Disapperance of A Cessna 182 over Australia's Bass Strait

Frederick Valentich, 20, vanished on October 21, 1978, when he flew across the Bass Strait from Melbourne to King Island. He was flying a Cessna 182 that had been hired and had the registration. VH-DSJ.

One of three islands comprising the New Year Group in the Bass Strait, King Island is 125 miles from the Australian state of Victoria. Valentich, a RAAF Training Corps member and aviation enthusiast, had twice attempted to enroll in the Australian Air Force but had been turned down due to his lack of academic credentials.

Photo -  Robert Frola via wikimedia Commons

Additionally, according to his father, he was a UFO enthusiast who collected newspaper clippings and watched movies about extraterrestrials. He had accumulated 150 flight hours at the time of his disappearance and was certified to fly at night under ideal meteorological circumstances.

He initially said that he was going to King Island to pick up some pals before telling others that he was going to pick up crayfish. Later, investigators ruled out both justifications. Additionally, he did not follow protocol by notifying King Island Airport (TAS) of his plan to arrive there. This gave detectives reason to suspect that he could have orchestrated the entire incident. What specifically was Valentich doing then? Had he gone in quest of UFOs or was he trying to accrue additional flight time?

At 19:06, Valentich radioed Melbourne Flight Service to report that an unidentified aircraft was following him at 4,500 feet after taking off from Melbourne Moorabbin Airport (MBW) and crossing the ocean. He claimed to have seen four dazzling lights that resembled landing lights. He was unable to identify the plane's brand; all he could say was that it was traveling at a breakneck pace and seemed to be playing a joke on him. A little while afterward, all radio communication was lost.

He reported seeing what seemed to be four landing lights above him in the bright night sky. Venus was the brightest planet at the time of the occurrence, making a diamond-shaped formation with Mars, Mercury, and the brilliant star Antares. These four white spots might have been misinterpreted for aircraft or UFO lights by Valentich.

Another private aircraft pilot overflying the Bas Strait a month, after Valentich vanished, reported seeing what he believed to be the form of a submerged plane. He flew over it again but could not be sure that it was an airplane in the water. A Cessna 182's engine cowling washed found on Flinders Island five years after Valentich vanished.

Investigators came to the conclusion that Valentich being disoriented was the most likely cause of his disappearance. Valentich, being a novice pilot, could have been fooled by the appearance of a tilted horizon. Some of the horizons are still light as the sun sets, but the rest progressively grows darker. As a result of the illumination imbalance, the horizon may appear to be slanted, forcing the pilot to adjust the plane's course. When the plane's nose is pointed downward, its speed rises and it enters what is known as a "graveyard spiral."

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