Preliminary report released on fatal accident at Montgomery airport

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) — The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report on the deadly New Year’s Eve incident at Montgomery Regional Airport in which a member of the ground crew was “processed in the engine” of a parked aircraft.

The victim, since identified as Courtney Edwardsa 34-year-old mother, was part of the ramp crew for Piedmont Airlines, a subsidiary of American Airlines, when she was killed in the incident.

Courtney Edwards was named as the victim of the fatal New Year's Eve industrial accident in…
Courtney Edwards was named as the victim of the fatal New Year’s Eve industrial accident at Montgomery Regional Airport.(Doniel Prophete)

The NTSB report describes several safety protocols that appear not to have been followed that could have protected those near the aircraft from injury or death. The report indicates that two safety meetings were held shortly before the plane arrived, including a “huddle” just before it reached the gate, to remind the crew that the engines would continue to run and that the plane should not be launched during that time. approached.

American Eagle flight ENY3408 arrived from Dallas Fort Worth to Montgomery Regional Airport around 2:40 p.m. after an uneventful flight, the report said. The flight crew decided to run both engines for the required two minute cool down period.

After the plane stopped and the parking brake was applied, the captain gave a hand signal to connect the plane to ground power because it was not equipped with a working auxiliary power unit on board, the report said.

As the captain began to shut down the engine on the right side, a warning in the cockpit indicated that the forward cargo door was open, prompting the aircraft’s first officer to open his cockpit window to inform the ramp agent that the engines were still running .

Shortly thereafter, the captain saw “a warning light illuminated and the aircraft shook violently, followed by the immediate automatic shutdown of number 1 engine”, which was located on the aircraft’s left wing.

The NTSB report notes that the series of accidents was captured on surveillance video. The camera filmed four ramp officers during the incident, including one who “appeared to walk to the back of the plane wearing an orange safety cone where she disappeared from view”.

Part of the report detailing the victim’s final moments notes:

“The ramp agent from the back of the plane reappeared and began to move away from the plane to the left wingtip, where she disappeared from the camera’s field of view. The marshaller was seen backing away from the open forward cargo door of the aircraft and the platform officer from the rear of the aircraft reappeared along the leading edge of the left wing and directly in front of the number one engine. She was then pulled upright and into the working engine.

The video also showed another missed safety protocol, to be left behind while the plane’s flashing light was still on.

“During the accident, the aircraft’s upper flashing light appeared to be on,” the report said.

No date has been given when the final report will be released. The NTSB read the airline’s manual as part of its investigation, which notes the following:

The American Eagle Ground Operations Manual, Revision 3 of July 13, 2022 states, among other things:

“To keep workers alive and planes intact, you will:

NEVER approach an aircraft to position ground equipment adjacent to an aircraft or open cargo bed doors until engines are shut down and beacons are turned off, except when performing an approved single engine turn.

Jetblast/shot zones

Jet engines run at high speed and are extremely dangerous until they are washed off. The area in front of the motor is called the shooting zone. The recording zone for all aircraft types is 4.5 meters. You must never enter the intake area before the engine has been turned off.

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The engine must be rinsed before entering the ingestion zone. This can take between 30 and 60 seconds, depending on the aircraft type. This applies to both wing and fuselage/tail engines. You have to wait until you can clearly see the individual fan blades before entering the intake zone.”

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