I previously reported on the release, by the National Archives of Australia (NAA) of the major part of file series B1497 control symbol V116/783/1047, titled "DSJ - Cape Ottway to King Island 21 October 1978 - Aircraft missing." This was the Australian Government's Air Accident Investigation file on the disappearance of aircraft VH-DSJ, piloted by Frederick Valentich.
The file released by the NAA, under the Archives Act allowed access to documents on the file, which were more than 30 years old. As I requested this file in 2012, this meant papers up to 1983 were released to me. This left an unknown number of folios (a folio can mean one or more papers) on the file up until the file was closed and placed in the NAA.
I therefore submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the file's current owner, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), requesting the rest of the folios on the file. I had little hope of finding anything of real value, given that the final report on the disappearance of the aircraft and pilot appeared on papers released under the Archives Act. However, I thought that I would be thorough, and obtain the rest of the file's documents. If no-one obtained the papers, there would always be some conspiracy theory that there was something hidden on the rest of the file.
I have just received these documents. What was on the file beyond 1983?
Authority to make this decision:
The decision maker in response to my FOI Act request, was Ian Sangston, General Manager, Aviation Safety Investigations, Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
I was advised that there are 23 folios on file V116/783/1047 relevant to my request. These documents fall into one of three categories:
1. Documents released in full - 3
2. Documents released with some deletions - 17
3. Documents totally exempt form release - 2.
That totals 22 folios. One folio is several pages long; four pages of it are exempt; one page released with some deletions and one page fully released. This totals the 23 folios.
What are the folios?
1. 26 Jun 1985. From Bureau of Air Safety Investigation (BASI) to Trans Media Productions Pty Ltd. "I refer to your Freedom of Information request...for a copy of an unedited tape recording of the conversation between Mr F Valentich and Melbourne Flight Service on 21 October 1978. it is Departmental practice to recycle tapes and the particular tape to which you refer has, after investigation of Mr Valentich's disappearance, been returned to service. As no other tape recording of the conversation is held by the Department, the Department is unable to comply with your request."
2. 25 Jun 1985. From Trans Media productions -Channel 9 TV, to the Department. (Keith's note - this document is almost unreadable due to being very faint, but would appear to be the request alluded to in 1 above.
3. 26 Jun 1985. Internal memo from Regional Director, Victoria, to Director, BASI. I propose to reply to Trans media productions as per the draft here.
4. 11 Jul 1985. Letter from Trans Media Productions to BASI. "Is the tape in the archives of the recyling department or has it been destroyed? If so who made the decision to recycle the tape? It seems amazing that a tape of this nature would not be preserved for future investigation i.e. an inquiry into the possible death of Mr Valentich by the courts." Trans Media asked for a "...copy of the unedited transcript of this tape..."
5. Four pages of the "Preliminary transcript from Melbourne Flight Service Recording."
6. BASI document. Two pages. Completely blank. The schedule of documents under the ATSB response states that this folio is "Tape order book records." The "Exemption category" states "R with out of scope. Information deleted. Tape order book records relating to other aircraft."
7. 17 Jul 1985. BASI document. Two pages. Described as "Internal minute." Completely exempt.
8. 16 Jul 1985. BASI document. "Note containing NOK personal information." This folio is a one page "Bureau of Air Safety Investigation Minute." Handwritten "Note. Mr Guido Valentich." The rest of the folio is blank.
9. 8 Aug 1985. Department of Aviation letter to Trans Media Productions. "...has decided to grant access to the summary report relating to the accident involving Mr Valentich. This report contains a complete transcript of Mr Valentich's conversation with Melbourne Flight Service."
10. 26 Jul 1985. Letter Department of Aviation to Trans Media Productions. "Regarding your question on the recycling of audio tapes. I confirm the advice of (deleted) on 9 July that it is departmental practice to "recycle" tapes after use. This means that unless tapes are required for investigation purposes they are retained for 30 days and then reused, as needed, to record further operational conversations... Our records indicate that the tape concerning Mr Valentich was returned to service on 6 April 1979, following its release from BASI."
11. A one page BASI note. Handwritten. It appears to show two file numbers V116/783/1047 and M116/783/1047. It is a table with columns headed "Folio," "Release (Yes/No)," "Reason (If no)," "Agrees."
There is a handwritten note "Accident report only see F6 on U86/46." Under "folios" there are 63 folios shown. Some have "yes" written under "release" and others have "no."
12. 24 Oct 1988. BASI. "Investigators file note." One page. Totally exempt. Not included in my package.
13. 27 Sep 1989. Fax from Southdown press to Bureau of Air Safety investigation. Asks BASI "I wish to request a public release document containing details of the flight,. subsequent investigations and the conclusion reached..." Apparently for an article for the "Australasian Post" magazine.
14. 27 Sep 1989. Fax from BASI to Southdown press. Response to 13. Here is what you asked for.
15. 9 Apr 1990. BASI to "An external party." "Letter regarding request for a copy of the Accident report concerning VH-DSJ."
16. 4 Apr 1990. "Ineligible document as received." Totally blank.
17. 9 Apr 1990. BASI. "Internal minute regarding attachment of document to file."
18. 15 Mar 1991. Letter from Mary MacKillop Catholic Regional College, South Gippsland to BASI. For a communications project could we please have information on Valentich's disappearance?
19. 26 Mar 1991. BASI to Mary Mackillop Catholic Regional College. Includes "The file on this occurrence was archived some time ago but I have requested its issue from Australian archives to obtain for you a copy of the report made available for public release following investigation of the occurrence...Interest in the disappearance has continued primarily due to the UFO connotations which were not substantiated and yours is one of several requests we receive each year for information on this occurrence. Even iI would like to know what really happened but it is one of those mysteries which probably will never be solved."
20. 27 Mar 1991. BASI to Mary MacKillop College. Provides a copy of the "Aircraft Accident Investigation Summary report."
21 27 Mar 2012. "An external party" to BASI. The year date of 2012 shown in the ATSB documents is incorrect as it is labelled as folio 144. This folio is between folio 143 which is dated 27 Mar 1991 and folio 145 dated 27 Jul 1992. The "schedule of documents" supplied by ATSB shows this folio is six pages long. Four pages are totally exempt. One opage is partially deleted and one page was released. Of the two pages I received, one is an envelope dated 13 Jul 1992 addressed to "The Director, Bureau of Air Safety Regulation" and the other page is the back of the envelope with the address deleted. The contents of the four page letter enclosed, were not released to me.
22. 27 Jul 1992. A one page internal BASI minute. "Here is an unusual one for you. It is the famous Valentich case of October 1978. Folio 144 is an attempt at an explanation which is offered in good faith. I spoke to the author and acknowledged receipt. I don't have the expertise or time to look at it. This sort of thing is in the psych's area. Would you give it to them for consideration and response (verbal would be OK) to the author."
23. 25 Aug 1992. BASI to an external part. "I refer to your letter of 10 Jul 1992...As you understand, the event remains a mystery, however your suggestions concerning a possible cause are appreciated..."
So, this is the rest of the ATSB's file, as released by the current owner, the ATSB. This then, is the final chapter of files series B1497 control symbol V116/783/1047.
What do blog readers think of this final piece of the file?