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For 35 years, Boeing 727 aircraft were a reliable workhorse for the world’s largest express transportation company. Today, the venerable 727 narrow-body freighter closes an enduring chapter in aviation history as FedEx becomes the last major carrier to retire the aircraft from service. The retirement is part of the company’s aircraft modernization strategy.
The 727’s domestic mission will conclude at 1:30 p.m. CDT as FedEx aircraft N481FE touches down at the FedEx Express World Hub at Memphis International Airport. Greeting its arrival will be more than 1,000 company executives, air operations team members and other guests who will mark the airplane’s historic last flight with a special ceremony.
A departure ceremony at the FedEx hub in Indianapolis, which has served as the company’s primary base for 727 general maintenance checks, begins the historic farewell flight.
“For more than three decades, our Boeing 727 fleet was instrumental in our company’s domestic growth,” said David J. Bronczek, president and chief executive officer, FedEx Express. “Today, we are opening a new chapter for company growth and opportunity as we continue to modernize our global fleet with more technologically advanced, fuel efficient, lower emission cargo jets.”
History of the 727 at FedEx
Introduction of this larger, mid-size jet freighter to the FedEx fleet was made possible by deregulation of the airline industry in 1977, giving the upstart express carrier access to more domestic markets and bringing immediate operational efficiencies because of greater payload capabilities. FedEx operated only small Dassault Falcons before the industry was deregulated. An exemption then allowed a company to enter the common carrier business if its payloads were less than 7,500 pounds.
It was Jan. 14, 1978 when then-Federal Express took delivery in Memphis of its first 727 aircraft, which was purchased from a passenger airline. On that day, Frederick W. Smith, chairman, president and chief executive officer, FedEx Corp., told several hundred employees and guests at the delivery event, “Many people look at this airplane and believe that Federal Express has arrived at the end of a long road. This is not the end of anything. It is simply the beginning.”