A labor union representing flight attendants is backing one of their own amid a controversy involving a photo of the airline employee posing inside a plane’s engine.
The Spirit Airlines flight attendant, who has been identified as Ericka Paige Diehl, took the photo shortly before the aircraft's take off at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, according to reports. A passenger contacted a local TV station with concerns.
The airline said in a statement after the photo was brought to their attention that the "activity portrayed absolutely goes against Spirit policy," adding that it, "will be investigating further and take appropriate action."
However, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said that many airline employees have taken similar photos since "the dawn of the jet age" and there was no security risk for travelers.
"Flight attendants and pilots have been photographed with the engine as a celebration of the might of aviation," AFA president Sara Nelson said in a statement. "These images are iconic and common. The photos have become a rite of passage for crews. The only security risk here is for the flight attendant herself, whose name, age, and city have been broadcast in the media across the country."
Other flight attendants across the U.S. also backed Diehl, posting photos on Twitter of themselves inside of plane engines (as seen below) under the hashtag #FLYwithERIKA.
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said in a statement that the practice is not prohibited under its regulations, though the agency “discourages individuals without proper training or supervision from climbing onto any part of an aircraft.”
“As part of normal maintenance and inspection procedures, certified mechanics sometimes climb into these engines, which are designed to be structurally robust,” Cory added. “The FAA has been in contact with the airline that employs the flight attendant. The airline inspected the aircraft in question and found no damage.”
Diehl couldn't be reached for comment.