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Can a human get sucked into the jet engine of a normal modern airliner? if so has it ever happened and what is the minimum or maximum weight that these engines can suck? As a safety measure, wouldn't light weight but high strength retracting safety covers that cover engines when the aircraft is parked protect both humans, equipment and engines? Of-course it would have to take into account the need to minimize weight. Also it could have the option to be controlled by the ground team supervisor remotely as an extra safety measure.

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  • $\begingroup$ Relevant: aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/9680/… $\endgroup$ – dotancohen Dec 13 '16 at 12:04
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, it has happened, and the resulting photos are pretty gory. Would've been quick, though, at least. message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=60975 $\endgroup$ – ceejayoz Dec 13 '16 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ I suppose then that airport design incorporates the sucktion powe of jet engines $\endgroup$ – securitydude5 Dec 14 '16 at 8:53
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    $\begingroup$ xkcd.com/1097 $\endgroup$ – v7d8dpo4 Dec 15 '16 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ It's actually more than just weight. Surface area and density would also play a part. A 100kg lead brick might be safe at a given distance (from pull) whereas a 100kg human might not. A 100kg human might be safe at a given distance that a 100kg hang glider would not. $\endgroup$ – Suspended User Dec 15 '16 at 20:06
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Yes. Human beings can get sucked into jet engines if they are close enough- this has happened multiple times in a number of aircraft ranging from A319 to A6E intruder.

However, it happens only in rare cases- usually in case of miscommunication or a mistake, when safety procedures are not followed. The following image shows the safety hazard area for aircraft engines.

Safety hazard

A warning poster, available from Boeing, reminds ramp and maintenance workers about the dangers of engine ingestion; image from Boeing Aero

In addition, the engines also have hazard-area warning decals on the nacelles to warn the ground personnel of the dangers.

Warning decals

Warning signs on engines; image from Boeing Aero.

As for the maximum weight that can be ingested, it will vary with the engines, though they have been known to ingest items from safety pylons to baggage containers, and of course people.

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    $\begingroup$ That first image is bad in a way. It has the "DO" list under the do not diagram and the "DO NOT" list under the do diagram. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Rubin Dec 13 '16 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ @KevinRubin You can always sue them for using bad infographics after you’ve been sucked in and died. ;) (+1) $\endgroup$ – e-sushi Dec 13 '16 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ True story: Boeing actually used a guy on a tether to collect the data to determine the radius of that safety arc, at least for the 737s. My father was the man on the tether. We used to have a video of it. $\endgroup$ – Kate Ebneter Dec 14 '16 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ Holy cow. Now there's a tether I'd want to quintuple-check before the test. $\endgroup$ – yshavit Dec 15 '16 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ @KevinRubin sounds like a job for ux.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$ – coburne Dec 15 '16 at 20:48
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what is the minimum or maximum weight that these engines can suck?

Quite a lot, considering they can ingest ramp equipment...

JAL 747 ingesting a baggage cart

Close up

This is a JAL 747 ingesting a baggage container.

Delta L-1011

Delta L-1011 doing the same.

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    $\begingroup$ They should really feed their planes more often! Maybe they wouldn't try to eat the containers $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Dec 13 '16 at 21:03
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    $\begingroup$ I like how the container almost perfectly fits in the engine. It really makes the picture work. Also do you have a link to more info on this incident? $\endgroup$ – David Grinberg Dec 13 '16 at 23:19
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidGrinberg considering some of the engine sizes on more modern jets, if this were to happen with a 777, 787, A380, or A350 then you would be looking at a shredded container and engine, not just a stuck container :) $\endgroup$ – Moo Dec 13 '16 at 23:23
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidGrinberg almost like they were designed for it, right? $\endgroup$ – jwenting Dec 16 '16 at 7:20
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    $\begingroup$ Were the engines functioning on idle or was the thrust enough to at least power the plane while taxing? $\endgroup$ – securitydude5 Dec 17 '16 at 19:53
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It's happened before, both with civilian and military aircraft.

This video was shot in 1991. Crews ready an A-6E attack aircraft for launch aboard Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) for a night sortie over Iraq during Operation Desert Storm when a fatigued green shirt walks in front of the port jet intake at full power. He is one of the few people who had this happen to them and live to tell the tale.

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    $\begingroup$ how can he survive such intense impact? $\endgroup$ – phuclv Dec 13 '16 at 15:54
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    $\begingroup$ @LưuVĩnhPhúc He was wearing a helmet, and it was a small intake. Lucky guy, for sure. $\endgroup$ – ceejayoz Dec 13 '16 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ The story was that his float coat, the life vest uniform that all flight deck hands wear, got snagged on an air date probe at the front of the intake duct, which prevented his body from being ingested into the compressor. Other parts of his kit came loose and were ingested into the engine as FOD, destroying it. He was very lucky, but got pretty badly banged up in the ordeal. $\endgroup$ – Carlo Felicione Dec 13 '16 at 19:59
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    $\begingroup$ Longer video on this incident: youtube.com/watch?v=GF3Iz7b95-8 $\endgroup$ – Bob Jarvis Dec 15 '16 at 12:29
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    $\begingroup$ @ceejayoz, the helmet was of no help (it got sucked off his head anyway). $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Jan 18 '17 at 18:52
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Yes. Here's an incident that happened at Mumbai (India) Airport in December 2015. A technician was sucked into the engine and killed.

A news report of the incident and AvHeald report for completeness

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A Vacuum Cleaner for an Intake

The A7-E was notorious for swallowing people on the carrier deck. In the picture below the Yellow Shirt standing in front demonstrates how low and large the intake to the turbofan engine is. There was a lot of activity on the deck especially during launches and recovery, and it was easy to step in the wrong place. We were always cautioned, over and over again, be aware of the intake.

Luckily most of the time I was around the A7-E it was not turning. I would do my preflight at the start of the flight. At the end of the flight, with the engine shut down, I would come down off the ladder and do the post-flight. I turned and headed around the nose, and worked my way back and around the air frame.

A7-E on the Carrier Deck

Danger Areas for Suction, Exhaust, and Radiation

The danger areas are shown in the diagram below, where:

  1. Yellow is idle power
  2. Red is military power
  3. The pink is the radiation (radar operating) danger area

Notice that the suction danger area at idle power extends out to 15 feet.

Danger Areas: Suction, Exhaust, and Radiation

Hot Seat and a Close Call

As deployment neared the operations at the field shifted over to carrier qualifications. When arriving aboard the ship a pilot would have to qualify by performing a number of day and night landings. Each pass we made at the ship was graded. We started practicing at the field, and the schedule might use a procedure known as hot seating to maximize the number of pilots trained.

A pilot would start the aircraft and head for carrier landing practice. The aircraft had been previously fueled to keep us somewhere below our maximum landing weight. This was around 5,000 pounds. The pilot would finish the required number of approaches and on the way back to the squadron's apron hot fuel at the airfield fueling area. The term "hot fuel" was used to describe that the aircraft was turning while getting fuel. Once back at the squadron the crew would chock and tie down the aircraft. The pilot remained strapped in with the aircraft turning at idle.

The next pilot to fly would meet the aircraft as it came in, and do his preflight inspection, being careful to stay away from the danger areas. We would duck under the tail, and not cross close in front of the aircraft. When the next pilot was ready they came up beside the cockpit ladder and exchanged hand signs with the seated pilot. The pilots would exchange places.

The pilot finishing would then do their walk-around for the post-flight check. One night, after getting down off the ladder I did what I routinely do, which is head around the nose of the aircraft. It was dark on the tarmac, and I hadn't finished one step before I felt a hand grab me by the survival vest and pull me back hard, almost off my feet. I owe my life to that Maintenance Officer.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why is the uncontained-engine-failure danger area only shown for the max-power condition, and not for idle? $\endgroup$ – Sean Apr 10 at 21:17
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    $\begingroup$ Not exactly sure, but I would guess because the area shown is the max area subject to the catastrophic failure, and at idle the area will be smaller. Again, not sure why. $\endgroup$ – Aaron Apr 11 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Sean the engine casing is strong enough to contain a turbine failure at idle, but at full power there’s so much energy it would rip straight through it. $\endgroup$ – Notts90 Jul 18 at 12:00
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Yes, humans can get sucked in. Yes, they have been sucked in. What can get sucked in is a factor of its size, surface area, and weight, (just like an airplane) but it really depends on the situation as to how an object comes to be ingested into such an engine. :-)

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I remember somebody being sucked into an engine in 1989 with the accident involving United Airlines flight 811. The forward cargo door blew out, causing the cabin floor to cave in.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Airlines_Flight_811 At least they found body parts in one of the engine - 9 people died in that incident. I remember it because it was en route from Hawaii to Auckland New Zealand (where I live) and a journey we had made several times.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm guessing OP is asking about it happening on the ground. It shouldn't be too surprising that a jet engine will suck in anything in its path while in the air. $\endgroup$ – fooot Dec 16 '16 at 2:32
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    $\begingroup$ @fooot yes, it would be a rare case where people are outside the aircraft fuselage during flight. Skydivers exit behind the engines, and emerjency eject/bailout routes would take engine intakes into consideration. $\endgroup$ – Criggie Dec 16 '16 at 3:01
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Great answers already here, I'll just address the "minimum weight" part of the question.

There is no minimum weight. Foreign object damage is a very serious safety concern in aviation, because an engine can suck up pretty much any random object.

I've seen the crowd addressed en masse in air shows to please mind their garbage for the safety of the performers.

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