FedEx will close its heavy maintenance hangar at Los Angeles International Airport next summer and consolidate operations in Indianapolis to reduce costs, ending a piece of aviation history rooted in the acquisition of Flying Tiger Line 35 years ago.

The company said the decision to terminate maintenance activity at the LAX hangar was triggered by the expiration of the lease in June 2024, creating the opportunity to gain cost savings by combining resources at the Indianapolis hub.

The LAX hangar predominantly worked on McDonnell Douglas aircraft. With FedEx (NYSE: FDX) in the process of retiring 58 MD-11 tri-engine jets after phasing out the last MD-10s in December, there is less of a need for that type of maintenance, said spokesman Jonathan Lyons.

The sprawling 950,000-square-foot maintenance facility at LAX performed much of FedEx Express’ major service, repairs, overhauls and equipment upgrades — routine and unscheduled. FedEx conducts maintenance at numerous facilities around the world, but only a handful, including at the global hub in Memphis, Tennessee, do the deep inspections of aircraft parts and heavy maintenance checks that involve taking apart the aircraft.

“FedEx regularly evaluates its networks and makes adjustments to enhance service, improve operational efficiencies, and lower the cost to serve. Upon expiration of this lease agreement, FedEx Express plans to discontinue use of the facility at 7401 World Way West and will move the heavy maintenance capability to our Indianapolis hub,” FedEx said in a statement provided to FreightWaves. “This adjustment only affects the maintenance hangar facility. FedEx will continue to operate throughout the Greater Los Angeles area. As such, the transition will be seamless to customers, who can expect the same reliable service they receive today.”

The transition will impact about 400 FedEx employees, most of whom are maintenance technicians. The company said it will help affected team members transition to other roles in the company. 

A FedEx mechanic posting on Twitter said managers informed workers Wednesday night about the withdrawal from LAX and that it was because the airport authority wasn’t interested in a long-term lease. He said FedEx is offering to relocate them to Indianapolis.

A Canadair CL-44 swing-tail cargo jet operated by Flying Tiger Line in San Francisco, July 1961. (Photo: Flickr/Bill Larkins)

Lyons said the closure of the LAX facility improves efficiency but was not done as part of the DRIVE initiative that aims to eliminate $4 billion in structural costs by mid-2026 and help FedEx reverse significant profit declines.

Flying Tigers

FedEx acquired Flying Tigers Line, which was formed by World War II fighter pilots, in 1988. The company was also known as Flying Tigers, the nickname for the American volunteer fighter unit that flew in for the Republic of China Air Force to oppose the Japanese invasion of China.

Flying Tigers, the first scheduled cargo airline in the U.S. and a major military charter operator during the Cold War, began commercial operations from LAX in 1945 with 14 Navy surplus Budd Conestoga cargo aircraft and handled its own maintenance there. The first flight consisted of a planeload of grapes shipped from Bakersfield, California, to Atlanta. 

In 1949, the U.S. government awarded Flying Tigers the first commercial all-cargo route and 20 years later it received the first trans-Pacific all-cargo route. 

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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