Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Delta TechOps: Behind The Seven Story Tall Hangar Doors

By Jack Harty and Chris Sloan / Published July 29, 2014

Delta TechOps is the largest airline maintenance, repair and dsc00720_32912overhaul (MRO) provider in North America. Everyday, more than 9,000 Technical Operations employees come together to maintain Delta’s fleet and more than 150 other aviation and airline customers worldwide.

The Delta Technical Operations Center (TOC) Jet Base was opened on June 21, 1960. At the time, Delta only had 79 aircraft in its fleet, and it had more than 1,600 employees technical operation employees.

As Delta’s fleet grew, the base continued to grow. In 1968, it grew to 16 acres, and in 1972, TechOps more than doubled its size to 36 acres.

1983 was a big year for TechOps which is opened up to offer its services to other airlines. Until this time, it worked exclusively on Delta’s mainline fleet.

TechOps is different than other airline maintenance programs. Most airlines see maintenance programs as a cost center because there is no revenue brought in. However, Delta has a different view.

Delta sees TechOps as a profit center since it provides its services to more than 150 airline customers worldwide, and TechOps plays an important role in Delta’s fleet strategy of purchasing used aircraft and flying them longer as it provides a better return on investment.

Richard Anderson, the CEO of Delta Air Lines, explains that “our fleet strategy is contrarian to what Boeing and Airbus want us to do. But now that you have been over to TechOps and you’ve seen this tremendous capability we have and the great technicians, you can understand perfectly that the key to running a really great airline is the capability of your technicians and engineers. For instance, the manufactures think you should have a spare engine compliment of about 13%. So if you had 100 engines hanging on airplanes, you should have 13 spare engines. We generally have five to six because we have the engine shop that turns engines really fast, and the technicians are quite skilled.”

In 2009, it generated approximately half a billion dollars in revenue, and the number continues to grow.

Although TechOps has many locations, its headquarters and largest maintenance base is located at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Three large buildings help make up the nearly 2.7 million square foot ???????????????????????????????facility which is located under the “Fly Delta Jets” sign at ATL. They can do anything from painting a plane to installing WiFi to overhauling an aircraft.

During a two day event, we had the opportunity to go behind the scenes of the seven story tall hangar doors.

TOC-1

Our first stop is TOC-1. This building accommodates up to two wide-body aircraft and four narrow-body aircraft simultaneously, and it also houses TechOps’ five engine test cells.

Delta completes almost all of its engine work at its engine shop in Atlanta. More than 100 employees work in the shop, and many have spent many years working in this shop on the same engine type.

In the engine shop, they correct malfunctions 24/7, ???????????????????????????????fix fan blades, and complete overhauls which can cost up to $2.5 million an engine.

After mechanics overhaul an engine, the engines are required to be tested in one of the five engine test cells. The cells are gigantic enclosed cells that are two feet thick which helps decrease the sound.The largest cells are capable of testing engines up to 100,000 pounds of thrust.

Engines are tested rigorously at sea level ???????????????????????????????at an average temperature of 59 degrees for approximately 16 hours. Each month, the facility uses 85,000 gallons each month to run the engines. From a control room, the engine’s performance is monitored, and the data is sent back to the engine manufacturer. More than 650 engines and 350 APUs are tested each year.

TOC-2

TOC-2 is one of the world’s largest cantilevered buildings. ???????????????????????????????It accommodates six widebody aircraft and six or more smaller aircraft simultaneously.

Besides routine maintenance, the airline also completes heavy C checks which are basically when mechanics check every millimeter of the aircraft every few years. When we were visiting, N395DN, one of Delta’s Boeing 737-800s, was in for a C check which is an extensive check of individual systems and components for serviceability and function approximately every two years.

Right next to N395DN was one of Delta’s newest dsc00716_32914Boeing 737-900ER aircraft which was being prepped to enter into revenue service a few days later. When visiting, mechanic were installing gogo in-flight Wi-Fi. While it did have the new aircraft smell, it did not look new inside. The top ceiling panels had to be removed to install the wire that is needed for gogo Wi-Fi.

TOC-3

TOC-3 houses four floors which are used as warehouses and shops. dsc00661_32900Additionally, it accommodates three state-of-the-art paint hangar bays that can simultaneously accommodate two widebody aircraft and one narrowbody aircraft.

It takes 40 gallons of paint to repaint a narrowbody aircraft, and it usually takes five days to strip the existing paint away. For widebody aircraft, they need 80 gallons, and it usually takes six days to strip the existing paint away.

The TechOps employees put in thousands of man hours on every aircraft to ensure Delta’s aircraft are properly maintained and ready to fly. It’s a well choreographed ballet just like all of the other airline jobs, but it is hidden behind the seven story tall doors under the “Fly Delta Jets” sign.

PHOTOS: More photos from the ATL Delta TechOps Facility can be found here

RELATED: Inside Delta Air Lines

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Contact the author at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

Disclosure: Delta Air Lines provided round trip airfare for two, meals, and accommodation for us to attend this event. Our story remains independent.

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