American Airlines has concluded a long-awaited deal with FedEx, which will see the US package carrier take over at least 14 of American's McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10s in exchange for supplying hushkits for up to 81 Boeing 727-200s.

Some 30 of American's 727s will be hushkitted initially, and a further 51 are covered by options to the basic contract. If these are exercised, as is widely expected, then a further 21 DC-10s are also likely to pass to FedEx, including 12 DC-10-10s and five -30s now in service with American, plus another four on lease to Hawaiian Air.

The move represents another step in FedEx's plan to build a fleet of upgraded two-crew DC-10s, dubbed the MD-10. The two-phase project was formally launched in September after a complex $600 million deal involving avionics supplier Honeywell and United Airlines, from which FedEx has agreed to purchase 36 DC-10-10s. (Flight International, 25 September-1 October, P.6).

FedEx plans to retrieve the American DC-10s from storage in Amarillo, Texas, "over the next 12 months". The aircraft will initially be converted from passenger to freight configuration and will be operated as standard DC-10 freighters. The longer-term aim is for a conversion to MD-10 standard, which involves installtion of Honeywell-based advanced common flightdecks (ACFs) which closely resemble the MDC MD-11 cockpit.

"The important thing about this deal is that it gives us control over our own abilities to meet the growing demand for capacity, rather than depend on the availability of new aircraft," says FedEx. Conversion of the first ex-United DC-10s will begin in early 1997, with the first American machines following in late 1997. Certification of the first ACF-equipped MD-10 is not expected until mid-1999.

Although American has not specified whether it will go ahead with hushkitting the additional 727s, the airline is generally expected to commit to all 81. The carrier is believed to have obtained a favourable "discount deal" for the fleet and would thus be able to sell the -200s at a modest profit in later years as new equipment comes on line.

Pratt & Whitney, which developed the JT8D huskit with FedEx, says that more than 1,500 shipsets of hushkits have been placed on firm and option orders. Of these, 500 sets have so far been delivered.

Source: Flight International