From time to time, I’ll be highlighting members of the American Airlines team who — from a customer perspective — work in relative anonymity, but whose contributions are critically important to our airline, and to you. This issue’s column is devoted to the 10,000 talented aircraft maintenance technicians whose commitment to our company — and, more importantly, to your safety — reflects the very best of American Airlines.
We have more than 750 jet aircraft in our fleet, and as you might imagine, each one has thousands of moving parts. Before every flight, a pilot looks over the airplane. Our mechanics perform a more detailed, general checkup of each aircraft every four days, a comprehensive “field check” every six days, and an in-depth “hangar check” every forty days.
After a specified number of operating hours or calendar days — which varies by the type of aircraft — each airplane gets a “major base check” at one of three Maintenance and Engineering bases located in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Fort Worth, Texas; and Kansas City, Missouri.
During that check, which takes between three and 30 working days, more than 100 mechanics spend up to 30,000 man-hours — that’s 15 man-years — making sure that everything is in perfect working order. They check the aircraft from nose to tail — dismantling it, inspecting every piece, and refurbishing or replacing any system, part, or component that does not measure up to our high standards. We estimate that each of our aircraft gets 14 man-hours of maintenance work for each hour of flight. All told, we will spend $2.3 billion on aircraft maintenance this year, or more than $3 million for each of our 750 aircraft.
The men and women maintaining our aircraft are highly skilled and rigorously trained. There are generally two routes a person can take to become a licensed Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT). The first is through a specialized technical school approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Students must attend a minimum of 2,000 hours (normally two years full time) of classroom training. The second is through on-the-job training. This route requires a minimum of 36 months experience in aircraft maintenance. This experience is usually obtained by serving in a military aviation program or as an apprentice.
Once an individual has been awarded an FAA-approved Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) license, he or she must pass a rigorous series of formal written exams, as well as hands-on oral and practical tests. Only then is a person a fully certified A&P technician.
It’s a long road, but once they join American Airlines, their education has just begun. We provide a full curriculum of aviation-maintenance training courses for our maintenance technicians, who collectively receive more than 700,000 hours of instruction, in the classroom and on the job, to make sure they can quickly identify and correct any mechanical discrepancy.
Everything that our mechanics do to every airplane is carefully recorded, so we have an accurate history of all the work that is done on each plane in our fleet. Even our most junior mechanics know they have the full authority, and our encouragement, to remove an aircraft from service if they think it does not measure up or is unsafe for any reason. Their performance, and that of their flight crew colleagues, is one of the many reasons we can say, with pride, that Safety First is the first rule at American Airlines.
We wouldn’t have it any other way, and we know you wouldn’t, either. Thank you for flying with us.
GERARD J. ARPEY
President & CEO