Local InputAMR's shares, which closed Monday at $24.51, have risen steadily since reaching a 52-week low of $10 in September. The airline's cost-reduction efforts have contributed, along with the overall industry's rising demand and reduced capacity. Last week, Standard & Poor's boosted its ratings on AMR's credit. "The upgrade reflects improving earnings and cash flow prospects, driven by better revenue generation and ongoing cost-cutting efforts, which have more than offset the effect of high fuel prices," wrote S&P analyst Philip Baggaley.
Mechanical ResonanceLast week, the Fort Worth base completed its first heavy maintenance check on a Boeing 777. The initial expectation was that the check would take 20 days, but American's first thorough evaluation indicated that 15 days would suffice. Then, Sirucek says, the crew chiefs got involved. They said 12 days. The first plane actually took 14 days, but Sirucek is confident that the time will be reduced. Moreover, he believes that other airlines will come to realize that because the Fort Worth plant is cost-competitive with any other option, they should bring their 777s there for maintenance. Among the changes suggested by Fort Worth union members are:
- When seats are taken out of an airplane for maintenance, they're placed on specially designed metal carts rather than wooden flatbeds. The metal carts are dedicated to a single purpose, so there's no delay in finding them. Seats stay on the carts the entire time they're out of the airplane, even when being washed.
- Sets of tested, cabin-ready oxygen masks are now delivered to each airplane, ready to be installed. In the past, "we had to take them off and send them to the shop and wait," said Greg Mackey, TWU benefits coordinator. "If you were ready to put them in and they weren't there, 15 or 20 mechanics may have had to wait for them before they could send a plane out."
- Many of the parts regularly needed to maintain an airplane are now made by American mechanics and stocked in advance. For example, a part called a "stringer," essentially a beam that goes under the seats, often becomes corroded and requires replacement. In the past, a mechanic would prepare new stringers each time they were needed, but now an AMR shop makes them in batches and has them ready in advance.
- When engines are taken off airplanes and maintained, they're placed vertically on hydraulic lifts in a pit, then moved up and down so that sitting mechanics can work on them. Engines used to be mounted horizontally on a platform, requiring workers to use ladders to work on them. The improvement works so well, not only in providing efficiency but also in reducing injuries, that a third pit is being installed.