For many people born after about 1975, the 80’s was a time of adventure and rebirth from the gas shortages and economic downturn of the decade before. The first space shuttle, Columbia made its maiden flight in 1981; movie goers could take in everything from Terms of Endearment to Friday the 13th; and the geek in us could spazz out over the first personal computer launched by IBM in 1981 or the release of the megahit video game Pacman in 1980 and later Nintendo gaming system. But a dark cloud, left over from the end of World War II, hung over the 80’s as well. Ever since their troops first met and shook hands at the Elbe River crossing, all but signaling the end of the European theater of war, tensions had run high between the Soviet Union and the superpowers of the West.
The building of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and defectors dominated the news. But things weren’t always so direct. Both behind the scenes and center stage, the West and the Soviets played a cat and mouse game of proxy war (read: Korea, Vietnam, Africa, etc.) and the proxies paid the price. Many innocent lives were loss, and one of the most infamous examples of this took place on 01 September 1983 over the skies of the Bering Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan when a Soviet interceptor aircraft shot down Korean Airlines (KAL) Flight 007, killing all 269 passengers and flight crew.
Flight 007, operated by Korean Airlines, was a Boeing 747-230B commercial aircraft, and the originated at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City on August 30, 1983, bound for Gimpo International Airport in Seoul, South Korea. At the time, the aircraft was carrying 246 passengers and, unusual due to another partial crew “dead heading,” a crew of 23. The 747 made a scheduled refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska, then departed for its South Korean destination at 0400 on August 31, 1983. As a passenger break down, according to passenger lists and Wikipedia, 12 passengers occupied the upper deck first class, while in business almost all of 24 seats were taken; in economy class, approximately 80 seats did not contain passengers. Tragically, there were also 22 children under the age of 12 years aboard.
What should have happened: once the 747 took off, Air Traffic Control (ATC) would have instructed the pilot to turn to a designated heading. Shortly thereafter, ATC would then instruct the crew to proceed into one of the 50 – mile wide “airways” that connects the U.S. (Alaska) and Japanese coasts, and taking out some of the more technical details, 007 is on its way to Seoul.