Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Throw Coins In An Engine

Given too much thought, worst-case scenarios about aircraft safety can get to the best of us. But, for a small number of passengers, airline safety procedures are not enough. There has been more than one case of incidents lately where lucky coins have been thrown into aircraft engines. The latest of which has landed a Chinese national with a hefty fine.

A320-200, Lucky Air
A man has been fined after throwing a lucky coin into the engine of a Lucky Air A320neo. Photo: FRED via Wikimedia Commons

Lucky coins bring bad luck to one unlucky airline

In early February 2019, we reported on a man detained by officials after throwing coins into the engine of a scheduled Lucky Air aircraft. 28-year-old Lu Chao threw coins into the engine of an A320neo that he was boarding in order to secure a safe journey. The incident was only detected when one yuan coin was found outside the engine. The flight was subsequently canceled and the aircraft grounded as maintenance workers searched and removed the other yuan coin.

That was back on 17th February 2019. Today the man has been charged.

This was the second coin-throwing incident to befall Lucky Air in as many years. However, the 76-year-old woman who initially grounded a Lucky Air airplane was not charged for her actions despite being investigated. The same was not true for Mr. Lu Chao.

Lucky Air had hoped to sue Lu Chao for a sum of $21,000 which would cover the more than $17,600 incurred in damages. Though it wasn’t quite the exact amount, Lu Chao has now been ordered to pay a fine of $17,300 to compensate Lucky Air. That’s on top of a 10-day detention by police. If there was ever an incentive to respect airline safety procedures, this is it.

Risking lives

But fear of receiving a substantial fine as well as police custody or jail time is not the only disincentive to obstructing an aircraft’s engine. It’s the safety aspect as well. Had the incident not been detected soon enough, the lives of all the passengers including Mr. Chao would have been at risk.

Lucky Air side profile close up
Had the aircraft taken off, there would have been a serious risk to life. Photo: Pixabay

Operating with foreign parts could have caused severe damage to the engine from component fracture to total engine shutdown. This is something that makes incidents of birdstrike so serious. The risk of damage from a lucky coin presents an unthinkable scenario.

Thankfully, in the three most recent instances of coin-throwing into an aircraft engine, none of the aircraft have ever gotten to that stage. The situations have all been detected early enough to prevent the planes from taking off. Perhaps this is where the luck of the coin-tossing superstition really comes into play.

Why do passengers rely on superstition?

However, despite the obvious dangers of such behavior, for first-time fliers like Lu Chao, it’s not clear why coin throwing poses such a risk. Surely, if Mr. Chao was aware of the dangers he would not have jeopardized his life. The same must be true for the two other women who have previously been involved in this act of luck accumulation.

As much as passengers should be taught to trust in the fortitude of an airline’s safeguarding procedures, it also bears onus on airlines themselves to educate passengers on correct practices. Lucky Air certainly cannot account for every single eventuality that a passenger might undertake. Coin throwing is not a completely common practice. However, it is a strongly held belief in China. Perhaps the airline should reinstate the posters about coin-throwing which were removed before Mr. Chao’s flight?

Departures sign at Chinese airport
Not all passengers will have flown before. Should airlines provide more safety information? Photo: Getty Images

What’s more flying is a relatively new practice in some parts of China. For a population of over one billion people, some of those living in particularly rural areas, it’s understandable that some passengers on China’s airlines will have never have flown before. They won’t be aware of commons practices let alone what could go wrong.

Understanding passengers and getting passengers to understand airlines in return looks like something that some air carriers will need to invest in more heavily for the future.

What do you make of this story? Let us know in the comments below!