|Updated: 10/02/2012 11:59 pm
||Published: 10/02/2012 9:41 pm
American Airlines has grounded half of its Boeing 757 fleet after seats came loose while in flight on three AA flights tossing passengers around.
While most of those jets are now back in service, Tulsa AA maintenance workers said they will not take the blame.
The local 514 Transport Workers Union said Tulsa workers are now fixing an issue caused by others.
The TWU said problems like loose seats happen when you outsource work.
While AA seeks to exit bankruptcy this is another blow to AA maintenance workers who are fighting for their jobs.
When passengers on an American Airline Boeing 757 took off from Boston, they thought they were headed to Miami. Shortly after takeoff three seats in row 12 came loose.
"The seats flipped backwards. It was actually a complete nightmare. People were essentially on the laps of the passengers behind them,” said a passenger who didn’t want to be identified.
The pilot diverted the flight to JFK Airport.
In the past week, there were two other AA flights with similar problems. Two of the planes had to make emergency landings.
American said it’s a saddle clamp.
“You have a foot on each side. Front and rear and it goes into the aircraft and gets locked down. If installed correctly it's not going to move,” said TWU Local 514 Chairman of Maintenance John Hewitt.
American planned to inspect eight of its planes but said 47 757's with a similar Model Main Cabin were going through inspection. Eleven are left to be inspected.
"It's about passenger confidence now,” said Hewitt.
An Associated Press report links work on the seats to the Tulsa base. The local TWU said it wasn’t their fault and blames outsourced work to TIMCO in North Carolina.
“You didn't hear about any problems with seats coming loose until it started being contracted out,” said Hewitt. "We take great pride in our work, we are highly trained, highly experienced and we would never allow shoddy maintenance to go on."
The airline now admits the work is not connected one particular base or contractor.
"For the company to infer that it was some type of maintenance problem growing out of the Tulsa, that's an insult to all of these employees,” said Hewitt.
Now Tulsa workers are flying out to fix what they believe the contractor caused.
"As long as we are doing the maintenance here at American Airlines they can feel confident about climbing onto the aircraft," said Hewitt.
A spokesperson for American Airlines no flights were grounded except for the two diversions and no flights were canceled or delayed because of the inspections.
AA Released this statement after TWU released a statement on the issue:
“Overnight, a group of engineers, tech crew chiefs and inspectors from American's Tulsa Maintenance Base evaluated airplanes at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport while other airplanes were inspected at other facilities around the country. Originally, American planned to evaluate the seats on eight Boeing 757 airplanes, but out of an abundance of caution, the decision was made to proactively evaluate a total of 47 Boeing 757 airplanes that have the same model Main Cabin seats with a common locking mechanism. Thirty-six airplanes were evaluated by maintenance personnel overnight and another 11 airplanes will be evaluated to finish the inspection.
“American's internal investigation has focused on one of three types of Main Cabin seats on the 757s and how the rows of these three seats fit into the track that is used to secure the rows to the floor of the airplanes. Our maintenance and engineering teams have discovered that the root cause is a saddle clamp improperly installed on the foot of the row leg. These clamps were used on only 47 of our 102 Boeing 757 airplanes.
“The issue does not seem to be tied to any one maintenance facility or one workgroup.
“The FAA is aware of our internal review and its findings, as well as the steps we are taking to proactively address the issue. We continue to work closely with the FAA.
“American regrets the inconvenience that this maintenance issue may have caused customers on affected flights. Safety is – and always will be – American's top concern.” – American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely