American Airlines' fleet modernization requires expensive upgrades at Tulsa maintenance base

Associated Press

American Airlines' massive maintenance base in Tulsa faces some expensive upgrades to keep up with a modernization program that has transformed the carrier's fleet into one of the youngest and most fuel efficient in the industry.

The city and American Airlines are in the early stages of a discussion about the improvements. Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said the fleet modernization program creates new opportunities and new demands for the maintenance base, the Tulsa World reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/1EAUc0X ).

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"The chance of increased employment at the American Airlines maintenance base is very good if those changes occur, and it does look like they're going to occur," Bartlett said.

The city of Tulsa owns the land and most of the buildings at the maintenance base where American Airlines employs 5,500 people. No timeline, dollar amount, funding sources or allocation of costs between the city of Tulsa and American Airlines have been determined, Bartlett said.

Positioning the Boeing 737-800 as the "workhorse" of its new fleet has been a principal part of American's aircraft modernization. American plans to take the previous backbone, the McDonnell Douglas MD-80, totally out of service by 2018. Some Boeing 757s and 767s are also being retired.

Those three types of aircraft represent the majority of work in Tulsa, said Dale Danker, president of Transport Workers Union of America Local 514, the industrial union that represents employees at the American maintenance base.

The future of the Tulsa maintenance base would be in question if the facility isn't upgraded to be able to handle the new aircraft American Airlines is introducing to its fleet, the Boeing 737-800 and Airbus 319, 320 and 321, Danker said.

"The Tulsa base needs a lot of money spent on it to upgrade it to fit the newer fleet," Danker said.

The docking that goes up against the airplanes when they are being worked on, the engine test cells and bench test equipment all need upgrading to work with the new aircraft, Danker said.

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Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com