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More Turbulent Times For American Airlines With Loose Pilot’s Seat

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — American Airlines had another midair seat problem with a flight headed to Miami but the airline is confident it’s close to solving all the problems despite the cancellation of dozens of flights.

Thursday night, Flight 469 from Philadelphia to Miami International Airport was delayed about 80 minutes because of a mechanical issue involving the pilot’s seat. Flight 469 is a Boeing 737, so “this was unrelated to the 757 seats issue,” said a statement from the airline.

This comes as dozens of flights are cancelled or delayed across the country and here in South Florida as the airline scrambles to fix seats on its fleet of 757’s that could pop loose during flights.

A statement from the airline Friday said, “We have identified the issue and our maintenance teams are securing an FAA-approved locking mechanism to make sure no seat can be dislodged. Repairs are complete on 40 of the 48 aircraft. All of our 757s will be back in service by Saturday.”

The seat repairs, however, could inconvenience thousands of passengers. American said the work caused it to cancel 50 flights on Thursday and 44 on Friday. Each 757 that American operates in the U.S. has 188 seats.

In South Florida, 37 American Airlines flights out of Miami International Airport were cancelled Friday.

25 of them were arrivals and 12 were departures. The airline would not confirm that these cancellations are related to the loose seat problem.

Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport said there were no cancellations.

Click here to check MIA Flight Tracker information.

It’s the latest black eye for American parent AMR Corp., which is operating under bankruptcy protection and trying to fend off a takeover by US Airways Group Inc. Flight cancelations and delays surged in September, which American blamed on a slowdown by pilots who are unhappy that American canceled their labor contract.

Since last week, seats have come loose on three American Airlines flights involving 757s that had been recently refurbished. The seats had been removed and reinstalled as part of the work.

Federal officials said they are continuing a safety investigation into the events at the nation’s third-biggest airline.

American originally said the problem was due to a clamp that holds rows of seats to tracks on the aircraft floor.

But officials offered a new explanation Thursday, saying that a combination of wear, poor design and even soda spilled into the tracks caused pins to pop out of the grooves.

The airline has used the same seats for 20 years without incident until now, said David L. Campbell, American’s vice president of safety.

“The fundamental design of this seat is not as robust as some of the latest designs,” Campbell said in an interview.

A spokesman for the seat manufacturer, Weber Aircraft LLC, declined to comment beyond saying that his company is still investigating.

A spokesman for American said later that Campbell agreed that removing and reinstalling the seats might have hastened their failure to stay in place.

Campbell said the new fix will consist of installing an additional locking mechanism that was designed by American’s engineers and approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA issued a statement saying that it approved of American’s decision to conduct more inspections. The agency said its safety investigation was continuing and it would “take additional action as appropriate.” The agency is likely to examine whether American adequately inspected the seats after the cabin-refurbishment jobs.

Todd Curtis, a former safety engineer with Boeing and director of the Airsafe.com Foundation, said American made the right decision to inspect more planes once it discovered the extent of the problem.

No other airlines have reported loose seats. United Airlines doesn’t use the same seat, and US Airways uses different hardware to mount seats, said officials for those carriers.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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