American breaks ground on new operations center

07/08/2014 5:49 PM

07/09/2014 11:48 AM

With a shower of confetti and employees looking on, American Airlines executives and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price put shovels in the dirt to break ground on the carrier’s new Integrated Operations Center south of Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

The facility, which is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2015, will house more than 1,400 employees who oversee the airline’s flights and customers. The two-story, 149,000-square-foot building will be at 4700 American Blvd., adjacent to the carrier’s flight academy and the C.R. Smith Museum, on the west side of Texas 360. The project will cost $88 million.

The building will be named after Robert Baker, a long-time American executive who retired in 2002 after working at the company for more than 35 years and overseeing its operations. Baker died a year after his retirement at the age of 58 from lung cancer.

“I know Bob would say, ‘Don’t put my name on it. Put all the employees of American Airlines on it,’ ” said his widow, Marty Baker. “But we are absolutely thrilled and honored.”

American Chief Executive Doug Parker described Baker’s love of aviation and commitment to safety. Baker rose from a night shift supervisor in the freight department to vice chairman of American. He was credited with solving maintenance problems and operational failures in the mid-1980s and worked on the carrier’s merger with TWA.

“He’s a great example for all of us at the new American and that’s why we’re honored to name our new integrated operations center after Bob,” Parker said.

The airline received a $6.5 million tax incentive for the project from Fort Worth that will last 15 years. The airline is moving about 600 employees from US Airways’ operations center near Pittsburgh as the company merges it with American’s operations center in Fort Worth.

“It’s an investment in the future for American and indeed an investment for the city of Fort Worth,” Price said.

American moved its headquarters to Fort Worth in 1979 and occupies several buildings at its campus in the Centreport development. The new operations center marks the first time in over 20 years that American is adding a building to its flight academy area. The company plans to move other work groups into the current operations center space after the new building opens.

Parker said there may be additional construction projects as American continues to integrate US Airways into its operation. However, discussions of a new headquarters building or renovation of the existing buildings are not high on Parker’s agenda. He said the airline currently has enough space for its management team.

“It’s getting near the end of its useful life,” Parker said of the headquarters building on Amon Carter Boulevard that was built in 1988. “We could do an additional renovation. ... We have a lot of projects we’re looking at and that’s one of them but we have higher priorities like running the airline.”

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