Memphis Airport Courts More Cargo

Memphis International Airport has added parking for as many as seven wide-body jets on the airfield, part of an effort to court air cargo firms that have business here but no facilities.

Between landing fees and parking revenue, the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority expects the project could net in excess of $500,000 a month, including $213,645 in landing fees.

"The U.S. Postal Service has always told us they needed to bring in more planes," said Richard White, director of airport properties. "This year, they wanted to bring in six."

Wednesday, five 747s owned by Michigan-based Kalitta Air and a wide body owned by Express Net Airlines were unloading pallets of mail on the ramp, a 750,000-square-foot apron off Swinnea Road surrounded by security fencing and lights.

"The project makes it possible for us to operate in Memphis," said Pete Sanderlin, vice president of Kalitta, which carries mail for the U.S. Postal Service. "Before, we had temporary parking in Memphis, but we would have to move our planes if anyone else came in. It was pretty confusing and limited our operation."

Because of FedEx's contract with the Postal Service, Memphis is the largest mail processing center in the world. Throughout December, the most coveted month for freighter parking at the airport, Kalitta will deliver five planeloads of mail a day from San Juan, Puerto Rico; Anchorage, Hawaii and Sacramento, Calif.

Right now, the apron is served by temporary office space in trailers. By July, the airport will have space for lease in a 36,000-square-foot building soon to be under construction.

"We had to build this facility because we didn't have any room for independent cargo operators," White said. "The biggest push is Thanksgiving through Dec. 24. We're marketing to other companies for the rest of the year."

The airport today has 342 acres of aircraft parking space, including 13.6 million square feet it leases to FedEx.

Eventually, it will add another 750,000 square feet of space off Swinnea to accommodate growth in the cargo industry.

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