World’s Deadliest Mid Air Crash ‘Hidden Flight’

Are the skies of today just too busy?

The Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision occurred on 12 November 1996 over the village of Charkhi Dadri, to the west of New Delhi, India. The aircraft involved were a Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747-100B en route from New Delhi to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and a Kazakhstan Airlines Ilyushin Il-76 en route from Shymkent, Kazakhstan, to New Delhi. The crash killed all 349 people on board both planes, making it the world's deadliest mid-air collision, the deadliest aviation accident to occur in India,and the third-deadliest aircraft accident in the history of aviation behind only the Tenerife airport disaster and Japan Airlines Flight 123.

The Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747-168B, registration HZ-AIH, was due to operate Flight 763 (SVA763) from Delhi to Dhahran and Jeddah, with 312 occupants on board; the Kazakhstan Airlines Ilyushin Il-76TD, registration UN-76435, was on a charter service from Chimkent to Delhi as KZA1907. SVA763 departed New Delhi at 18:32 local time. KZA1907 was, at the same time, descending to land at New Delhi. Both flights were controlled by approach controller VK Dutta. The crew of SVA763 consisted of Captain Khalid Al Shubaily, First Officer Nazir Khan, and Flight Engineer Edris Arabia. On KZA1907, Gennadi Cherepanov served as the pilot and Igor Repp served as the radio operator.

KZA1907 was cleared to descend to 15,000 feet (4,600 m) when 74 miles (119 km) from the airport while SVA763, traveling on the same airway as KZA1907 but in the opposite direction, was cleared to climb to 14,000 feet (4,300 m). About eight minutes later, around 18:40, KZA1907 reported having reached its assigned altitude of 15,000 feet (4,600 m) but it was actually lower, at 14,500 feet (4,400 m), and still descending. At this time, Dutta advised the flight, "Identified traffic 12 o'clock, reciprocal Saudia Boeing 747, 10 miles (16 km). Report in sight."

When the controller called KZA1907 again, he received no reply. He warned of the other flight's distance, but it was too late. The two aircraft had collided, the tail of KZA1907 cut through SVA763's left wing and horizontal stabilizer. The crippled Boeing quickly lost control and went into rapidly descending spiral motion towards the ground with fire trailing from the wing. The Boeing broke up in air under the stresses before the wreckage hit the ground at almost 1,135 km/h (705 mph). The Ilyushin remained structurally intact as it went in a steady but rapid and uncontrolled descent until it crashed in a field. Rescuers discovered four critically injured passengers from the Ilyushin, but they all died soon afterwards. Two passengers from the Saudi flight survived the crash, still strapped to their seats, only to die of internal injuries soon after. In the end, all 312 people on board SVA763 and all 37 people on KZA1907 were killed.

Captain Timothy J. Place, a pilot for the United States Air Force, was the sole eyewitness to the event. He was making an initial approach in a Lockheed C-141B Starlifter when he saw that "a large cloud lit up with an orange glow".

The collision took place about 60 miles (97 km) west of Delhi.The wreckage of the Saudia aircraft crashed near Dhani village, Bhiwani District, Haryana. The Kazakhstani aircraft wreckage hit near Birohar village, Rohtak District, Haryana. This was the first mid-air collision between two commercial aircraft since the Dniprodzerzhynsk mid-air collision in 1979. It was succeeded by the mid-air collision between a Gol Boeing 737 and an ExcelAire Embraer Legacy over Amazonia in September 2006


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