below five thousand.
19:06:44 FS: Delta Sierra Juliet, What type of aircraft is it?
DSJ: Delta Sierra Juliet, I cannot affirm, it is four bright, and it seems to me like landing lights.
FS: Delta Sierra Juliet.
19:07:31 DSJ: Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet, the aircraft has just passed over me at least a thousand feet above.
FS: Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, and it is a large aircraft, confirmed?
DSJ: Er-unknown, due to the speed it's travelling, is there any air force aircraft in the vicinity?
FS: Delta Sierra Juliet, no known aircraft in the vicinity.
19:08:18 DSJ: Melbourne, it's approaching now from due east towards me.
FS: Delta Sierra Juliet.
19:08:41 DSJ: (open microphone for two seconds.)
19:08:48 DSJ: Delta Sierra Juliet, it seems to me that he's playing some sort of game, he's flying over me two, three times at speeds I could not identify.
FS: Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, what is your actual level?
DSJ: My level is four and a half thousand, four five zero zero.
FS: Delta Sierra Juliet and you confirm you cannot identify the aircraft?
DSJ: Affirmative.
FS: Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, stand by.
19:09:27 DSJ: Melbourne, Delta Sierra Juliet, it's not an aircraft it is (open microphone for two seconds).
19:09:42 FS: Delta Sierra Juliet, can you describe the - er - aircraft?
DSJ: Delta Sierra Juliet, as it's flying past it's a long shape (open microphone for three seconds) cannot identify more than it has such speed (open microphone for three seconds). It's before me right now Melbourne.
19:10 FS: Delta Sierra Juliet, roger and how large would the - er - object be?
19:10:19 DSJ: Delta Sierra Juliet, Melbourne, it seems like it's chasing me.[21] 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.
FS: Delta Sierra Juliet
19:10:46 DSJ: Delta Sierra Juliet (open microphone for three seconds) It's just vanished.
FS: Delta Sierra Juliet.
19:11:00 DSJ: Melbourne, would you know what kind of aircraft I've got? Is it a military aircraft?
FS: Delta Sierra Juliet, Confirm the - er ~ aircraft just vanished.
DSJ: Say again.
FS: Delta Sierra Juliet, is the aircraft still with you?
DSJ: Delta Sierra Juliet; it's (open microphone for two seconds) now approaching from the south-west.
FS: Delta Sierra Juliet
19:11:50 DSJ: Delta Sierra Juliet, the engine is rough-idling. I've got it set at twenty three twenty-four and the thing is (coughing).
FS: Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, what are your intentions?
DSJ: My intentions are - ah - to go to King Island - ah - Melbourne. That strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again (open microphone for two seconds). It is hovering and (open microphone for one second) it's not an aircraft.
FS: Delta Sierra Juliet.
19:12:28 DSJ: Delta Sierra Juliet. Melbourne (open microphone for seventeen seconds).

It was Valentich's first and only night flight over water. And neither Valentich nor his aircraft was ever seen, or heard from, again.




An artist's conception of Valentich pursued by a UFO
But at last, we have some new information on this puzzling case:
"Adelaide researcher Keith Basterfield has been following the case since the disappearance in 1978, but had been told by the Government in 2004 the official file had been lost or destroyed. He "found" it when searching through an online National Archives index on an unrelated topic. The file has since been digitised and uploaded on the archive's website." 

 So we have skeptic Keith Basterfield to thank for the recent government "document dump" that gets this new information 'out there.' Basterfield explains that the newly-released files reveal that "parts of aircraft wreckage with partial serial numbers were found in Bass Strait five years after the disappearance." Also, one pilot searching at the right time and place saw debris that appeared to be from a Cessna, but before he could get a good fix on its position it apparently sank. This makes it extremely likely that Valentich's aircraft simply crashed into the water in the darkness,  although it falls short of conclusive proof. 
Those interested in reading the 315-page official file still need to go out of their way to find it, however, via a seven-step process outlined by Mr Basterfield, which he perhaps charitably denies is another attempt to hide information. He says: 1. Go to National Archives of Australia. 2. Click on search the collection 3. Click on Begin your search 4. Up comes RecordSearch 5. In the keywords box type VH-DSJ 6. Up comes this file 7. Click on the View digital copy icon. (Miles Kemp, Adelaide Now, Fri, 06 Jul 2012)
If that is too complicated, and you really don't want to read all 315 pages in this maddeningly slow way,  there is a nice summary of these findings in Basterfield's Blog entries of June 28,  July 3, and August 24, 2012. You can also download the first set of documents from scribd. From the documents:
 A number of reports of a fast moving brilliant white light were received from various parts of the country. Mt Stromlo observatory advised that the night of the 21st was the peak of the meteorite stream with 10-15 sightings per hour achieved.
The question of why Valentich took this somewhat risky night flight is a separate matter. According to Wikipedia,
His stated intention was to fly to King Island in Bass Strait via Cape Otway, to pick up passengers, and return to Moorabbin. However, he had told his family, girlfriend and acquaintances that he intended to pick up crayfish. During the accident investigations it was learned there were no passengers waiting to be picked up at King Island, he had not ordered crayfish and could not have done so because crayfish were not available anyway.
So clearly Valentich was being evasive about something. The late Philip J. Klass suggested that Valentich may have been involved in drug smuggling, a suggestion which has infuriated some people and for which there is no proof. However Valentich's stated explanations for making this night flight make do not check out. Some have also suggested that it was Valentich's intention to commit suicide.

Also, it turns out that Valentich was a UFO True Believer, and hence probably inclined to assume anything as a "UFO" that he could not immediately identify. He actually worried about what to do if a UFO attacked him!
from the recently-released Australian documents
Assuming that Valentich became disoriented and thought that Venus, or perhaps a meteor, was flying above him and chasing him, his average life expectancy at that point was about three minutes. This chilling pilot PSA video from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association shows exactly what happened to Valentich (as well as to JFK Jr in 1999). Watching this video made my blood run cold, but it's absolutely realistic.



This is exactly the situation Valentich found himself in when darkness fell on that moonless night. Assuming that he became disoriented and thought that Venus, or perhaps a meteor, was a UFO – he says it was “orbiting” him – we would expect him to crash in about 178 seconds. He actually survived 374 seconds from the time of his first UFO report until crashing. Valentich had a “Class Four Instrument Rating,” but we know he was not watching his instruments; his eyes were fixed on the “UFO” he was describing.  We also learn from Wikipedia that Valentich
had twice applied to enlist in the Royal Australian Air Force but was rejected because of inadequate educational qualifications. He was a member of the Air Training Corps, determined to have a career in aviation. His student pilot licence was issued 24 February 1977 and his private pilot licence the following September. Valentich was studying part-time to become a commercial pilot but had a poor achievement record, having twice failed all five commercial licence examination subjects, and as recent as the previous month had failed three more commercial licence subjects. He had been involved in flying incidents, straying into a controlled zone in Sydney (for which he received a warning) and twice deliberately flying into cloud (for which prosecution was being considered). 
    I would never knowingly get into an aircraft with a pilot like that – and especially not for a night flight over water! In any case, we can be quite sure of what happened to Valentich, even if we cannot say why he made that fatal flight.

[Added Nov. 10, 2013: An article was published in The Skeptical Inquirer, November/December, 2013: "The Valentich Disappearance: Another UFO Cold Case Solved", by James McGaha and Joe Nickel. The conclusion they reach is the same as I did: "distracted and disoriented - the young pilot unexpectedly enters the "graveyard spiral" that carries him to his death." They make the point that Valentich was paying attention to a supposed "UFO", when he should have been paying attention to his instruments.
Also, Brian Dunning covered the Valentich story on his Skeptoid podcast, http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4385 ]





45 comments:

  1. Good article. I always hear this sited as a "proven" UFO abduction. But if plane parts were found...it now is a crash. I may be aliens crashed his plane, but they did not abduct it.

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  2. || may be aliens crashed his plane ||

    Maybe someone would first demonstrate an alien presence on Earth before supposing the least likely scenario to explain a common small plane crash.

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  3. Here is a highly-relevant article from the Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine:

    "Military Aviation
    The Disorient Express
    Despite the best training and technology, why do pilots still die from not knowing which end is up?
    By Tom LeCompte
    Air & Space magazine, September 2008

    On June 26, 2007, while on a training exercise off the Oregon coast, Major Gregory D. Young of the Air National Guard flew his F-15A fighter into the Pacific Ocean. The $32 million aircraft was destroyed and the pilot killed. There was no distress call, no attempt to eject, and no apparent aircraft malfunction. Young, 34, had 2,300 hours of flight time, more than 750 hours of it in F-15s.

    As investigators sifted through the wreckage—what little was left—colleagues, family, and friends were left to wonder: What caused Young to guide his airplane right into the ocean at more than 600 mph? The answer, revealed in an investigative report two months later, was both profoundly unsettling and all too familiar. Young, in the prosaic terminology of the report, “experienced unrecognized (Type 1) spatial disorientation (SD), which caused him to misperceive his attitude, altitude, and airspeed. As a result, [he] was clearly unaware of his position and impacted the water.”

    In other words: Young never knew what hit him.

    Despite training, experience, and technology, all based on knowledge of how flight affects human physiology, Young had no idea that he was racing downward.

    Once called pilot vertigo or aviator’s vertigo, spatial disorientation is a persistent killer. Federal Aviation Administration statistics show that the condition is at least partly responsible for about 15 percent of general aviation accidents, most of which occur in clouds or at night, and 90 percent of which are fatal. According to a 2004 study, the average life expectancy of a non-instrument-rated pilot who flies into clouds or instrument conditions is 178 seconds."
    http://www.airspacemag.com/military-aviation/The_Disorient_Express.html

    Assuming that Valentich became disoriented and thought that Venus, or perhaps a meteor, was flying above him and chasing him, his average life expectancy at that point was about three minutes. Technically, Valentich may have been trained for instrument flying, but this was his first night flight over water, where typically there are no lights on the ground allowing the pilot to self-orient. But even experienced pilots sometimes succumb to spatial disorientation. This is exactly what happened to the plane piloted by JFK Jr in 1999.

    Also see this article, and the pilot training PSA, "178 Seconds to Live": http://www.aspiringpilots.com/the-aspiring-pilot/2010/10/178-seconds-to-live-.html

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  4. Okay, wait: Valentich said he was "orbiting"? Unless this means something else from what I'm interpreting, which is "circling," he was almost certainly toast at that point. He's on his first night flight over open water with no lights to be seen (look at his destination on Google Earth - there's not even a decent city on King Island.) No reference point to pin a wingtip on, and he's busy watching something above him. That's the recipe for a descending spiral. Note that the engine was running rough 40-some seconds before loss of transmission - if he was descending and not realizing it, his mixture may have been set for higher altitude and could have been getting fuel-starved when he got down below 1,000 feet. His altimeter reading was 4,500 at 3 minutes 40 seconds before transmission ceased, which if we assume this was impact at sea level would make a descent rate of 1,200 feet per minute average (likely on an increasing rate, however,) certainly not hard to accomplish when not watching the instruments.

    Okay, I suppose I now have to download the whole shebang and see if he was even rated for instrument flight...

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    1. Al, Valentich indeed said he was "orbiting," and so was the object! I'm with you: he was already in his "descending spiral," and apparently didn't realize it. There's no mention of him looking at his instruments, he's fixated on his "UFO!" A pilot accustomed to flying only using Visual Flight Rules, upon encountering a situation where there are no visual clues (in clouds, or in darkness over water) almost invariably goes into a death spin, with the average time to the crash being 178 seconds!!! According to Wikipedia, Valentich had a Class Four Instrument Rating. This does not sound terribly impressive. Also he had never flown over water alone at night before. From the time that Valentich first reported the UFO - when he presumably became disoriented - until his last transmission was 6 minutes and 14 seconds (374 seconds), well within the range of pilot crash times measured using a flight simulator.

      I used the on-line planetarium program at http://www.fourmilab.ch/cgi-bin/Yoursky to try to reconstruct the sky at the time. (I would have used my own RTGUI, but it doesn't go back before 1980!) Assuming that I did enter all of the correct parameters (for the exact location I used that of an 'oil slick' later reported), the sun was almost 11 degrees below the horizon when he took off. So the sky was already getting dark. Venus was shining at magnitude -4 (really, really bright) in the southwest, elevation 22 degrees. Around the time he got in trouble, the sky was almost completely dark, and Venus had sunk to 11.5 deg elevation in the southwest. Apparently he thought Venus was "above" him, so he obviously had no idea of where "up" or "down" was. So at that point, he has "178 seconds to live."

      We also read in Wikipedia "He had twice applied to enlist in the Royal Australian Air Force but was rejected because of inadequate educational qualifications. He was a member of the Air Training Corps, determined to have a career in aviation. His student pilot licence was issued 24 February 1977 and his private pilot licence the following September. Valentich was studying part-time to become a commercial pilot but had a poor achievement record, having twice failed all five commercial licence examination subjects, and as recent as the previous month had failed three more commercial licence subjects. He had been involved in flying incidents, straying into a controlled zone in Sydney (for which he received a warning) and twice deliberately flying into cloud (for which prosecution was being considered)." I wouldn't want to ride in an aircraft with a pilot like him!

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  5. Greetings,

    Relaying your excellent (again!) blog entry, blog I'm a follower from France, about the "Valentich" case in our french UFO-Sceptic forum ( http://ufo-scepticisme.forumactif.com/t3482-le-cas-frederick-valentich-21-octobre-1978#61774 ), I found several pictures of CESSNA 183 Skylane.

    I noticed that in several picture, the "cockpit glass roof" are green tinted/colored. For example, in this following picture:

    http://www.airliners.net/photo/Cessna-182...-Skylane/1258019/L/&sid=c1f2e18187a110110d04f7bd94463e0f

    Do you think it could explain why Valentich was speaking about a green light (if Venus was his UFO)? Or? Do we know if his Cessna have green tinted "glass roof"? Or?

    Thank you again for your blog!

    Best Regards,

    Gilles Fernandez

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    1. Gilles,

      Thank you for this interesting information. I was asking myself the same question about a possible 'green tint.' If you remember, during the Mansfield, Ohio helicopter 'UFO encounter,' of 1973 the object was reported to have 'beamed a green light' into the helicopter (http://www.ufoscience.org/case731018.html). It turns out that the upper window of the helicopter was indeed tinted green, which explains how the object could appear bright green.

      I do not know if Valentich's aircraft had a green tint at the top of its window. Perhaps that information is available somewhere. I see that even many automobiles have custom-tinted windows, usually with blue at the top.

      A strange thought occurred to me as I was reading some of the Valentich documents (page 4 of the version at http://www.scribd.com/doc/99038229/, paragraph labeled 22). "The pilot's father believed that a UFO had taken his son and would re[turn] him later." (There is 'white out' covering the end of the word beginning with "re"; I have added what seems to be the correct ending.) THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT TRAVIS WALTON'S BROTHER TOLD INVESTIGATORS WHILE TRAVIS WAS 'MISSING'! Now we know that none of the reasons that Valentich gave for making this trip are correct (to pick up friends, or crayfish). Is it possible that the father and son jointly planned a Travis Walton-style incident where Fredrick would land somewhere and 'go missing' for a while, to return with a tale of abduction by aliens? This idea just occurred to me yesterday. I'm not saying this is definitely the reason Valentich made that trip, but in the absence of any other plausible justification for this risky over-water in darkness flight, the possibility that they planned a hoax ought to be considered.

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    2. I think that's stretching things a bit. I'd like more detail on what exactly 'picking up crayfish' entails; I think it's reasonable to suggest that he simply didn't know his trip would be in vain, or forgot that he hadn't ordered any.

      His father, in the above document, seemed dismissive of the idea that UFOs were a danger to pilots. How much of a 'believer' Dad is is questionable. Of course he's going to cling to hope that his son is still alive, and if he follows the public perception that UFOs are a 'real' phenomenon, and having access to the transcript of his son's final conversation, of course he's going to be influenced and encouraged to believe Frederick was taken alive by a flying saucer.

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  6. Thank you for your reply, Mister Sheaffer.
    For the anecdote, I have too the Mansfield case and the top glass window of the helico possible explanation proposed of the "green light beamed" detail in this "famous" UFO case in my mind when I decided to scheck if some Cessna 182 Skylane have green tinted windows. Hihi, it seems we have the same "readings" ^^

    Interresting idea and strange occurency between Travis Walton case and what the Frederick's father told realy...

    Regards,

    Gilles

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  7. Carb icing and disorientation...Keep in mind that carb ice can occur at any ambient temp...I flew in Nam with the carb heat on all the time...(OH-23G Helicopter)

    Dale

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  8. Though the SD angle seems reasonable generally, experience demands caution in assigning factuality to the words of a twenty-year-old known believer and prevaricator made in an excited, stressful, confused situation--especially the ambiguous or incorrect use of the word "orbiting." The "UFO" was "orbiting" and the plane was "orbiting?" In our analyses of "UFO" reports, witnesses perceptions are known to be unreliable and often completely imaginary. In the Black Box model, an ambiguous visual stimulus is transformed into a tacit "UFO report." Stimulus event and perception, reflection, confabulation, narrative creation, formal reporting.

    So what is just a flashing light in the distance to a rational one becomes a "UFO" or even an ET spacecraft to the fantasy prone. That the mere failure to identify became an event worthy of reporting is the very core of the mass media-manufactured and perpetuated collective delusion.

    Once a completely predisposed believer begins to think he's seeing a "UFO," all the culturally supplied motifs and behaviors typically attributed to the illusion by "UFO" mythology begin to mold his perceptions and inform his description of the "UFO." It's under intelligent control, it's aware and observing the witness, it's buzzing a car or aircraft ("circling"), it's threatening, and often ends up behind and in pursuit of the witness as is common in dreams and folktales. And relatively stationary planets and stars change colors, grow brighter or move about, and (often green) meteors change direction or others appearing elsewhere are misidentified as the same "UFO," and the blackness between lights becomes an imaginary rocketship, saucer or triangle.

    But the fact that Valentich was a known believer and lied about the reasons for his flight (and the fact that he disappeared) lend the element of a hoax or hoax gone wrong in this story; so I'll venture (since we're speculating) that Valentich was attempting to create an Arnold-style hoax. Also, this "UFO talk" laden story--without a shred of evidence--has the self-referencing aspect of repeater Terauchi's small group scare over Alaska, in which the believer is so steeped in "UFO" mythology that he refers to an earlier fatal crash by "UFO" in his report of his hysteria! Another of the fantastic "UFO" cases which not only lacks ET, but a real "UFO" of any kind.

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    1. "Though the SD angle seems reasonable generally, experience demands caution in assigning factuality to the words of a twenty-year-old known believer and prevaricator made in an excited, stressful, confused situation--especially the ambiguous or incorrect use of the word "orbiting." The "UFO" was "orbiting" and the plane was "orbiting?" In our analyses of "UFO" reports, witnesses perceptions are known to be unreliable and often completely imaginary. In the Black Box model, an ambiguous visual stimulus is transformed into a tacit "UFO report." Stimulus event and perception, reflection, confabulation, narrative creation, formal reporting."

      Sure, there are misperceptions of events based on beliefs and/or vantage points and so on, but I ask you - why attack the witnesses? What good does that do you? As for the veracity of reports, you need to familiarise yourself with the scientific data on credible sightings.

      "So what is just a flashing light in the distance to a rational one becomes a "UFO" or even an ET spacecraft to the fantasy prone. That the mere failure to identify became an event worthy of reporting is the very core of the mass media-manufactured and perpetuated collective delusion."

      The cynical armchair critics tried to pass off the Rendlesham Forest incident as a misidentification of a nearby lighthouse. Too bad proper investigation has revealed that this was impossible given the topography of the area and the credibility of the witnesses involved.

      "Once a completely predisposed believer begins to think he's seeing a "UFO," all the culturally supplied motifs and behaviors typically attributed to the illusion by "UFO" mythology begin to mold his perceptions and inform his description of the "UFO." It's under intelligent control, it's aware and observing the witness, it's buzzing a car or aircraft ("circling"), it's threatening, and often ends up behind and in pursuit of the witness as is common in dreams and folktales. And relatively stationary planets and stars change colors, grow brighter or move about, and (often green) meteors change direction or others appearing elsewhere are misidentified as the same "UFO," and the blackness between lights becomes an imaginary rocketship, saucer or triangle."

      I don't think you can confidently predict the role of cultural influences on UFO witnesses but we are all socialised by culture memes of one kind or another as human beings - that means we are all dupes to some degree. So let's not put too much emphasis on cultural influences - probably not that helpful in analysis.

      It has been shown that multiple witness triangle sightings in Belgium circa 1990 and in the Mid West United States in the mid years of the last decade are highly credible - the objects sighted were not flares, balloons in the wind or conventional aircraft.

      "But the fact that Valentich was a known believer and lied about the reasons for his flight (and the fact that he disappeared) lend the element of a hoax or hoax gone wrong in this story; so I'll venture (since we're speculating) that Valentich was attempting to create an Arnold-style hoax. Also, this "UFO talk" laden story--without a shred of evidence--has the self-referencing aspect of repeater Terauchi's small group scare over Alaska, in which the believer is so steeped in "UFO" mythology that he refers to an earlier fatal crash by "UFO" in his report of his hysteria! Another of the fantastic "UFO" cases which not only lacks ET, but a real "UFO" of any kind."

      Can I recommend you read the excellent essay by Stanton Friedman, a rational investigator into the UFO phenomenon:

      http://www.theufochronicles.com/2009/05/pseudo-science-of-anti-ufology.html

      - Kadium

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    2. @Kadium

      > Sure, there are misperceptions of events based on beliefs and/or vantage points and so on, but I ask you - why attack the witnesses?

      In the absence of corroboration: "There is nothing to examine in an eyewitness account except the background of the witness, to see if he or she has a habit of telling tall tales, has trouble distinguishing between real objects and the imagined, and if he or she is a solid citizen not given to flights of fantasy."

      A denier didn't write that, it was believer Kevin Randle in his book Scientific Ufology, p. 17.

      > Can I recommend you read the excellent essay by Stanton Friedman, a rational investigator into the UFO phenomenon:

      Please don't. As many investigators have pointed out publicly, Friedman lets his beliefs get in the way of properly interpreting facts (Truzzi, Moseley, Sheaffer, Shough, Randle, for starters). In their book Science and the UFOs, believers Jenny Randles and Peter Warrington have a chapter titled "The Failure of Ufologists." They speak in generalities about these failures, avoiding naming names, except for one: Stanton Friedman (p 71).

      I cannot assess the entirety of Friedman's essay but I am very familiar with the Hill case. I can tell you that everything he says about it in the essay is wrong.

      For instance, Friedman says, "The object was seen in front of the moon (strange behavior for Jupiter) all without hypnosis." Not true. In Mr. Webb's 1961 pre-hypnosis report, there is no statement about the object passing in front of the moon. The first time we hear about it doing so is in a 1964 hypnosis session, as told in Mr. Webb's 1965 report and in Interrupted Journey. In fact, Fuller tells us in his introduction: "One final note: Most of the dialogue taking place between the Hills during the incident is taken directly from the recordings of the hypnosis sessions..." The Hills don't speak to each other on the ship, so Fuller is referring to their conversation on the highway, something for which they never reported amnesia! Even so, Fuller patches their conscious recall with content from the hypnosis sessions. Therefore, all accounts of the object passing in front of the moon are derived from the hypnosis sessions -- the opposite of what Mr. Friedman tells us in the essay.

      So I must conclude 1) Friedman is either disastrously wrong or 2) he's counting on his audience not having access to the original reports (which I do have) so he believes they won't check for themselves. That's pretty bad considering he has been reporting on the case for over 40 years and co-wrote a book about it.

      Just looking at the Hill case, Friedman proves to be a completely unreliable source of information and analysis. (And don't get me started about the Fish map!)

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  9. Kadium said:
    "Sure, there are misperceptions of events based on beliefs and/or vantage points and so on, but I ask you - why attack the witnesses? What good does that do you? As for the veracity of reports, you need to familiarise yourself with the scientific data on credible sightings."

    Nobody is attacking witnesses, any more than UFO believers are attacking skeptics (I'll leave you to puzzle that one out for yourself.) But as you said immediately before it, there are misperceptions. And then, there are also delusions and hoaxes. Proper investigation doesn't rule any of these out arbitrarily, especially by appealing to emotional arguments, but instead rules them out only if they're demonstrably impossible.

    You also have a wicked tendency to throw around the word "credible," without realizing that the only way to determine if a sighting is credible is if it correctly identifies a known object. Everything else, without exception, is inferred.

    Ever notice how few court cases are decided solely on how "credible" someone is? Ever wonder why? Maybe you'd like to take a gander at how many people exonerated by The Innocence Project had been wrongly convicted by "credible" testimony.

    "I don't think you can confidently predict the role of cultural influences on UFO witnesses but we are all socialised by culture memes of one kind or another as human beings - that means we are all dupes to some degree. So let's not put too much emphasis on cultural influences - probably not that helpful in analysis."

    What you just said was, "We can all be influenced by culture, so let's not consider culture." Does that makes sense to you? If it does, kindly explain how to me.

    And then you can explain why Rendlesham, a scattered collection of conflicting (& changing) testimony, conflated accounts, and nonexistent evidence, remains the holy grail to UFO proponents. Don't you find it curious that *all* of the claims in favor of something suspicious are accepted wholesale, while *all* of the holes and *all* of the evidence showing it to be crap are dismissed?

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  10. It's good to get more information on this case, although IMO there was already plenty of information available to determine this was a case of pilot error resulting in a crash, and the only reason that a UFO was involved was the pilot's personal beliefs in flying saucers.

    Hopefully someday there will be more information about the 'other' modern pilot-vs-UFO case, the Felix Moncla encounter, and that can be put to bed as well.

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  11. Toward the end of part V of the "lost Betty Hill Interview," Betty tells how she and a friend were in Australia at this time. They went to the area where Valentich disappeared, and asked the UFOs to bring him back. The UFOs came in to listen to her plea, but they did not bring the poor guy back.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QIc9ao10qM&feature=relmfu

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  12. I am not saying Valentich was taken by a UFO but, consider this: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3060907/Black-parents-give-birth-to-white-baby.html

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  13. Well, that link was not what I meant to post, but I am absolutely pissing myself laughing at this that I totally forgot what I was going to link to....

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  14. That video "178 seconds to live" somehow disappeared, but I found a different version to replace it. This is an Australian video, but the text is the same as the first one.

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  15. I see a few problems with this discussion. This was not a night flight at all, not by any stretch of the imagination.It was all over by 7:15pm. In Australia, in late October, it's still daylight at this time. It was a perfect day, almost zero cloud. Winds light and variable. How would it be possible for a 20 year old pilot to suffer SD while flying, using a hand held Microphone and having a discussion with an Air Traffic Adviser, in the daylight?
    It would have been a night RETURN flight had he made it to King Island.
    With regards to the theory that the plane crashed into the sea, I would expect that the aircraft would have broken up on impact. Something would have been found. That small piece of aircraft cowling found on Flinders Island five years later, was found just meters away from the Flinders Island airport runway. It could have fallen from any one of a thousand aircraft. There is no evidence that links that debris to the missing plane.
    Frederick was not suicidal. He was in love with his girlfriend, he was 20 years old, and like most guys like he was, he planned to return to her.
    This young man is still missing, presumed dead. His mother, grandmother, brother and sisters are still alive, and still have no answer as to what actually occurred. I'd like to see a little respect given in this case to the family of this missing man. The only reason you guys are discussing this is because of the UFO angle, which you all want desperately to discredit.
    I would point out that Frederick never used the word UFO in his conversation. He asked several times if there was any military aircraft in his area. He stated that he could not identify the thing. He was asked to confirm that he could not identify it, and he answered with 'affirmative'. He said it 'vanished' at one point. He reported that the engine was 'coughing', even though it was running at cruise RPM. He said it seemed to be playing some kind of game with him, and that it was travelling at speeds he could not identify.
    This young pilot was an aviation enthusiast, he knew all the known aircraft in his time. He gave a description of something he had never seen before, and then he disappeared.
    I am appalled at the disrespect for the Valentich family that I see here in this forum, and I think you should all be very ashamed of yourselves.

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    1. Ye the only proof I see is that it was a UFO

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    2. George Simpson,

      Valentich took off shortly after sunset. If you go to the link to the documents at Scribd above (http://www.scribd.com/doc/99038229/1978-10-21-National-Archives-Valentich-Missing-Aircraft-UFO-Visual-VH-DSJ-Light-Aircraft-Overdue-King-Island-Series-A4703) and look at p. 3, paragraph 5, it gives the time of his takeoff as 0903Z (Zulu, or Universal Time, or GMT).

      Now let us go to an on-line planetarium program, Your Sky (http://www.fourmilab.ch/yoursky/). Where it says "Sky Map," we will set our location to 39 deg south, 144 deg east, and click "make sky map." This is his approximate final position. We set the field "universal time" to 1978-10-21 9:03:00 and click "update." The resulting data tells us that the sun was 3.6 degrees below the horizon when Valentich took off. That is, the sun had recently set. However, the sky would still be bright. Now we change to time to 10:00 Z, that same date, and update. This is just before his reported encounter. The sun is now almost 11 degrees below the horizon, so the sky is quite dark. Venus is shining brilliantly, low in the southwest.

      No disrespect is intended to the Valentich family. This event was indeed a tragedy, one that has been exploited by mystery-mongers. The fact remains that Valentich was an inexperienced pilot who was very much a UFO buff.

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    3. Hi Robert, I just listened to your radio interview and debate with Stanton Friedman, and you came across as a very intelligent and reasonable chap. I have the official transcript with the times mapped out in GMT, so lets use your method, but lets use the correct times and see what happens. It's 35 years this year, but I have never seen any document that says Fred took off at 09:03 GMT. In fact, by that time he had reported reaching Cape Otway and was heading towards King Island. At precisely 09:00:29sec he reported "Cape Otway proceeding to King Island". Still daylight at this point. His take off time was BEFORE sunset, not after.
      Then you jump to 10:00 GMT. Of course it was dark by that time, but it was actually all over BEFORE this. At precisely 09:12:28 he spoke his last words, and it was all over.
      I suggest you put the correct times in and see what I'm saying.
      Earlier you wrote the following conjecture....
      *** "Is it possible that the father and son jointly planned a Travis Walton-style incident where Fredrick would land somewhere and 'go missing' for a while, to return with a tale of abduction by aliens? This idea just occurred to me yesterday. I'm not saying this is definitely the reason Valentich made that trip, but in the absence of any other plausible justification for this risky over-water in darkness flight, the possibility that they planned a hoax ought to be considered." ***

      I have to say this is both deplorable and despicable to suggest this.
      Guido Valentich was a loving father to all of his children and a real gentleman who I knew personally, and to even suggest such a scenario is affronting, absurd and extremely offensive.
      This is a missing person case, and I saw Guido going through the pain of searching for answers to the mystery of HIS missing son.
      You have made the assumption, based on incorrect times, that Fred's flight was mostly in the dark. It would have been still twilight had he reached King island, as I correctly stated earlier. He could have landed easily without landing strip lights.
      I could not write such an accusational premise as you have and feel good about it.
      You say you did not intend to be disrespectful to the family.
      With the position you have, you have a responsibility to get the facts right before you go publishing such theories.
      You owe at least that much to your loyal readers.


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    4. Mr. George Simpson,
      I am with you in this investigation and I believe that you are 100% correct in your explanation.
      I possibly would rule out the theories of him flying the plane upside down and the theory of suicidal mission,
      The another theory of these bunch of people telling that he did this thing on purpose for 'fame' or he was 'disoriented' is totally unacceptable because he lead a happy life.
      Sir, I have been following your investigation through the unexpected files and I am convinced that there was indeed an object because
      A - Fred Valentich was a flight enthusiast and leaded a good life so it being fake was completely false.
      B - The picture taken on the same day during the same time gives this case additional support because this object has not yet been identified, if it was fake it should have come out by now.
      C - The upside down theory is completely ruled out with him having conversation of 7 minutes and flight wouldn't have possibly taken more than 3 minutes to crash in sea.
      D - The sound after the conversation had cut off and there being no logical/scientific reason for this makes more complicated.
      Sir, I hope you would still do more research on this issue and I hope that one day we will finally have a logical explanation to this case and I hope that the family of Fred Valentich are given an answer to this very very saddening disappearance of Fred Valentich.
      Sir please do not quit because of these people being against because you have many people's support and I am with you no matter what.

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  16. This is par for the course for debunkers who can't explain what happen so they attack the character of the person because no one is perfect and you can always find something.

    Bottom line this man is missing but at the time Phil Klass attacked his character by saying it was a publicity stunt. I guess the movie hasn't come out yet.
    Debunkers use character assassination to muddy the waters. This is disgraceful and as low as you can go. Scientist tell
    Joe Capp

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  17. Dude, your reasoning is as flawed as that of the "true believers." He was a bad pilot, so of course no UFO would come near him. Complete non sequitur. The wreckage of his plane may have been found, so of course the crash could not have been caused in part by a UFO, coupled with inexperience and bad judgment. We all know that if a UFO causes a plane crash, the wreckage magically disappears!

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  18. A new article has just been published in The Skeptical Inquirer, November/December, 2013: "The Valentich Disappearance: Another UFO Cold Case Solved", by James McGaha and Joe Nickel.

    The conclusion they reach is the same as I did: "distracted and disoriented - the young pilot unexpectedly enters the "graveyard spiral" that carries him to his death." They make the point that Valentich was paying attention to a supposed "UFO", when he should have been paying attention to his instruments.

    McGaha gives the time of takeoff as 18:19, which is probably correct. The time I cited in the comment above was taken from one of the released documents about the case but may be a misinterpretation. Sunset was at 18:43, and the "UFO sighting" began at 19:06 (just 23 minutes after sunset). There would have been no difficulty seeing Venus at this time, as it was near its maximum brilliance. However, I find it difficult to accept that Valentich could also have seen the much fainter Mercury, and especially the much fainter Mars and Antares, so soon after sunset.

    I also find it difficult to understand why they wrote that the "Valentich disappearance" was "never satisfactorily explained - until now," when this Blog entry was published a year earlier, with an updated version of it appearing in The Skeptical Inquirer of March/April, 2013 - and referenced in the new article!

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    1. Brian Dunning has just covered this story on Skeptoid and he bought up something I've not seen before, a similarity between the Valentich radio transcript and the control tower scene in the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

      http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4385

      Also it's interesting to see that the 'artists impression' depicts the events as taking place in daylight and close to land, one wonders how widely that idea is spread (if at all) amongst the UFO believer community.

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  19. I recall this incident which was years ago and seem to remember somebody (possibly a news reporter) saying that the man was mentally disturbed. Could this be the reason?

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  20. So we have skeptic Keith Basterfield to thank for the recent government "document dump" that gets this new information 'out there.' Basterfield explains that the newly-released files reveal that "parts of aircraft wreckage with partial serial numbers were found in Bass Strait five years after the disappearance.

    Haha seriously you all do not understand that when an abduction might take place the victim might be teleported from there position instantly . I mean I am skeptical but if they found parts to the plane one must rest assured that does not mean one can determine instantly that the case is solved . Especially in this situation where the pilot was calling in what he did at the time . Its ok to easily follow this found evidence and compile whatever they can extra to back it up . Truth is I think these skeptics go out the way to debunk stories such as this one and go so far with it they perpetrate it . They use every resource to create a scientific solution which is the most accepted and fine . However this does not in my opinion doubt my belief to keep an open mind. For me I believe that the UFO story is still open until his body is found which it obviously wont be .

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  21. Just watched the unsolved mysteries episode on this event. In the segment there is a witness who said they saw some of this happen from the ground and confirmed a weird object as the pilot described. Apparently he didn't see the end result as both plane and object went behind a mountain. Who knows how credible the witness was but it's interesting anyway.

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  23. Skeptics are always saying that the victims of such UFO encounters are believers of UFO's and have an apparent background of some sort regarding UFO's when really there is no evidence what-so-ever, in Valentich's case, that he was a believer or even skeptic of UFO's. The only people close to Valentich that ever went on record speaking about what had happened are his father, who died in 2000 (which was the most outspoken and frequent speaker about his son and the incident) never once mentioned that his son believed or even acknowledged the existence of UFO's. His brother who very rarely has ever spoken about the incident, also has never mentioned that Valentich believed or acknowledged UFO's. The same goes for his close friends and even radio operator who directly spoke to Valentich during the incident. When you start adding false aspects to a case that we already know very little about, lies get mixed up with the truth, and we end up not knowing what is fact or fiction.

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  24. Further to the above comment by Nick, I've been interested in this case ever since first reading about it on the net approximately 10 years ago. Interestingly, it's only in the past 12 months at the most that any talk of Valentich being a 'UFO enthusiast' has ever entered the equasion. Likewise, one aspect of the case which was always stated in reports but now seems to be ignored is the unidentified 20 seconds of 'metallic scraping noise' veing the last thing heard from the radio transmission of Valentich. That's interesting information, regardless of one's personal stance on what actually happened.

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  25. Nice article,but you don't know,because you were not there,so it's all theory,that's all.

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  26. To Nick and base monster,
    "Guido Valentich told me that his son was a very keen student of the UFO subject from the age of fifteen. 'As he grew older and joined the Air Training Corps and going to various RAAF bases,he became more and more convinced of UFO existence and in other words he also convinced us, not in fear but in a friendly way to an expression that he would like perhaps to come to a close encounter'. Copyright 1987 Timothy Good.

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  27. avgasVjetA - interesting quote... obviously, if it's genuine then it gives a lot more credence to the possibility that Valentich might have 'staged' his own disappearance, and conjured the UFO story up himself... because - of course - If you want to discredit a UFO-incident-claimer's credibility, the best way to do it is obviously to find evidence that the person was *already interested in UFO's*, because then it seems like too much of a happy coincidence when they 'find what they were looking for', so to speak.

    Questions remain though... the lack of debris or crashed plane (although events this year have proved that larger planes can 'vanish'!). The complete disappearance of Valentich, never to be seen or heard from again. It's not impossible to go incognito for years, but for a young guy with his life ahead of him, and obviously close to his family... It's very unusual, and it doesn't add up, if you factor in the way he disappeared.

    This story will continue to fascinate me, as I suspect the entire truth of what happened will never amount to more than speculation.

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  28. 'icecreamman',
    Valid points indeed, and questions certainly do remain.
    Cheers and good wishes,
    avgasVjetA

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  29. I just stumbled across this interesting blog as I saw a recent documentary on this incident and don't understand why nobody is asking the most relevant question.

    Why did Fred key the mic for the final 17 seconds without speaking?

    If the reason he did not speak was because he passed out, he would have dropped the mic and the transmission would have ended so this must have been intentional unless he suffered some sort of seizure.

    Another possibility, due to the fact he confirmed that 'it was not an aircraft' is that perhaps the Cessna got entangled with an falling weather balloon which whipped around the small plane on a tether of some sort giving the effect it was 'orbiting' around and eventually caused it to crash.

    Any ideas anyone?

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  30. I forgot to add that the weather balloon theory still does not explain why Fred keyed the mic but did not speak.

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  31. He keyed his mic and did not speak because he was focused on the alien craft, probably trying to avoid hitting it. the last sounds heard was metal screeching so the craft probably collided with his plane. Haven't you ever been so focused on something you just stopped talking?!

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    1. The description of this 'alien' craft sounds rather like a heat seeking missile accidentally locking onto him and knocking him out of the sky.

      Also if something was to hit my aircraft I would not keep silent for 17 seconds, I would be screaming and swearing so I don't accept that as a reason he kept quiet. There must be another reason for his silence.

      What was this 'metallic' sound really like? Is there a recording we can listen too to determine what it could have been?

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    2. Heat seeking missle?! Dude, u play too many video games...
      If it was a HSM:
      1) there would be a record of it
      2) it would be picked up on radar
      3) HSMs do not hoover
      4) it wold happen so fast, he wouldn't know what hit him.

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