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American to close St Louis pilot base in 2018

American Airlines will close its pilot base at Lambert-St Louis International airport in September 2018, 17 years after acquiring it as part of Trans World Airlines (TWA).

The Fort Worth-based carrier's move will impact roughly 180 pilots who fly the Boeing MD-80, a spokesman for American says. They will be all be offered positions at the airline's other bases.

The closure is the result of the continued drawdown of American's MD-80 fleet, and introduction of new aircraft, says captain Kimball Stone, vice-president of flight at American, in a letter to pilots today.

The airline plans to operate 26 MD-80s by the fall of 2018, the spokesman says. This is nearly half of the 46 that it flew at the end of September.

"With the continued retirement of [the MD-80] and with no flying for STL pilots to backfill, there simply isn’t enough flying to continue operating a pilot crew base in STL," says Stone in a separate question and answer note to pilots. "As our network and fleet continue to evolve, crew basing plans must evolve as well to meet changes in customer demand and the aircraft in our fleet."

American will replace MD-80s in St Louis with Boeing 737-800s, he says. There will be no reduction in capacity.

The airline is scheduled to operate up to 40 flights a day from St Louis through the end of the year, FlightGlobal schedules show. Of those, up to seven flights a day to Dallas/Fort Worth are operated by MD-80s.

Dallas/Fort Worth will be the only remaining MD-80 base in American's network from September 2018 until the type is retired from its fleet, a move that is scheduled by the end of 2019.

The Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents pilots at American, says they are in discussions with the carrier over the St Louis base closure and will monitor that it complies with the airline's pilots contract.

All of the impacted pilots are former TWA staff, who joined American through its purchase of the St Louis-based airline in 2001. TWA had 103 MD-80s in its fleet when the deal closed that April, the Flight Fleets Analyzer shows.

The St Louis pilot base closure has no impact on American's flight attendant and maintenance bases at the airport, Stone says.

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