Air India pilots suspended after worker 'sucked into engine'

Air India airlines aircraft are parked at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, India, Image copyright EPA
Image caption The accident happened as flight AI 619 from Mumbai to Hyderabad was being pushed back for departure

Air India has suspended a pilot and co-pilot after a technician was sucked into an aircraft engine in Mumbai.

The incident is being officially probed by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau, which functions under India's civil aviation authority.

The accident happened on Wednesday as flight AI 619 from Mumbai to Hyderabad was being pushed back for departure.

The PTI news agency said the pilots had started the engines prematurely after mistaking a signal.

The body of the victim, identified as Ravi Subramanian, was so badly mutilated that it could not be sent for post mortem examination, PTI added.

Air India chairman Ashwani Lohani told reporters in Mumbai that the incident seemed to have been caused by a "communication gap" but did not elaborate further.

The Times of India, quoting Air India sources, reported that the accident occurred on Wednesday evening when the co-pilot started the engine at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji airport. Mr Subramanian had been standing nearby.

The newspaper said the incident happened when the aircraft was being pushed back by a tow van from the parking bay before take-off.

"No one knew what happened. All of a sudden we heard that the technician has been sucked into the engine," the newspaper quoted an airline source as saying.

The state-owned national airline, which is battling huge debts and has not reported a profit since 2007, has previously been hit by technical glitches, delays and crew turning up late for flights.

In April, Air India removed two pilots from duty after they reportedly fought inside the cockpit just before takeoff from Delhi.

In 2009, pilots and cabin crew came to blows on an Air India flight from the United Arab Emirates to Delhi, with 106 passengers and seven crew on board.

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