New AA Winglet Project Brings Back Jobs in Tulsa

The move will mean raises for 64 workers and the recall of more than 100 furloughed workers.

American Airlines will be able to increase mechanics' pay and add other workers. American Airlines is recalling 64 aircraft mechanics from other positions or maintenance bases to expand its Boeing 757 winglet modification lines in Tulsa, company executives said Friday.

The moves by the mechanics will require the company to fill their vacated positions, officials said, with more than 100 workers receiving recall notices or reassignments.

Carmine Romano, vice president of Tulsa Base Maintenance, said expansion of the 757 winglet modification program will result in the restoration of $5-per-hour aviation maintenance technician license premiums for the 64 mechanics. Adding the premium to the mechanics' base pay of $26.40 per hour will bring their pay to $31.40 per hour, Romano said.

That would equate to a $63,312 yearly salary for a 40-hour work week.

"It is wonderful to be able to announce that we are upgrading and returning people to work in Tulsa," Romano said. "With this plan, we will be able to move a number of our people to better-paying positions, in addition to adding more than 60 employees back to the work force in Tulsa."

The expansion in Tulsa is the second in 10 weeks at American's largest maintenance base, which employs more than 6,000 mechanics and related workers and 7,000 people overall.

In December, American and Allegiant Air, a Las Vegas-based charter aircraft operator, agreed to a four-year, $30 million contract. American will overhaul Allegiant's 24 MD80 aircraft in Tulsa.

About 90 mechanics who lost their aviation maintenance technician license premiums in the company's 2003 restructuring were reinstated as full-time mechanics as a result of the Allegiant contract, one of several third-party maintenance agreements won by American's Maintenance & Engineering Base here.

In American's 2003 restructuring, 700 Tulsa-based mechanics were laid off or reverted to lower job classifications as the company narrowly averted a bankruptcy filing.

"We have been working very hard by doing more with less in our continuous improvement process," Romano said. "As we add more work, we will start to add more jobs."

The 757 winglet modification work is one of the most successful programs adopted in Tulsa in recent years, officials said.

The work involves stripping the outer "skin" of the wings and adding stringers and ribs to support winglets, which are upward-angled wing extensions that improve fuel efficiency.

"We started out to only do the 15 757s that we use to fly to Europe," Romano said. "After we put those planes in service, we found we were getting fuel savings of 4 percent to 5 percent.

"Fuel prices are so high that we estimated if we did the rest of the 757 fleet, we could save millions of dollars in fuel every year."

American flies 150 757s. It has completed winglet work on about 20 planes.

The company's mechanics have streamlined the work and reduced the winglet installation process to 16 days and 4,200 man-hours of labor. The first set installed at the base last fall took 33 days and 10,700 man-hours, officials said.

The fuel savings are adding up.

By reducing drag on the tips of the wings, the winglets are dropping fuel consumption from 8,153 pounds of fuel per hour to 7,843 pounds, American executives said.

The mechanics also are installing winglets on American's 77 Boeing 737s.

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