On Monday, Oct. 31, FedEx Express Flight 877 departed Grand Forks International Airport for Memphis, Tenn. This flight marks the end of FedEx cargo operations at the airport, as they move to Fargo Hector International Airport.
FedEx, which employs 75 people on airport grounds, made the decision last winter, formally announcing the planned departure in February. The move comes in the third year of a ten-year lease by the company, which has been operating from the airport since 1984.
FedEx spokeswoman Jennifer Caccavo explained the move in an interview with the Grand Forks Herald earlier this year.
“This change gives us the ability to enhance service to our customers in North Dakota and northern Minnesota by providing earlier delivery and later pick-up times,” Caccavo said.
Other reasons for moving operations could be the difficulty of operating in the harsh Grand Forks winter, combined with the extra fuel needed to reach the airport from FedEx’s World Hub in Memphis. Grand Forks’ airport has only one runway capable of handling the heaviest of the FedEx airplanes.
Despite the move, Caccavo said the 75 currently employed would be able to keep their jobs, perhaps moving to the Fargo area. However, several University of North Dakota students working for FedEx at the airport will most likely be unable to.
Outside of the missed employment, UND and its flight operations won’t be affected by the absence. Delivery time for students will remain unchanged, thanks to a new ground facility in the business park.
In the meantime, the airport has been seeking a new tenant for the cargo sorting facility built for FedEx in 1991, according to Grand Forks Airport Authority Executive Director and UND alumni, Ryan Riesinger. However, there are no current offers.
FedEx operated the only widebody (two-aisle) aircraft service at Grand Forks, with its Airbus A300-600 and A310, along with Boeing 757 narrowbody jets, with twice-daily service to Memphis, and other service to Des Moines, Iowa, and Appleton, Wisconsin.
FedEx Feeder service, which will also be leaving, uses Cessna 208 Caravan and ATR-42 propeller aircraft to fly to other airports in North Dakota. One Feeder flight from Fargo will remain, as well as cargo airlines Alpine Air Express and Encore Air Cargo, using Beechcraft 1900 and Metro III propeller aircraft, respectively.
In 2007, FedEx donated a retired Boeing 727, N496FE, “Zachary,” to the Airport Fire Department Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Training Unit, for use in emergency training (this plane was used for the disaster drill last September).
Connor Johnson is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]