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Thu, Apr 10, 2008

AAL Pilot Says MD-80s Suffer Chronic Maintenance Problems

December 2007 Incident Just One Example, He Claims

American Airlines Captain Sam Mayer has provided CNN with what the Allied Pilots Association says is an example of maintenance problems with the carrier's MD-80 series airliners.

Mayer says he heard a noise minutes after takeoff from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport one frigid day last December. The plane's nose gear would not retract, and as her circled the airport freezing temperatures and icy precipitation started to obscure the windshield.

"As we were running the emergency procedures, there was a pop," Mayer said. "Everyone's ears blew out. We realized that we had lost the pressurization of the aircraft."

Mayer managed a safe landing within a few minutes, and says the exterior of the jetliner looked like a "popsicle." He says the malfunctioning nose gear disabled the plane's anti-icing systems, and the wings and tail of the plane were freezing over.

Mayer says he called American's fleet manager and was assured the company was working on the problem. CNN says it has learned that American's MD-80s recorded 23 landing gear problems in the last few months, resulting in several emergency landings.

In February, the landing gear of American Flight 862 would not retract after the plane took off from Palm Beach International Airport in Florida. That MD-80 landed safely in Miami after spending two hours in the air burning off fuel.

In a statement to CNN, American says the airline has "identified three separate issues with retracting of MD-80 nose landing gear, each of which was related to extremely cold temperatures and precipitation."

But the pilots' union says the problem can't be strictly a cold weather issue, citing the Miami incident. It blames the airline and the FAA for not doing enough to solve the problem.

American charges its pilots are sharing "certain misinformation" with the media as a tactic during contract negotiations. The FAA says it's aware of cases in which landing gear on American MD-80s has failed to retract properly, but has, "determined that there was no safety concern."

As ANN has reported this week, American has cancelled over 2,400 flights in the past three days to conduct inspections of wiring bundles inside the maingear wells of its MD-80s.

FMI: www.aa.com, www.alliedpilots.org

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