Accident description
Last updated: 26 October 2014
Status:
Date:Sunday 1 January 1978
Time:20:41
Type:Silhouette image of generic B742 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Boeing 747-237B
Operator:Air-India
Registration: VT-EBD
C/n / msn: 19959/124
First flight: 1971-03-08 (6 years 10 months)
Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7J
Crew:Fatalities: 23 / Occupants: 23
Passengers:Fatalities: 190 / Occupants: 190
Total:Fatalities: 213 / Occupants: 213
Airplane damage: Destroyed
Airplane fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Arabian Sea, off Bandra (   India) show on map
Crash site elevation: -10 m (-33 feet) amsl
Phase: En route (ENR)
Nature:International Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Bombay-Santacruz Airport (BOM/VABB), India
Destination airport:Dubai Airport (DXB/OMDB), United Arab Emirates
Flightnumber: 855
Narrative:
New year's day 1978. It's 20:40 when Air-India flight 855 departs Mumbai Airport's runway 27 for a flight to Dubai. The Boeing 747-200, named "Emperor Ashoka", was cleared to climb to 8000 feet and report leaving 2400 feet. Approx. one minute after takeoff the plane enters a gentle right turn heading for the Arabian Sea. The Attitude Director Indicator (ADI) however remained in a right-bank indication, while the wings were already level. The captain then said: "What's happened here, my instrument...". The co-pilot didn't note the captain's concern and replied: "Mine has also toppled, look's fine." The flight engineer however noticed the difference between the captain's ADI and the third spare ADI. Because it was dark outside and the aircraft was over the Arabian Sea, there was no visual contact with the horizon. The captain continued to roll to the left because, looking at his ADI, he still thinks the plane is in a right bank. As the airplane rolled through 40 degrees left, the flight engineer indicated to the captain: "Don't go by that one, don't go by that one...". The plane however continued to roll to the left, to 108 degrees left bank. The 747 started to descend from approx. 2000 feet altitude until it crashed into shallow (10m deep) water, 3km offshore in an approx. 35-40deg nose down pitch.

PROBABLE CAUSE: "The probable cause of this accident was due to the irrational control inputs by the captain following complete unawareness of the attitude as his ADI had malfunctioned. The crew failed to gain control based on the other flight instruments."

Classification:

Loss of situational awareness
Loss of control

Sources:
» Aviation Disasters / D. Gero
» ICAO FILE NO. 78/1-0
» Jet-Airliner-Unfalle seit 1952 / J-A Richer, Chr. Wolf


Photos

photo of Boeing 747-237B VT-EBD
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Map
This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not display the exact flight path.
Distance from Bombay-Santacruz Airport to Dubai Airport as the crow flies is 1915 km (1197 miles).

This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Networkĺs opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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Boeing 747

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