of Hickory, North Carolina
|WING SPAN:||95′ 1″|
|EMPTY WEIGHT:||26500 LBS|
|MAX WEIGHT:||45000 LBS|
|ENGINES:||Rolls Royce Dart|
|MAX SPEED:||280 MPH|
|Text Markings: N705FE, FedEx Feeder, The World On Time, Operated by Mountain Air Cargo, Denver NC|
Retired from service with Mountain Air Cargo, a FedEx Feeder. Donated by FedEx. Prior passenger service with Air Inter, a French airline that is now part of the Air France group.
By Chris Knollmeyer
The following is an article by Chris Knollmeyer that originally appeared in the AirT Inc. Company Newsletter. AirT Inc. is the parent company of Mountain Air Cargo, which operated our F-27 before it came to the museum.
Friday January 30 marked a significant and somewhat sad milestone for Mountain Air Cargo. That evening N713FE, Mountain’s last Fokker F-27 Friendship (Fokker’s unique moniker is very appropriate), made its final revenue flight from Santo Domingo to Borinquen Puerto Rico. The next day, 713 made its way to Fort Lauderdale where it awaits its fate. As far as we know this was also the last flight of any civilian F-27 in the U.S.
The story of the F-27 is really the story of Mountain’s beginnings as a 121 operator. The FedEx purchase of these aircraft led to our acquisition of a 121 certificate and subsequently, a great leap in our capabilities. [Part 121 refers to the rules and regulations that apply to large airline operations].
At its peak Mountain operated 22 of the type making us by far the largest F-27 operator in the world. The program started with six former Air Inter aircraft, N705FE through N710FE. These airplanes became known as the French variant and after conversion to a cargo configuration using our own STC, began revenue service in 1988. More F-27s followed, the next batch coming from Malaysian Airlines. N712FE through N722FE were converted and had joined the fleet by the end of 1991. About a year and a half later we got the last and newest variant; 1985 models from Air Wisconsin. These last six, N723FE through N728FE rounded out the fleet and were the only ones equipped with flight directors and autopilots.
For the last 20 years, Mountain’s F-27s have ranged all over the eastern and central U.S, Canada, the Caribbean, and South America. Carrying millions of pounds of freight, the F-27 fleet flew with tremendous reliability in temperatures ranging from -20 in places like Minneapolis to +95 in Puerto Rico.
Now the transition to an all ATR 121 fleet is complete but to everyone who flew or worked on the F-27 it will be fondly remembered as an aircraft that was way beyond special.
During this period there were only a few misadventures, the worst being a harrowing in-flight fire on N715FE resulting in an emergency landing in Melo, Uruguay. 715 was damaged beyond repair but thanks to the skill of the crew and the strength of the airplane, no one was seriously injured.
No doubt the F-27 had shortcomings; it burned a lot of fuel, made a lot of noise, and wasn’t very fast. In exchange however, it was reliable, stable, forgiving, and as tough as they come. Fly it into moderate icing and it would eventually slow a bit but that’s about all. Additionally, viewed in flight with the gear up, it was quite beautiful.
Remembering the F-27, pilots and mechanics will undoubtedly smile whenever they recall the painfully loud whine of her Rolls Royce Dart engines, the hissing pneumatics, and the impressive sight of flames blowing out the stacks on nighttime engine starts.
In all, Fokker built around 600 Friendships between 1958 and 1985. Fairchild Aircraft in Hagerstown, Maryland also built another 207 under license in the U.S.
Our F-27 heritage is preserved at the Hickory Aviation Museum where N705FE (ironically, our first F-27) has been graciously donated by Fed Ex and is living out a happy retirement as the only civilian airplane in the collection. Sitting between the F-14 Tomcat and F-5 Tiger, visitors approach and constantly refrain:
“Can we go in the FedEx plane?”
Of course you can. What an airplane.
Article by Jim Malcolm and Jeff Willhelm, Photos by Jeff Willhelm and April Alfonso
The F-27 Has Arrived!
On the rainy morning of February 13th, 2008, Bill West, director of feeder operations for FedEx in Memphis, was on hand at Hickory Regional Airport to officially hand over N705FE to the Hickory Aviation Museum. In a well attended ceremony Mr. West presented the aircraft to Mayor Rudy Wright and the Sabre Society. Members of Hickory city council also attended. As always, Froggy Pete’s catered the affair in the most delicious manner.
At a few minutes after 5:00pm Friday, N705FE arrived at the Hickory Aviation Museum. Chris Knollmeyer provided excitement by performing a slow speed flyby, followed by a 225 KT high speed flyby at 80 feet, followed by a perfect landing. The aircraft is now parked on the far corner of the terminal ramp, and will remain there until the area is prepared for its display. The formal delivery ceremony will still be held on Wednesday, February 13, at 9:30am.
Here is a good reason for everyone to hang around the museum when ever possible. Just before arrival of N705FE, we were given a special treat. Two VH-3 Presidential helicopters of Marine Squadron VMX-1 arrived, followed shortly by four UH-46 support helicopters. We would like to thank the President for sending this interesting display for us.
Our Fedex Fokker F-27, N705FE, made what was to be its last commercial flight from Santo Domingo to Puerto Rico on Wednesday, January 9th. Chris Knollmeyer arrived in Puerto Rico to ferry N705FE from Puerto Rico to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. After clearing customs on January 10, Chris successfully landed at Kinston, NC at the Mountain Air Cargo Heavy Maintenance Facility. While 705 was in Kinston undergoing preparations, the only other remaining F-27, N713FE, had an engine problem in Puerto Rico. Mechanics loaded a replacement engine onto N705FE, and a flight crew flew it back to Puerto Rico. N705FE flew again on the Puerto Rico to Santo Domingo run until N713FE was repaired.
We owe special thanks to FedEx, and especially to all of the people who worked hard to make this donation possible. The delivery might not have ever happened without the efforts of Sabre Society Member Chris Knollmeyer.