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Air India 855 Crashes Into Arabian Sea

By Patrick Mondout

On New Year's Day 1978, an Air India 747 with 190 passengers and 23 crew crashed into the Arabian Sea near Bandra, India shortly after takeoff killing all on board.

A faulty Attitude Director Indicator caused the captain believe the aircraft was not pulling out of a slight right turn at 2000 feet as much as he wanted. As it was a night flight in total darkness, the crew was unable to judge the horizon by looking out the aircraft. The flight engineer noticed his indicator and the pilot's were in disagreement and asked the pilot not to rely on his, but the captain continued to pull to the left until the aircraft entered a bank descent from which they were unable to pull out of into the the shallow water below.

This was the third worst aviation accident at the time.

Source: AAIB Circular 79-04, pages 23-25.

Air India 855 at a Glance
AirlineAir India
DateJanuary 1, 1978
Flight number855
Registration NumberVT-EBD
Crew Fatalities23 of 23
Passenger Fatalities190 of 190
Total Fatalities213 of 213

Air Safety References:
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Beaty, David. The Naked Pilot: The Human Factor in Aircraft Accidents. Airlife Publishing: England, 1996.
Cushing, Steven. Fatal Words: Communication Clashes and Aircraft Crashes University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1997.
Faith, Nicholas. Black Box: The Air-Crash Detectives-Why Air Safety Is No Accident. Motorbooks International, 1997.
Gero, David. Aviation Disasters: The World's Major Civil Airliner Crashes Since 1950. Sutton, 2003.
Job, Macarthur. Air Disaster (Volume 1). Aerospace Publications: Fyshwick, Australia, 1995.
Job, Macarthur. Air Disaster (Volume 2). Aerospace Publications: Fyshwick, Australia, 1996.
Job, Macarthur. Air Disaster (Volume 3). Aerospace Publications: Fyshwick, Australia, 1999.
Krause, Shari Stamford. Aircraft Safety: Accident Investigations, Analyses & Applications. McGraw Hill, New York, 1996.
Macpherson, Malcolm. The Black Box : All-New Cockpit Voice Recorder Accounts Of In-flight Accidents. New York: William Morrow, 1998.
Macpherson, Malcolm. On a Wing and a Prayer: Interviews with Airline Disaster Survivors. Perennial, 2002.
Owen, David. Air Accident Investigation, 2nd Edition. Motorbooks International, 2002.
Stewart, Stanley. Emergency! - Crisis on the Flight Deck, 2nd Edition. Airlife Publishing, England, 2003.
Walters, James M. Aircraft Accident Analysis: Final Reports. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2000.
Wells, Alexander T. Commercial Aviation Safety, 3rd Edition. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2001.


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Airline: Air India

Location: Arabian Sea, near Bandra, India

Aircraft: Boeing 747-237B

Date: January 1, 1978

Total Fatalities: 213 of 213

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