The opposing points of view on the incident were never fully resolved; consequently, several groups continue to dispute official reports and offer alternative theories of the event.The subsequent release of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 transcripts and flight recorders by the Russian Federation has clarified some details.If, however, the plane was more than 7.5 miles (12.1 km) from the flight-planned course line when the pilot turned the autopilot mode selector from HEADING to INS, the plane would continue to track the heading selected in HEADING mode as long as the actual position of the plane was more than 7.5 miles (12.1 km) from the programmed INS course line.The autopilot computer software commanded the INS mode to remain in the "armed" condition until the plane had moved to a position less than 7.5 miles (12.1 km) from the desired course line.KAL 007's divergence prevented the aircraft from transmitting its position via shorter range very high frequency radio (VHF).It therefore requested KAL 015, also en route to Seoul, to relay reports to air traffic control on its behalf.The INS (inertial navigation system) mode maintained the plane on lateral course lines between selected flight plan waypoints programmed into the INS computer.
The Soviet Union initially denied knowledge of the incident, The incident was one of the most tense moments of the Cold War and resulted in an escalation of anti-Soviet sentiment, particularly in the United States.
The autopilot system used at the time had four basic control modes: HEADING, VOR/LOC, ILS, and INS.
The HEADING mode maintained a constant magnetic course selected by the pilot.
At 28 minutes after takeoff, civilian radar at Kenai Peninsula on the eastern shore of Cook Inlet and with radar coverage 175 miles (282 km) west of Anchorage, tracked KAL 007 5.6 miles (9.0 km) north of where it should have been.
When KAL 007 did not reach Bethel at 50 minutes after takeoff, a military radar at King Salmon, Alaska, tracked KAL 007 at 12.6 nautical miles (23.3 km) north of where it should have been.