Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Air India Flight 855
The aircraft used was VT-EBD, a Boeing 747-237 named the "Emperor Ashoka". It was the first 747 delivered to Air India. When it was delivered in April 1971, Air India had proudly proclaimed it as the "747th wonder of the world", and in keeping with their Maharaja motif, used the tagline "Your Palace in the Sky" to describe this wonderful new aircraft with an astonishingly detailed external paint scheme and equally fascinating interior design.
Departures from Bombay's Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport's main runway, Runway 27 take the aircraft directly over the ocean which is less than a mile from the end of the runway. This flight was a night departure from Santacruz airport (as it was then called, while the city was officially known as Bombay) on 1 January. The Captain was the operating pilot.
Shortly after takeoff the aircraft made a right turn. When the aircraft was returned to normal level position, the captain's ADI (Attitude Direction Indicator) which was evidently malfunctioning indicated that the aircraft was still flying banked to the right. Assuming that the aircraft was still banked to the right, the Captain further corrected so the aircraft was flying now in banked to the left. However his ADI still showed the aircraft as banked to the right.
The Captain made a verbal comment about his ADI having "toppled" meaning that it was still showing the aircraft in a right bank. The First Officer whose presumably functional ADI was now showing a left bank, said that his ADI was also toppled. It is believed that the Captain took this to mean that both ADIs were indicating a right bank. It was after sunset and the aircraft was flying over a dark ocean with no ability to visually cross-check the actual horizon. The 747 did have third ADI in the center of the console, but it was evidently not consulted. The Captain continued to correct for his perception of the aircraft situation by further left bank and left rudder, causing the aircraft to rapidly lose altitude and crash into the Arabian Sea. All 190 passengers and 23 crew died.
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