After 35 years of service, FedEx will park the last of its Boeing 727 narrow-body freighters when the plane lands this afternoon at its hub in Memphis.
The midsized freighter was first introduced to the FedEx fleet in January 1978 around the time of the U.S. airline industry’s deregulation, giving the then upstart express carrier access to more domestic markets and bringing immediate operational efficiencies because of greater payloads. 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.
Early FedEx acquisitions of used 727s from other carriers were followed by new aircraft purchases from Boeing, with the last 727 leaving the manufacturer’s assembly line and being delivered to FedEx in 1984. The express carrier at one point was the world’s largest operator of 727s, with 170 of the aircraft in its fleet at any one time.
FedEx began retiring its 727-200 fleet in 2007 and replacing them with more modern Boeing 757 planes. “The retirement cycle accelerated under the fleet modernization program that through the last several years included more 757 freighters, as well as new Boeing 777 long-range freighters, which are the biggest in the FedEx fleet and the world’s largest twin-engine cargo aircraft,” the company said.
This fall, FedEx begins taking delivery of new Boeing 767 aircraft to replace its aging MD-10 freighters.