American Airlines Uses Its Tulsa Base To Install WiFi In Planes
American Airlines is installing and updating what's now become something expected in the air -- fast Internet service.
The Tulsa maintenance base is handling much of the work.
The modifications aren't easy, even on a brand new airplane. One airplane was just delivered to American this past week. They cut a hole in the side of it, put that antenna on it, and they're installing more antennas on the inside so passengers can have fast wireless Internet in flight.
American does the work in Tulsa where new Boeing 737's are delivered and modified to meet the company's specific needs.
The modifications are so complicated, it requires removing most of the interior of the plane, even though it's fresh from the factory.
The Internet connection is wireless for the passenger, but that's only because a mechanic was able to install all the wires that make it work.
In the last six months since the upgrades started, American's mechanics have cut a 10-day project down to four days.
"We basically have to strip the inside of the cabin in order to access all of the places we have to route the wiring through, as well as install the equipment and the boxes and the antennas and everything else that has to go in it," crew chief Sam Reed said.
In flight Internet service requires another stack of computers underneath the cockpit.
Antennas are installed around the fuselage for air to ground connections.
Smaller antennas deliver the signal to the passenger in the cabin.
The installation of the WiFi equipment happens at the same time American installs new leather seats, with TV screens for every passenger.
The modifications will continue for years as American standardizes aircraft from the merger and brings new more efficient planes into service.
"Before we deliver them into revenue service, where the customer flies on them, we're putting WiFi on them, so the very first passenger on the airplane gets that experience,” Engineer Richard Hazlewood said.
American is installing high-speed Internet on all the new planes, and going through the older airplanes to upgrade them to the higher-speed WiFi because that's what passengers want.