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Max Q
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FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sat Jul 04, 2020 8:18 am

Was just reading up on their fleet and saw a note on this practice


Not exactly sure how it works, I believe FDX keeps several aircraft airborne ‘on patrol’ that can respond to an immediate pick up requirement that can’t be covered in their regular schedule


Fascinating practice, anyone have more details, does UPS do this as well ?
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vhqpa
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sat Jul 04, 2020 8:32 am

Sounds interesting. Not doubting you but it sounds like an incredibly expensive practice. I'm interested in finding out more.
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IWMBH
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sat Jul 04, 2020 8:50 am

I don’t know about FX but UPS has “hot-spares”. These planes are not in the air but on the ground and “scrambled” when a plane can’t fly. I think FX has the same thing going on. I believe there where ones flying spares, but they stopped that some time ago.

https://gearpatrol.com/2015/04/22/on-al ... ot-spares/
 
VSMUT
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sat Jul 04, 2020 9:03 am

My impression was that they only did it around busy high seasons, like the run-up to christmas.

IWMBH wrote:
I don’t know about FX but UPS has “hot-spares”. These planes are not in the air but on the ground and “scrambled” when a plane can’t fly. I think FX has the same thing going on. I believe there where ones flying spares, but they stopped that some time ago.

https://gearpatrol.com/2015/04/22/on-al ... ot-spares/


Yep, I've done the hot-spare ATR out of CGN a lot of times. 99% of the time they knew a few days in advance, so we could just stay/sleep in the airport hotel with our phones on. FedEx also has hot-spares with crew on standby.
 
MIflyer12
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sat Jul 04, 2020 12:52 pm

Hot spares are very different from aircraft in the air, which sounds very expensive: a cycle, aircraft hours, hourly fuel burn + pilot hours. Having aircraft airborne wouldn't save much time: just a takeoff and climb to cruise altitude and speed. Almost by definition you don't know where they're going to be needed -- if you knew, you would just place a hot spare there. This isn't the 1960's with U.S. B-52s constantly in the air with nuclear weapons. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation ... n%20border.
 
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Spacepope
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sat Jul 04, 2020 1:09 pm

One of these sweep flights has been an A300 flying DEN-MEM. Partial load in DEN, then instead of straight off east to MEM, it usually starts due South to ABQ before headed east. Seen it divert to land and pick up cargo at ABQ, LBB and Dallas, with OKC in its reach. Adds another hour or so onto an existing flight, but less expensive than staffed but unused hot spare aircraft at remote stations, empty sweeps or just not picking up the cargo.

Edit: here is a typical sweep profile for FX 1311 https://flightaware.com/live/flight/FDX1311
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midway7
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sat Jul 04, 2020 1:34 pm

[quote="VSMUT"]My impression was that they only did it around busy high seasons, like the run-up to christmas.

I think this is when you see more of them actually airborne and dispatched on missions. Not only for service disruptions or irregular ops, but also due to higher volumes, which may have not been fully anticipated.
 
jetmatt777
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sat Jul 04, 2020 2:16 pm

Spacepope wrote:
One of these sweep flights has been an A300 flying DEN-MEM. Partial load in DEN, then instead of straight off east to MEM, it usually starts due South to ABQ before headed east. Seen it divert to land and pick up cargo at ABQ, LBB and Dallas, with OKC in its reach. Adds another hour or so onto an existing flight, but less expensive than staffed but unused hot spare aircraft at remote stations, empty sweeps or just not picking up the cargo.

Edit: here is a typical sweep profile for FX 1311 https://flightaware.com/live/flight/FDX1311


Yep this particular one has been doing that for years, I remember seeing this flight on FlightAware 10 or more years ago. I doubt they need to do a ton of them, just one covering a region. Say 6 at most?
 
fcogafa
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sat Jul 04, 2020 2:40 pm

That example looks like they are avoiding weather?

Edit: here is a typical sweep profile for FX 1311 https://flightaware.com/live/flight/FDX1311
 
jetmatt777
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sat Jul 04, 2020 2:41 pm

fcogafa wrote:
That example looks like they are avoiding weather?

Edit: here is a typical sweep profile for FX 1311 https://flightaware.com/live/flight/FDX1311


No, look at the flight history. It flies that routing every day. Here is a recent example of it diverting to AFW to pick up freight.

https://flightaware.com/live/flight/FDX ... /KDEN/KMEM
 
BuckeyeFly
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sat Jul 04, 2020 3:22 pm

There are a handful of flights in which based on loads are considered recovery flights. The DEN-MEM is just one example of the sweep flight, Sweep or recovery flights are either partial loads or MT flights. It's the ability to know your system and what average loads are and the flights that are capable of recovering another market.

UPS has similar practices.
 
32andBelow
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sat Jul 04, 2020 4:13 pm

vhqpa wrote:
Sounds interesting. Not doubting you but it sounds like an incredibly expensive practice. I'm interested in finding out more.

Overnight delivery is that important. If there’s only 1 overnight package going to a small down. They’ll still fly the atr or caravan or whatever that is Scheduled on the route.
 
tulsarefueler
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sat Jul 04, 2020 8:26 pm

Used to deal with the Fedex and UPS guys. They both run similar programs the last time I dealt with them. I'm sure they probably still operate similar routes for the most part. For both operators, they have daily sweeper flights into stations who generally have too much cargo for the nightly flights out and don't have the right aircraft for the route. You have to think, pretty much they base a set aircraft at each station according to weight load, and it only varies ac types during peak season, mtx issues, or swapping of a ac if the freight loads are too high over an extended period of time. The sweeper flights also can be for quick service that is offered, like for instance, there for awhile Fedex was offering an overnight am express delivery out of Tulsa. Had to ship before 4pm iirc, so it could be ready for the 5pm flight.
Fedex was always the king of sweeper flights, we used to have a 727 that did a loop around the midwest that picked up the express and the overflow cargo from like 3-4 airports, the pilots always joked it's odd to fly during the day time.

As for UPS, well, to compare, from my perspective, Fedex was the young dog that tried to do things the easy way, and UPS was the old dog that didn't want to learn any new tricks. UPS would not do sweeper flights, they would just add daytime as needed during peak times to supplement the nightly flights, or just add an extra plane to the nightly departures. Why no sweeper, well standing around and just observing I noticed one major thing, hence my previous comment. Fedex, they load their priority/must go on the plane first stuff, then whatever room they had leftover, they filled it with the rest of the cargo, and only trucked what had to be trucked out to the nearest hub. UPS, air stuff went by air, ground stuff went by ground, no mixing it up, as I watched the 757 leave out half empty several nights and loads of semi's pulling out heading for SDF.

As for what most people think are sweeper flights, those are actually Rescue flights that both carriers operate. Pardon if i don't have ac types right as they rotated alot for the rescue planes. Both operators have designated flights that are rescue flights, they normally operate on a VERY timed process. For instance, one carrier had a 757 departing out of LAS( normally only carried 1 or 2 cans of cargo hence mostly empty), and it was timed to be within 15-30 minutes of every departure underneath it. Aka, if any ac had an issue within the departure window and it would jeopardize the package delivery, operations would contact the rescue plane and it would immediately divert to that airport. The rescue planes would always fly at long range cruise, and sometimes if winds,weather, or if timing was of importance, they would zig zag up and down instead of a straight line to their destination. When they got the call to divert to save a broke plane, they would bump up to max cruise speed to get there asap. I can tell you now, the UPS 752 crews that flew the rescue plane, I have watched them drop a 757 out of the sky at the last second, he had already passed us up, u-turned, dropped out of FL350, and landed like it was on an aircraft carrier in less that 15 mins. They flew the airplane so good that the Boeing test pilots would have been jealous.

Normally for the rescue flights, there's designated flights, that are planned as rescues, then you have the backups, in the event that the primary had to leave with full cargo load, or if the primary already diverted and another flight broke. Both companies operated very similar programs, and both always operated with military precision when it comes to keeping things moving.
 
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texas145
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sat Jul 04, 2020 8:52 pm

Max Q wrote:
I believe FDX keeps several aircraft airborne ‘on patrol’


No, not exactly. The pilot monthly bid pack will designate which flights are actual sweep flights, but in reality almost any flight can be a sweep flight, especially on the 757. This is because, like stated earlier, if it's important enough, they'll drop us in to get what they want picked up.

For a sweep, a flight will be planned FAT-MEM for example, but might take a longer than normal routing in case they need to drop into PHX, COS, AFW, etc, like stated above. Crews have "forgotten" they were on a sweep flight and requested a direct route once airborne, which is a big no-no. When in cruise, and the ACARS dings from the dispatcher, we hold our breath until we see it's not a diversion instruction. ;)
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UPlog
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sat Jul 04, 2020 8:52 pm

At UPS back in the day for many years we would have an airborne or two DC-8-70 in different parts of the country airborne ready to swoop in to pick up loads on delayed aircraft. This was then reduced to only during Chrismas peak. Today its more having strategically placed hot spare ready to launch on short notice.
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ChrisNH38
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sat Jul 04, 2020 9:27 pm

Portland, Maine gets a FedEx A300, which is more plane than that station needs (I think). So when it comes south near places like MHT, BOS, BDL, PIT, etc. it can drop into any of them and handle a need at any of those places. Not sure if that PWM plane is a ‘sweep’ flight, though.
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GalaxyFlyer
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sun Jul 05, 2020 12:16 am

KPWM plane was for LL Bean nightly, if you’ve heard of the company.
 
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ChrisNH38
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sun Jul 05, 2020 1:28 am

GalaxyFlyer wrote:
KPWM plane was for LL Bean nightly, if you’ve heard of the company.

They use UPS and USPS, but thanks anyway.
https://my.flightradar24.com/ChrisNH
 
EXMEMWIDGET
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sun Jul 05, 2020 1:30 am

It looks like 1311 only operates on Thursdays now instead of MO-TH like it did for years. Most of the sweeper flights that we have been getting lately have been coming out of LBB. I don't think that the flight FX out of LBB is a true sweeper flight, though. It just happens to have the excess capacity that DFW needs from time to time.
Ex DL and NW, current FX.
 
jetblueguy22
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sun Jul 05, 2020 2:28 am

ChrisNH38 wrote:
Portland, Maine gets a FedEx A300, which is more plane than that station needs (I think). So when it comes south near places like MHT, BOS, BDL, PIT, etc. it can drop into any of them and handle a need at any of those places. Not sure if that PWM plane is a ‘sweep’ flight, though.

Be willing to bet it’s stuffed with seafood in the PM. There are some huge accounts up there. Coolers are big and take up a lot of space. They aren’t going to send more airplane than they need
Look at sweatpants guy. This is a 90 million dollar aircraft, not a Tallahassee strip club
 
jetblueguy22
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sun Jul 05, 2020 2:37 am

5X doesn’t have sweep aircraft planned, but rather utilize aircraft already in the air or hot spares. Each regional hub usually has at least 1 hot spare available off the night sorts to launch as a replacement. SDF will have multiple.

For hub bound flights most of the time you’re better off looking for a ferry or repo. We have a flight at my gateway in the PM that kind of goes against the flow. Most flights at 2200L are going from a spoke to the hub. We have a flight going from the hub to us (the spoke). Since this flight is usually empty on the way out it is often used as a rescue flight for another gateway. Is it risky not having a plane in the air at all times that could rescue volume? Sure. But it’s extremely costly. 9 times out of 10 we win. We have a department whose job is solely to cover these issues and it’s pretty impressive the solutions they can come up with on a moments notice.
Look at sweatpants guy. This is a 90 million dollar aircraft, not a Tallahassee strip club
 
clipper001
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sun Jul 05, 2020 2:43 am

tulsarefueler wrote:
UPS, air stuff went by air, ground stuff went by ground, no mixing it up...


For many years some UPS "Air loads" shipped on Fridays between certain markets would actually go rail. I know of at least between Chicago and Dallas.
 
ATCJesus
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sun Jul 05, 2020 3:34 am

ZDV ATC here. See the fedex guys almost every night, especially in the busy seasons. They are in the air hanging out and can go everywhere depending on needs. I’ve seen to SoCal, Chicago, Texas, you name it. Very common.
 
LCDFlight
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sun Jul 05, 2020 3:40 am

To a lesser extent, all spare protocols work this way. You don't know who needs the spare aircraft at start of day. But statistics show that one route is probably going to need that spare. So, you assign it later in the day.

Sweep can work the same way. When they depart, they don't know where it will land yet. But later, final loads (or MX) will dictate which west coast station (for example) needs that extra aircraft. If it is covering >20 stations, that's quite a high value, so it is financially worth flying that sweep.
 
jetblueguy22
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sun Jul 05, 2020 5:03 am

clipper001 wrote:
tulsarefueler wrote:
UPS, air stuff went by air, ground stuff went by ground, no mixing it up...


For many years some UPS "Air loads" shipped on Fridays between certain markets would actually go rail. I know of at least between Chicago and Dallas.

Happens a lot over the weekend. If you can put it on a truck and get the same results as an airplane you’d be crazy not to. A lot of the air sorts work Saturday night for this reason. Gives you 24 hours to move the loads to the regional sort and 24 back.

It’s what has always amazed me about FedEx. They fly so much over the weekend. If it’s due for Monday there really is no need.
Look at sweatpants guy. This is a 90 million dollar aircraft, not a Tallahassee strip club
 
flyfresno
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sun Jul 05, 2020 7:24 pm

texas145 wrote:
Max Q wrote:
I believe FDX keeps several aircraft airborne ‘on patrol’


For a sweep, a flight will be planned FAT-MEM for example, but might take a longer than normal routing in case they need to drop into PHX, COS, AFW, etc, like stated above. Crews have "forgotten" they were on a sweep flight and requested a direct route once airborne, which is a big no-no. When in cruise, and the ACARS dings from the dispatcher, we hold our breath until we see it's not a diversion instruction. ;)


On June 24th, FAT-MEM made a big circle over Nevada and had a change in flight plan to ONT, but then continued on the MEM. I'm wondering if they initially game them a "sweep" to ONT, but then either found another aircraft, or the aircraft on the ground in ONT ended up being able to go after all. I thought of it being a sweep since both RNO and LAS would have been much closer if it was a regular divert...
 
DEN1895
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sun Jul 05, 2020 8:15 pm

EXMEMWIDGET wrote:
It looks like 1311 only operates on Thursdays now instead of MO-TH like it did for years. Most of the sweeper flights that we have been getting lately have been coming out of LBB. I don't think that the flight FX out of LBB is a true sweeper flight, though. It just happens to have the excess capacity that DFW needs from time to time.


Speaking with the FedEx workers at DEN they also said since DEN has more inbound cargo than outbound, if the flight wasn't used going to Memphis it would return to Denver with a full load. This meant that even if the trip out was a waste they were at least carrying cargo on the way back.
 
32andBelow
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Sun Jul 05, 2020 9:32 pm

DEN1895 wrote:
EXMEMWIDGET wrote:
It looks like 1311 only operates on Thursdays now instead of MO-TH like it did for years. Most of the sweeper flights that we have been getting lately have been coming out of LBB. I don't think that the flight FX out of LBB is a true sweeper flight, though. It just happens to have the excess capacity that DFW needs from time to time.


Speaking with the FedEx workers at DEN they also said since DEN has more inbound cargo than outbound, if the flight wasn't used going to Memphis it would return to Denver with a full load. This meant that even if the trip out was a waste they were at least carrying cargo on the way back.

Most freight is one way
 
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texas145
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Tue Jul 07, 2020 3:15 pm

flyfresno wrote:
On June 24th, FAT-MEM made a big circle over Nevada and had a change in flight plan to ONT, but then continued on the MEM. I'm wondering if they initially game them a "sweep" to ONT, but then either found another aircraft, or the aircraft on the ground in ONT ended up being able to go after all. I thought of it being a sweep since both RNO and LAS would have been much closer if it was a regular divert...

I bet you're right - got a change then changed back for some operational reason.

It's a pain to have to sweep/divert especially when you just want to get home or onward, but it's all part of the game.
A clear conscience is a great pillow.
 
HPRamper
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Tue Jul 07, 2020 3:41 pm

The "flying spare" has not been in operation for many years now, a decade if not more. Now it's handled by sweep flights which are planned to be last out of a market so they pass near other cities that may need a recovery.
 
HPRamper
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Tue Jul 07, 2020 3:49 pm

ChrisNH38 wrote:
GalaxyFlyer wrote:
KPWM plane was for LL Bean nightly, if you’ve heard of the company.

They use UPS and USPS, but thanks anyway.

A great portion of the USPS freight is carried on the FedEx plane anyway due to the postal contract.

Many markets of similar size have a larger plane on the evening side - A300 or 767 - and a 757 in the morning. This difference in gauge is because of the postal freight pattern. Postal priority freight inbound to these smaller markets on the PM side is nearly always much greater than what they send out on the AM shift.
 
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ChrisNH38
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Tue Jul 07, 2020 10:28 pm

I thought FedEx lost the USPS contract
https://my.flightradar24.com/ChrisNH
 
INFINITI329
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Tue Jul 07, 2020 11:30 pm

ChrisNH38 wrote:
I thought FedEx lost the USPS contract


The U.S. Postal Service is pleased to execute a four year renewal to extend the Air Cargo Network (ACN) contract with FedEx through September 29, 2024. The competitively awarded contract began October 1, 2013, and provides domestic air transportation for U.S. Mail, Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express.


https://about.usps.com/news/statements/ ... %20Express.

FX has it til 2024
 
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pwm2txlhopper
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Tue Jul 07, 2020 11:59 pm

quote="jetblueguy22"]
ChrisNH38 wrote:
Portland, Maine gets a FedEx A300, which is more plane than that station needs (I think). So when it comes south near places like MHT, BOS, BDL, PIT, etc. it can drop into any of them and handle a need at any of those places. Not sure if that PWM plane is a ‘sweep’ flight, though.

Be willing to bet it’s stuffed with seafood in the PM. There are some huge accounts up there. Coolers are big and take up a lot of space. They aren’t going to send more airplane than they need[/quote]


Don't know how stuffed it is with seafood? Aside from lobster, commercial fishing has really died in Maine in the last twenty-five years. Most of the catch from the Gulf of Maine goes to the Port of Glouchester, Mass these days. Even stuff caught by the few remaining Maine based ground fishing vessels. I think most lobster goes by truck to BOS.
 
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pwm2txlhopper
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Wed Jul 08, 2020 12:02 am

HPRamper wrote:
ChrisNH38 wrote:
GalaxyFlyer wrote:
KPWM plane was for LL Bean nightly, if you’ve heard of the company.

They use UPS and USPS, but thanks anyway.

A great portion of the USPS freight is carried on the FedEx plane anyway due to the postal contract.

Many markets of similar size have a larger plane on the evening side - A300 or 767 - and a 757 in the morning. This difference in gauge is because of the postal freight pattern. Postal priority freight inbound to these smaller markets on the PM side is nearly always much greater than what they send out on the AM shift.


It's my understanding that FX carries almost all overnight and two day Priority mail. Not sure about first class? Haven't seen first class mail loaded onto a passenger flight in years and years, but maybe they still do?

ChrisNH38 wrote:
Portland, Maine gets a FedEx A300, which is more plane than that station needs (I think). So when it comes south near places like MHT, BOS, BDL, PIT, etc. it can drop into any of them and handle a need at any of those places. Not sure if that PWM plane is a ‘sweep’ flight, though.



Aside from Christmas rush, PWM never regularly got the A300 until the last couple of months since COVOID started. When FX still had the LL Bean contract, FX sent three planes daily the last couple years they had it. Usually 3 727's, or two 727's and an A310.
 
jetblueguy22
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Wed Jul 08, 2020 2:28 am

pwm2txlhopper wrote:
jetblueguy22 wrote:
ChrisNH38 wrote:
Portland, Maine gets a FedEx A300, which is more plane than that station needs (I think). So when it comes south near places like MHT, BOS, BDL, PIT, etc. it can drop into any of them and handle a need at any of those places. Not sure if that PWM plane is a ‘sweep’ flight, though.

Be willing to bet it’s stuffed with seafood in the PM. There are some huge accounts up there. Coolers are big and take up a lot of space. They aren’t going to send more airplane than they need



Don't know how stuffed it is with seafood? Aside from lobster, commercial fishing has really died in Maine in the last twenty-five years. Most of the catch from the Gulf of Maine goes to the Port of Glouchester, Mass these days. Even stuff caught by the few remaining Maine based ground fishing vessels. I think most lobster goes by truck to BOS.

You’d be surprised at how many online specialty sites are up there. Especially around holidays
Look at sweatpants guy. This is a 90 million dollar aircraft, not a Tallahassee strip club
 
steviebas
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Wed Jul 08, 2020 3:48 am

Hot spare on the ground yes
Airborne spare - nope!!

No practical place to "park" it - holding above an airport of navaid doesnt work. Imagine holding overhead Kansas City (roughly middle of US). Urgent need in Miami. Depending on how long holding you may not have fuel to make it

No practical way to flight plan and brief. All airlines operate a rigorous process of route planning and pre-fight briefing that cannot be done in the cockpit while flying the hold.

There is no economic model for this. If the shipper misses the pick up deadline, they either wait or they call one of the many on demand freight services like Sterling who will charter an aircraft locally for you.

So, No!
 
HPRamper
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Wed Jul 08, 2020 9:17 am

pwm2txlhopper wrote:

It's my understanding that FX carries almost all overnight and two day Priority mail. Not sure about first class? Haven't seen first class mail loaded onto a passenger flight in years and years, but maybe they still do?

I think it's something like 80% of the domestic Priority mail. First class is space available, so if the USPS or their vendors can cram that into the assigned Priority containers, they don't have to pay any extra to the passenger carriers or UPS to haul it. So FX ends up carrying a lot of first class too, even though it's not specifically included in the contract.

Markets did see a lot of upgauges and/or extra legs during the past few months due to the huge upswing in online ordering, most of which (for FedEx) came in the form of USPS volume.
 
Passedv1
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Re: FedEx and it’s airborne ‘sweep’ aircraft

Wed Jul 08, 2020 9:28 am

The sweep flights aren't usually completely empty. They usually have at least some low priority cargo that can be swapped out if necessary for a rescue.

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