1996 Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision

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Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 763
Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907
Date12 November 1996
SummaryMid-air collision caused by pilot error
SiteCharkhi Dadri, Haryana, India
28°33′38″N 76°18′15″E / 28.56056°N 76.30417°E / 28.56056; 76.30417Coordinates: 28°33′38″N 76°18′15″E / 28.56056°N 76.30417°E / 28.56056; 76.30417
Total fatalities349
Total survivors0
First aircraft
Saudia Boeing 747-168B HZ-AIH.jpg
HZ-AIH, the Saudi Arabian Airlines aircraft involved in the accident, in early 1980s.
TypeBoeing 747-168B
OperatorSaudi Arabian Airlines
Flight originIndira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, India
DestinationDhahran International Airport, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Second aircraft
Kazakhstan Airlines Ilyushin Il-76TD Goetting-1.jpg
UN-76435, the Kazakhstan Airlines aircraft involved in the accident, in 1994.
TypeIlyushin Il-76TD
OperatorKazakhstan Airlines
Flight originChimkent Airport, Kazakhstan
DestinationIndira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, India

On 12 November 1996, Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 763, a Boeing 747 en route from Delhi, India, to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907, an Ilyushin Il-76 en route from Chimkent, Kazakhstan, to Delhi, collided over the village of Charkhi Dadri, around 100 km (62 mi; 54 nmi) west of Delhi. The crash killed all 349 people on board both planes, making it the world's deadliest mid-air collision[1][2] and the deadliest aviation accident to occur in India.[3][4]


The Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) Boeing 747-168B, registration HZ-AIH,[5] was flying the first leg of a scheduled international DelhiDhahranJeddah passenger service as Flight SVA763 with 312 people on board;[6] the Kazakhstan Airlines Ilyushin Il-76TD,[7] registration UN-76435, was on a charter service from Chimkent Airport to Delhi as KZA1907.[6] SVA763 departed Delhi at 18:32 local time (13:02 UTC).[5] KZA1907 was descending simultaneously, to land at Delhi.[6] Both flights were controlled by approach controller VK Dutta. The crew of SVA763 consisted of Captain Khalid Al-Shubaily [ar], First Officer Nazir Khan, and Flight Engineer Ahmed Edrees. The crew of KZA1907 consisted of Captain Alexander Cherepanov, First Officer Ermek Dzhangirov, Flight Engineer Alexander Chuprov, Navigator Zhahanbek Aripbaev, and Radio Operator Egor Repp.[8][9]

KZA1907 was cleared to descend to 15,000 feet (4,600 m) when it was 74 nautical miles (137 km) from the beacon of the destination airport while SVA763, travelling 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.[7] At this time, Dutta advised the flight, "Identified traffic 12 o'clock, reciprocal Saudia Boeing 747, 10 nautical miles (19 km). Report in sight."[9]

When the controller called KZA1907 again, he received no reply. He tried to warn of the other flight's distance, but was too late. The two aircraft collided, with the tail of KZA1907 cutting through SVA763's left wing and horizontal stabiliser. The crippled Boeing quickly lost control and went into a rapidly descending spiral with fire trailing from the wing. The Boeing broke up before crashing into the ground at a nearly supersonic speed of 1,135 km/h (705 mph). The Ilyushin remained structurally intact as it entered a steady but rapid and uncontrolled descent until it crashed in a field.[10] Rescuers discovered four critically injured passengers from the Ilyushin, but they all died soon afterwards. Two passengers from the Saudia flight survived the crash, still strapped to their seats, only to die of internal injuries soon after.[11][12] 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 of 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".[13]

The collision took place about 100 kilometres (60 mi) west of Delhi.[14] The wreckage of the Saudi aircraft landed near Dhani village, Bhiwani District, Haryana. The wreckage of the Kazakh aircraft hit the ground near Birohar village, Rohtak District, Haryana.[15]

Passengers and crew[edit]

Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 763[edit]

The captain of the flight was a 45-year old veteran pilot with more than 9,800 flying hours.[15] An article published in The New York Times on 14 November 1996 stated that 215 Indians who boarded the flight worked in Saudi Arabia;[16] many of them worked or planned to work in blue-collar jobs[17] as house maids, drivers, and cooks. The article also stated that 40 Nepalis and three Americans boarded the Saudi flight.[16] According to an article published a day earlier in the same newspaper, the passenger manifest included 17 people of other nationalities, including nine Nepalis, three Pakistanis, two Americans, one Bangladeshi, one British, and one Saudi.[4] Twelve of the crew members, including five anti-terrorism officials, were Saudi citizens.[18]

Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907[edit]

The captain of Flight 1907, aged 44, was also highly experienced, with more than 9,200 flight hours.[15] A company from Kyrgyzstan chartered the flight, and the passenger manifest mostly included ethnic Russian Kyrgyz citizens planning to go shopping in India.[4][8][16] Thirteen Kyrgyz traders boarded the flight.[18]

Investigation and final report[edit]

The crash was investigated by the Lahoti Commission, headed by then-Delhi High Court judge Ramesh Chandra Lahoti. Depositions were taken from the Air Traffic Controllers Guild and the two airlines. The flight data recorders were decoded by Kazakhstan Airlines and Saudia under the supervision of air crash investigators in Moscow and Farnborough, England, respectively.[10] The ultimate cause was held to be the failure of Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907's pilot to follow ATC instructions, whether due to cloud turbulence or due to communication problems.[9][19][20][21][additional citation(s) needed]

The commission determined that the accident had been the fault of the Kazakhstani Il-76 commander, who (according to FDR evidence) had descended from the assigned altitude of 15,000 to 14,500 feet (4,600 to 4,400 m) and subsequently 14,000 feet (4,300 m) and even lower. The report ascribed the cause of this serious breach in operating procedure to the lack of English language skills on the part of the Kazakhstani aircraft pilots; they were relying entirely on their radio operator for communications with the ATC. The radio operator did not have his own flight instrumentation and had to look over the pilots' shoulders for a reading.[22] Kazakhstani officials stated that the aircraft had descended while their pilots were fighting turbulence inside a bank of cumulus clouds.[9][20][better source needed]

Indian air controllers also complained that the Kazakhstani pilots sometimes confused their calculations because they are accustomed to using metre altitudes and kilometre distances, while most other countries use feet and nautical miles respectively for aerial navigation.[11]

Just a few seconds from impact, the Kazakhstani plane climbed slightly and the two planes collided. This was because the radio operator of Kazakhstan 1907 discovered only then that they were not at 15,000 feet and asked the pilot to climb. The captain gave orders for full throttle, and the plane climbed, only to hit the oncoming Saudi Arabian plane. The tail of the Kazakhstani plane clipped the left wing of the Saudi Arabian jet, severing both parts from their respective planes. Had the Kazakhstani pilots not climbed slightly, it is likely that they would have passed under the Saudi Arabian plane.

The recorder of the Saudi Arabian plane revealed the pilots recited the prayer that is required, according to Islamic law, when one faces death.[citation needed] The counsel for the ATC Guild denied the presence of turbulence, quoting meteorological reports, but did state that the collision occurred inside a cloud.[22] This was substantiated by the affidavit of Capt. Place, who was the commander of the aforementioned Lockheed C-141B Starlifter, which was flying into New Delhi at the time of the crash.[10] The members of his crew filed similar affidavits.[23]

Furthermore, Indira Gandhi International Airport did not have secondary surveillance radar, which provides extra information, such as the aircraft's identity and altitude, by reading transponder signals; instead the airport had primary radar, which produces readings of distance and bearing, but not altitude. In addition, the civilian airspace around New Delhi had one corridor for departures and arrivals. Most areas separate departures and arrivals into separate corridors. The airspace had one civilian corridor because much of the airspace was taken by the Indian Air Force.[10] Due to the crash, the air-crash investigation report recommended changes to air-traffic procedures and infrastructure in New Delhi's air-space:[9]

  • Separation of inbound and outbound aircraft through the creation of 'air corridors'
  • Installation of a secondary air-traffic control radar for aircraft altitude data
  • Mandatory collision avoidance equipment on commercial aircraft operating in Indian airspace
  • Reduction of the airspace over New Delhi that was formerly under exclusive control of the Indian Air Force


The Directorate General of Civil Aviation subsequently made it mandatory for all aircraft flying in and out of India to be equipped with an airborne collision avoidance system. This set a worldwide precedent for mandatory use of Traffic Collision Avoidance System.[24]


Miditech, a company based in Gurgaon, Haryana, produced a documentary about the disaster called Head On!, which aired on the National Geographic Channel.[10]

The disaster was also the subject of an episode in the documentary series Mayday (Air Crash Investigation) on 11 November 2009 entitled "Sight Unseen", also shown on the National Geographic Channel.[25]

See also[edit]


  • Lahoti, R.C. "Report of Court of Inquiry on Mid-Air Collision Between Saudi Arabian Boeing 747 and Kazakhstan IL-76 on 12th November, 1996 Near Delhi - India (Charkhi-Dadri, Haryana)". Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Civil Aviation. (PDF)

Reference notes[edit]

  1. ^ Cooper, Kenneth J. (13 November 1996). "At Least 349 Are Killed in Collision". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 26 June 2013.
  2. ^ Ashraf, Syed Firdaus. "Charkhi Dadri collision report expected this weekend". Rediff. New Delhi. Archived from the original on 10 April 2014.
  3. ^ "India air safety profile". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Burns, John F. (13 November 1996). "Two Airliners Collide in Midair, Killing All 351 Aboard in India". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 6 March 2014.
  5. ^ a b Accident description for HZ-AIH at the Aviation Safety Network
  6. ^ a b c Kingsley-Jones, Max; Learmount, David (20 September 1996). "Collision raises doubts on ATC routeings". Flightglobal. Flight International. Archived from the original on 1 January 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Accident description for Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907 at the Aviation Safety Network
  8. ^ a b Burns, John F. (5 May 1997). "One Jet in Crash Over India Ruled Off Course". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 3 March 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d e Lahoti, R.C. "Report of Court of Inquiry on Mid-Air Collision Between Saudi Arabian Boeing 747 and Kazakhstan IL-76 on 12th November, 1996 Near Delhi - India (Charkhi-Dadri, Haryana)". Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Civil Aviation. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d e Head On – AirCrash (TV documentary). Miditech. Archived from the original on 23 March 2007.
  11. ^ a b McGirk, Tim (14 November 1996). "THE INDIAN AIR CRASH: Tapes point blame at Kazakh pilot". The Independent. Archived from the original on 1 May 2019.
  12. ^ Job, Macarthur (November–December 2006), "Mid-Air Disasters" (PDF), Flight Safety Australia, p. 42, archived from the original (PDF) on 30 October 2008, retrieved 10 September 2009
  13. ^ "YouTube.Com – Pure History Specials: Head On Air Crash". Alliant Content. 16 May 2013. Retrieved 25 December 2013.
  14. ^ Bellamy, Christopher (13 November 1996). "Human error is blamed for crash". The Independent. Archived from the original on 26 February 2014.
  15. ^ a b c "Civil aviation aircraft accident summary for the year 1996" (PDF). Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 January 2015. 
  16. ^ a b c Burns, John F. (14 November 1996). "Indian Officials Gather Evidence on Midair Collision". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 3 January 2015. 
  17. ^ Stacy, Shapiro; Kaumudi, Marathe (18 November 1996). "Indian law may restrain size of crash claims". Business Insurance. Archived from the original on 17 May 2011. 
  18. ^ a b "Pilot error focus of India collision investigation". CNN. New Delhi. 14 November 1996. Archived from the original on 28 January 2000.
  19. ^ "Turbulence factor gains ground in Charkhi-Dadri crash probe". The Indian Express. United News of India. 26 May 1997. Archived from the original on 25 May 2009.
  20. ^ a b "Kazakh aircraft held responsible for Charkhi Dadri mishap". www.rediff.com. 1997. Archived from the original on 23 May 2020.
  21. ^ Morris, Hugh (12 July 2017). "The truth behind the 10 deadliest plane crashes of all time". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 23 May 2020.
  22. ^ a b "Communication gap caused Charkhi Dadri mishap". Rediff. 26 May 1997. Archived from the original on 7 October 1999. Retrieved 4 July 2006.
  23. ^ "Charkhi Dadri collision occurred in "heavy clouds": US pilot". Rediff. Archived from the original on 11 October 1999. Retrieved 4 July 2006.
  24. ^ "History & future of airborne collision avoidance". Eurocontrol. 9 March 2012.
  25. ^ "Haryana India 1996 Plane Crash, Head on Collision". National Geographic Channel. National Geographic Channel. Archived from the original on 10 April 2009. Retrieved 17 April 2009.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

External image
image icon Pre-Crash photos of the two airliners at Airliners.net