More than 112,000 — that's the number of flight operations Delta has had since it last canceled a flight due to a maintenance issue. For a solid straight month — roughly 36 days — technicians around the world have tended to Delta's 800 mainline aircraft, keeping them in tip-top shape, flying safely and reliably around the clock for the airline's global customers.
It’s a feat no modern airline has accomplished and more than doubles Delta’s previous 18-day industry-setting record, thanks to the craft and expertise of the airline’s more than 6,300 Aviation Maintenance Technicians, who care for the fleet of mechanical birds.
And in the world of airline operations, where a mix of weather, air traffic control, airport congestion and other delays outside the airline’s control can disrupt a flight, nowhere is there more opportunity to maintain a sound schedule than in aircraft maintenance.
The minute jets touch down, technicians go to work to inspect the inbound aircraft to address any potential maintenance issues identified by the pilots and flight attendants. Vehicles—akin to bread trucks—filled with spare parts and tooling are dispatched with technicians to make planeside repairs. Meanwhile in hangar facilities across the country, Delta performs light and heavy maintenance on its fleet, ranging from 110-seat Boeing 717s to 376-seat Boeing 747s and everything in between.
It’s a well-orchestrated ballet where torque wrenches and riveters, hydraulic jacks and screwdrivers and vice grips and plasma cutters rule the stage.
“The core of Delta’s reliable operation is with our TechOps teams who tirelessly keep our diverse fleet of planes flying day in and day out,” said Gil West, Delta’s Chief Operating Officer and Senior Executive Vice President. “More than a month without a maintenance-related cancellation is a testament to the hard work of our people who continue to drive unheard of operational performance and serve our 175 million annual customers.”
From nose to tail, wingtip to wingtip, engines and flaps, entertainments screens and overhead bins, tires and seats, it’s a mix of brain and brawn that keep Delta’s jets flying. And during the past 37 days, as they do every day, technicians have performed routine maintenance tasks while also managing through a score of maintenance hiccups that run the gambit.
For Todd Olson, Delta’s Station Manager in charge of the Line Maintenance operation at the Minneapolis/St. Paul hub, part of any successful, cancel-free operation is preplanning and making sure the right parts are in the right place, sometimes even chartering private jets to make it happen, as Delta did in January.
“A record month-long operation without a maintenance cancel is all about connecting the right people and parts with the work that needs to be completed on the aircraft and then measuring everything we do,” he said. “We continue to identify those top drivers of maintenance delays and cancellations to make sure we’re tackling those before they ever become an issue.”
And to make sure aircraft are minimally impacted by maintenance, Delta TechOps teams throughout the system are staging equipment, tooling and manpower so they’re ready to tackle a fix as soon as the airplane pulls into the gate or arrives at the hangar, something Olson says is just one component of a comprehensive maintenance strategy.
“It’s because of their unwavering commitment to providing our customers with a safe and reliable operation that Delta people continue to break what were once thought unbreakable records,” said West.