20 April 1978: A Soviet Air Force Sukhoi Su-15TM interceptor shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 902, a Boeing 707 airliner which had overflown Soviet territory. A major navigational error caused Flight 902 to deviate approximately 150° from its planned route.
Captain Alexander Bosov, an interceptor pilot of the 365th IAP (Istrebitel’nyy Aviatsionnyy Polk, Fighter Aviation Regiment), Soviet Air Defense Forces, based at Afrikanda, Murmansk Oblast, Russia, had been sent to intercept the intruder. He repeatedly informed his controllers that the airplane was a civilian airliner, describing its markings, but his superiors ordered him to shoot it down.
Bosov fired two Vympel R-60 infrared-homing air-to-air missiles. One missed, but the second missile hit the 707’s left wing and detonated.
The airliner’s left wing, outboard of the Number 1 engine, was blown off. Shrapnel penetrated the passenger cabin, resulting in explosive decompression. Of the 109 persons on board, two were killed.
(The descending wing section was picked up by Soviet air defense radar, with the return being interpreted as a cruise missile, and another interceptor was sent to attack it.)
The flight crew, Captain Kim Chang Kyu Lee, co-pilot Chyn Xing, and Navigator Lee Kun-shik, crash landed the 707 on a frozen lake in the Karelian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, near the USSR-Finland border.
(Captain Kim had been a fighter pilot during the Korean War, flying the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 for the Korean Peoples Air Force.)
Soviet news articles commended Captain Bosov for his skill in firing the missiles so that the airliner would only be damaged, rather than destroyed.
Flight 902 was a 1967 Boeing 707-321B, serial number 19363. It was first flown 9 September 1967, and was delivered to Pan American World Airways on 21 September 1967, registered N428PA, and named Clipper Star of Hope. The United States registration was cancelled 12 May 1977, when 19363 was exported to Korea and registered HL7429.
The Sukhoi Su-15 is the same type interceptor that shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 707.
© 2017, Bryan R. Swopesby