FedEx Corp. is based in Memphis, Tennessee, and it's here that the main super hub of FedEx Express and its air operations are centred.
With a fleet of over 640 aircraft and ten air express hubs, FedEx is the largest express transportation company in the world, carrying 3.9 million shipments each business day, as it flies to 375 airports and serves over 220 countries and territories.
On average, 200 FedEx Express aircraft a day arrive at the Memphis International Airport, all laden with packages that need to be de-planed, sorted and then re-loaded for onward distribution. Night time tends to be the busiest at the super hub with around 1.2 million items being processed by about 7,000 team members.
The FedEx Express aircraft fleet is both large and varied. The FedEx Express trunk fleet includes seven different aircraft types: Boeing 777s, 767s, 757s, Airbus A300s, A310s, MD11s and MD10s, and until recently, Boeing 727s. FedEx Express utilises fleet types depending on the specific routes, the different volumes on those routes and the range of distances flown. Until the last of its Boeing 727s were phased out of the operations last year, FedEx Express depended on the Boeing 727 as its narrow body workhorse – now though, it looks to the Boeing 757 to fill that niche.
The company has been, and is, busily acquiring and converting Boeing 757 passenger aircraft to meet the current and future demands of its narrow body express cargo operations. At the programme's height, FedEx was converting a passenger Boeing 757 to a cargo-carrier every three weeks.
A Boeing 757 will typically carry around 40,000lbs of cargo; when they analysed their load factors and the distances flown, according to FedEx Express the Boeing 757's capability was able to fit their requirements 'like a glove'.
Currently, FedEx Express has 72 Boeing 757s powered by Rolls-Royce RB211-535 engines. They began operating the aircraft/engine combination seven years ago and the number may grow as its Boeing 757 fleet increases in size. All of the engines are covered by a TotalCare® service agreement with Rolls-Royce.
The FedEx Express experience with engine utilisation is different from other aircraft operators. The daily hours of aircraft in service are comparatively low, with most aircraft being flown only two or three times a day with flights averaging two-three hours in duration or less. These low utilisation rates mean that engines can stay on the wing for about 10-12 years before planned removal!
FedEx Express intends to maximise fully the life of these engines. "We have signed a TotalCare contract with Rolls-Royce because we need a long-term commitment to the entire lifecycle of these engines," says Justin Brownlee, Managing Director Propulsion Maintenance for FedEx Express. "With meticulous planning and maintenance, RB211-535 engines can have an active lifespan of up to 50 years since initial entry into service.
One of our goals when Rolls-Royce and FedEx Express began collaborating on a strategy for the care of these engines was to develop a plan that is cost-effective and enables Rolls-Royce to maintain and continually improve the engineering of these engines far into the future.
"Our two companies wanted a structure that would be appropriate for us in terms of cost and that would allow Rolls-Royce to commit to the engine – for both maintenance and continuous improvement engineering."
A strong relationship with key suppliers is something to which FedEx is committed. The company has engaged with Rolls-Royce on its 'voice of the customer' campaign to help explain to Rolls-Royce employees just how important the work they do is to its aircraft reliability.
"I can't overstate to Rolls-Royce employees how vital your work is to the service we provide our customers," says George Silverman. "We want to work together to achieve the very best results because in the end, that's what counts. We appeal to our suppliers to approach service for FedEx with the same enthusiastic vim and vigour that we do on behalf of our customers. I am confident that Rolls-Royce is up for this challenge."
In other words, FedEx Express needs Rolls-Royce and the RB211-535 to help deliver the Purple Promise!