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Aircraft Model: Boeing 727 (FedEx)
Aircraft Type: Cargo Aircraft
Fly During Show: No
Display Open To Public: Yes
Web Site: www.fedex.com
Boeing 727

Boeing 727

The versatility and reliability of the Boeing 727 -- first trijet introduced into commercial service -- made it the best-selling airliner in the world during the first 30 years of jet transport service. The jet age essentially began in 1952 with the introduction of the British-designed de Havilland Comet. Several jetliners, including the Boeing 707, were developed before the 727, but none came close to its sales record.

Production of the 727 extended from the early 1960s to August 1984 -- a remarkable length of time, considering the original market forecast was for 250 airplanes. As it turned out, 1,831 were delivered. Twenty years later, when the last 727 was delivered, this versatile fleet was carrying 13 million passengers each month. As of January 2001, nearly 1,300 of the reliable aircraft were still in service.
On Jan. 13, 1991, the first 727 built -- which had been in continual service with United Airlines since 1964 -- finally made its last commercial flight and was donated to the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

Introduced into service in February 1964, the 727 trijet became an immediate hit with flight crews and passengers alike. With a fuselage width the same as the 707 (and the later 737 and 757), it provided jet luxury on shorter routes. With sophisticated, triple-slotted trailing edge flaps and new leading-edge slats, the 727 had unprecedented low-speed landing and takeoff performance for a commercial jet and could be accommodated by smaller airports than the 707 required.

The 727, like all Boeing jetliners, was continually modified to fit the changing market. It began with the -100 series, of which 407 were sold. This was followed by the -100C convertible that featured a main-deck side cargo door, allowing it to carry either cargo pallets or passengers -- or a combination of both -- on the main deck. Boeing built 164 of these.

The 727-200, introduced in December 1967, had increased gross weight and a 20-foot longer fuselage that could accommodate as many as 189 passengers in an all-tourist configuration. In all its variations, 1,245 of the -200s were sold. The last version, the 727-200F, had a 58,000-pound, 11-pallet cargo capability. Fifteen of these were sold to Federal Express.

Structural improvements, a more powerful engine and greater fuel capacity led to the Advanced 727-200 in May 1971. This advanced series had improved payload/range capability, better runway performance and a completely restyled "widebody look" as standard equipment.

Lufthansa German Airlines and Air Algerie put 727s with the new interior into service in April 1971. Passenger response was enthusiastic, and by November 1972, this spacious interior was standard equipment on all production 707, 727 and 737 aircraft, and was offered for retrofit as well.

Later performance improvements for the 727 included another gross weight boost, from a maximum 170,000 pounds (77,122 kg) to 191,000 pounds (86,600 kg) for the Advanced version. On February 3, 1972, another increase to 208,000 pounds (94,348 kg) was announced, together with the purchase of three of the "heavyweights" by Sterling Airways of Denmark. The 727's highest gross weight was eventually raised to 210,000 pounds (95,300 kg).

The 727 became the best-selling airliner in history when orders passed the 1,000 mark in September 1972. By January 1983, orders reached 1,831. One Boeing-owned test airplane brought the grand total to 1,832. Today, the Boeing 737 has surpassed that total, but the 727 holds a permanent place in the annals of aviation as one of the most significant airplanes in the development of the world's jet transportation system.

On Dec. 5, 1977, the worldwide 727 fleet carried its one billionth (1,000,000,000) passenger -- a mark never attained before by a commercial aircraft. Today, the number has reached well over 4 billion.

One hundred and one customers purchased new 727s from Boeing, although dozens more have placed the airplane type into service as "second tier" operators. More than 300 727s built as passenger airplanes have been converted to freighters, a process that continues today.


Famous Origins
In 1965, Yale University undergraduate Frederick W. Smith wrote a term paper about the passenger route systems used by most airfreight shippers, which he viewed as economically inadequate. Smith wrote of the need for shippers to have a system designed specifically for airfreight that could accommodate time-sensitive shipments such as medicines, computer parts and electronics.
In August of 1971 following a stint in the military, Smith bought controlling interest in Arkansas Aviation Sales, located in Little Rock, Ark. While operating his new firm, Smith identified the tremendous difficulty in getting packages and other airfreight delivered within one to two days. This dilemma motivated him to do the necessary research for resolving the inefficient distribution system. Thus, the idea for Federal Express was born: a company that revolutionized global business practices and now defines speed and reliability.
Federal Express was so-named due to the patriotic meaning associated with the word "Federal," which suggested an interest in nationwide economic activity. At that time, Smith hoped to obtain a contract with the Federal Reserve Bank and, although the proposal was denied, he believed the name was a particularly good one for attracting public attention and maintaining name recognition.
The company incorporated in June 1971 and officially began operations on April 17, 1973, with the launch of 14 small aircraft from Memphis International Airport. On that night, Federal Express delivered 186 packages to 25 U.S. cities from Rochester, NY, to Miami, Fla.
Company headquarters were moved to Memphis, Tenn., a city selected for its geographical center to the original target market cities for small packages. In addition, the Memphis weather was excellent and rarely caused closures at Memphis International Airport. The airport was also willing to make the necessary improvements for the operation and had additional hangar space readily available.
Company Growth
Though the company did not show a profit until July 1975, it soon became the premier carrier of high-priority goods in the marketplace and the standard setter for the industry it established.
In the mid-1970s, Federal Express took a leading role in lobbying for air cargo deregulation that finally came in 1977. These changes allowed Federal Express to use larger aircraft (such as Boeing 727s and McDonnell-Douglas DC-10s) and spurred the company's rapid growth. Today FedEx Express has the world's largest all-cargo air fleet, including McDonnell-Douglass MD-11s and Airbus A-300s and A-310s. The planes have a total daily lift capacity of more than 26.5 million pounds. In a 24-hour period, the fleet travels nearly 500,000 miles while its couriers log 2.5 million miles a day – the equivalent of 100 trips around the earth.
The company entered its maturing phase in the first half of the 1980s. Federal Express was well established. Competitors were trying to catch up to a company whose growth rate was compounding at about 40 percent annually. In fiscal year 1983 Federal Express reported $1 billion in revenues, making American business history as the first company to reach that financial hallmark inside ten years of start-up without mergers or acquisitions.
Overseas Expansion
Following the first of several international acquisitions, intercontinental operations began in 1984 with service to Europe and Asia. The following year, FedEx marked its first regularly scheduled flight to Europe. In 1988, the company initiated direct-scheduled cargo service to Japan.
The acquisition of Tiger International, Inc. occurred in February 1989. With the integration of the Flying Tigers network on August 7, 1989, the company became the world's largest full-service, all-cargo airline. Included in the acquisition were routes to 21 countries, a fleet of Boeing 747 and 727 aircraft, facilities throughout the world and Tigers' expertise in international airfreight.
Federal Express obtained authority to serve China through a 1995 acquisition from Evergreen International Airlines. Under this authority, Federal Express became the sole U.S.-based, all-cargo carrier with aviation rights to the world's most populous nation. Since then, the company's global reach has continued to expand, resulting in an unsurpassed worldwide network. FedEx Express today delivers to customers in more than 210 countries.
Evolving Identity
The first evolution of the company's corporate identity came in 1994 when Federal Express officially adopted "FedEx" as its primary brand, taking a cue from its customers, who frequently referred to the company by the shortened name. By that time, customers used the term as a verb, meaning, "to send an overnight shipment." It did not take long for the meaning to catch on, and today it's common terminology to "FedEx" a package.
The second evolution came in 2000 when the company was renamed FedEx Express to reflect its position in the overall FedEx Corporation portfolio of services. This also signified the expanding breadth of the FedEx Express-specific service offerings, as well as a FedEx that was no longer just overnight delivery.

This display is sponsored by FedEx

Photo and information courtesy of FedEx

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