In 2005, a giant blue building appeared in the middle of John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in Queens. JetBlue, still growing larger and larger at the time, decided it was time to have a place of their own, at their home airport, to do some aircraft maintenance. The 140,000-square-foot hangar and maintenance (MX) facility, or “Technical Operations Center” (simply called “Hangar 81” by employees), finally provided JetBlue with a proper facility for on-site offices, part storage, and light maintenance.
The hangar was actually opened before JetBlue took delivery of their first Embraer E190, and long before the Airbus A321 was even in the cards. Over the years, the hangar has been adapted to accommodate such aircraft without a hitch, and what goes on behind the scenes is pretty amazing. Last month, Timothy Russo, JetBlue manager of MX and Material Planning, Technical Operations, walked me around the sprawling facility, which might actually be better compared to a maze than an office.
Throughout the facility, specifically-commissioned original portraits of JetBlue cities line the hallways, and memorabilia of the short-but-interesting history of JetBlue can be found. Newspaper clippings from the day the airline commenced operations, old signage from their original home at terminal 6, and airplane models are everywhere.
The warehouse is stacked to the ceiling with replacement parts of all shapes and sizes, thousands upon housands of them. Rolls of fresh carpet are ready at a moment’s notice. An automated parts delivery system works tirelessly behind the scenes, cherry picking parts as quick as possible to make sure no flight is delayed while a replacement light bulb is fetched. Everything and everybody must work in harmony in order to get the job done.
Just prior to my visit, the final Sharklet retrofit was just completed on an A320, and the parts which were removed from the aircraft caught my eye. The parts, including a wingtip fence, strobe lights, and other assorted components were all tagged and awaiting their next move. Just to the left, various aircraft engines were tightly wrapped in protective covering. Another engine was fully exposed as it received a bit of maintenance, providing a great look at what exactly goes into these massive machines. Right now, JetBlue is beginning their yearly winterizing initiative, preparing the fleet to deal with the very cold climate at some destinations, such as Buffalo and Burlington, Vermont.