Flashback: Copter pilot turned businessman is Fedex prexy

 - April 8, 2022, 9:20 AM
ACN June 30, 1978 p.8

With AIN Media Group's Aviation International News and its predecessor Aviation Convention News celebrating the company's 50th year of continuous publication this year, AIN’s editorial staff is going back through the archives each month to bring readers some interesting events that were covered over the past half-century.

REWIND: (June 30, 1978) On April 12 Federal Express went public. The Memphis-based small package airline that did what the pundits said couldn’t be done—make money using business jets to deliver parcels weighing no more than 70 lbs.—made a public offering of 935,000 shares of Class A common stock at $24 apiece. Even before the Over-The-Counter exchange in New York City opened on that April day, every share had been sold. When this article went to press, the shares were selling for $40.

This is quite a contrast to the mood prevailing only three years ago when the venture capitalists who had bankrolled the company with some $80 million seemed to be hoping for some way to bail out, and it was feared that Fedex might have to dump its 33 Falcon jets on the used market.

FASTFORWARD: After losing $30 million in its first three years of operation, Fedex finally moved into the black in 1976, and it was further buoyed in 1977 when the U.S. Congress rescinded a 1958 Civil Aeronautics Board regulation restricting all-cargo air taxi operators from using aircraft with payloads greater than 7,500 lbs. That allowed the express delivery company to acquire larger aircraft such as Boeing 727s to serve high-density markets such as New York and California. We met with company president Art Bass who described how the company’s entire fleet flew from Memphis to 80 spoke airports around the country to collect small packages. On return to Memphis, those packages are sorted and loaded back onto aircraft for delivery the next day. Bass noted at the time that the Falcon 20’s were ideal for serving small cities. While the company has long since shed its initial Falcons (one of which is now retired in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum) Fedex now operates one of the largest fleets of airliners in the world, and last year averaged more than 6.5 million package deliveries a day worldwide. It is the launch customer for the Cessna SkyCourier with deliveries expected to begin this year.