The Downing of KAL Flight 007: 30 years later

Chilling account of the Russian pilot who shot down KAL Flight 007 in 1983:

“I could see two rows of windows which were lit up,” Soviet pilot, Col. Gennadi Osipovitch, told CNN in 1998, describing the 747’s tell-tale double-deck configuration. “I wondered if it was a civilian aircraft — military cargo planes don’t have such windows.”

“I wondered what kind of plane it was but I had no time to think,” Osipovitch recalled. “I had a job to do. I started to signal to [the pilot] in international code. I informed him that he had violated our airspace. He did not respond.” The Soviets fired warning shots with brightly-lit tracers, said Soviet Lt. Gen. Valentin Varennikov.

Inside KAL 007’s cockpit, the flight crew appeared to be unaware of the Soviet fighters flying alongside. The pilot failed to react, the general said, and continued on course.

No attempt was made to contact the airliner via radio. The Soviet pilots failed to follow “ICAO standards and recommended practices related to the interception of civil aircraft,” the ICAO report said.

Soviet command gave Osipovitch his instructions. “My orders were to destroy the intruder,” Osipovitch remembered. “I fulfilled my mission.”

In this case orders were blindly followed. Fortunately in many other cases both Russian and American officers have analyzed situations before acting. I’ve heard rumors that VP Dick Cheney expected pilots to shoot down passenger airliners slow to land after 9/11, but was ignored.

The downing of Flight 007: 30 years later, a Cold War tragedy still seems surreal

CNN Cold War – 1988 Transcript

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