American Airlines Continues MRO Insourcing Drive

American Airlines’ maintenance hub in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has received another boost following the airline’s decision to insource additional wheel and brake component maintenance.

Over the past two decades insourcing stories have been thin on the ground as both full-service and low-cost carriers have sought external providers for MRO work.

In 2018 the Transport Workers Union (TWU) claimed that among the five largest carriers in the U.S., Southwest outsourced 52% of its maintenance, United outsourced 51%, Alaska outsourced 49%, Delta outsourced 43% and American outsourced 33%.

The TWU also said that the amount of offshore heavy maintenance work for U.S. carriers had risen from 7% in 2003 to 24% in 2018.

AA claims to perform more work in-house than any other airline. In 2018 it insourced CFM56-5B engine maintenance, again at Tulsa, while last month it confirmed plans to hire an additional 165 technicians and support positions at the site to focus on interior modifications.

That followed an August announcement that it was looking to hire 400 new technical staff to aid MRO work related to new programs such as the Boeing 787 across its aftermarket network.

Meanwhile, Tulsa’s new wheel and brake work, for aircraft including the Airbus A319, A320, A321, A321neo and A330, as well as the Boeing 757 and 787, should require 30 new positions.

“This additional wheel and brake component work is great for the Tech Ops--Tulsa team,” said Erik Olund, managing director of base maintenance at AA.

Earlier this year, American and the city of Tulsa invested in a new tail slot modification for Hangar 2D at the base maintenance facility to allow space for larger aircraft.

In 2019, American has hired more than 1,000 maintenance technicians at its Tulsa Tech Ops unit, comprising both frontline team members and support staff. In total, the airline MRO employs more than 15,000 people.

Alex Derber

Alex Derber, a UK-based aviation journalist, is editor of the Engine Yearbook and a contributor to Aviation Week and Inside MRO.