The Valentich incident is often cited as one of the only instances of a UFO report actually resulting in the permanent disappearance of a pilot while in the air. It hovered within his field of view, according to transmissions between him and air traffic controllers. Then, suddenly the young pilot became panicked, and reported that the object was chasing him. Then, soon after he disappeared forever.
UFOs have rarely been implicated directly in the death or permanent disappearance of any human being, let alone those in a plane making transmissions and receiving them as the event was happening. Unfortunately, the Valentich incident proved to be just this. As the uneasy messages gave way to panic, air traffic coordinators found themselves helpless to save the young pilot and soon an investigation was launched.
Investigators of the incident, however, soon found themselves at a road block. What had Valentich seen? The logs of the report indicated that Valentich had described an object with four lights hovering above him. After that, Valentich had reported his engines running roughly. Minutes later, a frightened Valentich clearly said, "That's not an aircraft..." After Valentich's disappearance several UFO reports came flooding into reporting centers, police stations, and newspaper offices around the 125 mile stretch of area the pilot was flying through in his test flight. As investigators continued to review the case, they discovered that the final 17 seconds of Valentich's transmissions were filled with mysterious sounds of metal scraping metal. Because the sounds had no discernable pattern in tone or frequency, many suspected it could not have been a mechanical malfunction from within the recording device, but that rather it had to have been something outside of the radio equipment, but inside the cockpit somewhere. The investigators were uncertain of the significance of the sounds.
Years prior to the details of the Valentich case being released, objects almost exactly like the ones Valentich had described were spotted around the area in the weeks around the incident in 1978. Of course despite the several corroborating witnesses, the extraterrestrial or military vehicle explanation is largely considered an "unconventional" explanation. Instead, the more conventional explanations range from air-pirates to lightning strike from a lenticular cloud to the pilot becoming disoriented and not realizing he was actually flying upside down. In all three conventional explanations it was concluded that the pilot likely fell into the sea and was carried away by the Bass Strait. Philip J. Klass went so far as to suggest that Valentich was a drug smuggler and had been shot down by others in a claim as unsubstantiated as can be. The accusation understandably upset the grieving family.
What happened to the young Australian pilot? Until his craft is discovered, it will be difficult to conclusively say, and thus this story will remain unsolved. In this case it is preferable to think that Valentich and his craft were shuttled to safety off-world, rather than crashed into the sea. Still, the story clearly is an example of a mystery that remains thirty years after the event still unexplainable.