Baggage handler locked in jet's cargo hold


-- A lot gets carried in a plane's cargo hold, but US Airways is still against people, especially those still on the clock.

A baggage handler at Reagan National Airport in Washington was found locked in a US Airways plane's cargo hold before takeoff Monday, said Laura J. Brown with the Federal Aviation Administration. Employees were searching for their co-worker when banging was heard outside the fuselage, she said.

While loading a departing flight, the employee watched from inside the cargo hold as a co-worker closed the forward bin door from outside.

According to the FAA, within "a matter of minutes," a third employee arrived and questioned where the baggage handler was, because the handler also was expected to tug the plane away from the gate.

Upon opening his window, the first officer reportedly heard banging coming from inside the plane.

The worker was released and went on to operate the tug. The plane departed ahead of schedule.

Republic Airlines Flight 3336, listed as a US Airways flight, had 29 passengers on board and very few checked bags, Brown said.

Liz Landau, a spokeswoman for US Airways said, "The engines never started and (the plane) never left the gate."

It is not uncommon for baggage handlers to enter a cargo hold as part of their job, Landau said.

An investigation by US Airways is under way.