More Articles On KAL 007
KAL 007: The questions remain unanswered
by Robert W. Lee
What Happended to Flight KAL 007
by Robert W. Lee
The Fate of KAL 007
by Gary Benoit
ITEM: Just before dawn, September 1, 1983, a Soviet SU-15 fired on and hit a Korean Air Lines Boeing 747 (KAL Flight 007) that had just flown over Sakhalin Island. The huge airliner, which was far off the route it should have followed on its scheduled flight from Anchorage to Seoul, carried 269 passengers and crew, including 61 Americans. The most widely accepted view of the tragedy is that the airliner was blown out of the skies, after which it plummeted into the Sea of Japan, killing everybody on board.
CORRECTION: That KAL 007 was off course and was hit by at least one Soviet missile is undisputed. However, the evidence does not support the view that the airliner was obliterated by the missile attack or that it fell out-of-control into the sea. On the contrary, the evidence suggests that the KAL pilots had control of the airliner for at least 12 minutes after the attack and could have used that time to attempt a landing.
Reader's Digest Revision
Reader' s Digest, which published an article in January 1984 claiming that KAL 007 "spun uncontrollably downward" following the missile attack, has just published an article with a very different point of view in its November 1991 issue. The latter article, entitled "KAL 007: The Hidden Story," was written by John Barron, a Digest roving editor.
Barron points out that last winter Izvestia, the Soviet government daily, published a series of revelations about KAL 007 that contradicted the official Soviet view. "It so startled U.S. intelligence experts," he says, "that they were forced to reassess their data on KAL 007."
For instance, Izvestia claimed that the Soviets had located the wreckage of KAL 007 but that their "divers found practically no human bodies or remains." Barron doesn't question whether or not KAL 007 actually went down at sea, but he does observe that Izvestia's report of "practically no human bodies or remains" held "ominous implications" for intelligence analysts. When an Air India 747 went down over the Atlantic in 1985, searchers recovered 131 bodies. Why weren't more remains found in the case of KAL 007?
Barron also points out that the missile attack could not have destroyed the airliner since Tokyo air controllers heard this faint transmission from KAL 007 after the attack: "Rapid [de]compression. Descending to one zero thousand [10,000 feet]." He concludes, "The Korean pilots were doing exactly what pilots are supposed to do when a plane loses cabin pressure drop to a lower altitude where passengers can breathe."
Moreover, Barron cites radar trackings indicating that KAL 007 did not plummet out-of-control into the sea. "Had the 747 blown up or disintegrated," he argues, "it would have crashed into the ocean in less than three minutes. But re-evaluation of radar records, some long ignored, shows that, although the 747 was damaged, its pilots had control of the plane for at least 12 minutes."
According to the figures cited by Barron, KAL 007 dropped from 35,000 feet to 16,400 feet during the first five minutes following the attack (for an average rate of descent of 3,720 feet per minute). It dropped to 5,000 feet during the next four minutes (2,850 feet per minute), and then to 1,000 feet during the next three minutes (1,333 feet per minute), after which it was too low to be visible to radar.
The time aloft, plus the decrease in the rate of descent to less than half the original descent rate, indicate that the pilots were still in control of their aircraft. Barron says that this evidence "strongly suggests that the pilots could have attempted a landing at sea, some 1½ miles off Moneron Island." They could have, of course. But presumably they could also have tried to reach one of the airstrips on nearby Sakhalin Island.
Barron also reports that shortly after KAL 007 disappeared off radar screens, Soviet military posts on Sakhalin "were advising Moscow that... some of the passengers were Americans." But how could the Soviets have known: "Had Soviet searchers found bodies bearing U.S. identification or even survivors?"
John Barron's article was not the first to cite evidence indicating that the pilots of KAL 007 were able to control the aircraft after the missle attack. In its August 29, 1988 and September 10, 1991 issues, THE NEW American published two journal-length articles by Robert W. Lee that drew this very conclusion. Lee's articles went even further, however, arguing that KAL 007 may have landed on Sakhalin.
Besides covering some of the points that were later raised by Barron in Reader' s Digest, Lee also offered the following perspective:
· The failure to find the main wreckage should have raised the possibility that the plane did not crash.
· Little debris was found, far less than is typical for a large aircraft. Lee reasons that the Soviet missile attack and penetration of the fuselage could have accounted for this debris, as opposed to an actual crash.
· Radar tracked KAL 007 headed toward Sakhalin after the attack, although it was headed away from the island before the attack.
· Early reports said that KAL 007 had landed on Sakhalin Island.
Until John Barron's recent article in Reader' s Digest, The New American was virtually alone in challenging the theory that KAL 007 plummeted out-of-control into the sea. But now that Reader's Digest has also begun asking questions about what happened to KAL 007 after the missile attack, the odds have improved that the truth will eventually out.
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Robert Lee's September 10th article, "KAL 007: Questions Remain Unanswered, "is available as a reprint at 2 copies for $1.00; 100 copies for $40.00; or 1,000 copies for $300.00. Add 15 percent ($2.00 minimum) for postage and handling. Write: General Birch Services, Box 8040, Appleton, W154913.
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