sample frame from video of accident

I'm sure we've all seen the famous video of the Navy sailor getting sucked into an engine.

Can someone explain how was this possible? I've read many comments but still don't have a visual idea how exactly was this possible. If you can use an engine diagram/image I would appreciate it for a better understanding.

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    $\begingroup$ No, we haven't all seen the video. Could you summarise the event so that this question is complete in itself? Questions should not depend on off-site resources to be understood. In this case, you should identify the aircraft involved, and explain what happened. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 4 at 8:54

3 Answers 3


The A-6 intakes are not that large. He did not go all the way down the pipe, but instead got wedged in. The sparks and whatnot coming out the exhaust was due to his headgear getting sucked off, and that went all the way in.

“What allowed him to survive was the design of the A-6 engine (the J-52). It has a long protruding ‘bullet’ or cone that extends in front of the first stage fans. “When he was sucked in, his arm extended above his head which caused his body to wedge between the bullet and inside wall of the intake.”


enter image description here

(image from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum) https://airandspace.si.edu/collection-objects/grumman-6e-intruder/nasm_A19940152000

  • $\begingroup$ I'm interested in whether this was a design consideration, if that's answerable. $\endgroup$
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Apr 2 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ @JimmyJames - Given all the other fighter jets with much larger diameter intakes, I doubt "ground crew Ingestion prevention" was a design consideration. F-16/15/14....all have bigger pipe cross sections. There was at least one guy that was killed being sucked into an F-16. upi.com/Archives/1983/01/20/… $\endgroup$
    – WPNSGuy
    Commented Apr 2 at 22:12

enter image description here

Image taken from here

The reason that the petty officer survived is that the inlet duct is quite long (the whole body did not get sucked in, only from the waist up) and the engine stalled immediately because of the disruption of the airflow.

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    $\begingroup$ ohhh ok, so he never passed trough the engine blades???? I was totally unaware of that because i saw something accompanied with flames spitting from the back of the engine and I thought that was him. $\endgroup$
    – Gabe
    Commented Apr 2 at 14:50
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    $\begingroup$ @gabe the engine stalled for lack of air pretty quickly, but it still would have had fuel flowing briefly. That fuel along with the sailor's loose hat will be in a hot environment at the tailpipe and igniting. Just like an old automobike backfiring with excess unburnt fuel exiting via its exhaust. $\endgroup$
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 3 at 1:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Gabe that was his helmet. $\endgroup$
    – Raydot
    Commented Apr 4 at 21:52

The issue is large pressure gradients around the engine inlet when the engine is operating at full power. These create ingestion dangers around the intake as far away as 15-20 ft directly in front of the intake and extend to the sides of the intake as well. If your body enters this space the gradient creates enough force on you to push you off your feet and draw you into the engine.

The video below (1:20 in the timeframe)is an example of a near tragedy which happened in 2006 launching a F-14D. I’m not sure what happened here, but the shooter told the pilot to go to full power while the holdback petty officer was doing his final checks of the launch bar, Catapult shuttle, and hold back bar prior to launch. Note the way this guy ducks down to avoid getting sucked into the engine. I imagine the airboss chewed out that shooter for that!


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