November 28, 2017 5:15 PM, EST

FedEx Adds Feeder Aircraft to Continue Fleet Upgrade

FedEx Sky Courier Textron Aviation

FedEx Express announced a major purchase of U.S.-assembled feeder aircraft Nov. 28 to continue a push to modernize its 659-aicraft fleet.

The Memphis-based air express unit of FedEx Corp. said it has agreed to buy 50 Cessna SkyCourier 408 aircraft with options to buy 50 more from Textron Aviation Inc.

It’s the second significant deal that the company has announced in November to upgrade its fleet of more than 300 feeder aircraft, which serve small- and medium-sized markets.

Three weeks ago the company said it would buy 30 ATR 72-600F aircraft with the option to purchase up to 20 more from French manufacturer ATR.

The company says the enhanced feeder network will also help create a robust pipeline of pilot applicants as the aviation industry faces a pilot shortage in coming years.

The feeder aircraft upgrade mirrors FedEx’s efforts to modernize its jet fleet in recent years, buying larger, more efficient planes — Boeing’s 777, 767 and 757 — while retiring older aircraft including Boeing 727s, MD-10s and MD-11s.

Fleet modernization has been a key to meeting targets for greater fuel efficiency and aircraft reliability, reduced emissions intensity and larger profits.

The Cessna purchase agreement calls for deliveries of one aircraft a month over four years starting in mid-2020.

“This continues our very successful fleet modernization strategy, which improves our fuel efficiency, reliability and operating costs,” FedEx Express President David Cunningham said.

“We worked closely with Textron Aviation to develop the Cessna SkyCourier 408, which includes several key features that will help us grow our business in small and medium-sized markets, especially in the air freight segment,” Cunningham said.

Left to right: David Cunningham, President, FedEx Express; David Bronczek, President, FedEx Corp.; Scott Donnelly, Chairman, Textron Inc.; Scott Ernest, President, Textron Aviation. (Textron Aviation)

Features of the twin-engine, high-wing turboprop include a digital cockpit, an aft large cargo door and a flat floor cabin equipped to handle containers and pallets. It will have almost twice the volumetric capacity of FedEx’s Cessna 208B.

FedEx said the Cessna SkyCourier 408 will be assembled by Textron Aviation in Wichita, Kan.

Greg Hall, executive vice president of air operations at FedEx Express, said the Cessna and ATR purchases “are part of our long-term feeder fleet strategy. That strategy will not only improve our fuel efficiency and fleet reliability, but thanks to a collaborative training program we are planning, will create a reliable pipeline of well-qualified pilot applicants for FedEx Express pilot jobs, leveraging the experience they will gain in our feeder system.”

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