After many months of anticipation, FedEx’s first 767-300ERF (N101FE, msn: 42076) is on the flight line and getting ready to fly for the very first time. Like most FedEx aircraft, it has a name – Hannah – and Hannah and her sisters will soon form a substantial part of the FedEx fleet.
We brought you news last month of FedEx’s accelerated retirement plan for the MD-10 and A310, and also news that the Memphis giant had retired the 727, long the mainstay of its narrowbody fleet. Though overall the fleet is shrinking, deliveries of the 767 fleet will begin replacing the retired aircraft in the coming months, with a formal fleet introduction rumored for October.
Although they’ll be identical in terms of capacity and performance to previous 767 Freighters, the FedEx fleet will be getting a cockpit upgrade designed by Boeing and Rockwell-Collins. The new flight deck will incorporate some 787-related innovations and be derived from that being developed for the KC-46 Tanker. The flight deck exchanges the classic six relatively small CRT displays for three giant LCD panels that incorporate far more information. There will also be a heads-up display system.
Rumor has it that the first three FedEx 767s will be delivered with the classic cockpit and upgraded later, as the system is set for flight testing beginning in Q4 2013. The upgrade will also be available as a retrofit for the 757 – which uses many of the same systems.
At present, FedEx has 50 767s on order, including Hannah. The MD-10/A310 retirements and the narrowbody re-fleeting (727 to 757) are only part of the picture. In 2011 FedEx operated 400 jet Freighters spread out over seven types – but by 2019 the carrier plans to have just below 300 active jet freighters of just five types. That will include 104 757-200Fs, 65 A300-600Fs, 50 MD-11Fs, 31 777Fs, and the 50 767s. The fleet simplification is, of course, aimed at increasing efficiencies.
For a somewhat more dramatic, but partially obscured view, click here.
© Photographer: Alex Kwanten