American Airlines says the photo above is of the seat lock plunger mechanism it has mentioned in discussing the steps it is taking to prevent seats from becoming dislodged on certain Boeing 757 aircraft.
“American has instructed mechanics to pay particular attention to the seat lock plunger mechanism that secures the seat to the aircraft floor. Mechanics have begun taking steps necessary to ensure that no seat can become dislodged from its track. The work is expected to be completed after the 48 affected aircraft land at their next destination,” said American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely earlier today.
She explained: “After further analysis by our engineering team, the company is taking additional preventative steps to enhance the locking mechanism features used to secure the seats to the aircraft floor.”
As a consequence, she says: “Some select flights may be delayed or canceled in order to complete this work. We expect this work will be completed by Saturday, October 6. We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience this may cause with their travel plans. The safety of our customers and people as well as the reliability of our fleet, is always of utmost priority to American. We have confidence in our highly skilled maintenance and engineering teams as well our contract maintenance providers who have worked on all of the 757 aircraft involved. We continue to work closely with the FAA to resolve this matter.”
Yesterday, American said improperly installed saddle clamps on certain Boeing 757s was the “root cause” of why seats came loose on three flights. The incidents, which resulted in two emergency landings, prompted the carrier to inspect a total 48 757s that carry the clamps.
American VP of safety Dave Campbell said in interviews that new seats on some of the carrier’s 757s have a different fastening system – instead of four bolts that are wrench-tightened, they are held in place by two bolts in back that are tightened with wrenches and two in front that are hand-tightened. The seats must be positioned precisely so that they lock into place.
Huguley has clarified Campbell’s comment, however, saying that “these are not new seats”.
American is in the midst of reconfiguring its 757s; the carrier has been removing a row of coach seats in order to add legroom to 20 rows of seats – all made by Weber. Huguley has stressed that the actual seats “are not the issue”.
Earlier this week, Jeff Johnston, president and CEO of Zodiac Seats US (which includes Weber), said: “We haven’t been asked to participate [in American’s investigation] and we haven’t been called in [in] any way.”
The Transport Workers Union of America, which represents aircraft mechanics and other maintenance workers at American, has launched its own investigation into problems related to the loose seats on recent flights. The union notes that much of the work related to seat installation on American’s aircraft has been done by an outside firm, TIMCO, rather than by maintenance personnel employed by the airline.
TIMCO says: “As a matter of policy, we generally don’t comment on work we perform on our customers. American has asked us to forward any inquiries to their media relations department. We definitely do work for and with American but beyond that I can’t address some of the work we’re doing and the events in the news.”
This article will be updated as more information becomes available.