KLM 749 Constellation crash Bombay – 1949

On 12th July 1949 a KLM Lockheed 749 Constellation was attempting an approach into Bombay in monsoon weather and flew below the minimim safe altitude into nearby hills killing all 45 aboard. The investigation put the blame down to pilot error. It is probable that the aircraft was on a GCA approach as I doubt if Bombay was equipped with an ILS in 1949.

The aircraft passengers included several journalists from USA who had been invited by the Dutch government to conduct independant investigations in the Dutch East Indies as a result of tensions between the Dutch and the the rising Independance Movement within the now Indonesia. As always there are conspiracy theories but the main fact seems to be the aircraft pranged in bad weather – unfortunately not an uncommon event in those days.

The captain was Vlieger Van Kooy He was experienced and had flown into Bombay on several occasions.

Can anyone suggest where I could go on the internet to find details of the accident – preferably the official report? So far the only info I found on the internet is the registration and type of aircraft.

Here’s a quick translation of the article:
The Fatal Flight
On July 10th left the journalists with the Constellation Franeker (PH-TDF) back from the United States, waved good-bye by hundreds interested. One of them was Chris Scheffer: He said to one of the Army public relations officer” If that plane would crash, it will be a big story.” Yes, you just say these things, but a few days later, the public relations officer came to see me in my hotel, he was pale and said: “Remember what you said in Kemajoran. That plane crashed at Bombay.”
Via a few stops, including stops in Bangkok and New Delhi, the plane encountered bad weather in the vicinity of Bombay. When the plane commenced the landing phase at Santa Cruz airport at a height of 150 meters, the clouds swallowed the plane. Visual orientation then was not possible. In the thick cloud cover, the Franeker was unintentionally getting more distant from the airport then necessary. Seconds later the landing gear under the left wing hit the top from a hill covered in clouds, part of the approximately 200m high Powai-hill ridge. The aircraft, with a speed of 200 kilometers, broke in pieces. All 45 people onboard were killed instantly.
Quickly it was concluded that the crash was due to pilot error of Captain Van der Vaart and due to the heavy monsoon rains. Though there where some reports about possible sabotage. Only 50 years later, a high official from the intelligence agency of foreign affairs, Jan Bakker, brought forward indirect proof about the (possible) real cause of the crash. Bakker mentioned that one of his friends had eavesdropped a conversation between Head of the Indonesian Air force officer Suryadrma and his Indian counter part. In this conversation, the Indian serviceman said: “We have fixed it for you.” Bakker: “Don’t forget that Indonesia and India both where young countries and good friends. I am convinced that India had let crash the Franeker as a kind return to Indonesia. In order to avoid publication of negative articles about the republicans in Indonesia.”
From other investigations there are clues that the Indian ATC from Bombay Airport at the crucial moment issued wrong instructions to the KLM Captain. It is true that according to the notes in the Indian logbook the pilot received instruction to climb and that he was drawn attention to the mountains in the vicinity. But these instructions where written up in the logbook much later. The original instructions have been fully erased. In reality the Franeker flew in a straight line into the 674 feet high mountain at four kilometers distance from the airport. The hill was invisible to the eye due to low clouds.
Due to the mutilation of the last instructions to the Franeker in the logbook in Bombay, it can be concluded that India held back some factual points. This was also noticed by some external experts that where added to the investigation team. Their statement was in minority in the committee. Their findings where therefore put aside. It will be hard to find evidence of sabotage after more than half a century. But whether it is sabotage or just bad weather, the result is the same. It was extraordinary sad for the sly intriguers within the Dutch government that this seemingly successful PR offensive, that moreover had costed lots of money and efforts, ended on a hill just outside Bombay.
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