FEDEX TO CONVERT JETS FOR FREIGHT
FedEx Express announced it purchased eight commuter passenger planes from Continental Airlines and will modify them to carry cargo to and from areas not easily served by expedited ground transportation.
The Memphis, Tenn.-based express transportation company is scheduled to receive the first ATR 42-320 turboprop aircraft from Continental on Jan. 27. The remaining seven aircraft will be delivered through February, FedEx spokesman Ed Coleman said.
FedEx will use the planes to support its hub airports in the United States. The company uses small freight aircraft for routes such as Seattle to Ketchikan, Alaska, that are between 200 to 600 miles and where the terrain is difficult or the road structure is not sufficient for next day service, Coleman said in an interview. The FedEx statement cited low operating costs as a key benefit of the aircraft.
The planes were available because Continental regional air subsidiary Express Jet Inc. completed in December a multi-year program to replace turboprops with jets, Continental spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said.
FedEx, in turn, will swap the ATRs with its much older Fokker F-27s. FedEx has 32 Fokker’s in its fleet, Coleman said, but additional ATR purchases will depend on future fleet requirements and the schedule for retiring the rest of the Fokkers. The ATR 42s purchased by FedEx average 11.5 years in age, Coleman said.
ATR is a French-based consortium of European aircraft manufacturers that builds short-haul turbo prop planes. The ATR 42 and 72 have a 12,000-pound payload and can accept palletized loads. Almost 30 of the 652 ATR planes in existence have been converted to cargo applications, according to ATR.