Air India Flight 101 from Mumbai to London Heathrow flew into France’s Mont Blanc on January 24, 1966. The prevailing theory of the crash is that one of the plane’s receivers malfunctioned and a pilot misunderstood air traffic control instructions. The Boeing 707 went down in the same spot as Air India Flight 245 sixteen years earlier.
The flight had traveled Mumbai – Delhi – Beirut and was enroute to Geneva prior to traveling to its final destination. It was descending through 19,000 feet and flew into the highest mountain in the Alps at an altitude of 15,584 feet. Everyone on board was killed.
No black box was ever recovered, and it’s been suggested that – in fact – the 707 suffered a rapid decompression resulting from an explosion in the cargo hold. The former deputy head of CIA operations, assistant director for clandestine operations Robert Crowley, confessed to this being what happened as part of an agency operation to scuttle India’s nuclear weapons program.
The confession was published in a 2013 book, Conversations With The Crow after the death of the CIA’s Robert Crowley, based on interviews from twenty years earlier. The book says that Crowley admits the agency assassinated Indian nuclear scientist Homi Bhabha, who was a passenger on the flight, and that the agency also assassinated Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri two weeks earlier.
We had trouble, you know, with India back in the 60s when they got uppity and started work on an atomic bomb…The thing is, they were getting into bed with the Russians….And we did not want them to have any kind of nuclear weaponry because God knows what they would have done with it…Probably nuke the Pakis… Oh, yes, and their head expert was fully capable of building a bomb…Name was Homi Bhabha. He was flying to Vienna to stir up more trouble, when his 707 had a bomb go off in the cargo hold and they all came down on a high mountain way up in the Alps.
…We could have blown it up over Vienna but we decided the high mountains were miuch better for the bits and pieces to come down on. .. And we nailed Shastri as well.
CIA killed India’s nuclear physicist Homi Bhabha and Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri—confessions of Robert Crowley, the second in command of the CIA's Directorate of Operations (in charge of covert operations), as recorded in a book by Gregory Douglas. pic.twitter.com/KLOoY61yrT
— Aarti Tikoo (@AartiTikoo) July 18, 2022
I hadn’t heard this story before, and don’t have a sense for whether the then-69 year old clandestine services veteran would have been telling the truth about a 27 year old operation. However there are certainly instances where governments have brought down civilian airliners – even the U.S. government.
In 1988 the U.S. accidentally shot down a civilian airliner, Iran Air 655. In 2020 Iran accidentally shot down Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752. Most famous perhaps are Korean Air Lines flight 007 and Malaysia Airlines 17.