Delivery schedules and price were negotiated, cabin interior elements designed, engines selected, pilots trained. Flight attendants, maintenance technicians and ground operations teams were developed. And the to-do list went on.
But before a single Delta customer steps onto the airline’s newest jet, it still needed to pass the Shea test.
Meet Brian Shea, an unassuming 6’1” marathon runner and 21-year Delta veteran with a keen eye for detail and intense vigilance for Delta’s aircraft delivery interests—he’s just the guy you want making sure no panel is left unopened, no seat is left untested and no system left unchecked.
But Shea isn’t a team of one; he’s joined by nine other experts in their respective field. Combined, they have more than 250 years of Delta experience under their belts.
Donning orange high visibility vests and armed with equally vibrant orange tape, the team walked every inch of the cabin marking minor production flaws—a window shade stuck in the open position and a seat with a stiff recline, for example.
Outside, Dan Treffert, maintenance technician; Rick Angell, a quality assurance maven and Doug Selby, a 40-year lead technician in Minneapolis, are lifted high into the air on cherry pickers from which they pore over every movable and aerodynamic surface, inspect thousands of rivets, bolts and other connections from nose to tail, wingtip to wingtip. Back on the ground, they climbed into the landing gear wheel well and avionics bay as well.
For him, making sure this plane is in perfect working order is a labor of love. “I’ve worked alongside a team of the most talented technicians in the business to maintain our aircraft and it’s exciting to know this plane will be flying our customers well after I’ve retired.”
(Though that retirement may be a ways off: “When I stop enjoying coming to work, that’s when I’ll stop doing what I’m doing; but after more than 40 years, I still love it,” he said.)
While lavatories, galleys and seats are inspected in the cabin, Delta’s Airbus A321 fleet captains Dave Vorgias and Pat Haake were busy in the flight deck running checks on every aircraft system. From testing something as routine the seatbelt sign light, to more the complicated hydraulic and flight systems tests, they left the cockpit confident to fly the jet on its first customer test flight Monday.
“It’s an excellent aircraft,” Shea said. “And we’re excited to get it into service.”
Up Next: The Delivery Team will board the 146-foot long, twin-engine jet with Delta pilots at the controls. With the rigorous Shea Test largely complete, it’s time to put the A321 to the captain’s test—two military-trained aviators whose dogfighting and flight test experience will put the aircraft through its paces.