By Dan Bewley and Terry Hood, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- American Airlines says its Tulsa base is a leader in the industry. The company is so proud of the work done in Tulsa; they invited The News On 6 in for an exclusive tour.
The American Airlines maintenance base has been in Tulsa since World War II. It's now Tulsa's largest employer and the man in charge says the company remains committed to the city.
There are 6,700 people working at American Airlines in Tulsa. Keith Gruhlkey has been here for 22 years.
"Work is challenging, complex and I enjoy it," said aircraft mechanic Keith Gruhlkey.
Gruhlkey is part of a team American considers tops in the company. The airline showed The News On 6 why its foothold in Tulsa is getting stronger.
General Manager Paul Creider says the last year-and-a-half has seen a tremendous change in the way American conducts its day to day operations.
A Friday meeting, he says, is a prime example. It's called a boardwalk. It's out of the conference room and on the production floor where management and union leaders talk to make sure everyone is on the same page.
"It did improve morale and it really did improve the way we did business and gave us more pride in our workplace," said production supervisor Joseph Arce.
As evidence, American says the Tulsa base has been able to cut in half the time it takes to repair an engine. The airline does nearly 90% of its own maintenance and 100 percent of its heavy maintenance. And, more work is on the way as American has begun contracting with other airlines.
Officials say the new maintenance hangar that's under construction is another sign of a bright future in Tulsa.
"Management and TW leadership are committed to the Tulsa base and the future of this base," said General Manager Paul Creider.
The employees say they get the same sense, despite a tough economy.
"Well those concerns, I think, are always in the back of everybody's mind with the way the economy and everything is, but I believe America is strong here and we do have a good foothold and I hope to stay here a long time," said aircraft mechanic Keith Gruhlkey.
American repairs close to 70 planes every year out of the Tulsa base. Some of those are now planes from other airlines.