An American Eagle Embraer 170, similar to the aircraft involved in the incident.Photo: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images (Getty Images)
Last month, the National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report on a shocking incident that took place at Alabama’s Montgomery Regional Airport. On New Year’s Eve, 2022, an Envoy Air worker was killed after being sucked into the jet engine of an Embraer 170. NTSB investigators have now laid out the sequence of events that led to the accident.
The plane involved in the fatal incident had landed after a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Montgomery. While the American Eagle flight was uneventful, the Embraer’s auxiliary power unit (APU) was inoperative during the flight. The APU powers all of the aircraft’s non-propulsion equipment, including electrical, pneumatic and hydraulic systems. As a result, the pilots elected to leave the small airliner’s jet engines running until the plane was connected to ground power.
Reportedly, the ground crew was briefed twice that the plane’s jet engines would be running while the plane was parked. The first officer on the flight even reminded the ramp agents about this through the cockpit window. The NTSB report states:
“The ground crew reported that a safety briefing was held about 10 minutes before the airplane arrived at the gate. A second safety “huddle” was held shortly before the airplane arrived at the gate, to reiterate that the engines would remain running until ground power was connected. It was also discussed that the airplane should not be approached, and the diamond of safety cones should not be set until the engines were off, spooled down, and the airplane’s rotating beacon light had been extinguished by the flight crew.”
According to the NTSB, despite these multiple warnings, video surveillance footage from the airport shows the unnamed ramp agent walking around the Embraer airplane and stepping in front of the number-one jet engine while it was still running. The footage shows the agent being pulled off their feet and into the turbine. The pilots felt the plane shake violently, and engine number one automatically shut down.
According to other workers on the scene, the ramp agent had already been pushed over once by the engine’s exhaust and warned to stay clear of the engines before the fatal incident took place.
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The report notes that the American Eagle employee manual specifies “the ingestion zone for all aircraft types is 15 feet,” and that personnel should not enter the ingestion zone until an aircraft’s engine or engines have fully spooled down and come to a stop.
The NTSB’s findings are preliminary, and more information may come to light as the investigation continues.