Air India's Kashmir Princess Crashes
The Air-India Constellation (named "Kashmir Princess") departed Hong Kong at 04:25 GMT for a flight to Jakarta.
On board were Chinese and east European delegates, mainly journalists, to attend the Asia-Afro Bandung conference.
Around 09:25 GMT, while cruising at FL180, a muffled explosion was heard and smoke entered the cabin. A fire erupted on the right wing behind the no. 3 engine. The no. 3 prop was feathered and an emergency descent was started. During the descent hydraulic failure occurred, followed by an electrical failure. A ditching was planned, but dense smoke entered the cockpit. The aircraft struck the water surface with the right wingtip and crashed.
It is thought that Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai was the target of this act of sabotage. His travel plans had been kept secret and he left China three days later.
On 11 April 1955, "Kashmir Princess" departed Hong Kong en route to Jakarta on a charter flight carrying a delegation of 8 crew, 8 Chinese diplomats and 3 European journalists heading to the Bandung conference. The flight was originally supposed to be carrying Chinese premier Chou En Lai, but he changed his travel plans at the last moment. One hour prior to landing in Jakarta, a explosive device with a timer exploded in the starboard wheel bay, causing a fire in the #3 fuel tank. The pilot was able to successfully ditch the aircraft on the high seas near the Natuna Islands. Three crewmembers escaped the wreckage and were later rescued by the Indonesian Coast Guard. All 16 others aboard, including Captain D.K. Jatar, drowned at sea. Captain Jatar later became the first civilian to be posthumously awarded the Ashoka Chakra for "most conspicuous bravery, daring and self-sacrifice". The assassination attempt on Chou En Lai was discovered to have been the work of the Taiwanese KMT, possibly with the aid of the American CIA.
On the night of April 11, 1955, the chartered Air-India flight was carrying Chinese and east European delegates, mainly journalists, from Hong Kong to Indonesia to attend the Asia-Afro Bandung conference. At about 18,000 feet, a time bomb detonated in the wheel bay of the plane, blowing a hole in the fuel tank. The flight engineer, the navigator and the first officer escaped. The remaining 16 passengers, including seven Chinese cadre and crewmembers, died.
Zhou, who was the main target, did not board the plane. His travel plans had been kept secret. The former premier did not leave China until April 14 when he flew to Rangoon to meet then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Burmese leader U Nu before going to Bandung.
The secrecy that surrounded Zhou's travel plans saved his life and doomed the Kashmir Princess. The same plane was scheduled to fly to Rangoon to pick up Zhou for his trip to Indonesia.
The aircraft departed Hong Kong at 0425 GMT carrying Chinese and Eastern European delegates, mainly journalists, to the Asia-Afro Bandung Conference in Jakarta. At approximately 0925 GMT the crew heard an explosion; smoke quickly entered the cabin from a fire on the right wing directly behind the No. 3 (or right inboard) engine. Upon hearing the explosion and seeing the fire-warning light for the baggage compartment come on, the captain shut off the No. 3 engine and feathered its propeller, fearing the engine would catch on fire. This left three engines running. The crew sent out three distress signals giving their position over the Natuna Islands before the radio went dead.
The captain tried to land the plane on the sea, but the depressurizing cabin and the failing circuits made that impossible. Additionally, smoke was seeping into the cockpit. Left with no other options, the crew issued life jackets and opened the emergency doors to ensure a quick escape as the plane plunged into the sea below.