Thanks to Anand, a visitor of my site that manages the WordPress blog http://aviatingindia.wordpress.com/ (dealing with Indian Aviation), I’ve had the opportunity to read an interesting (conspiracy?) story about the Air India flight 101, that crashed in Mont Blanc in 1966. The article provides some interesting details, a theory, according to which, the B-707 was collided with (or was shot down by) a military aircraft belonging to the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF).
Here’s the article that Anand published on the Indian Aviation blog:
Mumbai: On January 24, 1966, Air India flight AI 101 Mumbai-Paris crashed on Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps on the border of France and Italy.
Amongst the 117 passengers killed was noted Nuclear Scientist Dr Homi Jehangir Bhabha. Although the world believes the aircraft crashed, Daniel Roche, an aviation enthusiast who has spent five years researching and collecting the remnants of the plane from Mont Blanc, says the plane was hit by an Italian military aircraft or a missile.
Roche, 57, a property consultant in Lyon, France, has collected about three tonne of parts of the two Air India (AI) aircraft that crashed into the glacier of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps (4,810 m or 15,781 feet).
One was the propeller aircraft Malabar Princess, which crashed in 1950, and the other was the Boeing 707 Kanchenjunga. “While the parts of Malabar Princess were found around one spot, those of Kanchenjunga were found scattered around a 25 km range,” he says.
Roche says that while the Malabar Princess is a clear case of a crash, the Kanchenjunga was hit by an Italian military aircraft or a missile. “If Kanchenjunga had crashed in the mountain, there should have been huge fire and explosion as there was 41,000 tonne of fuel in the aircraft, but that was not the case. Just two minutes before the crash, the aircraft was at 6,000 feet above the ground. According to me, it collided with an Italian aircraft and as there is very little oxygen at that height, there was no combustion that could cause an explosion,” he says.
During his excavations in the Mont Blanc glacier, he found the black box of the aircraft, the pilot’s manual, a camera, jewellery, and other belongings of the passengers that had over the last 40 years sunk some 8 km into the glacier and descended down the mountainside.
Talking about his suspicion of the Italian plane, he says, “There were news reports that time about an Italian aircraft that had gone missing the same day. There are chances that it collided into the aircraft.I managed to find a fuel tank of the Italian plane with inscriptions on it,” he says.
“I do not know whether it was a conspiracy or what as Bhabha was going to give India its first nuclear bomb, which the nuclear powers of that time did not want,” he says. “..I feel that it is my duty to tell the truth to the world based on the evidence. If the Indian government wants, I am ready to hand over the documents and the belongings of the passengers to them…” he says.
As soon as I read the article I checked through files the news of any military aircraft crashed on the same day of the Air India flight AI 101. According to the information I’ve gathered, on Jan 24, 1966, the ItaF recorded only an aviation safety event: an F-104G suffered an emergency during take off from Grazzanise airbase (Central Italy, South of Rome, hundred miles to the South of the Air India crash location). The pilot ejected safely and the aircraft was heavily damaged. On Jan 25, 1996, the following day, an F-104G of the 9° Gruppo of the 4^ Aerobrigata crashed near Accumuli (Rieti) to the ENE of Rome. The pilot ejected safely but the aircraft was destroyed. So, the statement “There were news reports that time about an Italian aircraft that had gone missing the same day” is probably true, but it is not related to the Air India crash. It would be interesting to understand which kind of Italian inscriptions were found on a (possible) tank, where / how far it was found (it is possible the tank or part was lost in another event/time/occasion). I don’t think the aircraft was shot down for various reasons. First of all because evidences would be found, second because the investigation report did not mention any possibility the aircraft was destroyed by anything else than the impact with the mountain. Third, if the ItAF was interested in downing the aircraft, why don’t do that far from the boundaries with other two nations? It would have been far easier to shot it down above the Sea, in Souther Italy or above the Adriatic. I suggest reading the final report of the inquiry board that is available in French language with other information at the following address: http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19660124-0. I quickly read it and found that the inquiry board experts visited the crash location more than once and by analysing the wreckage and the remains of the aircraft stated that everything pointed to a crash caused by an impact with the ground (we would call it Controlled Flight Into the Terrain CFIT, today). For Aviation Safety Network: “The commission concluded that the most likely hypothesis was the following: a) The pilot-in-command, who knew on leaving Beirut that one of the VORs was unserviceable, miscalculated his position in relation to Mont Blanc and reported his own estimate of this position to the controller; the radar controller noted the error, determined the position of the aircraft correctly and passed a communication to the aircraft which, he believed, would enable it to correct its position.; b) For want of a sufficiently precise phraseology, the correction was mis-understood by the pilot who, under the mistaken impression that he had passed the ridge leading to the summit and was still at a flight level which afforded sufficient safety clearance over the top of Mont Blanc, continued his descent.”
Anyway, another statement in the above article is worth analysing: “While the parts of Malabar Princess were found around one spot, those of Kanchenjunga were found scattered around a 25 km range”. The aviation enthusiast is referring to another Air India crash that occurred incidentally on the same place (Mont Blanc): on Nov. 3, 1950, the “Malabar Princess”, a Lockheed Constellation, operating on the Mumbai-London route crashed into the mountain while approaching Geneva, one of the intermidiate stop-over. The aircraft hit the Mont Blanc 30 meters from the top.
By the way, there can be hundreds of reasons that can explain why the debris were scattered in one case and in the same spot in the other, the most obvious of which is the different cruising speeds.