An investigation into last weeks emergency landing of an American Airlines flight due to rows of jet seats becoming loose, has led to the blame of spilled soda and coffee being the culprit.
Coincidentally, other American flights last week reported similar issues with jet seats becoming loose. Originally, the problem was blamed on a saddle clamp being installed wrong.
However, an investigation by the airline has found that over the course of time, soda and coffee being spilled and settling in the floor track and gears that hold the seats in place had gummed up in the clamps affecting their workability.
According to airline spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan the seat lock plunger mechanism can “get gunked up over time with people spilling sodas, popcorn, coffee or whatever and that can affect that locking mechanism on the ground that locks the seat to the floor,”
“My question is, why haven’t we seen this before?” said a skeptical Bill Waldock, professor and crash lab director at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott, Arizona, campus. “Did the gunk start building up and decide to falter in the planes at the same time? I kind of doubt that honestly.”
Waldock called the airline’s explanation “curious,” adding that it “seemed to be unique to the 757, and to the ones that they reconfigured.”
“What would make more sense is if (the seats) were improperly installed,” he said.
Nevertheless, the airline is taking extra steps like installing industrial-strength metal ties as a backup, aside from cleaning out the spilled soda from the linkage, to assure the seats do not become loose in the future, airline spokeswoman Courtney Wallace said.
American Airlines and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have an ongoing investigations into the incidents, while mechanics for the carrier are installing the extra locking mechanism to deal with the problem.