Smoky Smell Lands Jet Back at SLO

An American Eagle commuter flight was forced to return Monday morning to San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport after a flight attendant smelled smoke in the lavatory, authorities said.


An American Eagle commuter flight was forced to return Monday morning to San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport after a flight attendant smelled smoke in the lavatory, authorities said.

Crew members landed the Los Angeles-bound jet safely in San Luis Obispo at 6:08 a.m., less than 25 minutes after takeoff, said Carolyn Huber, airport operations supervisor. She called the move "just a safety precaution."

"Airlines always err on the side of safety," Huber said, adding that no one was injured.

But an American Airlines spokesman said he's concerned about whether planes are receiving proper safety checks before they leave the ground. An American Eagle propeller plane was forced to return to the airport Aug. 4 because of an engine failure.

"Any time an incident like this occurs, it is a concern," said Dave Jackson, a spokesman at American Airlines' corporate headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. "We'll be studying if there's some sort of link."

American Eagle, a regional carrier, is a commuter subsidiary of American Airlines.

Thirty-seven passengers and three crew members were aboard Flight 3139 when it took off at 5:45 a.m. Monday, Jackson said. The plane holds 44 passengers.

About 15 minutes into the flight, a flight attendant noticed a "smoke smell in the cabin" of the Embraer ERJ-140, he said.

Jackson said the crew felt the safest option was to return to San Luis Obispo, where the airline has a maintenance hangar.

County firefighters stationed at the airport met the plane at the runway with three fire engines and two medic units, CDF/County Fire Capt. Don West said. They quickly determined there wasn't a fire, he said.

Jackson said it's unclear what caused the smoke smell.

CDF officials believe the plane's air conditioning system may have malfunctioned in mid-air, West said.

According to Jackson, the jet will remain grounded while American Eagle mechanics try to confirm the source of the smoke smell.

The plane's passengers were placed on later flights.

Monday's incident comes about two months after American Eagle crew members flew Flight 3004 back to the San Luis Obispo airport with only one engine.

The Saab 340 propeller plane's right engine began sputtering minutes after takeoff and the pilot turned it off, authorities said.

American Airlines later determined that the engine had overheated because of extra moisture, Jackson said Monday, a problem that usually affects newer engines.

"It's just the right combination of the conditions," he said.


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