Passengers question American Airlines over plane's second mishap in two days

KANSAS CITY — Robyn Dickinson was looking forward to leaving the cold and ice of Kansas City for a vacation on the balmy shores of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

But not long into American Airlines Flight 1592 on Thursday morning, she noticed a blue plume of smoke near the cockpit and smelled diesel fumes. She watched as flight crews shot each other looks and spoke in hushed tones on an in-flight telephone.

Then she felt the plane turning — back to Kansas City International Airport.

And she learned the same thing had happened the day before. Same plane, same flight.

“The pilot came on and told us right then to prepare for an emergency landing. He apologized to any passenger who had been on the same flight yesterday … that it was probably the same problem, that the landing would probably be the same, with fire engines and ambulances around — just in case.

“Then he told us to brace ourselves for a hard impact.”

Dickinson, 29, grabbed her husband’s hand and started praying.

“Everybody stopped talking. … It was so quiet,” she remembered. “It was pretty scary.”

But her husband, she said, was just “pretty mad they put us on a broken plane.”

The MD-80, with 139 passengers, landed safely 30 minutes after it had taken off.

Tim Wagner, an American Airlines spokesman in Fort Worth, Texas, said that although it was the same plane, flight and outcome Wednesday and Thursday, “the two incidents were not the same.”

The problem Wednesday, he said, was a compressor stall, “the equivalent of a backfire on a car.” Mechanics lubricated the blades inside the engine, a technique that usually eliminates the problem.

“But (on Thursday) the extra lubrication burned off and the odor was pulled into the aircraft,” he said.

It’s a sensitive time for American Airlines. Last week, the inspector general’s office of the U.S. Transportation Department released an audit report that faulted the Federal Aviation Administration for lax oversight of aircraft maintenance at American.

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