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Judge Dismisses $100 Million Lawsuit over 1978 Air India Crash

November 1, 1985

SEATTLE (AP) _ A $100 million lawsuit against the Boeing Co. and two subcontractors over the 1978 crash of an Air India jumbo jet near Bombay has been dismissed in a ruling that blamed the pilot instead.

″We’re pleased with the court’s decision,″ said Bill Mellon of Boeing. ″We believe it’s consistent with the company’s position throughout the entire litigation.″

The case arose from the Jan. 1, 1978 crash of a Boeing 747 shortly after takeoff from Bombay on a flight to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. All 213 people aboard were killed.

Relatives of the victims sued Boeing, Lear Siegler Inc. and Rockwell International Corp., contending that a cockpit instrument, an attitude indicator, malfunctioned and gave faulty readings of the Air India jet’s roll and pitch. Lear Siegler made the instrument and Rockwell made the central instrument warning system.

Officials for Boeing and the subcontractors asserted that the pilot, Madan L. Kukar, was a diabetic who had been dieting and drinking alcohol and thus might have become disoriented.

Kukar had been grounded in 1975 for uncontrolled diabetes and excessive drinking, said U.S. District Judge James M. Fitzgerald of Anchorage, Alaska.

Kukar ″should not have been flying at all,″ the judge ruled.

″(He) became completely disoriented and relied upon his sensations, rather than his instrument references,″ Fitzgerald held. ″The condition of the pilot which brought about his disorientation led him to extraordinary control movements which caused the aircraft to be lost.″

Fitzgerald heard testimony in a non-jury trial in the summer of 1983 as a visiting judge in Seattle. The case was reopened in April 1984 to hear evidence on what lawyers for the plaintiffs said were problems with attitude indicators in Boeing jets near Zurich, Switzerland, and Vancouver, British Columbia. Neither of those cases involved a crash.

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