Friday, July 05, 2013

Philip Klass and Frederick Valentich

Back some time ago I put together a long article about Phil Klass and some of the dirty tricks he pulled on UFO researchers, investigators and witnesses. In the course of that article I suggested that Klass sometimes provided explanations for sightings that were not in keeping with the evidence available. The case in point was Klass’ claim that Frederick Valentich was a drug smuggler because he had four life preservers on his aircraft. Like many others, I never understood how you could make the leap from the number of life preservers on an aircraft to drug smuggling, but in the world of UFOs, if you can’t fight the evidence, then smear those associated with the case.

Some in the skeptical world were not satisfied with my response that Russ Estes had interviewed Klass a number of years ago and was told the smuggling theory by Klass. Since I didn’t have the direct quote, they wished to reject the information, though Klass’ assertion was widely reported in various other forums. In the world of the skeptic, you just never step on the toes of a fellow skeptic. You support his point of view to ridiculous lengths.

I mention all this because the Valentich sighting has popped up again and Klass’ claim about him has surfaced again. This time links of various statements made by Klass have been posted so that all can listen to his words and decide if the claim is outrageous, a distortion of the situation or if there might be some validity in it.

You can now download the debate between Don Ecker and Klass in which Klass makes the claim again. This is the whole thing so that you can listen to it in the context of that debate. It can be found at:

 For those interested, this debate was covered on the Paracast as well, and those debates can be found here:

This might not end the debate about Klass and his war on UFOs, UFO researchers or UFO witnesses, but it does demonstrate the point that I was making.


Lance said...

Klass was swarmy and wrong here. I suspect that he heard this half-baked idea from an investigating official but it is nothing more than conjecture without real evidence to back it up.

The fact is that Valentich's story about his flight plan is very odd and squirrelly .

Recently released information shows that Valentich, a poor and reckless pilot with very little experience, told several different stories about his planned fateful trip.

Klass was wrong to suggest (which is actually what he did--he didn't state it as a fact as Kevin implies) the drug angle.


cda said...


"In the world of the skeptic, you just never step on the toes of a fellow skeptic. You support his point of view to ridiculous lengths."

Not always. I distictly remember when Steuart Campbell, a Scottish skeptic, was a bit over-enthusiastic with his 'mirage of Jupiter' (or maybe Saturn) explanation for the Socorro and the Trindade Island cases. He was severely rebuked by Klass and Sheaffer when he wanted to publish his writings in "The Skeptical Inquirer". His planned article never appeared.

Also, I do not think Menzel's explanations went down all that well with his contemporary skeptics. He too overdid his 'mirage' ideas just a bit.

Lawrence said...

It is somewhat disingenuous Lance, to say Klass just suggested Valentich was smuggling drugs, rather than stating it as fact! It's slander, libel plain and simple. Hey imagine if I were to write in all seriousness: 'I just suggest that Kevin R smuggled drugs on the side when he was a chopper pilot in Vietnam. I mean the CIA did it, so who's to say Randle didn't? I mean it's possible. I'm just throwing that out there as a 'suggestion', I'm not stating it as fact mind you. Don't take my uh 'suggestion' the wrong way Kevin.'

Give me a break.

New information that Valentich was a poor and reckless flier? Hmmm after all these years, it suddenly comes out? He was relatively inexperienced, is that what you mean by "poor and reckless"? It's not the same thing. None of your red herring evasions re Valentich, whether true or not (would be nice if you provided reliable source references here), change the facts re the case. Not one little bit. Then again that's just the point of red herrings.

Steve Sawyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Sawyer said...

"The fact is that Valentich's story about his flight plan is very odd and squirrelly .

"Recently released information shows that Valentich, a poor and reckless pilot with very little experience, told several different stories about his planned fateful trip."

Citations, Lance?

Lance said...

Keith Basterfield, through a FOI request in Australia, received a treasure trove of documents in regards to the Valentich case.

Here is a summary of some of the information revealed:

" Valentich failed all five subject areas on the commercial pilot exam; moreover, a month before his legendary incident, the young man had failed three of the five areas in his most recent attempt. Additionally, while in the air, he had been involved in flying incidents which began to tarnish his reputation. He had flown into a controlled zone near Sydney (for which he received a warning); additionally, he twice flew intentionally into cloud banks (a prosecutable offense for which criminal litigation was under consideration).."

Lance said...

Here is the link to Basterfield's site with instruction on how to access the documents:

Looking over the files again, one can easily see that the officials WERE suspicious of Valentich's story about his trip.

He told the flight briefing officer that he was going to King Island to pick up passengers. There were no passengers there to pick up. He didn't arrange to lights to be turned on for his landing. He told his girlfriend he would meet here after the trip (at a time that would have been impossible to keep). He told his dad he would come home.

I can easily see a scenario in which Klass was told off the record by one of the investigators about this drug scenario.

Note that I am not saying that Klass was correct to mention the scenario (with such scant evidence) but the way Kevin tells the tale is not the whole story (notice how Kevin leaves out the 4 or 5 other factors that Klass cited, making it sound as though the life preservers were the only factors mentioned by Klass).


KRandle said...

Lance -

First, note that I posted all the information so that you and others could listen to the various interviews in the context. I didn't hide anything.

Second, the statements about Valentich don't make him reckless or bad, just inexperienced which is not quite the same thing. Oh, don't misunderstand, he could very easily been a bad pilot and he certainly was inexperienced.

Third, you have created the scenario in which someone told Klass off the record that Valentich was smuggling drugs but this is speculation. There seems to be no evidence to validate this suggestion.

So, what we have is Klass smearing Valentich with a suggestion of drug smuggling but with no evidence to back up the claim. We have information that Valentich was an inexperienced pilot, which could also mean that he was a bad pilot... (which reminds me of the old saying, "There are old pilots and bold pilots but no old, bold pilots...).

We all seem to agree that Klass was wrong in this suggestion about Valentich and to me this is just another example of smearing someone without all the facts in evidence... in fact, we don't even know if Klass was aware of Valentich's record as a pilot... we know now thanks to Keith Basterfield.

Lance said...

Apologies for the multiple posts. I just reviewed the case file again.

There is no mention at all (that I can see) about any sort of drug scenario. I don't know if Klass just made it up (this is possible) or if someone else suggested it to him. It was NOT a consideration apparently of the crash investigation.

Instead the report does consider the idea that Valentich may have wanted to commit suicide and does provide some compelling (but inconclusive) evidence along these lines.


Lance said...

Hi Kevin,

There is evidence suggesting that Valentich was a bad pilot:

1. Strayed into controlled airspace and was reprimanded for it.

2. Twice flew into cloud banks for which legal action was being considered against him.

3. Repeatedly failed his Commercial Tests but then lied to everyone, telling them he had passed.

4. His night flight without arrangements for lights at destination airport speaks for itself as a terrible idea.

Reading the files, it is clear that his instructors felt that, at best, he was a mediocre pilot.


KRandle said...

Lance -

I have no argument with you here, other than to suggest that Valentich was inexperienced, which could also mean that he was a bad pilot. You seem to agree, suggesting that he was mediocre...

So, what's your point. I have said that he could be classified as bad, but also note that he could be classified as inexperienced, which is not quite the same thing. With proper training and with experience, he might have improved... or maybe not.

Lance said...

Hi Kevin,

Don't think we have much of an argument here, either.

Lawrence and Steve asked for references, which I provided.

There was much suspicion and evidence of deception on Valentich's part in regards to his last flight. There is definitely something fishy about it.

Valentich, a UFO enthusiast who worried about UFO attacks, was seemingly running out of time (an assessment made by the investigator). He had just once again failed his flight exams but lied to everyone he knew about that. His whole focus was on getting a commercial license to show the guys in the military that he was better than they thought he was (their tests indicated that he was only suitable for unskilled labor). Now he had again failed and was under the cloud of legal action for his past flight recklessness (after having already been officially reprimanded for an earlier error).

Valentich celebrated his monthly anniversaries with his girlfriend but (for some reason) insisted upon giving her a celebratory ring about a week before the anniversary (something she thought was odd). At the time he was planning to take the King Island trip a few days later (this was postponed due to weather). His girlfriend thought he seemed down and out of sorts on the day of the flight.

Debris was seen in the vicinity of his flight path during the S&R phase but the search plane had to maneuver through clouds and lost sight of the debris.

It is a fascinating case but predictably most of the above is left out of discussions by UFO enthusiasts.


Raymond Smith said...

thanks great read just watched a docu on it...

TheDimov said...

I'm interested to know what your overall opinion on this case is, Dr Randle. I find it very interesting, this case. I've been through the files they released a few years ago, listened to all the interviews by his dad and girlfriend, and although the research presents a slightly different case to the one presented on TV doco's, whereby Valentich wasn't the best pilot, had very romantic views on things, talked about his last day being in a UFO - basically all things suggest that his dreams of a commercial pilot seem to have been overshadowed by his complete obsession with UFO's and he avoided picking up his girlfriend on his fated last flight after definitely saying he would pick her up, and suicided over Bass Strait but made out he was abducted by a UFO. In a sentence, to go out with a bang. Showing the world, so to speak. But the trouble is the plane was never found, and there is the strange noise at the end of his transmission. He was a big-time dreamer, and I think his continued disappointments as well as watching Close Encounters which at the start has a very similar scenario to what he went through, combined to let him hatch a romaticised suicide solution, but there are some things here and there that suggest maybe, just maybe, there is something more to it..