Aviation Safety network

Flight Into Danger
MIG-15s, like the one above, downed a wayward airliner over the Kola Peninsula

Cited in the episode First Principles is the shooting down of a Korean airliner over the Kola Peninsula. This is not the 007 flight during the 80s, but an earlier event that would have been fresh on the minds of everyone working on The Sandbaggers at the time.

Flight 902 departed Paris for a flight to Seoul with an intermediate stop at Anchorage, AK. The aircraft passed the Canadian Station 'Alert', located 400 miles from the North Pole where the crew corrected their course.

This brought them on a course directly across the Barents Sea towards Soviet airspace. The plane was initially recognized by Soviet anti-aircraft defense radars as a Boeing 747.

Sukhoi Su-15TM jets were sent to intercept the intruder. When both Sukhoi jets were flying next to the Korean airliner, the captain said he slowed down plane and switched on landing lights. Nevertheless the Su-15 crews were ordered to shoot down the plane.

According to the U.S., the Su-15 pilot for several minutes tried to convince his superiors to cancel the attack because the aircraft was a civilian Boeing 707 instead of a reconnaissance Boeing RC-135. The controllers were firm and demanded the pilots attack. The flight leader obeyed. Seconds later, two P-60 rockets leapt from his warplane and streaked toward the airliner.

Evasive Action
One missed. The other rocket tore off part of the airliner’s port wing. Shrapnel slammed into the cabin. It depressurized instantly. The Korean pilot pushed the yoke down.

The passenger plane reeled.

The pilot steered into clouds to avoid the fighter jets. It leveled at 5000 feet. It was low enough that air pressure was high enough to breathe. Nevertheless, two passengers had died.

The wounded aircraft crossed the Kola Peninsula while her pilots sought a place to land. After several unsuccessful attempts in the evening dusk landed on the frozen surface of Korpij‘rvi lake. Survivers and the dead were evacuated by Russian helicopters.