Air India Flight 101

Air India Flight 101

Infobox Airliner accident|name=Air India Flight 101
Date=January 24 1966
Type=Instrument malfunction
Site=Mont Blanc
Fatalities= 117
Injuries= 0
Aircraft Type= Boeing 707-437
Operator=Air India
Tail Number= VT-DMN
Passengers= 106
Crew= 11
Survivors = 0

Air India Flight 101 was a scheduled Air India passenger flight that crashed into Mont Blanc in France on the morning of 24 January 1966.


On the 24th of January 1966 at 0702 UTC, Air India Flight Number 101, a Boeing 707-437 called "Kanchenjunga" crashed on its regular route from Mumbai (Bombay) to London via Delhi, Beirut and Geneva. The plane was carrying 106 passengers and 11 crew members. It crashed into Glacier des Bossons (Bossons Glacier) on the South West face of Mont Blanc in France. At 4807 meters altitude, Mont Blanc is the highest summit in Western Europe. There were no survivors. It was quickly determined that the pilot had made a navigational error while descending for landing into Geneva.

FLIGHT 101 – 2nd of two similar accidents:It was the second time such an air disaster had occurred on that part of the mountain, both crashes involving aircraft operated by Air India. Earlier on 3rd of November 1950 Air India Super Constellation called the "Malabar Princess," carrying 48 passengers and crew had crashed in almost exactly the same spot killing all on board.

equence of Events

The flight to and takeoff from Beirut were routine, except for a failure of the no. 2 VOR (VHF Omni-directional Radio Range). At 07:00 GMT the pilot reported reaching FL190 to Geneva. He was told to maintain that flight level "unless able to descend VMC (Visual meteorological conditions) one thousand on top". The pilot confirmed this and added that they were passing abeam Mont Blanc. The controller noted that the flight wasn't abeam Mont Blanc yet and radioed "you have 5 miles to the Mont Blanc", to which the pilot answered with "Roger." Flight 101 then started to descend from FL190 until it struck the Mont Blanc at an elevation of 15585 feet.


The victims consisted of 106 passengers and 11 crew. One of the victims included chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission Dr Homi Jehangir Bhabha, who was on his way to Vienna. The remaining passengers were Indian nationals, 46 of whom were sailors and 6 were British citizens.

Rescue Attempts

Rescue teams found wreckage scattered on the south west side of the mountain, about 1,400ft (427 metres) below the summit. Gerard Devoussoux, a mountain guide who was one of the first to arrive at the disaster scene, said: "Another 15 metres (50ft) and the plane would have missed the rock. It made a huge crater in the mountain. "Everything was completely pulverised. Nothing was identifiable except for a few letters and packets."
French authorities radioed back the news that there was virtually no hope of survivors shortly after landing in the area. The search was eventually called off after bad weather and poor visibility hampered rescue efforts. The Boeing held 200 monkeys in its cargo hold, meant for usage in medical laboratories. According to the rescuers, some of the monkeys had survived and were walking about in the snow.


The captain of the Air India Boeing 707, who was one of the airline's most experienced pilots, had radioed the control tower a few minutes earlier to report that his instruments were working fine and the aircraft was flying at 19,000ft (5,791 metres) - at least 3,000ft (914 metres) higher than the Mont Blanc summit.

"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."

Continuing Evidence

In the eighties, reports came in that pieces of aircraft were being found as the ice melted at the bottom of the Glacier. In both accidents, the two planes shattered into millions of pieces that littered the French and the Italian faces of Mont Blanc. For the last 20 years, the Bossons glacier spits out of its terminal tongue the remnants of the two accidents: bits of metal, wires, etc. It still remains one of France’s worst ever air accidents.


* 16th loss of a Boeing 707
* 2nd worst accident involving a Boeing 707 (at the time)
* 9th worst accident involving a Boeing 707 (currently)
* 2nd worst accident in France (at the time)
* 5th worst accident in France (currently)

Pop-Culture References

MOVIE: “Amelie” (2001) – A news report that pieces of an aircraft, which crashed into a glacier on top of Mont Blanc are emerging from the melting ice at the bottom of the mountain sparks an idea for main character Amelie. To ease an elderly neighbours life long pain of losing her one true love, Amelie forges a love letter which is supposed to have been recovered from the wreckage of the plane to give to the neighbour. [There is no specific reference to Flight 101 or "Malabar Princess".]


*ICAO Circular Accident Digest 18-I
* [ FlightSafe]
* [ Mont Blanc]

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