Air India Flight 101

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Air India Flight 101
An Air India Boeing 707 similar to the one involved
Accident summary
Date 24 January 1966
Summary Controlled flight into terrain
Site Mont Blanc massif, France
Passengers 106
Crew 11
Fatalities 117 (all)
Survivors 0
Aircraft type Boeing 707–437
Aircraft name Kanchenjunga
Operator Air India
Registration VT-DMN
Flight origin Sahar International Airport, Bombay, India
1st stopover Delhi International Airport, New Delhi, India
2nd stopover Beirut International Airport, Beirut, Lebanon
Last stopover Geneva International Airport, Geneva, Switzerland
Destination Heathrow Airport, London, United Kingdom

Air India Flight 101 was a scheduled Air India passenger flight from Bombay to London that accidentally flew into Mont Blanc in France on the morning of 24 January 1966. The accident was caused by a misunderstood verbal instruction from the radar controller to the pilot in lieu of VOR data, one of the receivers being out of service.


Air India Flight 101 was a scheduled flight from Bombay to London; and on the day of the accident was operated by a Boeing 707, registration VT-DMN and named Kanchenjunga.[1] After leaving Bombay, it had made two scheduled stops at Delhi and Beirut and was en route to another stop at Geneva.[1] At Flight Level 190, the crew was instructed to descend for Geneva International Airport after the aircraft had passed Mont Blanc.[1] The pilot, thinking that he had passed Mont Blanc, started to descend and flew into the Mont Blanc massif in France near the Rochers de la Tournette, at an elevation of 4,750 metres (15,584 ft).[1][2] All 106 passengers and 11 crew were killed.[2][3]


Among the 106 passengers were the chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha[2] and Amrit Prasad Pradhan, founder of the Amrit Science College in Nepal.[citation needed] G. Bertoli, Air India's regional director for Europe (and brother-in-law of founder J.R.D Tata), died. G. V. Sivaswami, the airline's superintendent of technical operations, perished. Two Americans and a French woman on the airline's United States staff also died.[4]


The Boeing 707–437 VT-DMN had first flown on 5 April 1961 and was delivered new to Air India on 25 May 1961.[5] It had flown a total of 16,188 hours.[5]


At the time, aircrew fixed the position of their aircraft as being above Mont Blanc by taking a cross-bearing from one VHF omnidirectional range (VOR) as they flew along a track from another VOR. However, the accident aircraft departed Beirut with one of its VOR receivers unserviceable.[1][2]

The investigation concluded:[1]

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.


In 1950 Air India Flight 245, a Lockheed Super Constellation on a charter flight, had crashed at almost the same location with the loss of 48 crew and passengers.[2]

Recent discoveries

Wreckage of the crashed Boeing still remains at the crash site. In 2008, a climber found some Indian newspapers dated 23 January 1966. An engine from Air India Flight 245 was also discovered.

On 21 August 2012, a 9 kilograms (20 lb) jute bag of diplomatic mail, stamped "On Indian Government Service, Diplomatic Mail, Ministry of External Affairs", was recovered by a mountain rescue worker and turned over to local police in Chamonix.[6][7] An official with the Indian Embassy in Paris took custody of the mailbag, which was found to be a "Type C" diplomatic pouch meant for newspapers, periodicals, and personal letters. Indian diplomatic pouches "Type A" (classified information) and "Type B" (official communications) are still in use today; "Type C" mailbags were made obsolete with the advent of the internet.[8] The mailbag was found to contain, among other items, still-white and legible copies of The Hindu and The Statesman from mid-January 1966, Air India calendars, and a personal letter to the Indian consul-general in New York, C.G.K. Menon.[9] The bag was flown back to New Delhi on a regular Air India flight, in the charge of C. R. Barooah, the flight purser. His father, R.C. Barooah, was the flight engineer on Air India Flight 101.[10]

In September 2013 a French alpinist found a metal box containing the Air India logo at the site of the plane crash on Mont Blanc containing rubies, sapphires, and emeralds worth more than $300,000, which he handed in to the police to be returned to the rightful owners.[11] In her book Crash au mont Blanc, which tells the story of the two Air India crashes on Mont-Blanc (1950 and 1966), Françoise Rey writes about a box of emeralds sent to M. Issacharov, London, described by Lloyd's.[12]

On 22 June 2014 a camera belonging to one of the passengers was found in the Glacier des Bossons by another French alpinist. The film though present was too damaged to hope to retrieve pictures.

Flight Number

While it is a custom to retire flight numbers after a fatal crash, Air India continues to use the AI101 flight designation from Mumbai to New York-JFK with a stopover at Delhi. The flight is operated by a Boeing 777-300ER.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 "The Air-India Disaster". Flight International: 174. 3 February 1966.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Mendis, Sean (26 July 2004). "Air India : The story of the aircraft". Retrieved 13 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Flight International. 3 February 1966. p. 174.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Pither 1998, p. 291
  6. "Diplomatic post bag from 1966 Indian plane crash found on Mont Blanc". Telegraph. Retrieved 28 November 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Agence-France-Presse
  8. Firstpost
  9. Deccan Herald, 19 September 2012
  10. The Indian Express, 19 September 2012
  11. Climber finds treasure trove off Mont Blanc. (n.d.). Yahoo News Malaysia. Retrieved 26 September 2013, from Yahoo News
  12. CRASH AU MONT-BLANC, Les fantômes du Malabar Princess et du Kangchenjunga, Françoise Rey – Edition Le Petit Montagnard


Crash au Mont-Blanc, les fantômes du Malabar Princess et du Kangchenjunga. Françoise Rey. Glénant 1991, Le Petit Montagnard, 2013. France

External links

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