Lapses by pilots led to death of AI technician, investigators conclude

  • Tushar Srivastava, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 24, 2016 08:12 IST
The final investigation report submitted to the aviation ministry and accessed by (AFP)

A major rostering lapse, which resulted in pilots reaching late for their flight by over an hour had resulted in the death of an Air India (AI) technician, who was sucked inside the aircraft engine at the Mumbai airport on December 16 last year, investigators have concluded.

The technician, Ravi Subramanian, died on the spot — his limbs and head were shredded — as he stood with his back towards the aircraft without realising that it had started to move.

The final investigation report submitted to the aviation ministry and accessed by HT lists a series of lapses, including a terrible rostering error, which led to the tragic accident.

Before operating the Mumbai-Hyderabad flight, the same pilots had operated a Rajkot-Mumbai flight.

While the flight to Hyderabad was scheduled for departure at 7.30 pm, the one from Rajkot was scheduled for arrival only at 8.10 pm — which meant that pilots were already 40 minutes late for their next flight.

A further delay resulted in the Rajkot flight arriving at 8.35 pm. “The crew took a jeep and rushed to bay V28L to operate AI 619 Mumbai-Hyderabad. Pilots reached cockpit at 8.38 pm. Pushback commenced at 8.45 pm,” according to the report.

The aircraft began taxiing with the pilots not realising that four ground personnel were still around the nose of the aircraft. While Subramanian, who had his back towards the plane and headphone on his head, was sucked in, others managed to run away.

The co-pilot told investigators that the ground personnel had given clearance followed by thumbs up.

“However, as per the statement of chocks helper and tow truck driver, the deceased engineer had neither shown thumb or pin to pilot, nor had any other person,” the report said.

Air India did not offer comments for the story.

Sources said Air India chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani had ordered a complete overhaul of the airline’s rostering system after the accident.

The report has listed several other violations.

As the pilots were running late for the flight, an off-duty AI pilot travelling as a passenger to Hyderabad obtained air traffic control clearance. HT had first reported about it on February 5. The aircraft maintenance engineer was missing and “was not near the aircraft for pushback and departure,” the report said.

“Non adherence to SoP (standard operating procedure) and delayed departure of flight due to improper rostering of crew resulted in the accident,” according to the report.

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