Friday, April 22, 2011

Southwest Airlines maintenance training ramping up for addition of MD-95 (717-200) to fleet

Southwest Airlines' maintenance organisation is creating as many as 10 new maintenance training lines in large part to accommodate AirTran's fleet of Boeing 717 narrowbodies.

The low-fare carrier announced plans to acquire AirTran in September 2010, which will augment its all-Boeing 737 fleet with Air Tran's 52 Boeing 737-700s and 88 717-200s when the deal is completed, reportedly sometime during this quarter.

"You think it'd be relatively simple. We operate all 737 exclusively and AirTran operates 737NG and Boeing 717 aircraft," says Dennis Pelletier, manager of maintenance training for Southwest Airlines. "For the Southwest mechanics, that means we have to train them on the 717, right?"

But Pelletier says it's not that simple as subtle differences in the aircraft and operation are requiring all-new training.

One example that Pelletier revealed at the World Aviation Training conference in Orlando, Florida on 19 April was that Southwest's Category 3 instrument landing system uses head-up displays (HUDs) for pilots to perform the landings. AirTran however uses the 717's autoland system for the same approaches.

"We have to train our mechanics on their autoland, and we've got to train their mechanics on our HUD Category 3 landings," says Pelletier, adding that "maintenance control" will now have to maintain two separate Category 3 systems going forward as the 717s will not get HUDs retrofitted.

(John Croft - Air Transport Intelligence News) 

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