Penned aloud‎ > ‎

KAL 007 - Target Destroyed

posted 22 Dec 2010, 07:32 by Hussain Kothari   [ updated 22 Dec 2010, 08:41 ]

Just done with one more episode of ACI on discovery channel.
When it comes to software engineers the most grave result of my coding mistake would be that the video playback on the user phone could be interrupted by a crash or worst comes to worst, the user would experience a crash during the phone conversation. Never was I responsible for more than 200 lives!
The 269 passengers for flight KAL 007, Korean Airline from New York to Seoul on 1st Sept 1983 seems to have its fate sealed. There were a number of errors and coincidents due to which the KAL 007 had to be "shot down" by the then Soviet Union. The aftermath could have proved a war as well.
KAL007 was on its way from NewYork to Seoul. It accidentally stayed into the Soviet airspace. A Soviet fighter plane, shot it down claiming it was a spy plane. Everyone on the plane died. The data recorder of the plane was recovered by USSR and was handed over to the USA only after 8 long years. Until then the events of KAL007 was a mystery.

 1. The autopilot system used at the time had two modes, INS and HEADING. The INS navigation was programmed with the flight plan, the pilot could turn the autopilot mode by switching to the INS position after take off. One theory is that the pilots "forgot" to switch to INS autopilot mode, or did not activate the INS mode. Both were standard basic procedure to fly a plane. Due to this the plane navigated off track and since it was using the HEADING mode and since there were no GPS available for civilian planes, this error went unnoticed.

2. The sister flight KAL015 that was 15 minutes behind KAL007 heading to the same destination did mention to KAL 007 that it is experiencing strong tail winds. While the crew in KAL007 said that it has experience strong head winds. It was impossible that two aircrafts would experience different weather conditions in a difference of 15 minutes. A clue that was not caught by the KAL 007 crew.

3. The Soviets were planning a missile test that day. A United State air force plane was flying in that area was monitoring the test.

4. The Soviets found the plane intruding. They did send out three fighters to confront it, but before the fighters could reach the aircraft, the airplane left the Soviets airspace and was flying over neutral waters. The plane re-entered the Soviets airspace over Sakhalin Island and orders were given to attack it "before it left the Soviets airspace".

5. The Soviet Sukhoi intercepted the Boeing from behind and fired warning shots. These shots were not seen by the commercial pilots. At coincident that happened next was something that sealed the fates of all the passengers.

6. At this point, KAL 007 contacted Tokyo air traffic control requesting clearance to ascend to a higher flight level for reasons of fuel economy; the request was granted, so the Boeing started to climb, gradually slowing as it exchanged speed for altitude. The decrease in speed caused the pursuing fighter to overshoot the Boeing, an action that was interpreted by the Soviet pilot as an evasive maneuver. The order to shoot KAL 007 down was given as it was about to leave Soviet airspace for the second time. Under pressure from the commander and ground controllers not to let the aircraft escape into international waters, the lead fighter was able to move back into a position where it could fire two air-to-air missiles at the plane. Then the ground [controller] gave the command: 'Destroy the target!'. Though the interceptor pilot reported to ground control, "Target destroyed"

Even if any one of the error or coincident would have been prevented, 269 lives would have been saved.
In this case, to err is not human.

Recordings of the communications between pilots of Soviet fighter planes and the ground control