|By Carmelo Turdo|
The latest resident at St. Louis Downtown Airport, a Boeing 727 donated by FedEx Express this spring, has been placed on concrete pads across Vector Road from the Parks College ramp and hangar. There was no ceremony to mark the end of the eight-week journey from landing to final tie-down, but a collective sigh of relief could be heard after another day of carefully coaxing the former cargo jet across a bean field to the prepared site.
The FedEx Express Boeing 727 donated to the St. Louis Downtown Airport on April 19, the 70th such donation since 2000, has a connection to the St. Louis area. The aircraft was first delivered to Ozark Airlines in October 1979 as N721ZK, s/n 21850. The third iteration of Ozark Airlines emerged after Parks Airlines failed to begin operations from Parks Metropolitan Airport (now St. Louis Downtown Airport) near St. Louis as directed by the Civil Aeronautics Board in 1947. This Ozark Airlines began operations in 1950 using four former Parks Airlines DC-3s. According to Jon Proctor, Aviation Journalist and Historian, N721ZK had been sold to Pan Am by Ozark prior to delivery, then leased back by Boeing for flight testing. Pan American operated N362PA as "Clipper Frankfurt" from 1980 through 1991, and then it was acquired by FedEx Express in 1993 as N288FE. The aircraft is currently name "Michelle." Beth Rush from FedEx Express explains: "At FedEx we have the tradition of naming our aircraft after the children of employees, and that is why you will note the name 'Michelle' on the side of the aircraft. Michelle is the daughter of Martin Angell, who was a package handler in the Heathrow Gateway Operation in Great Britain. Michelle has completed her degree in Child Care and works for a nursery; she is continuing her education."
The Boeing 727 will now undergo interior modifications for the future education and training roles it will assume as part of Fire Chief Mike Mavrogeorge's vision of a regional emergency response training center at St. Louis Downtown Airport. The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, a close partner of The Aero Experience, will develop educational programs to encourage today's youth to pursue aviation careers. It will be an exciting time for Midwest Aviation as this initiative gains momentum and becomes a model for other metropolitan areas.
The following photo essay will trace the aircraft's time at St. Louis Downtown Airport from landing to installation on its new pads. Special thanks goes to St. Louis Downtown Airport management, Fire Department and maintenance staff along with Jet Aviation for allowing The Aero Experience exclusive access to chronicle the plane's journey to this point, and into the future. Photos by Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Jack Nankivil.
On the Ramp:
Reaching Its Parking Place: