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Fri, Oct 05, 2012

Landing Gear Issue Forces AA Flight To Return To Dallas

Passengers Told To 'Brace For A Crash Landing,' But Pilot Landed Safely

Another American Airlines jet has been forced to return to its departure airport shortly after takeoff, but this time it was the landing gear that caused the problem, not the seats.

American has been closely scrutinized recently due to seats that were found to be improperly attached to the cabin floor on four airplanes. The issue prompted American to ground 47 of its 757s earlier this week for inspection.

On Tuesday, a flight which had departed from Dallas returned for an emergency landing 10 minutes after takeoff, according to a report appearing on ABC's Good Morning America. Passengers were told to brace for a crash landing, but the airplane landed normally with no injuries to any of the passengers. A landing gear warning light in the cockpit indicating that the gear was jammed precipitated the return to the airport.

But ABC reports that some passengers, aware of the labor issues between American and its pilots, were skeptical about the situation. Passenger Jeff Estes said "are they really heroes, or are they guys just creating a job action?"

A former American captain said that was extremely unlikely, but he did say it was obvious that, despite union denials of any orchestrated labor actions, the pilots were using their power to delay flights, demanding that minor issues such as broken coffee pots be addressed before the plane departs.

In a news release, the APA defended the pilot's actions. “After landing gear retraction, a warning light indicated an unsafe condition with the right main gear. Based on the aircraft’s aerodynamic performance and associated noise level, the captain suspected that the right main gear had not fully retracted,” said APA President Captain Keith Wilson in a written statement. “In accordance with the in-flight emergency checklist, the cockpit crew extended the landing gear. The crew then retracted the gear again, and the same unsafe condition was indicated with the right main gear.

“In the interests of safety, the crew declared an emergency with air traffic control and coordinated a return to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Consistent with emergency procedures, the captain briefed the three flight attendants via the aircraft interphone,” Wilson said. “Unless the captain instructs the flight attendants not to give the passengers a ‘brace’ command during an emergency, it is at the flight attendants’ discretion whether to do so. In this instance, the captain left that decision to the flight attendants, who proceeded to issue the command as an extra measure of safety. The ‘brace’ position is widely acknowledged to be an effective life-saving measure. The flight then landed safely without incident.

“We commend the cockpit and cabin crew for handling this safety-sensitive situation in a professional manner. While not routine, incidents like this do occur. When they do, our pilots—by virtue of our training and experience—deal with them in a calm, methodical manner.

“While we recognize that everyone is entitled to their opinion, we hope that all of American Airlines’ passengers understand that for our pilots, safety is paramount and will not be compromised,” he said.

FMI: www.aa.com, www.alliedpilots.org

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