MD10F Landing


By Karim Toure


FedEx Express will introduce a new medium wide body freighter in its fleet beginning in 2014. The contract agreement signed on December 14th 2011 with manufacturer Boeing will see the global logistics carrier receive 27 Boeing 767 Freighters. The delivery schedule agreed to will see the first 3 aircraft join the fleet in 2014. For FedEx Express, expectations surrounding the new aircraft are two-fold; retiring the longstanding MD-10F fleet of which some airframes are reaching 40 years of age, and extracting maximum business benefits from an optimized and cost efficient operation. Thus the new 767F provides momentum to achieving the 20% reduction in fuel emission and operating cost goal sought by the company for the year 2020.

Aging MD10F Fleet vs New Sustainable Strategy

First introduced to the world of travel in 1970 the tri-jet DC-10 only began service as a freighter with FedEx in 1981. By 1997, a Boeing retrofit program allowed the newly re-designated MD10F to be flown by a 2-pilots crew instead of 3 in the DC-10. The porting of the open avionics architecture found on the state-of-the-art MD-11 to the MD10 platform, allowed FedEx Express to consolidate its pilot type rating and long range wide body operation to a seemingly single MD10F/MD-11F type. This sizable fleet MD10F/11F formed the backbone of FedEx Express long haul wide body operation successfully riding the global expansion to China into the new millenium.

By the time the first three Boeing 767 arrive in 2014, more than a dozen MD10 will have passed the 40 years age barrier. In fact we identified at least 15 of 58 MD/DC10-10F built in 1971-1973 with the 17 MD10-30F built from 1978 on.

The need to replace aging aircraft also brings the opportunity to execute a sustainable strategy that emphasizes cost savings for the longer term. FedEx Express says the twin-engined 767 will outright deliver the 30% decrease in fuel burn over the aging tri-jet, so critical to the brand’s 20%-20% reduction in both emission and unit costs by 2020. Accordingly fleet wide changes are underway to propagate these savings and enhance the company’s profitability with at least $1.9 billion earmarked for aircraft and aircraft-related capital expenses in 2012. The introduction of 17 ultra long range Boeing 777F wide body aircraft since 2009 and replacement of up to 67 aging narrow body Boeing tri-jet Boeing 727F by twin-engined 757-200F also burning 30% less fuel are contributing further to this strategy.

Based on the basic Boeing 767-300ER passenger version, the 767-300F displays the same attributes that governed the introduction of the Boeing 777F. Operating in the 100 tonnes carrying capacity segment, the Boeing 777F has provided twin engined capabilities surpassing FedEx Express most capable wide body aircraft; the three-engined 92 tonnes MD-11F. In fact with its exceptional operational performance (range, fuel efficiency, carrying capacity, lower maintenance and exploitation cost) it has also provided a lower-risk alternative to the Airbus A380F initially sought by FedEx Express for service entry in 2009. The 777F also provides a more viable alternative to the quad engined 747-200/-400 dominating that industry’s segment.

When introduced in service, the 767-300F intends to replicate the same success demonstrated by the 777F in addition to providing extreme flexibility to the FedEx Express operation. The type can in fact be considered a potent replacement for any of the wide body aircraft currently operating with FedEx Express including the smaller medium range (regional) wide body Airbus A300 and Airbus A310-200/-300 freighter aircraft as well as the larger MD10-10F/MD10-30F. In the future when operated in tandem with the 777F, both aircraft may provide capability gap replacement for at least 4 different aircraft types (A300, A310, MD10 and MD11).

As a result seamless logistics chain complementarity between 767F and 777F will remain critical for FedEx Express in lowering unit cost. The carrier which as of January 2012 was operating 17 777F plans to take delivery of up to 41 additional aircraft (if options are exercised) including at least 2 in 2012, 4 in 2013, 7 in 2014, 3 in 2015, 3 in 2016 followed by another 9. The complete delivery schedule for the 27 Boeing 767 will see the first 3 aircraft arrive in 2014, followed by 6 in each of the year 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. Another 14 757-200F are also coming to the fleet; 8 aircraft will be converted from passengers to freighter and join the fleet in 2012 and 6 in 2013.

Review Of Logistics/Fleet Integration

According to the company, the FedEx Express mainline fleet is tasked with linking daily its primary sorting facility in Memphis, Tennessee to other national and regional bases forming the “company’s multiple hub-and-spoke system”. These consist mainly of the Indianapolis national hub, the Newark, Oakland, Fort Worth and Greensboro regional hubs, and the major metropolitan sorting facilities located in Los Angeles, Chicago and Anchorage. Additional packages processing facilities in Paris (France), Guangzhou (China) and Cologne/Bonn (Germany), Tokyo (Japan), Stansted Airport outside London (UK), and Pearson Airport in Toronto (Canada) form the critical transit points for the global packages processing network. Miami also plays additional role as the regional hub for most of the America’s southern hemisphere. This distributed topology forms the basis for the company’s overnight logistics operation and fleet integration strategy as well as aircraft selection/assignment.

We are surveying the carrier’s fleet operation exclusive of the 47 ATR-42/-72 and 241 Cessna 208B which are all leased to subcontractors.

Narrow Body Boeing 727-200F vs 757-200F

The narrow body freighter fleet is in a state of transition as it was assigned for more than 20 years to some 67 three-engined Boeing 727-200 Freighters. These aircraft mostly built in the 70’s have been sourced, as most freighter via the passenger-to-freighter conversion market. Because their noisy Pratt & Whitney JT8D-217 engines have been re-fitted with hush kits for QC2 airports noise compliance, they have managed to remain in service around major metropolitan airports where they still operate mostly at night past curfews hours. However they are now soundly outclassed by the 30% lower fuel burn of the twin Rolls Royce RB211-535E4 high by-pass ratio engines powering FedEx Express 58 Boeing 757-200F. Although not produced anymore, the 757-200 passengers aircraft are actively sought by FedEx Express. From the 58 aircraft in the fleet inventory, 21 are being converted from passengers to freighter including 8 that are due to join the fleet in 2012 and 6 in 2013. As of November 30, 2011 FedEx Express had $671 million for deposits and progress payments transactions partially allocated to acquiring the 14 aircraft planned for 2012 and 2013.

In operational capabilities; with its maximum structural payload of 43,300 lbs (19,600kgs), the 20 tonne (metric) 727-200F typically carries 8 88”x108” or 88”x125” pallets on its main deck and may be deployed on routes such as Des Moines Intl KDSM to Eastern Iowa KCID (flight time 24 min), Billings Logan Intl KBIL to Denver Intl KDEN (flight time 1h05min) or Philadelphia KPHL to Memphis (flight time 2h22min) etc.

In comparison, the 39-49 tonnes 757-200F (maximum structural payload is 86,000lbs (39,000kg) for the 757-200PF) accepts up to 15 125”x88” pallets on its main deck on typical trips like Edmonton Intl CYEG to Memphis Intl KMEM (duration 3h15min), Green State Airport KPVD to Fort Wayne KFWA (duration 1h45min), Norfolk International KORF to Indianapolis KIND (duration 1h37min).

71 A300-600F and 53 A310-200F/300F (only 3 A310-300F)

Combined, the A300 and A310 fleet brings tremendous value to the brand as the entry level wide body model deployed within the continental US. They are characterized by relatively young age fleet (the oldest A300B4-600 was built in 1986), twin engine economy, and 54 tonnes and 42 tonnes respectively for the A300F4-600 and A310. In fact both model share a 222” fuselage cross section that allows them to align most pallets and containers formats 2-abreast on main decks. The 30′ (10 m) shorter fuselage on the 150’6.7” long A310 is enough for 16 pallets (the 88”x125”) versus 21 for the A300. Using the larger 96”x125” would limit the A310 to 12 pallets and the A300 to 15 in single row layout. The ubiquitous LD-3 container fits extremely well under the main deck and 15 to 23 of them can be embarked respectively aboard the A310 and A300 lower holds.The A300 may operate the5h40min flight linking the Newark KEWR and Los Angeles KLAX national bases. However these aircraft are also encountered on 25 minutes duration flights Tucson KTUS to Phoenix KPHX along with 3h52min long Vancouver CYVR-Memphis KMEM. The A310s are found on the Washington Dulles KIAD-Indianapolis KIND route (1h19min), New York KJFK-Memphis KMEM (2h40min) or San Francisco KSFO – Memphis KMEM (3h18min).

LD-3 Containers Inside Airbus A300 Lower Cargo Hold

MD-11F wide body long range (64 aircraft)

FedEx Express most capable and more advanced freighter until the arrival of the Boeing 777F in 2009, the MD-11F can carry up to 92 tonnes (202,733 lbs) of payload on remarkably extended trips.

From a logistics approach it appears as a elongated MD10 (DC-10) with which it shares the 237” (6.02m) fuselage cross sectional width but with a much greater Maximum Take Off Weight capability between 610,000 lbs and 630,500 lbs. Three General Electric CF6-80C2D1F or Pratt & Whitney PW4460 and 4462 engines rated at 60,690 lbs, 60,000 lbs and 62,000 lbs of thrust respectively allow the aircraft to transport 26 pallets (88”x125” or 96”x125”) comfortably on the main deck with an additional 6 pallets along with 14 LD3 containers and more bulk cargo below deck. The MD-11 provides unrestricted over-the-water intercontinental capabilities such as Memphis Intl KMEM to Honolulu PHNL (8h26min), Honolulu to Sydney YSSY/SYD (9h21min), Anchorage-Narita (7h01min) or Frankfurt EDDF/FRA-Memphis KMEM (9h12min).

The 777F

FedEx Express carries up to 228,700 lbs (103,737 kg – 103+ tonnes) while bringing the ultra long range concept established by the Boeing 777-200LR passenger variant to the cargo industry. The 13h50min Hong Kong-Memphis flight and 11h07min Anchorage-Hong Kong showcase these capabilities. With its 206’6” (62.94m) fuselage length, the 777F has enough main deck volume for up to 27 larger 96”x125” pallets. The lower deck with both forward and aft cargo hold is very flexible; operators can choose between having 18 LD-3 (2 across) containers in the forward compartment plus another 14 in the rear compartment. The addition of 3 optional body fuel tanks will only be at the cost of 6 LD-3. Ten standardized pallets can be retained in either 96”x125” or 88”x125” format. Recognizing the aircraft adaptability and advantageous operating economics of the two massive GE 90-110B1L, FedEx Express has made provisions to operate up to 41 additional aircraft.

MD10 Regional Wide Body vs 767-300F

The MD10F has illustrated the tremendous growth potential of the basic DC-10 design. The first ever variant produced in 1970 was the DC10-10 easily recognized by a two-units main landing gear and offering a payload of 119,556lbs (54,230 kgs). The subsequent DC10-30 variant which had the 3-units main landing gear improved the payload to 152,964lbs (69,383 kgs) betraying a reinforced airframe structure. With the MD10 retrofit packaging a passenger-to-freighter conversion, MD10 airframes were further strengthened prior to the installation of their large forward cargo door. As a result FedEx Express 58 MD10-10F and 17 MD10-30F maximum payload escalated again to respectively 139,000 lbs (63,049 kg – 63 tonnes) and 177,500 lbs (80,512 kg 80.5 tonnes).

The 767F in comparison adapts the 767-300ER passenger variant to a cargo role. It provides a 10 feet stretch of the basic 767-200 model introduced in 1980 from 170’6” (51.97 m) to a length of 180’3” (54.94 m) for the 767-300/-F while retaining the same 16’6” (5.03 m) cabin width. Type certification for the 767F was granted by FAA on October 12th 1995 initially with two engines variants from General Electric; the CF6-80C2B6F and CF6-80C2B7F. There are currently up to 9 engines available with designation and thrust:

General Electric

CF6-80C2-B4 57,900 lbs (26,263 kg)

CF6-80C2-B6 61,500 lbs (27,896 kg)

CF6-80C2-B8F 60,600 lbs (27,488 kg)

CF6-80C2-B7F1 60,600 lbs (27,488 kg)

Pratt & Whitney

PW4056 56,750 lbs (25,741 kg)

PW4060 60,000 lbs (27,216 kg)

PW4062 60,600 lbs (27,488 kg)

Rolls Royce

RB211-524G 58,000 lbs (26,308 kg)

RB211-524H 60,600 lbs (27,488 kg)

As of January 31st 2012, 65 aircraft had been delivered to the cargo industry including 4 to ANA, 1 to Asiana, 3 to DHL, 1 to GECAS, 3 to JAL, 8 to LAN. But none more widely deployed than with launch customer UPS which has taken delivery of 45 aircraft from 1995 to January 31st 2012 and has a backlog order for 14 more aircraft.

Typical employment by the Louisville, KY-based rival logistics giant is the 7h50min flight from Cologne to Newark, 2h10min flight from miami to philadelphia or 5h44min flight from Ontario to Kona international at Keahole. Inspired by UPS operational experience, FedEx is likely to use the 767F as a drop-in replacement for the MD10 flying routes as long as the 6h51min (3,433 miles) Anchorage-Tokyo or even average like Luis Munoz Marin Intl TJSJ/SJU – Memphis Intl KMEM (3h58min), Memphis-Montreal Mirabel CYMX (2h55min) or Manchester KMHT – Memphis Intl KMEM (2h57min).

A 767 Freighter Being Assemblt At Boeing's Everett Line

767F payload vs MD10F

With its exterior fuselage diameter of 198” (5.03m) against 237” (6.02 m) for the MD10, the 767F is barely wide enough to comfortably fit two standardized pallets abreast. The MD10 main deck makes a great utilization of space by allowing 2 pallets abreast on either of the 88”x125” (30 pallets), 88”x108” (22 pallets) or even larger 96”x125” (20 pallets). The 767F somewhat offers the same 2 pallets abreast but mainly for 24 contoured type A pallets advertised by Boeing with their 88”x108”. We expect that no more than 20 88”x125” can be squeezed inside its more narrow fuselage. Transporting the larger 96”x125” is only possible in a single line of 15 pallets plus one 88”x125”. The 767F lower deck is tailored-fit for 30 LD2 containers spread 16/14 between forward and rear compartment. Other exotic configurations can mix 8 LD3 to 5 LD4 or 4 96”x125” pallets to 7 LD8.

767 Upgrades

Dispelling the perception that as first introduced in 1980, the 767 is also an old aircraft, we are listing some of the 767F Seller Furnished Equipment recently certified for use on the aircraft by the FAA comprising:

-sensor-equipped fully automatic, joystick-controlled cargo loading system,

-environmental temperature control system for transporting live animals and perishable goods,

X-band Fuseland Enhanced Vision System (EVS) Nose Radome Assembly,

WeatherMASTER X-Band Fuselage Nose Radome,

-Teledyne Controls Wireless Ground Link-Quick Access Recorder (WQAR),

-EVS-2500 Enhanced Vision System,

-Tailwind 550/560 Live TV System,

-Collins HF Communication System HFS-900D,

-CEIS TM Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) System,

-Honeywell RESCU 406AF Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) System,

-Collins Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS II), -C16221LA03 Thales Integrated Standby Flight instruments Display (ISFD),

-L-3 Communications Model FA2100 Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR), –Honeywell Runway Awareness & Advisory System (RAAS), -AlliedSignal Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System,

-L-3 Avionics Systems GH-3100,

-Dual Honeywell XK516D High Frequency (HF) radio systems, -Upgraded Yaw Damper Servos, P/N 1540500 -1AA /-3AA /-5AA /-7AA /-9AA /-11AA,

-Metric Altimeter indicator to provide metric altitude and a metric repeater,

-Class 2 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) provisions for navAero t-BagC2, -Upgrade of the internal core software of the ACARS Data Link Management Unit (DLM-900),

-Upgrade of existing Mode S Transponders to ACSS Mode S Transponder P/N 7517800-10005,

-Honeywell (TRA-67A) or Collins (TPR901) Mode S Enhanced Surveillance System,

-Intermediate Gain Antenna (IGA) Sub-System Issued and

-Electronic Flight Bag Provisions and Aircraft Wireless LAN Unit.


The 767 with its ETOPS operation and wide enough fuselage will give FedEx an edge in cutting cost and adding the flexibility of a nimbler general purpose wide body aircraft than previously possible with the MD10F.

FedEx Express logistics system fleet wide common denominators are the 88”x108” and 88”x125” standard pallets because all the wide body aircraft can accommodate them 2 abreast (A300/310, MD10/11 777F and 767F). The 96”x125” pallet format however remains a niche item only ideally suited for the 777F and MD10F/-11F. In that respect the 767F is regrettably at a great disadvantage as it can only embark these pallets in a single line. Below deck, the LD-3 comes as the versatile medium also adopted fleet wide (narrow/wide body) even though the 767F appears naturally better suited for the narrower LD2 container. Despite inefficient logistics integration between the 777F and 767F, FedEx Express strategy will prove beneficial.

Looking at industry’s trend we have seen Lufthansa Cargo deciding last year to replace MD-11F with 777F. Furthermore 747F operators will increasingly be faced with the difficult choice to upgrade to larger 747-8 (Cargolux, Atlas Air) or go for the 777F. FedEx Express early adoption of the 777F has already hedged it from its 100+ tonnes needs while ideally cushioning it for the post MD-11F era. Thus 767F may derive success simply from complementing 777F.




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