KAL 007: Timeline of Interception and Shootdown
On Sept, 1, 1983, on a flight from Anchorage Airport, Alaska, to Seoul, Korea, Boeing 747 Korean Airlines Flight 007, carrying 269 passengers and crew, U.S. Cong. Larry McDonald among them, was shot down by the Soviets in international waters just west of Sakhalin Island. It was thought by media as well as by researchers that KAL 007 exploded upon missile detonation, or at best, having been severly damaged, immediately lost control plunging to its destruction in the Tatar straits. It was thought that the possibility of survivors was out of the question in the light of the supposed total destruction of the jumbo jet. When, in 1992, the Russian Federation handed over to the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization the tapes from the Cockpit Voice Recorder and the Flight Data Recorder, quite a different picture began to emerge.
The following time line is composed of the words spoken within the cockpit of KAL 007 by Capt Chun and First Officer Son (recorded by the Cockpit Voice Recorder) and the words spoken on the ground, primarily by General Anatoli Kornukov, Commander of Sokol Air Base on Sakhalin, directing the shootdown of KAL 007, and his subordinants.* The retrospective thoughts of the interceptor pilot, Maj. Gennadie Osipovich, have been interjected at the appropriate places.
Note* - On Dec. 10, Senator Jesse Helms of the Committee on Foreign Relations wrote to President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin requesting, among other things related to KAL 007, these transcripts of the Russian military communications of the shootdown. For Sen Helms letter to Boris Yeltsin, see .
- 17:53 GMT - First documented order for shootdown. General Anatoli Kornukov, Commander of Sokol Air base on Sakhalin to the command post of General Valeri Kamenski, Commander of Air Defense Forces for the Far East Military District, “…simply destroy [it] even if it is over neutral waters? Are the orders to destroy it over neutral waters? Oh, well.” (ICAO "93, Information Paper No.1, 101)
- 18:11 GMT - Maj. Gennadie Osipovich in his Su-15 interceptor has been sent up to intercept the "intruder" and now views KAL 007 both visually and on his screen. Air Contoller Titovnin: "Can you see the target, 805 (call sign for Osipovich)?" I see both visually and on the screen". Titovnin: "Roger, report lock-on". (ICAO '93, Transcript of Communications, pg. 62)
- 18:15 GMT - KE007 requested FL [flight level] 350 [35,000 feet](ICAO Report, Appendix D, page D-3)
- 18:20 GMT - Clearance given by Tokyo Radio for KAL 007 to climb to 35,000 ft. (ICAO Report, Appendix D, page D)
- 18:22:40-55 GMT - As power is diverted from velocity to lift, KAL 007 decreases speed and Maj. Ospiovich in his Su-15 draws abeam of the target. He will drop back and behind to fire the missiles. Lt. Col. Titovnin (Combat Controller): "805, open fire on target". Maj. Osipovich: "It should have been earlier. How can I chase it? I’m already abeam of the target". Titovnin: "Roger, if possible, take up a position for attack". Osipovich: "Now I have to fall back a bit from the target"..
- 18:23 GMT - KE007 reports reaching FL 350 (ICAO Report, Appendix D)
- 18:24 GMT - KAL 007 is seen by Gen. Kornukov about to successfully leave Soviet air space. Gen. Kornukov: "Oh, [obscenities] how long [does it take him] to attack position, he is already going out into neutral waters. Engage afterburner immediately. Bring in the MiG 23 as well...While you are wasting time, it will fly right out." (ICAO '93, Information Paper 1., pg. 130. Here are Maj. Gennadie Osipovich's retrospective thoughts of this time, "They [KAL 007] quickly lowered their speed. They were flying at 400 kilometers per hour. My speed was more than 400. I was simply unable to fly slower. In my opinion, the intruder's intentions were plain. If I did not want to go into a stall, I would be forced to overshoot them. That's exactly what happened. We had already flown over the island [Sakhalin]. It is narrow at that point, the target was about to get away." (Izvestiya newspaper, 1991)
- 18:26:02 and :04 - Moments later he fired two missiles (2 seconds apart) - a heat seeker and a radar-guided missile (proximity fused) which exploded 50 meters behind KAL 007, the elevator cross over cable was either severed or unraveled causing an arc upward of one minute and 13 seconds - from 35,000 ft. to 38,250 ft. and down again to below 35,000. (ICAO '93, Bureau- Enquetes - Paris [ICAO subcontract], Chart 8, Pg. 93) Here are Maj. Osipovich's retrospective thoughts at this time, "Then the ground [controller] gave the command: 'Destroy the target...!' That was easy to say. But how? With shells?! I had already expended 243 rounds. Ram it? I had always thought of that as poor taste. Ramming is the last resort. Just in case, I had already completed my turn and was coming down on top of him. Then, I had an idea. I dropped below him about 2,000 meters... afterburners. Switched on the missiles and brought the nose up sharply. Success! I have a lock on." (Izvestiya newspaper, 1991).
- 18:26 GMT - Major Gennadie Osipovich, lead Soviet pilot, mistakenly (as subsequent Russian real-time military telecommunications show) reports: "The target is destroyed." (ICAO Report, Appendix D, page D-3)
- 18:26:06-11 GMT - First words after attack of Pilot and Co-Pilot: Captain Chun- "What happened?". First Officer Son- "What?". Chun- "Retard throttles." Son- "Engines normal, sir." Indicating that Maj. Osipovich's heat seeking missile did not destroy any of the 4 engines. Son will again report engines normal at 18:26:45
- 18:26:13 GMT - Cabin Altitude Warning Alarm sounds indicating decompression due to missile shrapnel puncturing cabin. The fact that it sounded (CVR) 11 seconds after missile detonatation indicates that total area of rupture damage to cabin is 1 3/4 square feet. (ICAO ,93, pg. 54)
- 18:26 GMT - Immediate Soviet awareness that target is not destroyed. Lt. Col Novoseltski: "Well, what is happening, what is the matter, who guided him in, he locked on, why didn't he shoot it down?" (ICAO ;93, Information paper No. 1, pg. 88)
- 18:26:46 GMT - Captain Chun of KAL 007 was able to turn off the autopilot (click heard in CVR) and take manual control
- 18:27:04 - 18:27:14 GMT - Captain Chun brings up KAL 007' nose for 10 seconds stabilizing at pre-detonation altitude of 35000,(ICAO '93, Bureau- Enquetes - Paris [ICAO subcontract], Chart 8, Pg. 93)
- 18:27:10 - 18:27:25 GMT - KAL 007 sends to Tokyo Radio transmission from KAL 007. "Korean Air zero zero seven ... (unintelligible) ... rapid compressions ... (unintelligible) ... descending to one zero thousand [10,000 feet]." (ICAO Report page 43) This message sent by High Frequency Radio 1., antenna located on left wing tip, indicating both that Maj. Osipovich was wrong when he stated that his missile had taken off the left wing and that the heat seeking missile had missed its mark. "The HF 1 radio aerial of the aircraft was positioned in the left wing tip suggesting that the left wing tip was intact at this time. Also, the aircraft's manoeuvres after the attack did not indicate externsive damage to the left wing." (ICAO '93 report, pg. 39, 126.96.36.199).
- 18:27:20 GMT - At 1 minute and 44 seconds into the post-missile-detonation phase of flight which lasts for 12 minutes, both the KAL 007's CVR and DFDR tapes handed over by the Russians simultaneously cease their recorded material. These are the last recorded words from the CVR - 18:27:20- "Now... we have to set this.", 18:27:23: "speed." 18:27:26-: "Stand by, stand by, stand by, stand by. set!" Aviation Safety Network > Accident investigation > CVR / FDR > Transcripts > CVR transcript Korean Air Flight 007 - 31 AUG 1983
- 18:28 GMT - KAL 007 makes its first post-detonation deviation from flight path by turning to the north. Lt. Gerasimienko: "The target turned to the north." Gen. Kornukov: "The target turned to the north?" Gerasimienko: "Affirmative." Kornukov: "Bring the 23 [MiG] in to destroy it!" (ICAO'93, Information Paper No. 1. pg. 132)
- 18:29 GMT - Gen. Kornukov after being told both missiles had been launched and KAL 007 had turned north - "Well, I understand, I do not understand the result, why is the target flying? Missiles were fired. Why is the target flying? [obscenities] Well, what is happening?"(ICAO '93, Information Paper No. 1., pg. 133)
- 18:29:13 GMT - Maj. Osipovich has started back to base. Other Soviet pilots flying support unsuccessfully try to locate wreckage of KAL 007 on the sea through low clouds. One states: "I don't see it." (ICAO Report, Appendix D, pages D-3 and D-4)
- 18:29:54 GMT - Another Soviet pilot looking for KAL 007 says, "No I don't see it." (ICAO Report, Appendix D, pages D-3 and D-4).
- 18:30 GMT - KAL 007 was reported by radar at 5,000 meters (16,424 ft).
- 18:33 GMT - KAL 007 is seen by Soviet radar at 5,000 meters at initial stage of spiral descent over Moneron Island. Lt. Col. Gerasimenko. "Altitude of target is 5,000." General Kornukov: "5,000 already?" Gerasimenko (18:34): "Affirmative, turning left, right, apparently it is descending."(ICAO '93, Information Paper No. 1, pg. 156)
- 18:34 GMT - Last recorded location of KAL 007 in spiral descent over Moneron Island is within Soviet territorial waters. "Where is it now", "It is in the Moneron area", "In our territory?", "Affirmative" (ICAO '93, Information Paper No.1, pg. 156)
- 18:35 GMT - KAL 007 begins spiral descent over Moneron Island after having attained level flight for almost 5 minutes "The last plotted radar position of the target was 18:35 hours at 5,000 meters."
- 18:36 - General Kornukov:"...you know the range, where the target is. It is over Moneron..."(ICAO, 1993, Information Paper No. 1, pg. 136)
- 18:38 GMT - KAL 007 disappeared from the radar screen (approximately 12 minutes after the initial attack). Soviet radar personnel stationed at Komsomolsk-na-Amura on the Siberian maritime reported KAL 007 disappearing from radar screen at 18:38 altitude due to radar inability to track below that altitude.
- Soviet ships head for anticipated site that KAL 007 would reach the water while the aircraft was in the air. Izvestia testimony of a Soviet Naval Specialist, "When we learned that the aircraft had been attacked, and that weapons had been used, we began to analyse when it might possibly come down. Ships were ordered to the anticipated area. Several ships headed there at once at full speed..."
- 18:38:37 GMT - The first Soviet support fighter pilot says: "I don't see anything in this area. I just looked." The Soviet support interceptors, with fuel low, return to their base without having sighted KAL 007 (ICAO Report, Appendix D, pages D-3 and D-4).
- 18:47 GMT - First ICAO documented Soviet SAR (Search and Rescue) mission: involving the KGB Border Guard boats and rescue helicopters (Khomutovo air base). " Lt. Col. Novoseltski: prepare whatever helicopters there are . Rescue helicopters. Lt. Col. Titovnin:Rescue? Lt. Col. Novoseltski: Yes..." Titovnin: "Novoaleksandrovska must be brought to readiness and Khomutovo. The border guards and KGB are at Khomutovo." (ICAO, '93, Information Paper no. 1., pg. 93)
- 18:55 GMT - Second SAR mission: in addition to the borderguards and helicopters, civilian ships "near" Moneron were sent to Moneron itself. General Strogov (Deputy Commander oif Far East Military District): "The border guards. What ships do we have near Moneron Island, if they are civilian. send [them] there immediately."(ICAO, '93, Information Papes No. 1., pages 95,96)