US Airways Ditching Fallout Hits American With Rafts

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American Airlines has decided that its possible failure to equip aircraft with enough emergency life rafts means that it will limit the number of passengers it carries on those aircraft until it knows exactly how many rafts it might need. That means American's Boeing 767-300 aircraft, which are configured to hold 236 people (including crew) and fly mostly trans-Atlantic routes, will hold no more than 228 people until the situation is resolved, probably by February. The FAA requires carriers to provide enough rafts to accommodate everyone on the aircraft even if one raft fails, and following a recent review of its own 737 aircraft American decided to investigate other aircraft in the its fleet. The airline added seats to certain 767s when it increased business-class capacity beginning in 2005. American told its employees in a note Tuesday that the safety of passengers had never been in danger, thanks to other available flotation devices available on the aircraft. Of course, survivability for ditching survivors may be improved for those who find themselves rafts when compared to those immersed in cold waters, clutching a seat cushion.

Boeing 767-300s make up almost 10 percent of American's 625 aircraft and crew will need training for the new rafts when they arrive -- they're expected at the end of the month. American's raft review comes just weeks after the Jan. 15 crash of US Airways Flight 1549 that successfully ditched in the Hudson River with no fatalities.