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From: Mary Shafer <>
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military
Subject: Re: Infamous Suck Tape?
Date: 07 Oct 1998 11:12:12 -0700 writes:

> The video I saw (just once) showed a man working on the carrier
> deck.  He was sucked into the engine and it FODed out with
> a burst of flame.  His mates didn't know he was in the engine.
> He'd just been sucked in head-first and the sight was caught
> on the carrier video system.
> The other crew began to fight the engine fire with extinguishers
> and then he sort of tumbles out onto the deck and there is a
> "Where'd you come from?" response.  He was dazed, but alive.

This is exactly what I saw, both in slo-mo and at regular speeds.

> Supposedly his cranial (helmet) had FODed engine and stopped
> it before he was chewed up.
> I'd like to see the video again and study it more if I could
> find a source.

We had just such a chance in a short course, "Human Factors in
Aircraft Accident Investigations".  The instructor is an ex-NASA
employee who now works as an aircraft accident investigator (usually
hired by the insurance companies or the pilots families) and several
of the students had spent a fair amount of time working on the decks
of carriers.

The ship was in the middle of night carrier ops, trying to launch
every plane they could quickly, and this plane was a reserve bird,
which put the crew a little bit behind the power curve.  The
unfortunate fellow was on his way to the front of the A-6 and he took
the wrong route, which put him right in front of the inlet with the
engine in MIL, which it shouldn't have been at that point in the
evolution.  The aircrewman had turned slightly to glance into the
engine, something he'd done before.  Whoosh!  In he went, completely,
in just a blink of the eye.  The rest of the plane crew carried on
with what they were doing.  Almost immediately, first sparks and then
flames spat out the back of the engine.  Someone noticed this, not
quite immediately, and the pilot was signaled to shut it down while
the crew ran around with extinguishers.  Eventually, after what seemed
like forever but was actually about four minutes, the fellow backed
out of the inlet and fell on the ground, but no one noticed at first.
When they finally did notice, they rushed over, some going to him and
at least one other peering into the inlet.

The engine didn't stop until the pilot shut it down at the crew's
signal, although it was badly FODed.

The next thing on the video was the beginning of a broadcast on the
ship's TV channel, with the poor fellow, who wasn't actually injured,
and an officer, maybe the ship's safety officer, that was made a few
hours later.  The poor fellow was obviously totally out of it--he was
still trembling, he couldn't hear anything said to him, his eyes
weren't fixing on anything, and he really couldn't talk coherently.
We didn't get to see much more of the broadcast, as it had little to
do with the point the instructor was making, but it made a real

Here's the text of a post I made here fourteen months ago, just after
the class, when the topic came around on the newsgroup for the third
or fourth time.  I fished this out of Deja News with a power search,
using the key words "A-6" and "inlet" and specifying this newsgroup.
A similar search might not be too bad an idea for people with
questions to begin in general.

--Begin included text--

 Subject: Re: A-4
 From: Mary Shafer
 Date: 1997/08/18
 Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military
  On Sat, 16 Aug 1997 07:52:55 -0700, Walter Witherspoon <> said:

  W> lyle wrote:
  > I was watching a commercial the other day for a "Challenge of
  > Flight" video series, and they briefly showed an A-4 Skyhawk taxiing
  > along the deck and then some deckhand comes up and sticks his hand
  > in the jet intake, well before I could even register what was going
  > on the guy had been sucked into like a ragdoll and the hole side of
  > the fuselage blew up in a fire ball, and here comes the
  > un-believable part, after the explosion ended a sentence scrolled
  > across the screen and said "non-fatal" When those engines are
  > spolling isn't it pretty likely it will give you a fry job, or did
  > the thrust just suck him up and spit him out so fast he didn't have
  > time to get seriously injured, I've also heard stories about A-7's
  > but bone fragments were all they got back from that.

  W>   I have the whole "Challenge" series and the only "suck down"
  W> shown happens to an A-6, not an A-4.  A red shirt gets sucked down
  W> the left intake head first.  The engine immediately compressor
  W> stalls and throws a large fireball out the exhaust, along with
  W> sparks from damage caused by possible foreign objects or fan
  W> strikes.  The engine does not "explode", but with footage taken at
  W> night with a low light camera the fireball out the exhaust sure
  W> makes it look like it.  The footage does have the caption
  W> "non-fatal" which I find surprising but there have been ingestion
  W> incidents with survivors so it can happen.

  Not only was it non-fatal, but the guy climbed out himself (the rest
  of the crew didn't even know he was in there) and appeared, fairly
  shortly thereafter, on ship's TV in an interview with a safety
  officer.  His gyros were pretty obviously uncaged at that point.

  I saw the ingestion and interview video about six weeks ago, in a
  class on human factors in accident investigation.  Needless to say, we
  discussed it in some detail.

  The guy was supposed to do something at the nosegear (hook up the
  launch bar, maybe?).  Rather than coming in behind the inlet and then
  forward under the plane, he walked in front of the inlet.  He'd done
  this frequently, stating that he was even in the habit of actually
  looking at the engine as he went by.  This wouldn't have been a
  problem, except that the A-6 driver was in MIL power, I think because
  it was a reserve bird and he was scrambling to catch up for the
  launch, which he shouldn't have been at that time and place.  Anyway,
  the guy's cranial (and flashlight?) went through the engine and
  destroyed it, which is why he wasn't even injured, except for being
  snatched off his feet and dragged into the inlet.  His hearing was
  pretty bad in the interview, but we were told it recovered.  Anyway,
  the engine pretty much blew up and the rest of the crew were scurrying
  around, not knowing he was there, and he came climbing out very
  slowly.  He slipped out of the inlet, stood there for a second, and
  then collapsed.  About then, someone finally saw him and rushed to
  help him.

  The video is very deceptive, because it was really quite dark, rather
  than just dim, which you'd think from the tape.  That no one knew he
  was in there wasn't really surprising, according to other class
  members who had worked on carrier flight decks.

--End included text--

Mary Shafer               NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA
SR-71 Flying Qualities Lead Engineer     Of course I don't speak for NASA                               DoD #362 KotFR
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