The pilot and co-pilot of an Air India plane involved in last night's freak accident at the Mumbai airport where a technician died after getting sucked into the engine have been grounded even as the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau launched a probe. Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani, who rushed to Mumbai this morning for an on-the-spot inquiry, said, "initially it seems that there was some communication gap." He, however, refused to go into the details of what could have possibly caused the mishap described as a "serious accident."
The rare mishap had occurred during push back for departure when the co-pilot of Mumbai-Hyderabad flight 619 allegedly mistook a signal for starting the engine and Subramanian, who was standing close, got sucked into it at bay 28 of the Chhatrapati Shivaji airport around 8.40 pm. The pilot and the co-pilot of the Airbus A320 plane have been derostered after the mishap, a senior Air India official said. Lohani announced an ex-gratia of Rs five lakh and a job in the airline to a family member of service engineer Ravi Subramanian.
"This is a serious accident and Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau has taken up the probe," a senior civil aviation ministry official said.
AAIB, a dedicated entity to investigate accidents, functions under the Civil Aviation Ministry. Manned by employees from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the bureau was carved out of DGCA in 2012. An aircraft parked in a bay cannot reverse on its own and has to be pulled by a tow vehicle. It was during the push back that the engine of the plane got started, violently pulling into its innards Subramanian, who was standing dangerously close. His body was so badly mutiliated it could not be sent for post mortem examination.
"We have lost a family member. An ex-gratia amount of Rs 5 lakh has been given to the family. We have also offered a job to the family of the victim," Lohani told reporters in Mumbai.
Earlier in the day, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma said a three-member committee led by Lohani and top officials of DGCA had rushed to Mumbai. "It is very sad. We have lost a young engineer. A committee has been set up to investigate the incident and it has already started the probe," Sharma said in Delhi. He, however, refused to elaborate further, saying that "it will be too premature to comment until the findings of the probe are out".