Friday, June 02, 2017

Ground staff sucked into engine: Probe report says pilots must be in cockpit 20 minutes before departure

NEW DELHI: India's serious aircraft accident investigator has asked Air India to ensure that its crew (read pilots) board aircraft at least 20 minutes before departure time and that a minimum time gap of 30 minutes be kept between two flights — an incoming and departing one — if crew from the former have to be used to operate the departing flight. The Aircraft Accident Investigation Board (AAIB) has also asked AI to ensure that in the absence of pilots in cockpit, another pilot of the same airline who is travelling as a passenger on that flight should not be allowed to get flight (pre-take off) clearances.

These recommendations have been made in the AAIB probe report of an accident in which an AI ground service engineer was sucked into the engine of an Airbus A-319 that was to operate from Mumbai to Hyderabad as AI 619 on December 16, 2015, at Mumbai Airport. The engineer had died on the spot.

The three-member AAIB probe panel of its senior officials Raje Bhatnagar, K Ramachandran and Amit Gupta, has also asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to immediately ask airlines to have proper time gap for crew rostering.

These recommendations have been in the recently-released report that found the exact cause for the unfortunate loss of life of the AI ground engineer. "On December 16, 2015, AI Airbus A-319 aircraft VT-SCQ was scheduled to operate flight AI-619 (Mumbai - Hyderabad). Both the cockpit crew were earlier scheduled to operate Mumbai- Rajkot-Mumbai on A-320 aircraft and Mumbai- Hyderabad -Mumbai on A-319 aircraft," it says.

The expected time of arrival of the Rajkot-Mumbai (AI-656) was (Rajkot - Mumbai) was 8.10 pm but the aircraft landed and reached its parking bay that day at 8.35 pm. The Mumbai-Hyderabad flight had a schedule departure time of 7.30 pm, which was delayed as the pilots supposed to operate this flight had not landed in Mumbai in time.

"Thereafter both cockpit crew got down from the (Rajkot-Mumbai) aircraft and rushed to... operate AI-619.... another pilot of Air India who was staff off duty (SOD, seated in passenger cabin) and was on board the flight AI-619, as passenger took clearance from ATC.... before the PIC entered in the cockpit.... Pushback was started at around 8.45 pm," the report says.

The engines were started after taking clearance from ground service engineer during pushback. At this time, four persons were on ground for departure of the aircraft — the deceased service engineer, an engineering helper, another helper and tow truck operator. Then the process of preparing the aircraft to taxi out on its own power began.

"As per the statement of the helper and tow truck operator, the deceased ground service engineer removed the nose wheel steering pin and was standing at the same position.... Meanwhile, the aircraft started moving with engine power. The deceased engineer was standing at the same point, facing back towards the aircraft with headsets on his head, not realising that the aircraft has started moving. The aircraft number 2 engine came very close to the deceased engineer and sucked him," it says.

All the other ground personnel ran away from the aircraft and the tow truck driver towed the tow truck away from the aircraft leaving tow bar. The nose wheel of the aircraft hit the tow bar and the tow bar got stuck with the right side main landing gear wheel. The pilot heard 'thud' sound twice and immediately stopped the aircraft.

"He also stated that someone from right side came running towards the aircraft and signalled to shut off the engine. The pilot shut off number 2 engine first and then number 1 engine. Later after nine minutes ground personnel connected the intercom headset and appraised the pilot about the situation," the report says. The accident happened at around 8.48 pm and the engineer received fatal injury.

The AAIB concluded that this accident and resultant loss of life happened due to "non-adherence to standard operating procedures and delayed departure of flight due (to) improper rostering of crew." 

Original article can be found here:

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