In some good news for Wichita, Yingling Aviation has won a contract to upgrade FedEx Express' fleet of Cessna 208 Caravan cargo aircraft.
The contract is for about 250 Caravans. After a ramp-up period, Yingling will upgrade 50 planes a year, Yingling president Lynn Nichols said.
As a result of the contract, Yingling will hire about 30 employees by January or February, Nichols said. Yingling currently employs about 100 people.
It wants to fill openings for sheet metal assemblers, aircraft and powerplant mechanics and avionics technicians.
"And that's some good news for a change," for Wichita's aviation industry, Nichols said, referring to the hundreds of jobs recently cut at Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft.
All the companies involved in the FedEx Express project are from Kansas.
Yingling, located at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, will upgrade the planes with a new ice protection system from CAV Aerospace in Salina.
Yingling also will install the G600 avionics suite from Olathe's Garmin.
Wichita-based Cessna Aircraft will provide technical and parts support.
"We're just thrilled to be able to work with a company like FedEx," Nichols said.
Nichols and FedEx official Bill West declined to provide details on the contract's value.
The upgrades will improve the fleet's safety and reliability and increase the level of situational awareness for the pilots, West said.
"It also modernizes our aircraft for the future," he said. "We plan on operating the Caravans for many more years to come."
The planes are used for FedEx Express service into smaller communities throughout the continental U.S., Canada, Latin America, Alaska and Hawaii, West said.
FedEx took delivery of its first Caravan in 1985. It was Cessna's first Caravan customer and the company's largest operator to date.
Each Caravan can carry about 3,500 pounds of freight, West said.