November 8, 2017 3:45 PM, EST

FedEx to Buy Up to 50 Planes to Upgrade Feeder Fleet

FedEx Corp.

FedEx will buy up to 50 new turboprop aircraft to launch a modernization of its global feeder fleet.

FedEx announced Nov. 8 it had completed a purchase agreement with ATR to buy 30 ATR 72-600F aircraft with options to buy 20 more.

FedEx ranks No. 2 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest North American for-hire carriers.

Deliveries of about six aircraft a year are expected to begin in 2020.

The feeder fleet consists of more than 300 smaller aircraft deployed in 45 countries.

The 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.

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

“The purchase of new, more advanced feeder aircraft like the ATR 72-600F is the next step in our very successful fleet modernization strategy, which has helped us greatly improve our fuel efficiency and fleet reliability in recent years,” said David Cunningham, president and CEO of FedEx Express.

“We worked closely with ATR, which developed this new aircraft with special features to help us grow our business, especially in the air freight market where shipments are larger and heavier,” Cunningham said.

The ATR 72-600F will be able to carry freight containers and pallets, a capability lacked by the current feeder fleet. FedEx said that will help the company better serve customers in a market in which palletized freight shipments are the norm.

The new planes will be equipped with digital cockpits, advanced avionics technology and improved access for cargo.

Christian Scherer, CEO of Toulouse, France-based ATR, said the new aircraft configuration was “the result of a deep technical and economic analysis.”

“The ATR 72-600F is the only new large regional aircraft available on the market for freighter operations,” Scherer said. “We are convinced that, with its use by FedEx Express, it will become the new benchmark for regional air cargo operations.”

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