American Airlines’ maintenance base workers at Pittsburgh International Airport grinned and snapped photos Friday as the facility received the first of a new order of 100 Airbus planes – good news for the base that employs 500 people.
The airline designated its Pittsburgh maintenance base as the facility that will perform acceptance checks on fresh-from-the-factory arrivals of A321neos, which are new to American’s fleet. Seventeen are scheduled to arrive in Pittsburgh this year, with the rest of the order to come in future years.
“When American performs acceptance checks after taking delivery of a brand new aircraft, they go to one of our four heavy maintenance base locations. Tech Ops – PIT base was chosen due to their history, familiarity and great maintenance work on the Airbus A320F aircraft,” said American spokeswoman Linda Brock. “The A321neo is a variant of that fleet family, so it’s very similar to what they usually work on.”
The plane landed at a snowy Pittsburgh International on Friday after a nine-hour ferry flight from Hamburg, Germany. The new aircraft will spend approximately two weeks at the base undergoing general operations checks as well as installation of WiFi, computer checks and other customization modifications, Brock said.
American’s Neo has 196 seats, including 20 in first class. It’s designed to keep customers connected throughout their trip with high-speed Wi-Fi, power at every seat, live TV and other free wireless entertainment straight to each customer’s own device. Its first flights are scheduled for April from Phoenix to Orlando.
“This is good for our station. It’s good for everybody – the community, the employees. It shows we are still here and we’re still a valuable asset to the company,” said Mike Cicconi, grievance committee chairman for the local chapter of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents workers at the base.
“The talent is here. The expertise is here. We have a great track record,” said Cicconi, of Center, Beaver County, who has worked at the base for 30 years. “We’ve been doing maintenance here since the Allegheny Airlines days. We do everything in Pittsburgh. It’s a go-to station.”
The maintenance base at PIT was a piece of the former US Airways hub. But the base remained even as the carrier dramatically downsized its local operations and later merged with Dallas-based American Airlines. American extended its maintenance base hangar lease with the airport in 2015 through the end of 2020.
The local maintenance base has earned a reputation as being among the best in the business, with some of the longest-tenured mechanics in the system.
In 2018, the Tech Ops – PIT team worked on 400 aircraft, with a 95 percent on-time record of getting those aircraft back into passenger service. The PIT team continues to produce industry leading reliability and efficiency on the A320F fleet, Brock said.