Air India 101 conspiracy theory

Apr 21 2009 - 73 Comments

Thanks to Anand, a visitor of my site that manages the WordPress blog (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: 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.

  • Arnab Dhar

    The Italian-air-force-hit theory is something I would not buy.What I am concerned is with the French report which says due to lack of aviation phraseology, the pilot misunderstood the situational awareness necessary for a safe flight. At that time when I might say airline travel was in its path of maturity, didn’t these kind of radio comm ambiguity situations occur on international flights frequently? Also,so far as I know, when any instrument,howsoever harmless it may look like, is known to have failed on an aircraft, it is not considered flight worthy.The point is, this was a pilot error and our investigations should be directed to what safety steps Air India or the airline industry took after the incident rather than getting the flight passenger list and discussing the morality of a tv show, the quality and content of which,is beyond the scope of this blog.

  • John Feltham

    A query on your story on the Air India 707.

    Your story says – “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 MAXIMUM take off weight of a 707-320B is 149 tons.

    There is a discrepancy somewhere?

    • Actually, it is not my story but Daniel Roche’s quote within the commented article. It is obviously a mistake and that information should be 41,000 Kg.
      According to the incident analysis, the aircraft take off weight was 121,575 Kg and the estimated weight at arrival was 91,437. The maximum fuel capacity was around 23,000 US gallons = 85,000 liters (more or less 102,000 chilograms). The expected flight time was 4 h 12 min. That aircraft burns on average 2,200 Kg/h per engine. 4 x 4 x 2,200 = 33,600 Kg. Since I don’t think that aircraft was flying at maximum fuel capacity, even if I don’t know where Roche found the information about the 41 tons of fuel, it seems at least a reasonable quantity to me.

      • Kevin

        Careful! 85’000 liters of kerosene weighs around 70’000 kilogrammes, not 102’000 kilogrammes! The flight from Beirut to Geneva is between 4 to 4.5 hours depending on winds (usually headwinds). Furthermore, 4 X 4 X 2200 = 35’200, not 33’600. 35’200 + 41’000 = 76’200. That is approximately 6’200 kilogrammes higher than maximum fuel tank capacity. Conclusion, Mr. Roche’s statement is incorrect. Finally, there would be no practical reason to carry so much additional fuel which would result in considerably higher fuel burn rate / cost.

  • vikram

    well said arnab, i feel every tom ,dick shouldnt have liberty to post anything irrelevant , misleading.

  • Prabin Choubey

    Take Shekhar Suman’s case-

    How come the hypnotist ask SS-

    Who is with you? ( as if she knew that he is definetly accomponied by someone)
    her next question to SS was-
    Please see what is there in his (his son’s) hand (did she know that boy was carrying a puppet ?)

    • Max Hunt

      pichlay janam ka raaz is fake…my mother knows liliput personally..he’s a friend of her’s..liliput was a contestant on the show and he told my mother that whatever he said on the show was made up..infact he himself made it up..he prepared a mother, lilliput, and some other friends were rolling on the floor laughing while discussing the show..its all fake man lol

  • Abhinav

    besides hypnotist never speaks in english….but in SS case she started talking in English as if she knew dat SS was in sum english speaking country & den she was mixing it up wid hindi later on but SS was replyng easily if he was an oficer in Britain den hw cum he undrstood Hindi?? There r just 2 many question marks

  • sharat sinha

    Islam does not believe in rebirth. It says all dead must lay in wai till Quaymat when judgment would be delivered by Alaha. Lilliput is muslim. So how come that he was reborn Twice?

  • Amitabh Chandra

    Sharat Sinha ! I want to put some comment one your question.First thing for all human being only one nature of law will be applicable.It is not mean that for muslim one law is there or for Hindu another law is there.It is not possible.Difference only arises on our understanding,Hindu philosphy says some thing and Islam says some thing,it is not possible.Only one truth should be possible.Whatever these religion says it all depands on time and place,where these religion evolved.It says only one part of nature,all religion says that is not a whole thing.all religion did not pointed out everything,like Islam or cristianity not told anything about rebirth,it is due to some reason,In India people were very rich in philoshphy and culture,they can understand hign philoshphy and religious theory.In india all philoshpher disclosed everthing about religion and some people undestued,what philospher were telling.But the place where Prophet or Jesus born,people were very uneducated and they were not have much knowledge of religion or philosphy.So they not dosclosed every thing,only they told limited kind of thing.Even Jesus disclosed some thing and people were not accepted those things and they opposed him and Crusified him.It all depands on kind of people.Buddism,Jainism,Hinduism,Sikhkism all belived in rebirth.Becoz these religion born in India.

    • Dear all,
      I thank you everybody for following this post, for reading and writing the comments, however, even if so far I have not moderated any comment, I would like to remind you that this blog is about aviation. I obviously understand that the recent TV show aired by NDTV Imagine in India, where a lady was hypnotised to recall her past life in which she was one of the passangers, arouse some questions about rebirth, but this is not the right place to discuss about religion matters (even if some contributions are really interesting). You can analyse the story she recalled, to determine if it is true or false but I would be kind to remain in topic.

  • Art Robinson

    My father, Ted Robinson an American engineer, was on Air India Flight 101.
    After the crash, I climbed around the crash site with Claude Jacoux and visited the site by helicopter. We located one passenger strapped to a seat – who was then recovered by the French.

    I would very much like to get in touch Daniel Roche and anyone else who has information or objects recovered from this site. Can you help me with email or other addresses?

    Thank you,

    Arthur Robinson;; PO Box 1250, Cave Junction, OR 97523, USA; Telephone 541-592-4142 (U.S.A.)

    • Dear Arthur,
      Daniel Roche has been so kind to leave a message with his email address in a previous comment on this site. You can send him an email at JDROCHE@ORANGE.FR

      Best Regards,

  • Kevin

    My father lost a colleague on that flight. I still vaguely remember that grim, January 1966 day in Geneva. I was only 4 1/2 years old.
    The problem with conspiracy theorists is that they are out there to make a name for themselves. They claim to be looking for the truth but in fact are not for the simple reason that they already hold the truth; namely their conspiracy theory dogma they are out to evangelize. From their dogmatic standpoint they will then proceed to back-pedal and construct a case by carefully selecting a patchwork of information, figures, quotes, etc, that they feel will support their theories while carefully avoiding any such data that might weaken, put into question, let alone debunk their views. In the process, they will not hesitate to deliberately make false assertions to support their case. This is hardly an attitude that can be associated with someone who honestly and objectively wishes to establish the facts regarding a particular event.

  • Kevin

    In light of my preceding comment I would like to contest Mr. Roche’s claims.

    “…has collected about three tonne of parts
    Three tons.”
    Collected or found? If this is true, collecting three tons or aircraft debris in one’s garage or basement cannot be explained merely by an interest in the Air India Mont Blanc crashes, however great the interest might be. I sense an element of fetishism here, although that is just my personal opinion. Come on!! Three TONS!!

    “While the parts of Malabar Princess were found around one spot, those of Kanchenjunga were found scattered around a 25 km range,”
    I suppose what is meant here is radius rather than range? I have never heard of such fact. Where is his evidence, what are his sources?

    “If Kanchenjunga had crashed in the mountain…”
    It did.

    “…there should have been huge fire and explosion”
    Indeed there was. The Mont-Blanc was shrouded in lenticular clouds that morning. That is why they crashed into the mountain, they couldn’t see it. Therefore, no one saw the aircraft plough into the mountain. How can he assert that there was no huge fire and explosion? For someone who claims to be an objective expert on the case how can he not quote the official report of the French BEA ( that contains radio transcripts between Geneva tower and two aircraft flying in the area at that time (Alitalia and Balair) who clearly mention seeing a large black, billowing mushroom cloud emerge from the white cloud cover shrouding the Mont Blanc massif at around 16’000 feet at 07:02 a.m. local time, roughly one minute after flight 101’s last radio transmission (pages 13 – 14)?

    “…as there was 41,000 tonne of fuel in the aircraft”
    Evidence? Sources? There certainly wasn’t that amount of fuel in the aircraft at that time. There might have been at take off but not within 15 – 20 minutes of landing.

    “Just two minutes before the crash, the aircraft was at 6,000 feet above the ground”
    Evidence? Sources? At an altitude of 6’000 meters above mean sea level perhaps. As to the height above the ground, that would have changed constantly depending on the topography over which the aircraft was flying. How is this relevant? What point is he trying to make anyway? For information, the aircraft impacted the mountain at approximately 4’750 meters (source: BEA report, page 11).

    “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,”
    This is a classic constant in conspiracy theories; building a case on false premises. If there is very little oxygen at that altitude why is it that climbing the Mont Blanc without the help of oxygen tanks is a very popular year-round activity, even amongst relatively inexperienced mountain climbers? You want evidence of combustion at high altitude? Watch World War Two aerial combat footage, particularly of bombing raids over Germany. You will see plenty of explosions and combustion…..

    “During his excavations in the Mont Blanc glacier, he found the black box of the aircraft…”
    Really? Nothing less than that!! And what did he do with it? Did he inform the authorities and hand over the evidence? If he still has it, surely he can provide us a few detailed pictures.

    “I managed to find a fuel tank of the Italian plane with inscriptions on it,” he says.”
    Of “THE” Italian plane? Which one? And what do the French authorities have to say about that? Please, let’s be serious…..

    “..I feel that it is my duty to tell the truth to the world based on the evidence.”
    Evidence? Well that is precisely the problem. There is no evidence. Mr. Roche feels it is his duty to tell the truth as he would like it to have been. Unfortunately, in the real world one demands hard, verifiable facts and evidence. Mr. Roche clearly revels in his position of “wannabe-hero-investigator”. Indeed, it is easy and exciting to feel like a hero. However, unlike in fantasy land, it is somewhat harder to actually be one in real life.

  • carl

    Hello everyone> I just wanted to know if there has been an update on this story as of yet.

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