Aviation Accidents

Air India Flight 855: A Tragic Accident Caused by Human Error and Instrument Malfunction

On January 1, 1978, Air India Flight 855 crashed into the Arabian Sea just two minutes after taking off from Mumbai, India. The Boeing 747 was en route to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with 213 passengers and crew on board. All were killed.

The cause of the accident was a combination of human error and instrument malfunction. The captain of the aircraft, Captain P.S. Bhagwat, had over 18,000 hours of flying experience. However, he was also known to be prone to spatial disorientation, a condition in which a pilot loses their sense of balance and orientation.

During the takeoff, Captain Bhagwat became disoriented and mistakenly believed that the aircraft was banking to the right. He responded by using the flight controls to correct the perceived bank, but this actually caused the aircraft to bank further to the left. The aircraft rolled over 108 degrees and crashed into the sea.

air india flight 855 web featured
Flight 855 A Tragic Accident

An investigation into the accident found that the instrument malfunction had also contributed to the crash. One of the aircraft’s attitude indicators, which measures the aircraft’s orientation in space, was not working properly. This caused Captain Bhagwat to be even more disoriented and make the wrong control inputs.

The accident was a tragic reminder of the dangers of spatial disorientation and instrument malfunction. It also highlighted the importance of crew resource management, which is the process of pilots and other crew members working together to safely operate an aircraft.


  • Flight 855 – Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_India_Flight_855
  • How An Instrument Malfunction Downed An Air India Boeing 747 45 Years Ago: https://simpleflying.com/air-india-flight-855-crash-anniversary/
  • Air India 855 Flight Analysis – AviationKnowledge: http://aviationknowledge.wikidot.com/aviation:air-india-855-flight-analysis
  • Image source: By Michel Gilliand – Gallery page http://www.airliners.net/photo/Air-India/Boeing-747-237B/0574902/LPhoto http://cdn-www.airliners.net/aviation-photos/photos/2/0/9/0574902.jpg, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27063890
  • Map source: https://maps-mumbai.com/mumbai-outline-map