Air India
The engineer was sucked into a plane engine at Mumbai airport on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015.Videograb

Air India has suspended the pilot and the co-pilot following the death of a service engineer, who was sucked into the engine of the plane. The two pilots were to fly from Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai to Hyderabad.

The incident occurred at bay 28 of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Airport at around 8:40 pm on Wednesday. 

Air India ordered a probe into the death of the engineer, Ravi Subramanian. "Initially it seems that there was some communication gap," Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani said, according to India Today.

Besides, Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and the Mumbai police are also investigating the incident independently.

The 56-year-old, who was standing close to the engine, got sucked into it and died after the co-pilot "mistook a signal for starting the engine".

"During the pushback, the co-pilot mistook a signal for engine start. As he switched on the engine, it sucked in the technician standing nearby," PTI had quoted its sources as saying.

However, a Hindustan Times report suggested that the accident took place due to ignorance of the standard operating procedure (SOP).

According to a leaked email from Air India, acquired by the national daily, the wheel braking systems weren't in place, at the time of the accident, to prevent the plane from moving. Also, the pilots started taxiing the plane even before receiving signals of clearance from the engineers.

"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.

If the negligence on the part of the pilots is proved, the case may be treated as that of criminal negligence. "Before the aircraft begins to taxi, the pilots need to check again if both sides of the plane are clear," HT quoted an official as saying.

Meanwhile, Air India Chairman Lohani announced a compensation of "an ex-gratia amount of Rs 5 lakh and a job to the family of the victim".