Monday, April 20, 2009
In 1978 and in 1983 respectively, two Korean Air civilian aircrafts were shot down by Soviet jet fighters for ilegally entering Soviet airspace and disobeying orders by Soviet authority to alter its flight paths.
In the 1978 incident, only 2 passengers out of 109 passengers and crews were killed.
However in the 1983 incident, all 269 passengers and crews on board were killed.
It was surprising why the trained Pilots of the 2 Korean Air flights failed to follow the correct flight paths and at the same time, disobeyed orders to change the flight course to avoid being shot down.
Korean Air Flight 902 (20 April 1978)
Artist's conception of KAL 902 flanked by 2 Soviet Sukhoi Su-15s jetfighters
Korean AirLines Flight 902 (KAL902, KE902) was the flight number of a civilian airliner shot down by Soviet fighters on April 20, 1978 near Murmansk, after it violated Soviet airspace and failed to respond to Soviet interceptors. Two passengers were killed in the incident. 107 passengers and crew survived after the plane made an emergency landing on a frozen lake.
The Boeing 707 aircraft piloted by Kim Chang Ky, left Paris, France on a course to Anchorage, Alaska, where it would refuel and proceed to Seoul, South Korea.
The plane flew north past the Canadian Forces Station Alert, located 400 miles from the North Pole.
It then corrected its course, flying south; not toward Anchorage located at 149°53′W, but in the opposite direction toward Murmansk at 33°5′E. The aircraft was not fitted with an inertial navigation system 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.
Sukhoi Su-15 'Flagon' fighter jets were scrambled after the plane, which was identified as a military U.S. plane (RC-135, an aircraft that shares common ancestry with the 707, like many other U.S. military airplanes).
According to Soviet reports, the intruder repeatedly ignored commands to follow the interceptors. The Soviet airforce jetfighter Sukhoi, 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.
He fired a single rocket, causing heavy damage to part of the left wing and punctured the fuselage, causing rapid decompression and killing two of the 97 passengers.
After the hit the Korean Air 902 was still able to continue its flight. At 23:05, 40 minutes after the missile strike, it was finally forced by another Soviet Sukhoi jetfighters SU-15TM (piloted by Anatoly Kerefov) to land on the frozen Korpijärvi Lake, 250 miles south of Murmansk and 20 miles from the Finland border.
The 107 survivors were rescued by Russian helicopters.
The passengers were released after 2 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 Korea for $100,000 in caretaking expenses. The passengers were flown with a Pan Am B727 from Murmansk to Helsinki, Finland from which another Korean Air B707 took them to Seoul.
Korean Air Flight 007 (September 1, 1983)
Korean Air Lines Flight 007, also known as KAL 007 or KE007, was a Korean Air Lines civilian airliner shot down by Soviet jet interceptors on September 1, 1983 just west of Sakhalin island.
269 passengers and crew, including US congressman Lawrence McDonald, were aboard KAL 007; there were no survivors.
CIA map showing divergence of planned (dotted line) and actual flight paths
The Soviet Union stated it did not know the aircraft was civilian and suggested it had entered Soviet airspace as a deliberate provocation by the United States, the purpose being to test its military response capabilities, repeating the provocation of Korean Air Flight 902, also shot down by Soviet aircraft over the Kola Peninsula in 1978. The incident attracted a storm of protest from across the world, particularly from the United States.
Korean Air Lines flight KAL 007 was a commercial Boeing 747-230B jumbo jet, flying from New York City, United States to Seoul, South Korea.
It took off from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on August 31 carrying 240 passengers and 29 crew.
After refueling at Anchorage International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska the aircraft departed for Seoul at 13:00 GMT (3:00 AM local time) on September 1.
KAL 007 flew westward and then turned south on a course for Seoul-Kimpo International Airport that took it much farther west than planned, cutting across the Soviet Kamchatka Peninsula and then over the Sea of Okhotsk towards Sakhalin, violating Soviet airspace more than once.
Soviet air defense units had been tracking the aircraft for more than an hour while it entered and left Soviet airspace over the Kamchatka Peninsula. Soviet aircraft had initially tried to contact the pilot of the aircraft by radio and by making visual contact.
When this failed, the pilot of the lead aircraft reported firing 120 rounds of tracer ammunition in four 30-round bursts and the pilot of KAL 007 still failed to respond.
The order to shoot down the airliner was given as it was about to leave Soviet airspace for the second time after flying over Sakhalin Island. It was probably downed in international airspace.
Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 "Flagon" interceptor.
The lead aircraft of two Sukhoi Su-15 Flagon jetfighter interceptors scrambled from Dolinsk-Sokol airbase fired two air to air missiles around 18:26 GMT, and shot down KAL 007.
The airliner crashed into the sea north of Moneron Island, killing all on board.
Initial reports that the airliner had been forced to land on Sakhalin were soon proved false.
Transcripts recovered from the airliner's cockpit voice recorder indicate that the crew were unaware that they were off course and violating Soviet airspace (at the end they were 500 kilometers west of the planned track).
Just prior to being attacked, the 747 had been cruising at an altitude around 35,000 feet. After the missile strike, KAL 007's tail was pushed downward which at the same time lifted its nose causing a brief altitude gain before the aircraft began to descend from 18:26 until recording ceased at 18:27:46.
Capt. Chun was able to turn off the autopilot (18:26:46) and it is unknown whether he was able to regain any measure of control as the aircraft spiraled toward the ocean around 5 miles (8 km) below after the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder stopped functioning.
To all the perished passengers and crews of KAL Flight 902 and 007 - Rest in Peace...