1996 Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision

On 12 November 1996, Saudia 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 crash was caused by failure of the Kazakhstani crew to maintain the correct altitude, because of confused dialogue with the tower communicated via the radio operator.

Saudia Flight 763
Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907
Date12 November 1996
SummaryMid-air collision
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
HZ-AIH, the 747 involved, at London Heathrow, in 1986
TypeBoeing 747-168B
OperatorSaudi Arabian Airlines
IATA flight No.SV763
ICAO flight No.SVA763
Call signSAUDIA 763
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 Ilyushin Il-76TD involved in the collision, at Düsseldorf Airport, in 1994.
TypeIlyushin Il-76TD
OperatorKazakhstan Airlines
IATA flight No.KZ1907
ICAO flight No.KZA1907
Call signKAZAKH 1907
Flight originChimkent Airport, Kazakhstan
DestinationIndira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, India

Aircraft involvedEdit

Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 763Edit

Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 763 was a Boeing 747-168B, registration HZ-AIH, departing from Delhi as part of a scheduled international DelhiDhahranJeddah passenger service with 312 people on board.[5] The crew on this flight consisted of Captain Khalid Al-Shubaily (age 45), First Officer Nazir Khan, and Flight Engineer Ahmed Edrees. Al-Shubaily was a veteran pilot with 9,837 flying hours.[6]

There is some dispute as to the nationalities of the passengers of Flight 763. According to an article published on 14 November 1996, 215 Indians, many of whom worked in Saudi Arabia as blue-collar workers, boarded the flight, along with 40 Nepalis and three Americans.[7] However, according to a different article, the passenger manifest included 17 people of other nationalities, including nine Nepalis, three Pakistanis, two Americans, one Bangladeshi, one British, and one Saudi Arabian.[4] Twelve of the crew members, including five anti-terrorism officials, were Saudi Arabian citizens.[8]

Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907Edit

Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907, an Ilyushin Il-76TD with registration UN-76435 was on a charter service from Chimkent Airport to Delhi. The crew consisted of Captain Alexander Cherepanov (age 44), First Officer Ermek Dzhangirov, Flight Engineer Alexander Chuprov, Navigator Zhahanbek Aripbaev, and Radio Operator Egor Repp.[9][10] Cherepanov was highly experienced, with 9,229 flight hours.[6]

A company from Kyrgyzstan chartered the flight, and the passenger manifest mostly included ethnic Russian Kyrgyz citizens planning to go shopping in India.[4][9][7] Thirteen Kyrgyz traders boarded the flight.[8]


SVA Flight 763 departed Delhi at 18:32 local time (13:02 UTC). KZA Flight 1907 was descending simultaneously, to land at Delhi.[5] Both flights were controlled by approach controller V.K. Dutta.[10] Immediately after take-off, the SVA flight was cleared to an initial altitude of 10,000 feet (3,050 m). At 18.34, Dutta cleared the KZA plane to descend to 15,000 feet (4,550 m) when it was 74 nautical miles (137 km) from the beacon of the destination airport. Two minutes later, at 18.36, Dutta cleared the SVA plane, travelling on the same airway but in the opposite direction, to climb to 14,000 feet (4,250 m). At 18.38, the SVA crew reported reaching 14,000 feet, and requested a higher level. Dutta told them to hold their altitude and standby, to which First Officer Khan replied, "Saudi 763 will maintain one four zero."[10]

At 18:39, the KZA flight reported having reached its assigned altitude of 15,000 feet, but it was actually higher, at 16,348 feet (5,000 m), and still descending.[11][10] At this time, Dutta advised the flight, "Identified traffic 12 O'Clock, reciprocal, Saudia Boeing 747 at ten miles, likely to cross in another five miles. Report, if in sight."[10] Radio Operator Repp requested clarification, to which Dutta replied, "Traffic...is at eight miles, level 140."[10] Repp acknowledged the update, and signed off with, ""Now looking 1907."[10]

Less than a minute later, at 18.40, a USAF cargo flight on its descent called in to say they had seen "a big explosion" at their two o'clock position.[10] Dutta attempted to contact the SVA and KZA flights, but received no response. The two aircraft had collided, with the left wing of the KZA flight slicing through the left wing of the SVA 747 while the left horizontal stabiliser of the 747 sliced off the vertical stablizer (including the horizontal stabilizer) of the KZA flight.[12] The crippled Saudi Boeing quickly lost control and went into a rapidly descending spiral with fire trailing from the wing, and the aircraft broke up in mid air before crashing into the ground at a nearly supersonic speed of 1,135 km/h (613 kn; 705 mph). With most of its left wing and vertical stablizer gone, the Ilyushin went into a flat spin and crashed into a field at a flat attitude near the wreckage of the Saudia plane. All 312 people on board SVA763 and all 37 people on KZA1907 were killed.[12] [13]

The collision took place about 100 kilometres (60 mi) west of Delhi.[14] The wreckage of the Saudi Arabian aircraft landed near Dhani village, Bhiwani District, Haryana. The wreckage of the Kazakh aircraft hit the ground near Birohar village, Rohtak District, Haryana.[6]

Investigation and final reportEdit

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.[15] 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.[10][16][17][18][additional citation(s) needed]

The commission determined that the accident had been the fault of the Kazakhstani Il-76 crew, who (according to FDR evidence) had descended from the assigned altitude of 15,000 to 14,500 feet (4,550 to 4,400 m) and subsequently 14,000 feet (4,250 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 Radio Operator Repp for communications with the ATC. As part of this, the report suggested that First Officer Dzhangirov (and possibly Captain Cherepanov) might have misunderstood Dutta's final radio call, and assumed that the Saudi 747's altitude (14,000 feet) was their own assigned altitude.[10] Furthermore, Repp did not have his own flight instrumentation and had to look over the pilots' shoulders for a reading, which likely limited his own situational awareness.[19] Kazakhstani officials stated that the aircraft had descended while their pilots were fighting turbulence inside a bank of cumulus clouds.[10][17][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.[20]

Just a few seconds from impact, the Kazakhstani plane climbed slightly and the two planes collided. This was because Repp had only then realised that they were not at 15,000 feet and asked the pilot to climb. Cherepanov 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.[citation needed]

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.[19] This was substantiated by the affidavit of Capt. Place, who was the commander of a Lockheed C-141B Starlifter, which was flying into New Delhi at the time of the crash.[15] The members of his crew filed similar affidavits.[21]

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, departures and arrivals both shared a single corridor within the civilian airspace around New Delhi. Most areas have separate corridors: one for departures and another one for arrivals. But the airspace of Delhi in 1996 had only one civilian corridor because much of the airspace was taken by the Indian Air Force.[15] Due to the crash, the air-crash investigation report recommended changes to air-traffic procedures and infrastructure in New Delhi's air-space:[10]

  • 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.[22]

As of 2021, there is an ongoing effort by the Charkhi Dadri district administration to develop a memorial honoring the victims of the mid-air collision. The proposed memorial, which would consist of names and other information of the victims, would be located at a to-be built memorial-park in the district. However, the district administration is waiting to get an approval for the project from the Haryana government, and plans to include the participation of Ministry of Civil Aviation of India, Airport Authority of India, and embassies of Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan in the development of the memorial.[23]


Miditech, a company based in Gurugram, Haryana, produced a documentary about the disaster called Head On!, which aired on the National Geographic Channel.[15]

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.[24]

See alsoEdit



  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 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. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ a b 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. 
  8. ^ a b "Pilot error focus of India collision investigation". CNN. New Delhi. 14 November 1996. Archived from the original on 28 January 2000.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l 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.
  11. ^ Accident description for Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907 at the Aviation Safety Network
  12. ^ a b Cloudberg, Admiral (1 February 2023). "God Grant Forgiveness: The story of the Charkhi Dadri Midair Collision".
  13. ^ 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
  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 d Head On – AirCrash (TV documentary). Miditech. Archived from the original on 23 March 2007.
  16. ^ "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.
  17. ^ a b "Kazakh aircraft held responsible for Charkhi Dadri mishap". www.rediff.com. 1997. Archived from the original on 23 May 2020.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ a b "Communication gap caused Charkhi Dadri mishap". Rediff. 26 May 1997. Archived from the original on 7 October 1999. Retrieved 4 July 2006.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ "Charkhi Dadri collision occurred in "heavy clouds": US pilot". Rediff. Archived from the original on 11 October 1999. Retrieved 4 July 2006.
  22. ^ "History & future of airborne collision avoidance". Eurocontrol. 9 March 2012.
  23. ^ "Haryana's Charkhi Dadri plans a memorial for 1996 mid-air collision victims". Times of India. 4 March 2021. Retrieved 21 July 2022.
  24. ^ "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.

General referencesEdit

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

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