Korean Air Lines Flight 902

Korean Air Lines Flight 902 (KAL 902) was a scheduled Korean Air Lines flight from Paris to Seoul via Anchorage. On 20 April 1978, Soviet air defense shot down the aircraft serving the flight, a Boeing 707, near Murmansk, Soviet Union, after the aircraft violated Soviet airspace.[2][3]

Flight 902 had veered off course over the Arctic Ocean and entered Soviet airspace near the Kola Peninsula, whereupon it was intercepted and fired upon by a Soviet aircraft. The incident killed two of the 109 passengers and crew members aboard and forced the plane to make an emergency landing on the frozen Korpiyarvi lake near the Finnish border.[4]

Korean Air Lines Flight 902
Korean Air Lines 902 on land
The plane after landing in the Soviet Union, with visible damage to its left wing
Date20 April 1978
SummaryShot down by Soviet Union[1]
Sitenear Loukhi, Karelian ASSR, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
66°02.893′N 33°04.321′E / 66.048217°N 33.072017°ECoordinates: 66°02.893′N 33°04.321′E / 66.048217°N 33.072017°E
Aircraft typeBoeing 707-321B
OperatorKorean Air Lines
Flight originOrly Airport
Paris, France
StopoverAnchorage International Airport
Anchorage, Alaska
United States
DestinationKimpo International Airport
Seoul, South Korea


KAL Flight 902's flightplan (in blue, Paris to Anchorage to Seoul) and deviation from plan (in red, having turned southeast when over Ellesmere Island)

Flight 902 departed from Paris, France, at 13:39 local time on a course to Seoul, South Korea.[5] The plane’s only scheduled stop was in Anchorage, Alaska, US, where it would refuel and proceed to Seoul, avoiding Soviet airspace.[5] It was commanded by Captain Kim Chang Kyu, with co-pilot S.D. Cha and navigator Lee Khun Shik making up the other flight deck crew.[6][7] The aircraft made regular radio check-ins as it flew northwest, the last of which, five hours and twenty one minutes after takeoff, placed it near CFS Alert on Ellesmere Island.[5] The aircraft's flight path took it almost directly over the North Magnetic Pole, causing large errors in the aircraft's magnetic compass-based navigation systems. Its course then turned to the southeast and it flew over the Barents Sea and into Soviet airspace, reaching the Soviet coast an estimated three hours and 1,500 miles (2,400 km) after its southward turn.[5]

Soviet air defence

707 kal905
Reconstruction of HL7429 being intercepted by Su-15s

Soviet air defence radar spotted the plane at 20:54, when the plane was approximately 400 kilometres (250 mi) away from Soviet territorial waters.[8] At 21:19 the plane entered Soviet airspace. As the plane did not respond to multiple requests from the ground, a Su-15 interceptor, piloted by Alexander Bosov, was dispatched to intercept the airliner. Having approached KAL902, Bosov waggled the Su-15's wings multiple times, using the international signal for the airliner to follow the interceptor. Instead KAL902 made a 90 degree turn towards the Soviet-Finnish border. Bosov reported the attempted escape from Soviet airspace to the Air Defence Command Officer Vladimir Tsarkov, and the latter, based on internal instructions, commanded to Bosov to shoot down KAL902.

According to Kim's account of the attack, the interceptor approached his aircraft from the right side rather than the left as required by International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regulation.[8] Kim decreased his speed and turned on the navigation lights, indicating that he was ready to follow the Soviet fighter for landing.[8]

According to Soviet reports, the airliner repeatedly ignored commands to follow the interceptor.[9] Flight 902's co-pilot, S.D. Cha, said that the crew had attempted to communicate with the interceptor via radio, but did not receive a response.[6]

Bosov tried to convince his superiors that the plane was not a military threat, but after receiving orders to shoot it down[10][8] at 21:42 he fired a R-60 missile. The missile flew past the target.[8] The second one hit the left wing, knocking off approximately 4 metres (13 ft) of its length. The missile also punctured the fuselage, causing rapid decompression and jamming one of the plane's four turbines.[8] Korean passenger Bahng Tais Hwang died in the missile strike, which wounded several others.[6]

After being hit, the airliner quickly descended from an altitude of 9,000 m (30,000 ft).[8] It fell into a cloud, disappearing from Soviet air defence radars. Soviets mistook the part of the wing that had fallen off Flight 902 for a cruise missile and dispatched another Su-15 interceptor to fire at it.[8] Bosov's Su-15 had to return to airbase due to low fuel. Another Su-15 piloted by Anatoly Kerefov approached the plane and forced it at 23:05 to land upon the frozen surface of Lake Korpiyarvi.

Emergency landing

Accounts of the time between the missile strike and Flight 902's landing differ. According to Soviet media the airliner flew across the whole Kola Peninsula at a low altitude for about 40 minutes, searching for a place to land. After several unsuccessful attempts at landing, Kim brought the plane down on the ice of the frozen Korpiyarvi lake in Karelian ASSR, located approximately 140 kilometres (87 mi) from the Finnish border.[8][11] According to the diary of a passenger on board Flight 902, an account supported by other passengers, an hour and 40 minutes elapsed before the landing.[6] About two hours after the crash landing, Soviet troops reached the plane to begin the rescue effort, by which time Japanese passenger Yoshitako Sugano had died.[6]

Finnish sources stated that Soviet air defense did not have any information on the plane's whereabouts after it disappeared from the radar.[8] However, Tsarkov stated that another Soviet pilot, Anatoly Kerefov, had located Flight 902 and led it to the Afrikanda (air base).[8] Tsarkov went on to say that Kim fell behind and landed on the lake.[8] Kerefov said he practically forced the plane to land on the ice of Korpiyarvi.[8]

Rescue of survivors

Soviet helicopters rescued the survivors and transported them to the city of Kem in Karelia. The passengers were quartered in the garrison's Officers' Lodge.[8]

On 22 April, the survivors, except the pilot and navigator, were transported via Aeroflot from Kem to Murmansk, then by Pan American World Airways to Helsinki, Finland, where a Korean Air Lines aircraft departed on 23 April for Seoul with the group of Flight 902 survivors and the bodies of those killed.[12]

On 29 April, the pilot and navigator of Flight 902 were released.[7] TASS, the official news agency of the Soviet Union, said that they had confessed to violating Soviet airspace and disregarding orders from the intercepting aircraft to land.[7] According to TASS, the pair had appealed for clemency to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, which pardoned and expelled them.[7]

The Soviet Union invoiced South Korea US$100,000 ($384,100 today) for its caretaking of the passengers; the bill was never paid.[13]


The Soviet Union refused to cooperate with international experts while they investigated the incident and did not provide any data from the plane's "black box".[8] The airplane was dismantled and all equipment transferred by helicopter onto a barge in Kandalaksha Gulf.[8] The deputy chief commanding officer of Soviet air defense, Yevgeniy Savitsky, personally inspected the aircraft's cockpit.[8] The crew of Flight 902 blamed navigational error for the plane's course—passengers said that Kim had told them upon landing that he had suspected the aircraft's navigation equipment was in error but had followed it anyway; after being released from Soviet custody, navigator Lee said similarly that the navigational gyro had malfunctioned.[7]

The incident led to a shift in command and contributed to the shooting down of another Korean Airlines flight, KAL 007, in 1983, which killed all aboard.[14][15]

Korean Air continues to use the flight number 902 on its Paris-Seoul route, but it is now a nonstop eastbound route. The flight from Paris now departs from Charles de Gaulle Airport instead of Orly and arrives at the Incheon Airport in Seoul instead of Gimpo. Korean Air predominantly uses the Airbus A380 on this route.[16]


The locations of the accident and the airports
Landing site
Landing site
Location of the accident and origination, stopover, and destination airports
Landing site is located in Karelia
Landing site
Landing site
Landing site in Karelia

See also


  1. ^ https://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19780420-1 Retrieved December 17th 2018
  2. ^ "The Worst, But Not The First." Time 122.11 (1983): 21. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 November 2012.
  3. ^ "The Mystery Of Flight 902 Why Did A South Korean Jet Make a 180° Turn over the Arctic?." Time 111.18 (1978): 35. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 November 2012.
  4. ^ "Рейс "KAL" # 902 по расписанию не прибыл". Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d "Flight of South Korean Airliner 'Very Puzzling' to U.S. Officials". The New York Times. 22 April 1978. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Agony of Flight 902". The Washington Post. 24 April 1978. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Soviet Frees Last 2 in Korean Plane Case". The New York Times. 30 April 1978. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q (in Ukrainian) Spring of 1978. How USSR downed over Karelia the Korean "Boeing". Ukrayinska Pravda
  9. ^ "2 Killed on South Korean Airliner That Was Forced to Land in Soviet". The New York Times. 22 April 1978. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  10. ^ "Criminal Occurrence Description at the Aviation Safety Network".
  11. ^ Увидеть Париж — и не умереть – Константин Сорокин, Артур Берзин Archived 6 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine(in Russian)
  12. ^ "South Korean Plane Plunged 30,000 Feet After Being Fired On". The New York Times. 23 April 1978. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  13. ^ "Past Attacks on Commercial Airliners". Time. 17 July 2014. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  14. ^ Reed Irvine (8 May 1991). "KAL-007: Where's the Media?". Accuracy in Media. Retrieved 1 September 2009.
  15. ^ Pearson, David Eric (1987). KAL 007: The Cover-up. N.Y.: Summit Books. p. 110. ISBN 0-671-55716-5.
  16. ^ "History ✈ Korean Air Lines Co. #902 ✈ FlightAware". Retrieved 30 April 2017.

External links

1978 LAV HS 748 accident

The 1978 LAV HS 748 accident occurred on 3 March 1978 when Hawker Siddeley HS 748 YV-45C, of LAV (Línea Aeropostal Venezolana), crashed into the sea close to Caracas-Maiquetía Airport (CCS/SVMI), Venezuela. All 46 on board were killed.

ASEAN Declaration

The ASEAN Declaration or Bangkok Declaration is the founding document of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It was signed in Bangkok on 8 August 1967 by the five ASEAN founding members, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand as a display of solidarity against communist expansion in Vietnam and communist insurgency within their own borders. It states the basic principles of ASEAN: co-operation, amity, and non-interference. The date is now celebrated as ASEAN Day.

Aeroflot Flight 1080

Aeroflot Flight 1080 was a Soviet domestic passenger flight from Yekaterinburg, Russia to Kostanay, Kazakhstan that crashed at night shortly after takeoff on 7 October 1978. All 38 passengers and crew were killed in the crash which occurred when one of the engines failed due to icing during initial climb out. At the time, the crash was the second worst in the history of the Yakovlev Yak-40 which had entered operational service with Aeroflot just ten years prior.

Air Canada Flight 189

Air Canada Flight 189 was an Air Canada flight from Ottawa to Vancouver via Toronto and Winnipeg. On June 26, 1978, the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 operating the flight crashed on takeoff in Toronto, killing two passengers.

Cessna 188 Pacific rescue

On 22 December 1978, a small Cessna 188 aircraft, piloted by Jay Prochnow, became lost over the Pacific Ocean. The only other aircraft in the area that was able to assist was a commercial Air New Zealand flight. After several hours of searching, the crew of the Air New Zealand flight located the lost Cessna and led it to Norfolk Island, where the plane landed safely.

Finnair Flight 405

Finnair Flight 405 was a scheduled domestic passenger flight between Oulu and Helsinki, Finland, that was hijacked on September 30, 1978. The Finnair Sud Aviation Caravelle with 44 passengers and 5 crew aboard was hijacked by an unemployed home building contractor. After forcing the pilot to fly to Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Helsinki, the hijacker received his ransom demands and released his hostages. He was arrested at his home the following day.

Finnair Flight 915

Finnair Flight 915 (AY915) was a scheduled flight by Finnair from Tokyo, Japan, over the North Pole to Helsinki, Finland, on 23 December 1987. In 2014, Finnish media reported a claim by two of the flight’s pilots that the Soviet Union had fired a missile at the aircraft, which exploded less than 30 seconds before impact. The allegations came out only in September 2014, when Helsingin Sanomat, the leading Finnish daily newspaper, published an extensive article on the matter. The Finnish Broadcasting Corporation YLE reported on the article in the internet the same day.When the matter came out, it caused outrage in Finland among those politicians and civil servants, to whom it should have been reported at the time, and it was widely publicised and commented upon in the Finnish media, amidst allegations of Finlandization.

The alleged incident has been compared to other similar incidents involving the Soviet Union, such as the Aero Kaleva in 1940, Aeroflot Flight 902 in 1962, Korean Air Lines Flight 902 in 1978, Korean Air Lines Flight 007 in 1983. Co-captain Kaukiainen said that the Finnair pilots decided to speak out on the matter after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 had been shot down in Ukraine on 17 July 2014.

Helikopter Service Flight 165

Helikopter Service Flight 165 was a crash of a Sikorsky S-61 helicopter into the North Sea, 78 nautical miles (144 km; 90 mi) northwest of Bergen, Norway, on 26 June 1978. The aircraft was en route from Bergen Airport, Flesland to Statfjord A, an offshore oil platform. The accident was caused by a fatigue crack in a knuckle joint, causing one of the rotor blades to loosen. All eighteen people on board were killed in the crash.

Johnson Doctrine

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List of airliner shootdown incidents

In the history of commercial aviation, there have been many airliner shootdown incidents which have been caused intentionally or by accident. This is a chronologically ordered list meant to document instances where airliners have been brought down by gunfire or missile attacks, including wartime incidents, rather than terrorist bombings or sabotage.

List of conflicts related to the Cold War

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Loukhi (Russian: Лоухи; Karelian: Louhi) is an urban locality (an urban-type settlement) and the administrative center of Loukhsky District in the Republic of Karelia, Russia, located on the shore of Lake Panovo, 500 kilometers (310 mi) north of Petrozavodsk, the capital of the republic. As of the 2010 Census, its population was 4,772.

Olympic Airways Flight 411

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Pacific Western Airlines Flight 314

On 11 February 1978, Pacific Western Airlines Flight 314, a Boeing 737-200 crashed at Cranbrook/Canadian Rockies International Airport, near Cranbook, British Columbia, Canada, killing 42 of the 49 people on board.The scheduled flight from Edmonton International Airport to Castlegar Airport via Calgary, Alberta and Cranbrook, British Columbia crashed after its thrust reversers did not fully stow following an aborted landing to avoid a snowplow on the runway. Calgary air traffic control was considerably in error in its calculation of the Cranbrook arrival time and the flight crew did not report while passing a beacon on final approach.

Soviet airspace violations

A Soviet airspace violation may refer to:

The hundreds of Nazi prewar incursions into Soviet airspace before Operation Barbarossa

1960 U-2 incident when a spy plane was shot down over Soviet airspace

Seaboard World Airlines Flight 253, a 1968 forced landing on Etorofu Island

Korean Air Lines Flight 902, a 1978 forced landing on a Soviet lake near Finnish border

Korean Air Lines Flight 007, 1983 shootdown of a Boeing 747 over Sakhalin Island

Mathias Rust, landing a Cessna 172 in Red Square

TWA Flight 541

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Tsarkov (Russian: Царьков) is a family name of Russian origin.

Notable people with the name include:

Oleh Tsarkov (born 1988), Ukrainian Olympic sports shooter

Yevgen Tsarkov (born 1974), Ukrainian politician

Fyodor Tsarkov (1888–1938), Russian member of the 16th Congress Central Committee

Pyotr Tsarkaov, Russian member of the Russian Opposition Coordination Council in 2012

Vladimir Tsarkov (born 1933), Russian commander in the 21st Air Defence Corps who ordered Korean Air Lines Flight 902 shot down

Yawhen Tsarkov, Belarusian footballer in the 1998 Russian Second Division

Vasiliy Tsarkov, Russian mixed martial artist competing in the 2010 Fight Nights Global

Vladimir Tsarkov, Russian circus performer of Valentin Gneushev’s “The Red Harlequin”

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The Western Bloc during the Cold War refers to capitalist countries under the hegemony of the United States and NATO against the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. The latter were referred to as the Eastern Bloc. The governments and press of the Western Bloc were more inclined to refer to themselves as the "Free World" or the "Western world", whereas the Eastern Bloc was often called the "Communist world or Second world".

Frozen conflicts
Foreign policy
See also
Accidents and incidents

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