A leaked internal email from a private airline has indicated that non-adherence to the standard operating procedure (SOP) had led to the death of an Air India ground technician on Wednesday night.
The incident had occurred around 8.30 pm, when the Hyderabad-bound AI-619 was being pushed back for departure with more than 100 passengers aboard. A 1983-batch technician, Ravi Subramaniam, had been sucked into the engine, shredding his body in the process.
Expressing his condolences, Air India chairperson Ashwani Lohani announced an ex-gratia of `5 lakh and a job to Subramaniam’s next of kin on Thursday. “We have lost a family member. An ex-gratia amount of `5 lakh has been given to the family. We have also offered a job to the family of the victim,” Lohani said.
Subramaniam’s funeral will be held on Friday, he said, adding that a two-minute silence will be observed at AI offices across the network at 11 am.
The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau has launched a probe into the incident, and the aircraft pilot and co-pilot have been derostered.
The email, a copy of which is in HT’s possession, noted that no chocks were placed under the wheels of the aircraft to prevent them from moving, as required by the SOP. Also, the aircraft – an Airbus 319 – hadn’t received clearance from engineers before it began taxiing for take-off, it added.
The document was a compilation of information acquired from Subramaniam’s colleagues, who were present at the scene when the incident occurred. One of them, a helper, had escaped death by ducking when the aircraft started to move. “The helper removed the tow bar and, in all this time, the technician (Subramaniam) was facing the tow truck with his back to the engine. In the meantime, as per information, the captain received taxi clearance from the Air Traffic Control, and he was informed by the co-pilot that the [area around the] aircraft is clear,” the email read, adding that Subramaniam had headphones on when the incident occurred.
Meanwhile, an official said on the condition of anonymity that the role of the pilots will be looked into. “Before the aircraft begins to taxi, the pilots need to check again if both sides of the plane are clear,” he stated, adding that not following the process would amount to criminal negligence.
According to an expert, the aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) may also be hauled up in this regard. Stating that it was the AME’s job to alert the pilots and the technician, he said, “But it seems he was missing. You cannot leave the aircraft at the mercy of a technician.”
Fingers were also pointed at the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA), the nation’s air travel safety watchdog. “The safety management system should have been implemented. Had it been strictly put into practice by the DGCA, the accident would not have occurred,” said an official.