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Passengers climbing the stairs into an airliner are often subject to gusts of wind; I've had to hold onto my own scarf in the past.

It doesn't seem beyond the bounds of probability that a passenger's hat or scarf could be whipped off suddenly, to be deposited into a windmilling - or even idling - jet engine.

Has this ever happened?

I would imagine that the average hat or scarf would be better for an engine than a handful of good-luck coins.

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  • $\begingroup$ Elderly woman tosses coins into an engine for "good luck" (there are actually multiple instances of this happening)... and 747 sucks in a luggage cargo container. There are quite a few stories about passengers and propeller engines, but not a lot with jet engines. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Apr 21, 2019 at 3:44
  • $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer "Elderly woman tosses coins into an engine for "good luck"" I wonder if the same people who'd do that, do it before they get into a car or bus as well? Probably not, because if they did, they would likely quickly realize the error of their ways... $\endgroup$
    – user
    Apr 21, 2019 at 6:08

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If you are boarding with an engine running, it's going to be the one on the opposite side running with the one on the boarding side shut down. However, there's little doubt that items like that have flown off heads in high winds and drifted across to the opposite engine and been ingested, in all the millions and millions of flight hours over the decades.

In any case, something light enough to get carried off by the wind like that would just pass through the fan, or, if it was sucked into the core, get chopped to little pieces, burned and come out the back as ash particles. A large enough item would probably cause enough flow disruption to affect the engine's idle and give a turbine temperature spike, but it's unlikely to do significant damage unless it was, say, an entire coat or something, and that would required a mighty windy day.

What's biggest Foreign Object Damage threat to engines on the ramp? Luggage zipper tags.

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