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KAL 007's Missing "Mayday"

This posting contains excerpts from very detailed communications sent to the Committee from Patrick Bryant, a certificated commercial fixed wing, commercial helicopter, and commercial glider pilot, now a private investigator, and at the time of the shootdown, a Master Control Engineer for ABC in Los Angeles. While later working in the broadcasting field with CNN, Mr. Bryant was also an Assistant Chief Engineer for three radio stations and an antenna design technician, where he gained extensive experience with radio transmitters and associated radio frequency systems. He knows whereof he speaks.

The Background. From the time of the shootdown, until 1992, when Boris Yeltsin handed over to the International Civil Aviation Agency the long sought after tapes from KAL 007's Black Box, the world only "knew" that KAL 007 suffered a catastrophic explosion which incapacitated the flight crew, if not instantly causing death or unconsciousness. This assessment, despite the unexplained 12 minute post attack flight of KAL 007, almost immediately wrote off any hope that there might be survivors from the explosion itself, or that the aircraft could have made a safe enough ditching to think survivors possible. When Yeltsin had finally released the long concealed Black Box tapes in 1992 and published by ICAO in 1993, showing that the flight crew was conscious and functioning, and that the passenger plane had come under control, successfully pulling out of a dive and now flying at a level altitude of 5,000 meters, only to begin a spiral descent over Moneron Island, the time had long passed to do anything about it. In the intervening 10 years, whatever media or scholarly articles that concerned itself with KAL 007 (and there were so few!), held to the original understanding. All were dead or incapacitated. And that was supported by one glaring fact - if it were otherwise, there would have been a "mayday" call, broadcast, according to international convention three times over the international distress frequency of 121.5 MHz, followed by a quick description of the nature of the emergency. But there was no such mayday call.

Or was there?

I have chosen to excerpt Mr. Bryant's messages rather than to summarize, that we may hear in his own words and evaluate for ourselves. Foremost in my mind, is also to encourage others who may have learned something, even from many years ago, to send the information into the Committee, as Patrick Bryant has done, where it may be evaluated to see if the "puzzle", piece by piece, can finally be completed.

From Mr. Bryant -

"Nowhere in any of the research on KAL 007 have I seen reference to a "mayday" that was broadcast some time after the missile attack. In that broadcast, a crew member (presumably the captain) states that he intends to ditch the aircraft. The transmission was made on 121.5 MHz (the international distress frequency)...

"I was working as an engineer in Master Control at ABC-TV in Los Angeles when the feed came in from France. It was briefly reported and played by ABC, and then never reported again. It is not unusual for the media to withhold information when told that airing it would jeopardize lives (in fact, the ABC News Policy stated so explicitly), and my guess is that ABC was told to "knock it off" for the sake of the safety of those on board KAL 007. Under those circumstances, ABC would have complied.

"If that fact could ever be brought to light, it would put in place a critical missing piece of the puzzle, demonstrating that crew's intention to ditch and that the aircraft was definitely under control.

"On the day of the attack, while the press and public only knew the status of KAL 007 as "missing", KABC-TV in Los Angeles aired only once a report as a 'cut-in' (bulletin) that I recall went like this:

'ABC News has obtained a copy of a distress call from the missing Korean airliner. The radio message was intercepted by a French satellite. (Recording was then played):

'Mayday, mayday mayday. KAL Flight 007 is leaving 10,000 feet. We are ditching in the sea.' ...

"The transmission to which I refer stated the flight was "leaving" (descending out of) a much lower altitude (my recollection was 10,000 feet), and that the flight was ditching in the sea. ...

"Patrick Bryant
"Former Studio/Field and Master Control Engineer for ABC Los Angeles.

We need ask where was KAL 007 at the time of the transmission? Correlating with the Russian military telecom transcripts handed over by Yeltsin, and the previously published information from personnel at radar unit 1845 at Konsomolsk-na-Amure, as well as the radar station at Edinka on the coast near Soviet Gavan - both on the Siberian Maritime opposite Monoron and Sakhalin Islands, we now know the answer to that question. KAL 007 had just come to the end of it's level flight at altitude 16,424 feet and it was then spiraling over tiny Moneron Island in Soviet Territorial waters, and had not yet reached the last point of Soviet radar tracking- 1,000 feet ("point zero", below which Soviet radar could not track) above the surface of the Tatar Straits off Moneron Island. Now we know from the transmission received and aired by ABC that the purpose of the spiral was indeed, as we could only conjecture prior to this information, to seek a place near enough to a land mass to ditch at sea!

Bert Schlossberg

 

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Last modified: March 10, 2009

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