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A FedEx Express Boeing 727-200F aircraft named “Michelle,” after a FedEx employee’s daughter, made its final landing at St. Louis Downtown Airport on Friday, April 19th. After nearly 34 years of service, the aircraft will begin a new life as a static training aircraft and will be the centerpiece of a new training site at the airport.
Airport and community leaders gathered at the Airport Fire Station to celebrate FedEx’s generous donation of the 727 aircraft and watched as the plane’s arrival was welcomed with a traditional water arch salute. A tour of the aircraft followed its arrival, giving those in attendance an inside look at the massive plane, which will undergo a significant transformation in the coming weeks to provide real-world training opportunities for the many area aviation staff and first responders.
Although the aircraft’s primary purpose will be to train firefighters and other emergency response force personnel, it will also serve as a classroom and a ground trainer for future pilots and aircraft maintenance technicians, and be made available to researchers and educators for use in their air safety and educational programs.
The pilots’ cockpit will remain intact, just as it was when the pilots stepped out of it, however, changes will be made throughout the rest of the aircraft. The front half of the fuselage will be configured as a standard passenger airliner, complete with a pull-down screen and overhead projector for use in classroom-style presentations to tour groups visiting the airport and the Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum, and to youth flying with Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 64 in their Young Eagles program. Jet Aviation, which has a history of doing maintenance and repair work for the FedEx corporate fleet at its facilities at St. Louis Downtown Airport, will assist in preparing the aircraft for its new mission.
The rear half of the fuselage will be outfitted to contain a maze of hanging hoses, wires, and other obstructions with cargo containers, boxes, and jumbled seats. During training sessions, non-toxic smoke generators will fill the aircraft with smoke as if the aircraft had made a crash landing. Area firefighters will be able to don their gear and enter the aircraft to search for survivors and complete a myriad of real-world training scenarios.
“FedEx could not be more proud than to donate this magnificent aircraft for training and education,” said David Sutton, managing director of Aircraft Acquisitions and Sales for FedEx Express. “This special donation is an example of the many ways we are giving back to the communities where FedEx people live and work. We are pleased the 727 has a new home.”
“We greatly appreciate this generous donation by FedEX Express and Jet Aviation’s assistance in handling the aircraft and helping to prepare it for its final use,” noted John Nations, President and CEO of Bi-State Development Agency/Metro (BSDA/Metro), which owns and operates St. Louis Downtown Airport. “Our airport fire department continues to lead the way in safety and training initiatives, and this fabulous training tool will enable us to provide valuable, hands-on experience that is rarely available anywhere.”
Upon completion of the work, the Boeing 727 will be the centerpiece of a new training site to be located on the northwest side of the airport between Vector Drive and the railroad tracks. In addition to the 727, the site will include smaller general aviation aircraft and other hands-on training aids.
This marks the 70th FedEx donation of a Boeing 727 aircraft to various organizations around the country for educational purposes since 2000. It’s the first such donation FedEx has made in the St. Louis region and, in an interesting twist, this particular aircraft actually has ties to St. Louis. It was originally one of just two Boeing 727s purchased back in 1979 by Ozark Airlines, which grew out of Parks Airlines, an operation that got its start right at St. Louis Downtown Airport. The plane was subsequently sold to Pan American World Airlines before becoming part of the FedEx fleet in 1993. Before its final flight, aircraft 727-200 REGISTRATION NUMBER N288FE provided FedEx with 20 years’ service transporting packages to destinations throughout the United States.
FedEx is retiring its 727s as part of an aircraft fleet
modernization program to introduce new, more efficient, lower emission airplanes.
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