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More American Airlines planes come to ROW

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The first of about 23 Boeing 767 aircraft has arrived at the Roswell Air Center (ROW). Some could be converted to freight planes or sold to overseas airlines. (Submitted Photo)

More aircraft are coming to the Roswell Air Center for storage and maintenance as American Airlines is retiring another group of its passenger planes.

Not all the aircraft are destined for long-term storage or eventual dismantling for scrap parts, said Mark Bleth, Roswell Air Center manager.

Retired passenger planes can be converted into freight or cargo planes, and some of the planes could be sold to airline companies overseas.

“There are additional jobs attributed to aircraft retirements here at ROW than just storage revenue,” Bleth said, referring to the airport by its Federal Aviation Administration name.

Some have labeled the Air Center a “boneyard” for retired or out-of-commission planes — and the airport, with its available acreage and dry, generally mild weather, does make it suitable for long-term storage — but the maintenance and repair operations at the Air Center also repair, refurbish, renovate and paint aircraft.

Also, because many passenger aircraft are leased by airlines, even planes that are merely stored here often require ongoing maintenance to keep the planes airworthy for the duration of the leases.

AerSale will have responsibility for the Boeing 767 planes, with about 23 expected to arrive over the course of about a year, Bleth said.

He indicated that the aircraft were first produced by Boeing in 1971, and American Airlines is now using the newer 787s instead.

In September — to much fanfare — American Airlines retired a similar number of MD-80s to ROW, the last MD-80s in their fleet. That plane was described by airline executives as the “workhorse” of the airline for many years. In 2016, they sent about 45 of the MD-80s here.

Roswell Air Center staff said in September that the recent MD-80 retirements meant $93,000 a year in business to ROW maintenance and repair organizations (MROs) and support 15 jobs. The parking fees for planes at the Roswell Air Center are $14 a day.

An American Airlines fact sheet updated in July indicated that 24 of the 965 planes in its commercial fleet were 767s.

The Boeing 767s are considered a top choice for U.S. freighters such as FedEx, Amazon and United Parcel Service for several reasons, according to an April 2019 article in the trade publication Inside MRO. Factors such as their medium-sized length, their wide bodies and the availability of parts and components because they are still in production by Boeing has meant that their popularity as freight aircraft has increased in recent years.

Sixty Boeing 767 passenger-to-freighter conversions occurred from 2012 to 2017, according to a summer 2018 article written by the head of the aviation consultancy firm of Fortune Aviation Services LLC.

That report also indicated that e-commerce and increased global trading are leading to a 4.9% projected growth in air freight for the next five years and stated that 767s are used by Air Japan and Cargo Airways.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.