Air India Flight 855 was a scheduled passenger flight that crashed in the evening of 1 January 1978 about 4 kilometers (1.8 statute miles) off the coast of Bandra, Bombay (now Mumbai), India. All 213 lives on board were lost. The crash is believed to have been caused by the Captain becoming spatially disoriented after the failure of one of the flight instruments in the cockpit.
The aircraft involved was a Boeing 747-237B, registration VT-EBD, named the "Emperor Ashoka". It was the first 747 delivered to Air India. When it was delivered in April 1971, Air India had 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 new aircraft with a detailed external paint scheme and interesting interior design.
The departure was from Bombay's Santacruz Airport, (now called Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport). The plane's destination was Dubai International Airport in Dubai, with Captain Madan L Kukar as the operating pilot.
Approximately one minute after takeoff from runway 27 the pilot made a scheduled right turn while over the Arabian Sea, after which the aircraft briefly returned to a normal level position. Soon the plane began rolling to the left, and never regained level flight.
The cockpit voice recorder recovered from the wreckage revealed the Captain made a verbal comment about his Attitude Indicator (AI) having "toppled", meaning that it was still showing the aircraft in a right bank. The First Officer, whose presumably functional AI was now showing a left bank, said that his AI was also toppled, but there is some belief that the Captain mistakenly took this to mean that both primary AIs were indicating a right bank. It was after sunset and the aircraft was flying over a dark Arabian Sea, leaving the aircrew unable to visually cross-check their AI instrument readings with the actual horizon outside the cockpit windows.
The 747 had a third backup AI i...