The disappearance of Australian pilot Frederick Valentich, on 21 October 1978, over Bass Strait, Australia, has always intrigued global UFO researchers. Valentich, flying a light aircraft, registration VH-DSJ, disappeared on a flight from Moorabbin airport, Melbourne, Victoria, to King Island in Bass Strait. Neither he, nor his aircraft, have been seen since. He reported seeing an unusual object in the sky, during the flight.
After the event, the Australian Government's Department of Transport released a three page "Aircraft Accident Investigation Summary Report" dated 27 Apr 1982. In part 7 of that document, headed "Opinion as to cause" the Department stated "The reason for the disappearance of the aircraft has not been determined." The file reference on this document was V116/783/1047.
Search for access to V116/783/1047:
In 1982 Australian UFO researcher Bill Chalker examined Department of Transport UFO files "...but was specifically denied access to the Valentich files on the grounds that they were Air Accident Investigation files and not UFO files." (Chalker, Bill. 1996. The Oz Files. Duffy & Snellgrove. Potts Point, NSW. Page 170.)
In 2004 I submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Department of transport. Part of the request was for access to file V116/783/1047. The Department advised me that they understood that the file had been destroyed by the National Archives of Australia (NAA.) I reviewed the NAA website's electronic database RecordSearch and found no record of the file. However, I understood that only some 10% of the files held by the NAA were on RecordSearch.
In October 2011, during a routine look at RecordSearch, I discovered that this file was now listed as file series B1497 control symbol V116/783/1047, title "DSJ-Cape Otway to King Island 21 October 1978 - Aircraft missing (Valentich) 1978-1992" barcode 10491375. It was shown as held by the Melbourne office of the NAA. However the status of the file was shown as "closed." Despite this status, I submitted a request for access to the file, reasoning that by 2012 the papers on the file dated 1978-1981 should now be publicly available.
Another file emerges:
In the meantime, Andrew Arnold, and his team, of the Melbourne based group, Victorian UFO Action, had been researching the Valentich case. Andrew found that there was another relevant file. This was file series A4703 control symbol 1978/1205 titled "VH-DSJ- Light aircraft overdue King Island." It was barcode 11485989 and held by the Canberra office of the NAA. The originating agency shown in NAA Notes was Department of Transport, Head Office, Canberra and Melbourne, Emergency & Special Services Branch. Andrew submitted a request for access to this file.
What does this A4703 file say about UFOs?
This file, of 292 pages was opened by the Marine Operations Centre and is a MARSAR (Marine search and rescue) file. The file cover indicates that both air searches and sea searches were conducted. The incident was opened on 21 Oct 78 and closed on 25 Oct 78. Authorities involved were the Victorian Police at King Island, Hobart and Lakes Entrance, plus the Department of Defence.
The file contains a two page narrative summary which gives an excellent overview of the incident, which commences:
"1. Airways Operations Melbourne advised that a Distress phase had been initiated on a Cessna 182 overdue at King island on a flight from Moorabbin to King Island. The aircraft had reported a rough running engine prior to communications being lost."
In part the summary reads "S.SOC AMML said the aircraft reported seeing things (perhaps a UFO) shortly after departing Cape Otway at 0903Z..."
Later "16. 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."
"21. At 250900Z the search for the aircraft was terminated with no sighting of aircraft, wreckage or body made despite intensive search in a small area."
"22. As a postscript to this mystery, wreckage was reported off Lakes Entrance, checked by Police but was not relevant to this search. The pilot's father believed that a UFO had taken his son and would re(rest of word illegible) him later. The accident received wide newspaper and television cover because of the UFO connection."
I counted ten references to "UFO" on the rest of the file. These included a report from aircraft VH-DRB enroute Tenannt Creek to Darwin who saw a brilliant white light for 3-4 secs.
This file was released to me by the NAA a few days ago. The key document on this 315 page file is folio 103. This is actually 64 pages long, and is a report from the Director, Victoria/Tasmania Region dated 20 Oct 1981, addressed to AS(SI). It consists of a one page "Air Safety Investigation Minute" and 63 pages of report.
* Chart of the intended flight path
* Aircraft data
* Flight crew data
* Flight data
* Meteorological data
* A sequence of events
* An analysis of the cause
The attachments include notes of conversations between Departmental investigators and:
* The Moorabbin briefing officer
* The person who refuelled VH-DSJ that night
* The Departmental OIC, King Island
* A cray fisherman from King Island
* The mess officer, ATC HQ
* An individual who flew VH-DSJ that morning
* Valentich's pilot tutor
* Valentich's father
* Valentich's girlfriend
* A close friend of Valentich
* An employee of Southern Air Services (SAS - whose aircraft it was)
* Four SAS instructors/pilots.
The attachments also include:
* A radar plot from Melbourne Flight Services
* An analysis of the radar returns from that time
* Valentich's flight plan
* A transcript of recorded communications between DSJ and Melbourne Flight Services which covers a greater time frame than that of the publicly released document from 1982
* A chart showing radio coverage at various heights and various distances from Melbourne
* A confidential personal history of Valentich
* A summary based on information from the RAAF
* Valentich's commercial pilot licence examination details
* Details of DSJ's radio equipment
* Weather forecasts for the area
* Best estimate of weather along the flight path
* A report on water samples ex Bass Strait by the Department of Defence Materials Research Laboratories
* A specialist report from a doctor on Human Factors Aspects
* A report on an aircraft towing a glide near Apollo Bay
* A UFO report from an individual
* A report on a shower of metallic "scintillations" seen in the sky.
The report's top page, in section 7, "Opinion as to cause" simply states "Not determined - aircraft missing."
The covering "Air Safety Investigation Minute" para 3, states " The Region does not intend to take any further action in this matter unless positive factual evidence is obtained."
Read the digitised file for yourself:
You can read the file, as released to me, by:
1. Go to http://www.naa.gov.au/
2. Click on "search the collection"
3. Click on "begin your search"
4. Up comes "RecordSearch"
5. In the keywords box type the word Valentich
6. Click on search
7. Up comes a list
8. Scroll down to V116/783/1047
9. Click on this entry
10. Click on digital file
11. Up comes the file.
After you have read the file, I welcome your thoughts, please use the comments section of this blog post.