On December 31st, 2022, tragedy struck Alabama’s Montgomery Regional Airport (MBM), when a ground worker was sucked into the engine of an Embraer E175LR. After taking a few weeks to examine the circumstances surrounding this accident, the National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report.
The flight had otherwise been uneventful
The accident occurred after the aircraft arrived in Montgomery, where it had touched down after operating an American Eagle flight from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). The NTSB notes that there were 63 people onboard the flight, which was operated by Envoy Air: 59 passengers and four crew members.
Following the aircraft’s arrival, its engines remained running for a designated two-minute cooldown period. Meanwhile, owing to an inoperative auxiliary power unit (APU) onboard the Embraer jet, the captain signaled his desire for the aircraft to be connected to ground power once the parking brake had been applied at the gate.
Following this, he began the process of shutting down the plane’s right-hand engine, designated as number two. However, the NTSB reports that, during this time, a cockpit alert informed the pilots that the forward cargo door had been opened. This prompted the first officer to remind the ground crew that the engines were running.
Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying
With this in mind, the captain opted to keep the plane’s seatbelt sign on until it had been connected to ground power, and both engines had been shut down. However, shortly afterward, the left-hand (number one) engine performed an automatic shutdown, following a violent impact that caused the entire aircraft to shake.
This was the result of the accident involving the ground worker who was tragically sucked into the engine in question. The NTSB report gives further context to this, based on CCTV footage and testimony from other ground workers. It notes that the team had held a briefing before the aircraft’s arrival, in which it was reiterated that cones would not be set down until the engines had spooled down.
An aircraft’s upper rotating beacon light indicates that its engines are running. This reportedly stayed on the whole time in the lead-up to the accident. Despite this, and a warning from another ground handler, the NTSB reports that:
“The ramp agent from the back of the airplane reappeared walking along the leading edge of the left wing, and directly in front of the number one engine. She was subsequently pulled off her feet and into the operating engine.”
Photo: Catharine Pierce/Shutterstock
The NTSB adds that the victim had been moving “to set the safety cone at the rear of the airplane” at the time of the accident, despite the fact that this shouldn’t have been done until the engines had stopped running. In any case, as Simple Flying reported at the time, the tragic circumstances resulted in a temporary closure of the airport, which lasted until 20:30 local time. No one onboard was injured.
The Montgomery Advertiser has named the victim as 34-year-old Courtney Edwards. The local daily newspaper adds that an online fundraising campaign in her memory has raised almost $100,000 (against a target of $25,000). This will be used to cover her funeral expenses, and the raising of her three children.
Sources: Montgomery Advertiser, NTSB