The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a preliminary report about a horrible accident that happened on New Year’s Eve at Montgomery Regional Airport in Alabama. A ground worker was sucked into an American Eagle jet engine.
The accident report tells for the first time in detail how the female ground worker died. It seems that she got too close to the moving jet engine of an Embraer ERJ-175 regional jet that was being flown for American Airlines by Envoy Airlines.
After a smooth flight from Dallas, the plane had just touched down in Alabama when the pilots decided to keep the engines running. Usually, the engines could be turned off earlier, but in this case, the auxiliary power unit (APU) was broken, so the engines had to keep running until the plane was hooked up to ground power.
After getting to the stand, the pilots told NTSB investigators that they decided to keep the engines running for a full two minutes so that the plane could cool down as it was supposed to. During this time, the worker on the ground was killed when she fell into the left engine.
Due to the risk of engine ingestion, this is a very dangerous time for ground workers. There are a lot of safety rules in place to keep workers from getting too close to an engine until it is completely turned off.
Investigators have been helped by video surveillance footage that shows the whole accident, as well as the testimony of the pilots and other people who were on the ground at the time of the crash. The dead ground worker was seen walking toward the back of the plane, where another ramp worker told investigators that she almost fell over from the force of the engine exhaust.
He tried to tell her to stay back, but surveillance footage showed that she started walking toward the left tip of the wing and then disappeared. She showed up on camera again as she walked in front of the left engine, where the power of the jet pulled her off her feet and sucked her into the engine.
The whole thing happened so quickly that at first the Captain didn’t know what had happened. The first sign that something was wrong was when the plane “vibrated violently” and the left engine shut down by itself. The Captain then left the cockpit and found out that the worker on the ground had been killed.
The other people on the flight team told the NTSB that they had a safety briefing together 10 minutes before the plane got to the gate. Then, just before the plane arrived, they had a second “huddle” to talk about safety. They talked about how the engines would keep running and how no one should get close to the plane.
In this briefing, workers on the ground were told not to move toward the plane with safety cones until the engines were turned off. The surveillance video seemed to show the two people who died taking a safety cone to the back of the plane. The upper and lower aircraft beacon lights were flashing before the fatal crash. This is a key sign that the engines are running.
The accident didn’t hurt any of the 59 people on board or the four people working on the plane. After being grounded for a few days, the plane went back into service on January 8. It is still flying for American Eagle. The NTSB didn’t say when they thought the final report would be out.
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