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FedEx donates practice plane to Spokane airport

Thu., May 24, 2012

Spokane International Airport took possession Wednesday of a well-traveled Boeing 727-200 through a donation by its owner, FedEx Express.

The plane will be moved to a corner of the airport and used for training by firefighters, police and community college aerospace students.

“It is the hope of FedEx that this aircraft provides the critical hands-on training that is essential to the skill set of the aircraft rescue firefighters and emergency response teams,” said David Sutton, managing director of aircraft acquisitions and sales for FedEx.

Nearly 100 people gathered at the hangar of XN Air to celebrate the donation. In an interview, Sutton said the airframe alone is worth nearly $800,000.

FedEx has donated more than 50 aircraft to museums, aerospace schools and airports in a program dating to 1995. Sutton said it is a way for the company “to give back to the industry.”

FedEx once had a fleet of more than 200 Boeing 727s, but is phasing out the model and replacing it with more fuel efficient 757s. The 727 also requires three flight personnel compared with two on the 757.

The jet donated to Spokane was built in 1979 for Air Canada and converted to a cargo hauler by FedEx in 1992, carrying up to 60,000 pounds at a time.

Over its 33 years of service, the triple-engine plane accumulated 49,858 flight hours with 30,135 landings.

“This has been a great airplane for us,” Sutton said.

With its extended wing flaps, the 727 produced greater lift than other jets of its day. It could land and take off at smaller airports. In addition, the ramp tucked into the tail provided passengers access at airports lacking elevated terminal ramps. Those features helped the 727 become a commercial success.

Airport Fire Chief Bruce Millsap said he will use the plane for several types of training, including emergency evacuation and simulated fires.

The aircraft will be kept in good condition. None of the training will damage the aircraft, he said.

“The plan is to keep it intact and useful for training for many years,” Millsap said.

He said he hopes to acquire several rows of seats and install them inside what is now the open cargo area.

Spokane firefighters along with firefighters from Fairchild Air Force Base, District 3 and District 10 will get the chance to use the plane for training as well, he said.

Law enforcement agencies can train for scenarios such as hostage takings or hijackings.

The engines currently on the plane are going to be removed and kept by FedEx because they have operating time left on them. Sutton said the company would donate two used engines with expired flying time for student teaching.

Joe Dunlap, president of Spokane Community College, said aerospace students can make use of the many mechanical and electronic systems that are on board.

“Believe me. It will be put to good use,” he said.

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