In some good news for Wichita, Yingling Aviation has won a contract to upgrade FedEx Express’s 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 also will hire about 30 employees by January or February, Nichols said. Yingling currently employs about 100 people. Openings are for sheet metal assemblers, aircraft and powerplant mechanics and avionics technicians.
“And that’s some good news for a change,” Nichols said.
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All the companies involved 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 and with Garmin’s G600 avionics suite. Garmin produces the avionics in Olathe. 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.
The upgrades will improve the fleet’s safety and reliability and increase the level of situational awareness for the pilots, said FedEx Express vice president of supplemental air operations Bill West.
“It also modernizes our aircraft for the future,” West said. “We plan on operating the Caravans for many more years to come.
The planes are used for FedEx Express service to 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.