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posted: 10/1/2012 6:31 PM

Loose seats spur inquiry by FAA, American Airlines

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The Federal Aviation Administration and bankrupt AMR Corp.'s American Airlines are investigating how a row of seats came loose on a flight, forcing an emergency landing.

Three passengers on the Boston-to-Miami flight on Sept. 29 were relocated until the Boeing Co. 757 reached New York's Kennedy airport, where there was a 3-hour, 40-minute delay until travelers were placed on another plane, Andrea Huguely, an airline spokeswoman, said Monday.

The seats "were loose on the tracks, and if you sat in them they jiggled," Huguely said. "They didn't come apart, they were not moving around the cabin. It's too early to tell why, when or how this happened."

American has been plagued by flight delays since mid- September, when it began imposing cost-cutting contract terms on pilots and announced plans to lay off more than 4,000 mechanics and other airport ground workers as part of its restructuring. The third-largest U.S. airline filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 29.

The FAA was notified by American and is investigating the seat incident, said Lynn Lunsford, a spokesman. Fort Worth, Texas-based American already was under stepped-up oversight while in court protection, a standard FAA procedure. Outside contractors also worked on the Boston-to-Miami jet recently, moving seats to create more legroom, Huguely said.

An American flight to Dallas/Fort Worth from Chicago was diverted to St. Louis today when the first officer became ill, Huguely said. Another pilot on board took over the first officer's duties, said Mary Frances Fagan, a spokeswoman.

Flight 2309, a Boeing MD-80 with 140 passengers and five crew members, landed in St. Louis at 10:51 a.m. Dallas time. The ill pilot was taken by ambulance to a hospital, Fagan said. A new cockpit crew was assigned to the plane and the flight continued.

American's on-time arrival rate for 585 flights tracked Monday was 67 percent at 1:35 p.m. New York time, according to industry researcher Yesterday's rate was 55 percent, compared with 87 percent for Delta Air Lines Inc. and 79 percent for United Continental Holdings Inc.

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