Airlines prepare for jump in air traffic
TULSA, Okla. (CNN) – Crews are preparing planes to meet a surge in air travel.
Through much of the pandemic, hundreds of commercial airliners sat idle on taxiways, ramps and even runways.
Now, American Airlines says all of its planes will be flying again by the end of the month. That’s no small task.
“In many ways, we … actually have more maintenance requirements on the aircraft that has been in storage or is in storage than we do if the aircraft is out actively flying,” said Roger Steele with American.
His team of mechanics is spending 1,000 hours to revive just one plane.
Part of their work includes federally mandated inspections of the Boeing 737, the world’s most popular airliner.
American alone parked 300 of them because of the pandemic.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the planes sitting idle could cause a critical valve to fail, risking catastrophic “dual-engine power loss” in flight.
“All of the things that could have been negatively impacted by the fact that it was parked have been identified, they’ve been addressed, and they’ve been resolved,” said Ed Sangricco with American. “So, I can assure you 110% that these aircraft are safe and they’re ready to fly.”
About 100 planes were stored at the America Airlines Base Maintenance facility at the peak of the pandemic, but now there are only a few left.
The latest data shows airline travel moving toward recovery.
Industry groups say flights are 75% full, up from 60% just last month.
The new demand means the industry is bouncing back sooner than expected.
The newest jump in numbers means the Transportation Security Administration needs more help screening passengers.
It is hiring 6,000 new airport security officers to staff checkpoints. The agency holding hiring events nationwide.
“I think the big thing for us is we want to be prepared for summer,” said Susan Tashiro of the TSA. “We’re clearly taking a lot of efforts to make sure that happens.”
United airlines just said it will hire new pilots for the first time in more than a year, while thousands of existing pilots will be coming back from pandemic time off.
A CNN review of aviation safety records from across the country uncovered flight crews reporting “rusty” skills and in-flight errors after returning to work.
American Airlines says its pilots will be thoroughly re-checked in classrooms and simulators before coming back on the job.
“There’s a lot of pent-up travel demand and we really want to be there and be ready to move our customers to wherever they want to go safely, efficiently, and make sure we’re putting out a good product,” Sangricco said.
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