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The employee, who was locked inside United Express flight 6060, was unharmed, even though the flight reached an altitude of 27,000 feet, according to WBTV Charlotte. The employee in question also refused medical treatment after workers at Washington-Dulles International Airport discovered him in the cargo hold when the flight landed.
That airplane left Charlotte-Douglas International Airport at 2:54 a.m., and landed at Washington-Dulles at 4;16 a.m., according FlightAware, an airplane tracker. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates Washington-Dulles, told Fortune that the appropriate authorities were notified about the incident after the flight arrived at Dulles airport.
It's unclear whether the incident was an accident. But, United Airlines said in a statement that it is looking into the incident.
The cargo hold was temperature controlled and pressurized and the employee is safe, a United Airlines representative wrote in a statement. We are continuing to look into what happened.
A United Baggage Handler Took an Unexpected Flight in a Cargo Hold
Reginald Gaskin normally just loads the suitcases or packages onto aircrafts at the North Carolina airport where he works as a baggage handler. But on Sunday, he ended up being taken for a ride after a regional flight took off with him still inside the cargo hold. He emerged — unharmed — over an hour later in another state.
On Tuesday, aviation authorities said they are investigating how Mr. Gaskin, 45, made the journey in the hold of United Express Flight 6060. The flight left Charlotte-Douglas International Airport at 3 p.m. on Sunday and landed at Dulles International Airport in Washington at 4:16 p.m., flight records show.
“It certainly does not happen often,” Kathleen Bergen, a regional communications manager for the Federal Aviation Administration, said in a telephone interview. She added that the department was “looking into the event.”
Another of the administration’s communications managers, Ian Gregor, said in an emailed statement that the department would determine whether the baggage contractor, G2 Secure Staff, has proper procedures to ensure personnel are out of the cargo hold before the doors are closed, and whether the procedures were followed.
Rob Yingling, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, said operations officials, the police and fire personnel were sent to the gate where the aircraft landed. The authority conducted a brief investigation to ensure there was no security breach, he said, adding that the man was not hurt and no criminal charges were filed.
It was not immediately clear how Mr. Gaskin ended up undetected in the aircraft, an Embraer 170 operated by Mesa Airlines that reached up to 27,000 feet during the flight.
United Airlines, which said the cargo hold was temperature controlled and pressurized, said in an emailed statement on Tuesday it was continuing to look into what had happened.
Mr. Gaskin could not be reached by telephone on Tuesday, but he was quoted by The Washington Post on Monday as saying: “I thank God. He was with me.” He also said a lawyer had advised him not to discuss the matter anymore.
As the flight arrived in Dulles, emergency dispatchers, who had been alerted by airport workers in Charlotte that Mr. Gaskin might be aboard, questioned whether the hold had been pressurized or whether the person inside was truly an airport employee, NBC reported, citing dispatcher recordings.
G2 Secure Staff did not return voicemail messages on Tuesday seeking comment about Mr. Gaskin’s employment and training, or the procedures that were followed. Mesa Airlines did not return voicemail messages.
Federal authorities were scheduled to speak with Mr. Gaskin on Tuesday, Mr. Gregor said.
Cargo workers have unwittingly been taken for rides before. In 2015, Alaska Airlines said a flight to Los Angeles returned to Seattle after the pilot heard banging in the bottom of the aircraft. It was coming from a ramp agent who told officials he had fallen asleep before takeoff and had awoken when the plane was in the air, the airline reported.
Stories of stowaways generally involve a person intentionally and secretly boarding a plane to evade authorities, risking their lives in the wheel well or other areas of an aircraft.
In 2016, the bloodied body of a stowaway was discovered in a compound near the nose landing gear of a cargo jet in Zimbabwe during a refueling stop.
In 2014, a 16-year-old boy who spent five hours in the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines flight from California to Hawaii survived, enduring altitudes of 38,000 feet and subzero temperatures, Time reported.
Baggage handler trapped in plane's cargo hold on DC-bound United flight
United Airlines is investigating how a baggage handler became locked inside the cargo hold of a plane at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on New Year's Day.
Reginald Gaskin, an airport luggage handler, was working at the Charlotte hub Sunday when he somehow became trapped in the cargo hold of United Express flight 6060, operated by Mesa Airlines.
Unable to escape, Gaskin spent the entire flight to Dulles International Airport in WashingtonD.C., (a journey of about an hour and twenty minutes) in the cargo area, reports Fox 5.
The incident has since been ruled as a accident but was initially investigated as a potential security threat after the baggage handler could be heard saying in an audio recording among dispatch workers that he had forgotten his airport identification.
Initially, no members of the flight crew recognized or remembered seeing the trapped worker, prompting further security concerns that a stowaway may have snuck aboard the plane.
United was later able to verify the man's identity as a Charlotte airport vendor and released a statement: "United Express flight 6060 operated by Mesa Airlines from Charlotte Douglas to Washington-Dulles (IAD) landed safely at IAD yesterday. Once at the gate, an employee of the airline's ground handling vendor was found unharmed in the aircraft's cargo hold. We are looking into what happened."
According to Fox 5, the baggage handler reportedly works for G2 Secure Staff--a company that provides aircraft ground handling and ramp services. Upon landing in the nation's capital, Gaskin appeared to be unharmed and refused a medical examination.
A United Airlines representative was not immediately available for comment.