Just over a month ago I was invited to an event at Kansas City International Airport to witness the termination of a 727's tenure with the FedEx fleet and its transition into retirement with KCI's emergency response trainees. David Parker Brown invited me to write a guest post for his excellent aviation enthusiast blog over at Airline Reporter which is syndicated by the Seattle Pi as well as Reuters. It's been a month now, so I feel it's safe to post here as well.
Check out the gallery of photos I shot hosted over at Flickr
Guest post follows...
End of an Era. FedEx Donates a Boeing 727 to the Kansas City Airport
I suspect it’s no news to readers of Airline Reporter, but we aviation enthusiasts are a unique group of folks. Of all the peer-groups I belong to, aviation geeks, that is, avgeeks, are the most loyal, diverse, and enthusiastic I have encountered. One thing I’ve noticed about avgeeks is they always want to deepen their bonds and connections to the industry. Whether it’s catching the newest livery while plane spotting and sharing it on social media, hopping on an inaugural flight, or social networking our ways into typically non-public areas with great aerodome views, we’re always curious. And, with this, I’ve noticed a trend.
It seems the vast majority of folks are focused on what’s new: New planes, new routes, new airlines, etc. And while this is great, it seems I’m more interested in what’s old. Maybe it’s my obsession with history, but I want to be a part of, or at least witness history. Recently, I got that opportunity.
On Wednesday, August 1st at 10:14 AM CDT, a 34-year old Boeing 727 with registry N483FE touched down on Kansas City International Airport’s (KCI) runway 19R marking the end of its life with 34,671 flight hours.
The plane, named Colin, after the child of a FedEx courier, was originally delivered to Braniff Airways in 1978 as a passenger liner. In May of 1990 FedEx Express took ownership of the plane and oversaw its passenger to freighter (P2F) conversion. Shortly after, it entered the FedEx Express fleet where it served alongside dozens of other 727s for 22 years.
While the termination of FedEx Express flight 9044 from Memphis, TN marked the end of the sky for a plane, it highlights a quickening retirement plan for this and other tri-jets in fleets across the world. With higher maintenance costs for older planes and drastically more fuel-efficient alternatives on the market, planes like Colin have quickly fallen out of favor.
So, what’s one of the world’s largest airlines to do with all of these old fuel inefficient planes? According to David Sutton, managing director of Aircraft Acquisition and Sales for FedEx, the solution was simple: Donate the planes to the communities they serve to support educational endeavors.
In 1995 FedEx Express launched their aircraft donation program with the donation of a plane to the FAA who at the time was interested in studying the effects of corrosion and fatigue on aging aircraft. Since then FedEx has donated over 50 airplanes to charities, museums, and airports.
Kansas City Aviation Director Mark VanLoh gladly accepted FedEx’s donation which the airport intends to use for emergency response training. Mr. VanLoh shared with the audience that with this plane, the airport and its crucial emergency responders will no longer be reliant on the generosity of its constituent airlines to loan their planes for training exercises.
In the coming days Colin will be relocated to the southeast side of the airport near an on-site overhaul base where it will lose its engines. While two of the engines will in some fashion make their way back into service, via parts or spares, one will be preserved and donated to the National Airline History Museum where patrons can visit and learn about the low-bypass jet engines that helped usher in the modern era of aviation.
About the author: I’m a Kansas City, Missouri based Senior Business analyst with a ridiculous obsession for all things aviation. As an avid plane spotter, I can often be found on or near airport property with a telephoto lens. Let’s get social! I’m on twitter and most other social media as @user47 and occasionally blog over at http://jlsblog.com