Journalists from around the globe last Monday finally made it to Tulsa last after the ripple effect from weather around Dallas caused massive delays around Dallas Fort Worth. But eventually we all arrived and embarked on a two day journey of Tulsa and Oklahoma City's aerospace bastions.
The largest being American's massive maintenance base in Tulsa -- a staple in the city since the 1940s. Spanning 300 acres and 3.3 million square feet, work performed by American technicians focues on the carrier's Boeing 737s/757s and MD-80s. The work scope also includes powerplant, landing gear and component repair, and a composite centre housing an antoclave that strategically positions Tulsa to potentially land maintenance of American's 787s due for delivery beginning in 2014.
American and its 6,800 employees in Tulsa represent an anomaly among airlines by performing a majority of its own maintenance, rather than outsourcing. The carrier is also starting a measured push to grow third party business, with prime targets being its fellow oneworld alliance carriers. American has already performed work for fellow oneworld carrier Cathay Pacific and plans to start work on some Japan Airlines' 767s being returned to lessors. American even counts Aeromexico -- a member of rival SkyTeam -- as one of its third party customers.
American spends roughly $80 million with Oklahoma-based vendors annually -- and Tulsa also looks after its flagship employer. In 2003 American received about $23 million to preserve jobs and purchase through Tulsa's "Vision 2025" package featuring minor increases to sales taxes to offer economic incentives and fund capital improvments.
The throughput rate at American's Tulsa base in 2010 included 549 heavy and light modificaitons and checks and 248 individual landing gear overhauls.
Currently one of American's largest projects in Tulsa is a retrofit of 76 older Boeing 737-800s to add 12 additional economy seats for a total of 160. The reconfiguration also makes those aircraft uniform with the interior of current delivery -800s. It's not clear how American plans to balance current and retrofit interiors on the -800s, with the new Sky Interiors offered by Boeing. American is due to take delivery of its first aircraft featuring the new "Sky" package later this month.
Here are a few shot I hastily took while scribbling notes at American's Tulsa site, whose interior is rarely photographed. They include seat refurbishment shots, a thrust reverser snapshot and other pix.