Aircraft tear down made easy

January 1, 2011 • Local News

John Hamilton, a mechanic for Stewart Industries, adjusts an access panel under the wing of an American Airline MD-80, during a recent afternoon. (Emily Russo Miller Photo)

The chief inspector for Stewart Industries, Richard Duran, stood on the east side of the Roswell International Air Center one recent morning and watched exhaust fumes pour from the tail cone of an Airbus A-3005. A team of mechanics coughed and waved away the billowing gray smoke surrounding them.

Duran inhaled deeply. “”Nothing better than jet fuel in the morning,” he said smiling.

A smoking airplane is generally cause for alarm, but in this case, it was part of an “idle leak check” whereby mechanics rev the aircraft’s engine for about five minutes to test for fuel leaks. It’s just one of the many small daily operations performed by the airplane storage facility.

The Roswell airport may appear small to the unscrutinizing eye. After all, it operates just three flights a day to just one city on just one airline.

But on the other side of the tarmac, far from the eyes of passengers, the airport serves as the biggest hub of industrial manufacturing activity in Chaves County. It operates one of only a handful of aircraft storage facilities in the country.

Three corporations store or dismantle planes on the tarmac: Stewart Industries, AerSale and Bergman Air. SI is currently in the process of dismantling two planes.

Duran eyeballs the planes sitting side-by-side on the tear down pad and says, “In six weeks, they’ll be beer cans.”

But before the planes are flattened, they must first go through a lengthy process.

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