On 20 April 1978 , a Soviet Air Force Sukhoi Su-15TM interceptor attacked Korean Air Lines Flight 902, a Boeing 707 airline which had overflown Soviet territory. A major navigational error by the flight crew caused Flight 902 to deviate approximately 150° to the right of its planned route from Paris, France, to Anchorage, Alaska.
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. A second Su-15TM, piloted by Sergei Slobodchikov of the 265the IAP, was dispatched from Poduzmenie.
Bosov initially reported the airliner as the similar Boeing RC-135 military reconnaissance aircraft, but when he was closer, was able to recognize the markings of Korean Air Lines. He repeatedly informed his controllers that the airplane was a civilian airliner, describing its markings, but his superiors ordered him to take it down.
The 707 was hit at 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 perished.
The flight crew, Captain Kim Chang Kyu Lee, First Officer 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.
After about two hours, Soviet soldiers arrived at the crash scene. The survivors were transported by helicopter to the town of Kem. On 22 April, they were flown to Murmansk, where a Pan American airliner took them out of the Soviet Union to Finland. Captain Kim and Navigator Lee remained under arrest in Leningrad for violating Soviet airspace. They were released 29 April 1978.
The cause of the navigational error has not been determined. Soviet authorities refused to cooperate in the investigation, and Cockpit Voice Recorder and Flight Data Recorder information has never been released publicly. Captain Kim later said that he believed that navigational equipment had malfunctioned. In public statements, the flight crew gave incomplete, inconsistent and contradictory information.