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Korean Air Lines Flight 902

Artist's conception of KAL 902 flanked by Soviet Su-15s
Occurrence summary
Date April 20, 1978
Type Airliner shot down
Site near Loukhi
Passengers 97
Crew 12
Fatalities 2
Survivors 107
Aircraft type Boeing 707
Operator Korean Air Lines
Tail number HL7429
Flight origin Charles de Gaulle International Airport Paris, France
Last stopover Scheduled to stop at Anchorage International Airport Anchorage, Alaska, United States
Destination Gimpo International Airport Seoul, South Korea
KAL Flight 902's flightplan (in blue; unflown segment in light blue) and actual route flown (distance correctly traveled in blue; incorrectly traveled leg in red)

Korean Air Lines Flight 902 (KAL902, KE902) was the flight number of a civilian airliner which was involved in a shooting incident April 20, 1978, near Murmansk, Russia, after it violated Soviet airspace and allegedly failed to respond to Soviet interceptors.[citation needed] Tapes released by Rovaniemi Area Control Centre show that the pilots of KAL902 had identified themselves.[1] Two passengers were killed when Soviet aircraft opened fire on the aircraft. 107 passengers and crew survived after the plane made an emergency landing on a frozen lake.

Contents

History of the flight

The Boeing 707 aircraft (registration HL7429), piloted by Kim Chang Ky, left Paris, France on a course to Anchorage, Alaska, United States where it would refuel and proceed to Seoul, South Korea. The plane flew north past the Canadian Forces Station Alert, located 400 miles (640 km) from the North Pole.[2] It then changed its course, flying south; not toward Anchorage located at 61°10′N 149°59′W / 61.167°N 149.983°W / 61.167; -149.983 (Anchorage, Alaska), but in the opposite direction toward Murmansk at 68°58′N 33°5′E / 68.967°N 33.083°E / 68.967; 33.083 (Murmansk, Russia). The aircraft was not fitted with an inertial navigation system,[Notes 1] and the pilots failed to note the position of the sun, almost 180 degrees off from where it should have been. According to the official Korean explanation, the pilots in their navigation calculations used the wrong sign of magnetic declination when converting between magnetic and true headings. This caused the plane to fly in an enormous right-turning arc, which eventually caused the aircraft to fly north from Great Britain towards Iceland, arcing around Scandinavia and towards the Barents Sea into Soviet airspace. Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 'Flagon' fighters were scrambled after the plane, which was incorrectly identified as a United States Air Force reconnaissance RC-135.[Notes 2]

According to Soviet reports, the intruder repeatedly ignored commands to follow the interceptors. Su-15 pilot Capt. A. Bosov was ordered to shoot it down after trying to convince his superiors on the ground that the aircraft was not a military threat.[2] He fired a pair of R-60 missiles, one of which caused heavy damage to part of the left wing of the Boeing 707 and punctured the fuselage, causing rapid decompression, and killing two of the 97 passengers. After being hit, the airliner descended into cloud and was lost by the Su-15s. At 23:05, 40 minutes after the missile strike, it was finally forced by another Su-15TM (piloted by Anatoly Kerefov) to land on the frozen Korpijärvi Lake 66°02.893′N 33°04.321′E / 66.048217°N 33.072017°E / 66.048217; 33.072017 (Korpijärvi Lake)Coordinates: 66°02.893′N 33°04.321′E / 66.048217°N 33.072017°E / 66.048217; 33.072017 (Korpijärvi Lake),[3] 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) south of nearest railway station Loukhi and 140 kilometres (87 mi) from the Finnish border. The 107 survivors were rescued by Soviet helicopters.

The passengers were released after two days, while the crew were held for investigation and released after they made a formal apology. The Korean pilots acknowledged that they deliberately failed to obey the commands of the Soviet interceptors. The Soviet Union invoiced South Korea for $100,000 in caretaking expenses. The passengers were flown with a Pan Am Boeing 727 from Murmansk to Helsinki, Finland from where another Korean Air Boeing 707 took them to Seoul.

The incident was a major embarrassment to the Soviet air defense forces because the jetliner had penetrated Soviet territory before interception. This led to a major shakeup of the defense force command, and contributed to the shooting of Korean Air 007 by the Soviets in 1983.[4][5]

Notes

  1. ^ GPS was not available at the time either.
  2. ^ The Boeing RC-135 aircraft shares common ancestry with the 707.

See also

References

External links

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