FAA probes flight that went on after crew reported blast

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating an incident onboard an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Paris in which a Miami-based captain continued the 10-hour flight even after crew members heard what they believed to be an explosion in the cargo hold 14 minutes after take-off.

Unknown until the plane landed in Paris: the access panel to the air conditioner had ripped off during the flight.

If the pilots had known, ''they obviously would have returned'' to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport,'' Jim Kaiser, American's manager of flight operations quality control and Chuck Harman, American's 757/767 fleet captain, wrote in an e-mail to American's pilots Wednesday, defending the captain's actions. ''This captain did exactly what we want our captains to do,'' they wrote.

About 10 to 14 minutes after American flight 48 departed DFW April 20, and had climbed about 10,000 feet, ''the crew in the back of the plane felt a very strong vibration from underneath,'' and notified the cockpit, according to an e-mail from an unnamed flight attendant. About six minutes later, the flight attendants, along with the passengers, heard ''a loud explosion,'' according to the e-mail. A crew member told the Miami-based captain, Steve Kantlehner, what they had heard and felt. The captain decided to fly the 10 hours to Paris, rather than return to Dallas-Fort Worth to check out what the noise was, the flight attendant said.

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