My gosh, this is simply heartbreaking. What makes it worse is that this isn’t the first time in recent memory that something like this has happened.
San Antonio Airport worker dies while working Delta flight
On Friday, June 23, 2023, a ground crew worker at San Antonio Airport was ingested by the engine of a Delta Air Lines Airbus A319. This incident involves flight DL1111, operating from Los Angeles (LAX) to San Antonio (SAT), which touched down at 10:19PM. The flight was operated by a 19-year-old Airbus A319 with the registration code N370NB.
The employee didn’t work directly for Delta, but rather worked for Unifi Aviation, a ground handling company that Delta contracts to. Based on the preliminary report, the aircraft was taxiing to the gate with one engine on when the person was ingested by the engine.
Firefighters and police officers were called to the scene at around 10:25PM, and the incident is now being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). No information has been made available about the person who died.
In a statement, Delta has said that it’s “heartbroken and grieving the loss of an aviation family member’s life.” Meanwhile Unifi Aviation, the employer of the person who died, issued the following statement:
“Unifi Aviation is deeply saddened by the loss of our employee at San Antonio International Airport during a tragic incident in the late hours of Friday, June 23, 2023. Our hearts go out to the family of the deceased, and we remain focused on supporting our employees on the ground and ensuring they are being taken care of during this time.”
“From our initial investigation, this incident was unrelated to Unifi’s operational processes, safety procedures and policies. Out of respect for the deceased, we will not be sharing any additional information. While police and other officials continue to investigate this incident, we defer to them on providing further details.”
There are a couple of things worth emphasizing here:
- Under 24 hours after the accident, the company is saying that the accident was unrelated to the company’s “operational processes, safety procedures and policies” — I suppose that’s fair enough, because obviously something didn’t happen as it was supposed to, or else there wouldn’t have been a fatality
- “Out of respect for the deceased,” the company won’t be sharing any additional information; at this point the investigation is in the hands of the NTSB, so I guess it’s not on the company to comment any further
My thoughts are with the person who died, and their family. What a tragic situation.
What could cause something like this?
Aviation is so incredibly safe thanks to all the people who work hard every day to ensure that happens. It’s sad that working on the ground seems to be more dangerous than being on a plane.
We don’t have any details yet about how exactly this happened, other than the ground handling company stating that this was unrelated to the company’s “operational processes, safety procedures and policies.”
Jet engines produce a lot of thrust. Engine power is intentionally kept quite low on the ground (aside from when taking off on the runway), given the number of people and things on the ramp. Airlines sometimes taxi with one engine on to reduce fuel burn, meaning that engine requires a bit more thrust, but still, the thrust amount shouldn’t be dangerous in any way, as long as procedures are being followed.
What we don’t yet know is what wasn’t happening as it should. As the plane taxied to the gate, was the ground worker closer to the engine than they should have been? Did the ground worker approach the engine area too soon? Did the Delta pilots use more thrust than they should have? The NTSB will be investigating all of this, so we should have a clearer picture of what happened in the future.
Sadly this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen something like this, and it probably won’t be the last. In late December 2022, a ramper was ingested by the engine of an American Eagle Embraer E175 at Montgomery Airport in Alabama.
In that case, an NTSB investigation revealed that the plane had an inoperative auxiliary power unit (APU), so the pilots left both engines running for the required two minute engine cool down period. A pilot opened a cockpit window to remind the ground crew that an engine was still running, but at that point it was too late, as a ground worker had been ingested by the engine.
On Friday night, an employee for an airport ground handling company at San Antonio Airport was ingested by the engine of a Delta Airbus A319 that was arriving from Los Angeles. We don’t know many details yet, other than that the Delta A319 was taxiing to the gate with one engine on when this happened. I”m sure an NTSB report will reveal all the details of what happened.
My thoughts are with the the person who lost their life and their family. Ugh…