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Wednesday
Oct032012

American Airlines Suffers Another Safety Scare; Talks to Resume with Pilots

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Another day, another safety issue has American Airlines under the microscope because of a mid-flight maintenance scare when a plane's landing-gear jammed after take-off.

Flight 1862 from Dallas to St. Louis had to return for an emergency landing 10 minutes into the flight Tuesday.  The passengers were told to brace for a crash landing at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Jim Faulkner, an American Airlines spokesman, confirmed that the flight turned back to the airport without incident around 8:40 a.m. local time.  Passengers were put on another plane to St. Louis.

"When they said assume the position, it was scary," passenger Elaine Krieger said.

As passengers reflected on the incident, some were left to wonder whether the landing-gear concern was real, well aware of the airline's recent trouble with labor.

"Some people are cheering as we landed, and the rest of us are thinking, 'Is this a scenario they created, or was it real?'" passenger Jeff Estes said.  "Are they really heroes, or are they guys just creating a job action?"

After a tumultuous week of seats becoming loose, flipping over in mid-flight in one case, American Airlines has announced that it will resume stalled contract negotiations with its pilots' union as early as Wednesday.

The developments could lead to a breakthrough in a rocky standoff between the nation's third-largest carrier and its pilots.  Thomas Horton, CEO of American parent AMR Corp., said Tuesday in a statement that he was pleased that "intensive bargaining" was scheduled to begin this week.

"It has been a very challenging couple of weeks for our company.  As you know, our operations have experienced significant disruption, affecting our customers, our people and our owners," Horton said.

Nearly half of American Airlines' fleet of Boeing 757s -- 47 jets -- were taken out of service earlier this week to make sure that no more of its coach seats came loose in flight, as they now have three separate times.  As of Wednesday morning, many of the planes are now back in service as the airline said the loose seats were a result of human or mechanical error and not sabotage.

The airline said a saddle clamp was improperly installed on the planes where the seats disengaged.  The latest reported incident of loose seats occurred on a flight from Vail, Colo., to Dallas on Sept. 26, the New York Post reported Tuesday.

Flight 443 from New York's John F. Kennedy Airport to Miami had to return to JFK Monday when the loose seats were discovered, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.

The earlier reported incident took place Saturday night when seats came unbolted on American Airlines Flight 685 from Boston to Miami.  The flight was diverted and made an emergency landing at JFK.

The FAA said in a statement Tuesday that it was looking into the first two incidents and that the airline's initial inspection of each aircraft had found other rows of seats that were not properly secured.

"Preliminary information indicates that both aircraft had recently undergone maintenance during which the seats had been removed and re-installed," the FAA said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio