A Day in the Life of Work: Plane Crazy

Chuck Guerra is a plane mechanic–in the Mojave Desert. He parks, seals, and maintains planes that airlines can’t use, keeping them ready for their return, someday, to service.


Chuck Guerra, 45

Aircraft storage supervisor
Avtel Services
MoJave, California


“Right now we have 150 planes that we maintain. After September 11, we had 330. Airlines keep their equipment here in the desert when they can’t use it. We’ve got all types of planes: 757s, 767s, 747s. They’re parked in neat rows, all aimed into the wind. If you park a plane sideways, the wind is so strong–it got to 88 MPH last week–it will move that plane back and forth. We lash railroad ties to the wheels to keep it in place.

“It takes 115 to 120 hours to put a plane into storage. We cover all the seats in plastic, one row at a time. We take out the center aisle carpet and any items the airline wants removed. Flashlight batteries. Emergency equipment. Coffeemakers–I don’t know why we remove those, but we disconnect the machine, wrap it in plastic, and put it on the floor.

“We drain the water out of the lavatory and put antifreeze in the toilet. We pull down all the window shades, then cover all the windows from the outside, including the cockpit. Anywhere there’s a hole on the plane’s exterior, for drainage or exhaust, we seal it. We’re trying to keep out dust and moisture and critters such as insects or birds that might build a nest. You have to be hands-on to work here. You can’t be afraid of getting dirty.

“We do engine runs as often as the customer wants. And when the airline wants to return a plane to service, we do that, too. It takes 150 to 400 hours. By the time it leaves here, it has to be ready for the gate. It’s a good feeling, watching it fly away. You know it’s going to make money for somebody.”

About the author

Chuck Salter is a senior editor at Fast Company and a longtime award-winning feature writer for the magazine. In addition to his print, online and video stories, he performs live reported narratives at various conferences, and he edited the Fast Company anthologies Breakthrough Leadership, Hacking Hollywood, and #Unplug