30 Years of Cargo Facts: FedEx Makes It Big

FedEx's First DC-10

It seems hard to believe now, but there was a time when wide-body aircraft were still new to FedEx, and when it operated just ten of them. Back in 1986, FedEx took delivery of the first new-build DC-10 built specifically for the carrier, N306FE (msn: 48287). On January 24. The aircraft’s delivery ceremony graced the cover of the March, 1986 issue of Cargo Facts. It was the first of an order of eight new-build DC-10s from McDonnell-Douglas.

We had reported in January of that year that FedEx was looking for 727s and DC-10s anywhere it could get them, and was getting ready to purchase 109 Cessna 208’s for feeder ops. FedEx’s spectacular growth from a startup flying fourteen Dassault Falcons in 1973 to worldwide powerhouse by 1990 was undoubtedly the air cargo story of the decade.

Profitable by 1976, FedEx bought several 727-100s in the wake of Cargo Deregulation the following year, and by 1980 it was listed on the NYSE and fast becoming a household name. In 1981, Memphis became FedEx’s “superhub,” with smaller hubs to follow at Newark (EWR) in 1986, Indianapolis (IND) and Oakland (OAK) in 1988, and finally at Anchorage (ANC) a year later after the acquisition of Flying Tigers. DC-10s arrived in 1980, coming second-hand from Continental Airlines in the form of the DC-10-10CF. Many of these early DC-10s are still flying with FedEx, indeed, CargoFacts.net featured one back in November.

Seen here high above the Sierra Nevadas on a test flight back in January of 1986, N306FE is still in service at FedEx, though it is now an MD10 thanks to the upgrade a few years ago to the Advanced Common Flightdeck.

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