An Australian pilot disappears after reporting an encounter with a UFO.

A strange dark object in the sky over the ocean

Roy Manifold’s photograph

A Cessna 182 airplane lifting off from a landing strip

The Cessna 182 took off smoothly


On October 21, 1978, just south of Melbourne, Australia, a single engine Cessna lifted off from Moorabbin airport. The pilot was 20-year-old Fredrick Valentich. Valentich had been flying for two years and logged over 150 hours of solo time. 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. Ken Llewelyn of the Royal Australian Air Force had this to say about Fred’s flight:

“It was a fairly normal exercise. He had an appropriate instrument rating for the trip. It was a very straightforward flight, and I could see no reason why it shouldn’t have concluded successfully. What happened 3/4 of an hour into that flight, I think, will be one of the great mysteries of Australian aviation.”

The Cessna 182 airplane flying over the ocean

It started as a routine flight …

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. Stephen Robey was the ground controller communicating with Fred:

“He wasn’t to the point where he was panicking, but he was genuinely concerned by what he saw, with what he saw. He was worried. He sounded confused. Then, as he described what the aircraft was doing, I became a little bit concerned, too.”

What Fred reported was that the craft was stationery, hovering in midair as he flew around it. The following is a transcript of the radio communication:

Fred: It’s got a green light that’s sort of metallic, like it’s shiny all over. It’s just disappeared. Is this some sort of military aircraft or what?

Tower: Delta, Sierra, Juliet, is the aircraft still with you?

Fred: Delta, Sierra, Juliet. Now approaching from southwest. Delta, Sierra, Juliet, the engine’s gone into half idle. I’ve got it set on 23, 24. This thing’s just coughing. This strange aircraft’s just hovering on top of me again. It’s hovering, and it’s… it’s not an aircraft.

Two search boats driving slowly through the ocean

Search boats found no trace of the plane

Suddenly, an unidentifiable clicking noise came over the radio. The sound lasted 17 seconds. Then silence.

For four days, a flotilla of search vessels crisscrossed Bass Strait. There was absolutely no sign of Valentich or his aircraft. There was no evidence to suggest there’d ever been a crash. All that remained was a final baffling radio transmission.

People could only speculate as to what really happened, until a witness came forward with a firsthand account. Around the time of Valentich’s disappearance, an eyewitness and his family were returning from an afternoon outing when they noticed unusual activity in the sky. The witness has asked that we do not reveal his identity:

“I looked up and saw this long green light about 1,000 or 2,000 feet above the aircraft. So we sat there and watched it for a few seconds. And the green light crept closer to the plane. I said, ‘That plane is coming down pretty steep. It’s on a 45 degree angle.’ I said, ‘I think it’s going to crash.”

The eyewitness account suggested that perhaps Valentich had an encounter with a UFO. He never saw whether the plane crashed. The only certainty was that Valentich had vanished. Six weeks later, an amateur photographer came forward with even more startling evidence.

On the evening of the flight, Roy Manifold had been setting up to photograph a sunset at Cape Otway, which was almost directly under Valentich’s flight path:

“I’d done the normal thing, had the camera on automatic exposure, and I took six photographs of the sun disappearing into the sea.”

When developed, Manifold said one of the photographs displayed a peculiar blemish:

“I observed this mark on the print that looked like a developing error or something. They mussed it up. I said, ‘Just a minute, that night I took that is exactly the night that this guy disappeared.”

A leading Australian photo lab found neither dirt nor damage on the negative, determining that the strange mark was actually in the picture. The negative was later sent to the United States for computer analysis by a team of UFO researchers. They claimed that the blot was actually a solid, metallic object. To them, it appeared to be enveloped in a cloud of exhaust situated about a mile from the camera. A second, analysis, however, stated that the mark could be a developing error. Either way, Roy Manifold believes the photograph does show something of consequence:

“Unfortunately, I didn’t see it, and I didn’t hear anything that night, either. First time I’ve had something on my printings, and I’ve done thousands of photographs, and without any incidence of anything like that on them.”

Thirty years have passed since Fredrick Valentich flew off to his uncertain fate. However, the questions raised by his mysterious disappearance are just as disturbing today. What exactly did Valentich see in the minutes before radio contact was lost?

Perhaps the secret of Fredrick Valentich lies many fathoms beneath Bass Strait, or perhaps it lies far from our planet, light-years beyond our understanding.

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season six with Robert Stack and in season two with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.


  1. Patrick

    Another amazing case. Some speculate that he wasn’t a good pilot and he may have been flying upside down through the clouds and not known it and was going crazy. Or in a mad tailspin. Who knows. Chilling to hear his final words though, “It’s not an aircraft.”


    • Steve Wehba

      There is no reason to believe that Valentich was anything other than a competent pilot. Yes, he applied to join the Australian Air Force, and didn’t make the cut, but from all accounts he trained diligently to become a commercial pilot. As for flying inverted, his plane had a carburetor, and this would not remain fueled for more than a few seconds if flying inverted. Fred was in constant communication with ATC, and never reported any issue with his flight profile. He did, toward the end of his conversation, report that his engine was running rough.


  2. Melanie

    The photo looks much like what happens when an airplane reaches Mach speed, (or reentry of a Shuttle , with a boom-boom). Looks like it’s next to one of Earth’s black holes. Something to consider. Or is this too scary for the real world?


    • ian

      There was originally 4 photographs including this. Im generally not a conspiracy theorist but it is impossible to find the others now. The first 2 photos show a cylindrical object streaking out of the ocean.


    • Kaladin

      Uh..if earth had a black hole anywhere in our solar system we wouldn’t be alive haha. Don’t be silly. I’m willing to accept this case as a pretty compelling UFO incident but that’s like flat earth levels of silly


  3. Melanie

    This looks very similar to when aircrafts break Mach speed. Perhaps on its way into one of Earth’s black holes?!
    Seriously. Why not?

    (Retired NASA)


  4. Andrew

    The image of the object above the sea at Cape Otway bears a striking similarity to an object filmed by a Chilean Navy helicopter near Santiago in 2014. Also common to both is a clearly discernible exhaust plume. This validates in large measure the authenticity of the Cape Otway image which can surely not attribute the image to a processing error that resulted in an almost identical shape with an exhaust plume! A most unlikely coincidence.


  5. Lee

    I think of an aurora. It’s green, fast, large, can disappear in a second, it’s over him and the electomagnetic pertubations are able to have an effect on his plane (like altimeter…).
    It’s seems to be an good explanantion, isnt it ?


  6. Bill Blaski

    Just watched this episode on Pluto TV. The air traffic controller seem to be credible and their were beach goers who witness this UFO. No plane wreckage? This long ago surely something would have washed up on the bay


  7. Beccaboo

    Are you sure it is season 2? I can’t see it in these seasons episodes on you tube?


  8. Chanita

    OMG That Is Super Crazy!


  9. jack sally

    so what is this suppose to help me on my school project?


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