AA Flight Returns After Suspected Tail Hit

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    An American Airlines flight on its way to South America was quickly diverted back to Texas after its crew suspected the tail of the Boeing 767 struck the runway on takeoff, officials said Sunday.

    American Flight 945 from Dallas-Fort Worth to Santiago, Chile, was turned around shortly after takeoff Friday night after the pilot suspected the tail strike, said Jim Faulkner, spokesman for the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline.

    None of the 170 passengers and 12 crew members aboard was injured, and they were accommodated while their plane was taken out of service, Faulkner said. A replacement jet was brought in Saturday morning.

    The Federal Aviation Administration was following up on the report, FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said.

    Passenger Rita May praised the crew for keeping the passengers informed on all developments.

    "They did a fabulous job on what was to me a very panicky group," she said in a telephone interview from Santiago, Chile.

    May, who said she takes that flight often, said she saw nothing unusual about the takeoff -- although in retrospect she said she thought the takeoff may have been a little steep. She said she briefly smelled the scent of fuel fumes before the scent dissipated. The landing was exciting, she said, "because we had so much fuel that there was a lot of momentum."

    Touchdown felt normal, but there was an unusually long, slow deceleration past lines of emergency vehicles, she said. Passengers seemed to keep their anxieties under control, she said.

    But all of the terminal bars and restaurants were closed by the time the passengers deplaned.

    "We were starving, and there wasn't a drink to be had," she said.