…..There are many unanswered questions and fuzzy areas about 007 – enough, surely, to defuse the hysteria and try to get back – or forward – to a sane approach toward the airliner and toward the Soviets generally.
1. What in hell was KAL 007 doing flying 300 miles off-course for several hours over Soviet airspace? KAL 747’s are equipped with three separate, cross-checking, internal navigation systems.
The pilot and crew of 007 should have known instantly that they were off course. And why were there no radio communications from 007 until fifteen minutes before it was shot down? The idea of radio failure makes no sense. Not only because they did make contact at long last, but also because 747’s are equipped with five separate radios, two of which can reach anywhere in the world.
Furthermore, the route flown by 007 is well-travelled; there are planes up there all the time, including another 747 twenty minutes behind that was carrying Senator Jesse Helms. Why didn’t 007 contact any of these other planes and check where they were?
Moreover, all Pacific pilots are well aware, and it is marked clearly on their navigational maps, that one does not fly over Soviet airspace without advance clearance, because the planes are likely to be shot down.
Why then the insouciance of the 007 pilot? Especially since a civilian KAL airliner was shot down over the Soviet Arctic in 1978? There is one crucial difference, however, between the 1978 incident and that of 1983: the 1978 airliner was a 707, with little of the sophisticated navigational systems of the 747. Its pilot could well have gotten lost; the 007 pilot could not.
Another point: 007 was supposed to report every hour to air controllers on the ground. Why didn’t any of the U.S. or Japanese air controllers, also well aware of the dangers of flying over Soviet territory – especially the sensitive military installations in the Kamchatka-Sakhalin area – why didn’t they ever notify 007 that it was way off course and to get back pronto?
Specifically, we know that the RC-135, our spy plane, was flying on the course that day to monitor Soviet tests. But our most capable monitor for the Soviet tests is the U.S. Cobra Dane radar at Shemya, at the tip of the Aleutians and only 450 miles from Kamchatka. The Shemya radar would have seen quickly that 007 was off course, and would have tracked it from then on. Why, then, didn’t an American official at Shemya immediately pick up a phone, call 007, or call the Japanese controllers at Narita?
It is no wonder that the London Sunday Times concluded from its investigation of the 007 incident that “there is now a growing conviction in military, political and aviation circles that Captain Byung was not in Soviet airspace by accident.”
2. Was the 007 incursion planned, and, if so why? If KAL pilot…..