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Editorial: Good news for American Airlines is good news for Tulsa

Editorial: Good news for American Airlines is good news for Tulsa

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Work takes place in a hangar at the American Airlines Tech-Ops Tulsa maintenance facility.

Here’s some of the best news Tulsa could ever get: American Airlines is continuing to prep its jets for a return to revenue service.

With hope of progress against the pandemic and more fully vaccinated people cleared to fly, American needs to get 38 more idled planes ready for revenue flights.

Going from park to drive isn’t as simple as moving the gear shift in an airliner. It takes careful maintenance, which is what happens at the local American Airlines facility.

Eight jets are getting the once-over at Tech Ops-Tulsa, American’s largest maintenance base.

The company employs about 5,200 people at its Tulsa International Airport maintenance facility. It’s been a major employer for decades. The airline spends about $120 million annually with Oklahoma suppliers and vendors, and American workers here make an average of $120,000 a year, including benefits.

Also, American is in the final stages of completing a new sublease with the city’s airport trust for its 330-acre base. Work has begun on $550 million worth of upgrades American pledged to Tech Ops-Tulsa in February 2020.

Improvements include the Central Utility Plant ($44.9 million), the re-roofing of the plating area and the re-skinning of Hangar 80. Future projects include a new 132,000-square-foot base support building and a 193,000-square-foot hangar that will hold two wide-body aircraft and replace two existing hangars no longer equipped to hold American’s current planes fully.

Obviously, what’s bad for American Airlines is bad for Tulsa, and the pandemic has been bad for American Airlines.

The airline reported an $8.9 billion loss and 62% decline in revenue for 2020. At one time, 70 planes were parked at Tech Ops-Tulsa.

But when American gets more jets in the air, Tulsa’s hopes rise, too.

“We feel that 2021 is going to be a year of building, of transition,” Ed Sangricco, the newly arrived managing director of Tulsa base maintenance, said recently.

“Our load factors for spring break were around 80%, which is fantastic,” Sangricco said. “The bookings are starting to come back to pre-pandemic numbers, which is also fantastic.”

We welcome Sangricco to town, and we especially welcome his news that American jets are taking off. We’re ready to take off, too.

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Tulsa World Editorial Pages Editor Wayne Greene reads the April 11 editorial.

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