FedEx Express has taken delivery of the first ATR 72-600F that any carrier will operate outside Europe, and will soon place it with Idaho-based Empire Airlines to operate on a CMI basis.
The aircraft (1680) is FedEx’s — and the world’s — second production ATR 72-600F and is currently in Spokane (GEG), Wash. Empire Airlines told Cargo Facts that the aircraft is at its GEG maintenance base so an Ancra cargo loading system can be installed. The carrier expects to begin flying it in around a month, after undergoing pre-service checks and conformity.
None of the other converted ATR freighters that FedEx owns have large cargo doors or cargo loading systems that allow containerized freight. Empire confirmed to Cargo Facts that those aircraft can only take shipments in bulk.
Unit 1680 had departed the ATR factory in Toulouse (TLS) on May 24 on a multi-stop journey across the Atlantic via Keflavik (KEF), Goose Bay (YYR), Montreal (YUL) and Winnipeg (YWG), before arriving at GEG May 26.
FedEx received the first ever ATR 72-600F in December 2020. That aircraft (1653) is now in service in Europe with ASL Airlines Ireland, which is flying it between Paris (CDG) and Prague (PRG).
Empire expects to operate more ATR 72-600Fs in the next few years, but told Cargo Facts it will not take on another until 2022. At the delivery ceremony in December 2020, Scot Struminger, EVP and CEO of aviation at FedEx Express, said the third, fourth and fifth ATR 72-600Fs will be operated in Latin America.
FedEx could not immediately confirm whether that is still the case.
In the meantime, Empire will remove an ATR 42-300 from service this year as FedEx begins retiring the older freighters. The carrier operates nine ATR 42-300Fs and seven ATR 72-200Fs on a CMI basis for FedEx, although its oldest ATR 42-300F, the 1987-vintage unit 47, has been inactive for about a month and is currently in Kinston (ISO).
In Europe, FedEx has already withdrawn all the ATR 42-300Fs it had in operation with ASL Airlines Ireland and now has one unit (141) left in service with Spain-based Swiftair.
FedEx is currently the only customer for the ATR 72-600F, having placed a firm order for thirty aircraft along with twenty options in 2017, although ATR told Cargo Facts that it hopes to secure a second customer this year.
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