Our last blog was on the subject of the next generation of freighters – freighters that Boeing and Airbus will not build until many years from now – so it is fitting that today’s story celebrates the sun going down on one of the great freighter types from the past: the 727.
Oh, sure, there are still quite a few in operation (particularly in Canada where Kelowna Flightcraft and Cargojet operate a total of 23 between them), but at the end of last week FedEx, by far the largest operator of the both 727-100Fs and 727-200Fs, retired its last unit.
We would be willing to bet that there will still be a 727 freighter in operation in some remote corner of the world twenty years from now, but the retirement of N481FE can be seen as marking the end of an aviation era.
FedEx took delivery of its first 727-100 in 1978, and its first 727-200 a year later. Over the next two decades FedEx built its 727 fleet to a total of almost 170 units, and it was these freighters that allowed the company to make the transition from a small startup operating Dassault Falcons to the giant integrated express operator it is today.
FedEx now has seventy-four 757-200Fs in operation, with more in conversion by ST Aero. Current plans call for a total of around 110 757-200Fs in the FedEx fleet, but the eventual total will likely be more than that.