The tragic incident is the first of its kind in the recent past at Kolkata airport. Spice Jet engineer, Rohit Pandey died at the Kolkata airport on July 9 after getting stuck in the flaps of a plane’s landing gear door. It has sent shock waves among the employees and officials of all airlines and at all airports across India. It’s high time for airlines to take his tragic death as a lesson and get back to the basic practices of aircraft maintenance.
Spice Jet engineer killed during aircraft maintenance
On July 9, the aircraft operating flight SG-3218 taxied out from apron and returned to bay number 32 at 3.55 pm at Kolkata Airport due to snag in Yaw Damper unit. The Q400 aircraft was parked for troubleshooting and rectification. As the rectification could not be completed by AMEs or licensed engineers during the day shift, the task was postponed to be carried out at night. Rohit Bhushan Pandey, a trainee technician, was doing maintenance work in the right-hand main landing gear wheel well area without any supervision by a trained or licensed engineer. Inadvertently, on pressurisation of the hydraulic system, the main landing gear hydraulic door closed and he got stuck in between the hydraulic door flaps. While other technicians who had assembled the flaps failed to open them for over 30 minutes, the young trainee died. Pandey’s head and left arm were stuck inside, while the rest of his body was left dangling outside with his feet barely touching the wheel. Fire brigade personnels broke open the door flaps to bring the body down
The incident immediately called for an investigation by the DGCA committee. Its report pointed out that the trainee was not trained and was carrying out work on the aircraft without any supervision by a trained or licensed engineer. And while he was doing so, an AME who was also attending to another snag on the same aircraft, pressurised the plane’s hydraulic systems to check the movement of flaps and spoilers in the landing gear and the trainee was killed after he got stuck between the hydraulic door flaps of the main landing gear. Whereas the DGCA findings will also be used by the local police to fix criminal negligence, the committee is likely to suspend the licence of the two licensed technicians who were on duty at the time of the incident and also of the maintenance repair and overhaul organisation to whom Spice Jet had outsourced the aircraft maintenance work.
Factors leading to the fatal incident
- Lack of training
- Unsupervised maintenance
- Unlicensed and unauthorized personnel
- Non-adherence to basic maintenance practices
DGCA guidelines for aircraft maintenance
‘Stick to the Standard Operating Procedure’ DGCA says
The DGCA has also urged all the airlines to ensure that more than one person is sent during maintenance work even in the in the dead of night. Also, one has to ensure optimum illumination in the area. It said that logbook entries must be maintained about every technician and the kind of work the person is doing during the period.
The tragic incident has put the scanner on airlines’ alleged practice of pushing engineers and technicians to work alone and under stringent conditions due to lack of man power. While airport officials have reported this as a usual practice at Kolkata airport, DGCA requests airlines to stick to the standard operating procedure. Of course, sending one technician to handle the overnight periodic maintenance work of an aircraft is absolutely a no-no according to the safety manual. Perhaps, Spice Jet has learned by now.