Crazy Obscure but Believable Internet Conspiracy: Saudia Flight 163

No, I’m not talking about copypasta stories. I’m referring to real, believable stories which have so much effort put into the background and context that they could indeed be real.

I have prepared a case study for you. It is in reference to the tragedy which saw 301 souls perish on Saudia Flight 163 on 19 August 1980. In summary, the flight took off from King Salman Air Base, up until about a year ago called Riyadh Air Base (and in 1980 known as Riyadh International Airport) and a fire started on board shortly into the flight from Karachi, with a stopover in Riyadh, continuing on to Jeddah. The plane diverted back to the airport and managed a successful emergency landing. But the pilots did not stop on the runway or attempt an evacuation, instead trying to taxi off the runway as everyone on board perished due to smoke inhalation. The widely accepted reason for this is that the pilots were incompetent, backed up by the confusion found in the cockpit voice recorder.

Source: Federal Aviation Administration

Here are some links for reading, since I won’t type a rehash of the entire ordeal in this post:

Alternative Versions of Events

Now the alternative points of views come in. When watching a bootleg of Air Crash Investigation on YouTube, I read the comments as usual. Something caught my eye.

dis guy

I navigated to the URL and read the article typed up by busbysemperfi or Michael Busby, who says he worked in Saudi Arabia at the time. It was published in 2010 and recounts a separate version of events to news articles and documentaries.

Its description reads:

The appalling truth behind the needless death of 301 people in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. From an eyewitness. In 1980, 301 people went to their death in a most gruesome fashion, all for the convenience of a king.

Although there is no hard evidence, the article recounts when he witnessed the incident. Busby’s version of events explains that King Khalid was in a Boeing 747 taxiing to the runway to take off. Allegedly, “Saudi protocol required everything at the airport to stop moving while the King’s 747 was rolling” (2010, p. 4).

Knowledge of Saudi Arabia and how the country works is highly accurate. It appears to me that this piece of work has been authored by a person who has had the experience of living in Saudi Arabia. However, the one minuscule thing that caught my attention was his variation of the word ‘rial’ on page 5. In Saudi Arabia, the typical spelling used is riyal. Other Middle Eastern countries use rial.

His version of events is backed up by YouTube commenter ‘David Schumock’ who replied to a comment on the matter, who even left his email as a point of contact.

mr conspirasy
Some YouTube comments on the watch page of a documentary upload.

The biggest inconsistency I can see between these two sources is the amount of time the plane spent on the runway. David Schumock is the only person that mentions that the aircraft was still for 20 minutes before a ball of flame appeared.

Another set of evidence is some websites claiming the similar versions of events wherein the plane had to make way for a Royal Flight.

The Role of Saudi King was also Discussed in causing delay in Emergency Procedures but Hush Hush Prevailed.

It is so true that so many Pakistani Died about Flight 163 and yet Pakistan Government made a hush Hush over this Incident and also downplayed the cruel role off Saudi king and that of incompetent Saudia Aviation Delaying rescue of almost 30 Minutes when the doors were opened and people just died and burned inside while they could have been saved . (http://web.archive.org/web/20191211192719/https://pakiav.blogspot.com/2014/06/how-pakistanis-were-burnt-alive-in.html)

However, none of these articles mention that a 737 departed and a DC-8 that was stopped as mentioned here.

In addition, we should consider what these authors have to gain from lying about the incident. The most obvious reason is to discredit the KSA and its system of government. The singling out of a ‘Saudi King’ appears to be a direct attack on the monarchy and possibly the image of autocracy.

References

YouTube. 2019. Air Crash Investigation -Mystery of Saudia Flight 163 -SV 163 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nq7oA3IG02o. [Accessed 14 September 2019].

Scribd. 2019. Death of An Airplane: The Appalling Truth About Saudia Airlines Flight 163 | Aviation | Aeronautics. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.scribd.com/doc/38040625/Death-of-An-Airplane-The-Appalling-Truth-About-Saudia-Airlines-Flight-163. [Accessed 14 September 2019].

Paki Aviation : How Pakistanis were Burnt Alive in Mysterious Flight 163 Because of Saudi Royal Family . 2019. Paki Aviation : How Pakistanis were Burnt Alive in Mysterious Flight 163 Because of Saudi Royal Family . [ONLINE] Available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20191211192719/https://pakiav.blogspot.com/2014/06/how-pakistanis-were-burnt-alive-in.html. [Accessed 11 December 2019].

PPrune Forums (2019). Saudi 163 – PPRuNe Forums. [online] Pprune.org. Available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20191211195528/https://www.pprune.org/accidents-close-calls/617221-saudi-163-a.html

https://www.skybrary.aero/bookshelf/books/1342.pdf

Saudi Arabia is Changing

I’ve had the unusual pleasure of living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for nine years of my life. Of course, the way us Westerners view the country is a lot different to the way Arabs do. We live in compounds surrounded by high walls and electrified wires with watch towers, they tend not to. Instead they live in houses with… high walls. According to my old Arabic teacher; the higher the walls are, the more important the person living there is.

King Salman hasn’t been seen in public for ages now due to poor health. His reign hasn’t lasted very long. After the death of Abdulaziz in 2015, Salman took over. Now, King Salman has fallen ill and it is thought that he could pass any day now, so the reign has been passed onto another Salman; Crown Prince Salman – who now rules the KSA.

What do the other Arab royals think of it? I’d imagine he’s quite polarising for them. He’s kicked most of them out of their palaces and taken away their money, theoretically to invest in more important things.

The new crown prince has seen Saudi Arabia boast changes mostly aimed at modernisation. Stepping foot into the country for the first time after nine years of living away, I couldn’t believe it. The airport now has shops in it, civilians and women working at the immigration, new glass gateways, and restaurants – all previously unimaginable for the country.

They’ve built over and placed a shop floor over what used to be a bridge over the fountains to the gates.
The architectural design of King Khalid International is a unique one. It’s nothing like the boring metal sheeted airports you get elsewhere.

Incredible, I thought. Later during my stay, I found out that popular Western music artists would be performing in the country; the Black Eyed Peas, Enrique Iglesias, Jason Derulo, and David Guetta. I never thought in a million years that I would be able to see any of these famous people perform in Saudi Arabia of all places. I managed to see the Black Eyed Peas and Amir Diab, a famous Egyptian singer.

In addition, I thought something was off when I was at the shopping centres in the city. It took me a while to realise, but I saw women working in the shops. “Hang on,” I thought – “since when could women work here?” Turns out that they’ve been able to work here for three years now. However, some archaic and skewed religious laws remain. At the concert, I noticed a security guard leaning into the crowd from the fence and shouting in Arabic at some men. I had no clue what was being said, but it was clear that he wanted them to leave the crowd. After thirty seconds of that, he noticed me and started pushing me and shouting in Arabic. I wouldn’t budge, so he gave up after a moment. Some nearby onlookers introduced themselves to me and then told me that he was trying to separate the men from the women. Crazily enough, I managed to capture some of it on my phone below. It appears that the culture has yet to catch up.

On the topic of Formula E, it was a showcase event for the country to show the rest of the world that it can be like them. It’s the first of its kind in the country, aimed at the international community as if to say “come in, we’re open.” Below are a few pictures I took at the event.

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The city of Riyadh is expanding rapidly. Only ten years ago, it was a tiny city with only two skyscrapers; Al Faisaliyah Tower and Kingdom Tower. Below are some photos from the top of Kingdom Tower (AKA Kingdom Centre).

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Only 15 years ago, all of this land was desert in the outskirts with the roads being paved by steamrollers.
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In the distance is the financial district, it’s all new and only came into existence within the past few years.

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The bridge on top of Kingdom Tower.
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In the centre is Al Faisaliyah Tower.

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Only about 20 years ago, most of the buildings in the photos above didn’t exist. It was all desert with only steamrollers paving the roads now filled with traffic. The country is rapidly catching up with the rest of the world, but it still isn’t a nice place for women to live. Need to get an Uber? You may need to get in a separate one from a woman. The Mutaw’ah or religious police barely seem to exist anymore – if they still do in the capital. They would be men with robes sporting golden lining, armed with swords. They would usually catch out any women who aren’t wearing an abaya or a headscarf.