Saudi Airlines and Kazakhstan Airlines flight Collision took 349 lives in India

The incident of the Charkhi-Dadri mid-air collision occurred on November 12, 1996, over the village of Charkhi Dadri, which is located to the west of New Delhi in India. The aircraft in question was a Boeing 747-100B belonging to Saudi Arabian Airlines. This flight was on its way from Delhi to Dhahran in Saudi Arabia, while the other plane was a Kazakhstan Airlines’ Ilyushin ll-76 which was en-route from Chimkent, Kazakhstan to Delhi. This aviation mishap claimed the lives of 349 people who were on board in both the planes, and it is the 3rd most deadly aviation accident, only behind the Tenerife airport disaster and Japan Airlines flight 123.

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Initial reports stated that the Saudi Arabian flight had just taken off from New Delhi when the Kazakhstan Airlines flight requested permission for landing. However, something went terribly wrong. The Saudi Arabian flight, despite numerous warnings by the air traffic controller collided with the descending Kazakhstan Airlines flight. Although the air traffic controller managed to alert the Kazakh plane of the situation, it was too late as the Saudi Airlines plane was hit midair by the other plane on the wing. This resulted in great damage to both planes. Both the planes lost control and went into a rapid spiral free fall to the ground with fire trailing from the wings. The Saudi Arabian plane reportedly broke up in midair and hit the ground at a speed of 705 mph.

The Kazakhstan Airlines plane was intact in the air and crashed into a field nearby. Rescue operations were soon underway and 4 critically injured passengers were evacuated from the wreckage. These passengers, unfortunately, died soon due to internal injuries and in the end, all 312 people aboard the Saudi flight and the 37 people aboard the Kazakhstan flight were killed.

A formal inquiry by the name of Lahoti Commission was held on the matter. The flight recorders, more commonly known as the black box, were decoded in front of international aviation experts and various authorities and investigated thoroughly. The ultimate cause of the accident was deemed to be the failure of Kazakhstan Airlines to properly navigate and communicate with the control tower. Whether this was because of the cloud turbulence or because of communications problems, will be a fact we may never know. The Indian air traffic controller had tried his level best to avoid such a mishap and had managed to get through to the Kazakh Airlines flight just before impact. The pilot on board did try to ascend 15000 feet to avoid the plane but was not successfully able to do so.

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The media went into a frenzy to report on the issue and a documentary about the disaster was released by a company named MI ditech, who work out of Gurgaon, Haryana. This documentary aired on the National Geographic Channel. This disaster was also the subject of an episode in the documentary series Mayday (Air Crash Investigation) which aired on 2nd March 2009.

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