SV763 - world's deadliest mid-air collision

Let’s take a short trip to the past, specifically on the 12th of November in 1996 over the Indian village of Charkhi Dadri; Flight SV763, a usual flight from Delhi-Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) in India to King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) in Saudi Arabia, with a stopover at Dhahran International Airport (DHA), operated by Saudia Arabian Airlines.

The flight carried 312 people (including 23 flight crew members) and ended up colliding with Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907, which was carrying 37 people (including 10 flight crew members). It was a charter flight from Kazakhstan’s Shymkent Airport (CIT) to India’s Delhi-Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL), marking up the world’s deadliest mid-air collision. Let’s figure out what happened.

You might be interested in reading: The Deadliest Crashes in History

Aircraft involved

Saudia’s aircraft involved in this crash was a 14-year-old Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747-168B with the tail number HZ-AIH was the aircraft used for that flight. In the other hand, a four-year-old Ilyushin Il-76TD with the registration UN-76435 was the aircraft used by Kazakhstan Airlines.

Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747-168B involved in the crash (HZ-AIH)
Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747-168B involved in the crash (HZ-AIH)
Photo source: Aviation Safety Network
Kazakhstan Airlines Ilyushin Il-76TD Involved in the crash (UN-76435)
Kazakhstan Airlines Ilyushin Il-76TD Involved in the crash (UN-76435)
Photo source: Aviation Safety Network

How did the collision occur?

The Deadliest Mid-Air Collision in History
Photo source: OnDisasters

Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907 was on its way to land in Delhi when it contacted with air traffic control (ATC) while descending from 23,000 feet to 18,000 feet, 74 miles from the airport. The controller gave the flight clearance to descend and requested to be contacted when the aircraft reached 15,000 feet. Simultaneously, Saudi Arabia Airlines flight SV763 took off from Delhi and was cleared to climb to 14,000 feet.

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Because the Kazakhstan Airlines flight was approaching from the opposite direction, the controller instructed the Kazak plane to maintain 14,000 feet and wait for further instructions. The Kazak plane reported being at 15,000 feet 46 miles from the airport a short time later. The controller responded with: “Roger. Maintain 150. Identified traffic at 12 o’clock, reciprocal Saudi Boeing 747, 14 miles. Report in sight.” The Kazakhstan crew responded by inquiring about the distance, to which the controller replied: “Fourteen miles now, roger 1907.” When no reply followed, he again warned: “Traffic in 13 miles, level 140.”

For no apparent reason, Flight 1907 had descended below where it was supposed to be and collided with the Saudi Arabia Airlines Boeing 747. Both aircraft plummeted to the ground in flames.

The Deadliest Mid-Air Collision in History
Photo source: OnDisasters

What caused the crash?

The cockpit voice recorders and black boxes were sent to Moscow and London for decoding, and the air traffic controller in charge of the flights was investigated. The investigation found that the pilots of Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907 disregarded ATC instructions, which was the primary factor in the accident. As a result of using metric readouts rather than feet and nautical miles, Kazak pilots occasionally made mistakes in their calculations, according to the Indian controllers.

Pilots involved

The 45-year-old Captain Khalid Al-Shubaily, First Officer Nazir Khan, and Flight Engineer Ahmed Edrees made up the crew on Saudia’s flight. Al-Shubaily had logged 9,837 hours in the air. In Kazakhstan Airlines’ flight, the crew which operated the flight; First Officer Ermek Dzhangirov, Flight Engineer Alexander Chuprov, Navigator Zhahanbek Aripbaev, and Radio Operator Egor Repp. Captain Alexander Cherepanov was the oldest member of the crew at 44 years old. Cherepanov had 9,229 hours of flight time.

You might be interested in reading: The Deadliest Crashes in History

The Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation mandated that all aircraft flying into and out of India must be equipped with an airborne collision avoidance system as a result of this mid-air collision.

By Youssef Yahya

Hello everyone! I’m Youssef Yahya, the founder of Aviation for Aviators. I’m an Egyptian, born and raised in Saudi Arabia. My passion for aviation can’t be described! I fell in love with this field since childhood, these times when I was used to watching “Air Crash Investigation” on “National Geographic” every Tuesday night, this enthusiasm got and will always get evolved on each and every flight. My dream job since 10 was to live in the skies as a commercial pilot, this dream began when I was on an outbound flight operated by, the queen of the skies, a Boeing 747, I was just amazed by how aircraft fly and the amazing mechanism of these birds!!

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