American Seeks Work from Boeing

American Airlines is bidding to become Boeing's North American provider of maintenance service for the new Boeing 787 aircraft, called the Dreamliner.

Boeing has received orders for 377 of the planes, with a total value of $60 billion. The first 787s, Boeing's first new commercial jetliner in more than a decade, will be operational in 2008. Boeing is calling its maintenance-service contract its GoldCare program, which is a service apart from the sale of the plane, said Charles Bickers, a spokesman for the aircraft manufacturer.

Several companies have bid on the contract, and Boeing could select a maintenance partner by the end of the year, he said. Boeing has already selected SR Technics as its maintenance provider for the 787 in Europe.

But union officials in Kansas City are playing down prospects that a successful bid will bring much more work for the Kansas City overhaul base anytime soon.

If American receives the 787 contract, that would probably mean more work for American's line-maintenance stations at airports around the country, said Gordon Clark, president of Transport Workers Union Local 530 in Kansas City. He said that American's big maintenance bases in Kansas City, Tulsa, Okla., and Fort Worth, Texas, would probably not receive much 787 work anytime soon.

"From my understanding, with the 787 being the newest-generation airplane, you're looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 to 12 years before any heavy-type maintenance would be required," Clark said. "So it doesn't appear to be the type of work that an overhaul base like ours would be receiving.

"Nevertheless, if American is successful in getting this contract, it would help us become successful in our overall maintenance program."

Clark said the 787 contract appeared to be mostly for light maintenance, which is done routinely at airport stations every four to six weeks and takes a short time.

Heavy maintenance done at overhaul bases like Kansas City's usually means the planes are parked in hangars and are out of service for more than two days.

American has been trying to make its maintenance department a revenue generator by working on the aircraft of other companies. All three of the company's overhaul bases have programs designed to generate revenue and create cost savings through operational changes.

The Kansas City maintenance base's goal is to create $150 million in value through additional revenue and cost savings by the end of 2007. The facility has secured third-party contracts from customers such as Air Canada, Alcoa Inc.'s air cargo services unit, and American Eagle, American's commuter service.

Last month, American announced a similar revenue-generating program for 10 maintenance stations at airports around the country, with the goal of creating $95 million in value created by the end of 2008.

American said it was too early to tell where the maintenance work would go if the airline was successful in its Boeing bid.

"But this bid does fit into American's overall plan of establishing its MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) business," said John Hotard, an American spokesman. "It dovetails right into it."

During the turmoil the airline industry has faced during the decade, many carriers have shed or reduced the amount of maintenance they have done on their planes, preferring to contract out the work.

"We're responding to that trend," Bickers said of the Boeing maintenance program.



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