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FedEx jumbo jet named for local boy

Jeff Beswick/Special to the Tribune • May 24, 2018 at 6:00 PM

Did you know that FedEx names all of its airplanes? Yup, each one of the company’s 669 planes is named after a FedEx team member's child.

This tradition started many years ago when a FedEx Falcon aircraft was named Wendy after the daughter of FedEx Chairman and CEO Fred Smith. Today, Wendy resides at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. 

These days, FedEx names its new airplanes by randomly choosing a child's name from its employees' submissions.

Jim Baas is a FedEx pilot and executive who lives in Grand Haven and commutes to work weekly to FedEx World Headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee. Jim is also a former aerobatic pilot who flies his Pitts Special aerobatic biplane and Aviat Husky taildragger out of the Grand Haven airport.

These days, Jim especially enjoys flying around Grand Haven with his precocious 4-year-old son, Zachary, who loves airplanes. Zachary even gets to "fly" the Husky, with some assistance from his dad.

In January, a new bright-blue and white 767 rolled out of Boeing's factory in Seattle, Washington. It's the 49th 767 built by Boeing for FedEx. But the person most excited about the new airplane wasn't in Seattle or Memphis — he was 4-year-old Zachary Baas, here in Grand Haven, because this new 200,000-pound, twin-engine cargo jet is named after him. And the second most excited person was his dad, Jim, the first FedEx captain ever to be able to pick up and deliver to the FedEx fleet a new 767 named after his child.

When picking up the new 767, Jim toured the Boeing factory and met with many of the employees who built Zachary. The employees signed a huge FedEx banner that had accompanied the aircraft all along the production line and presented it to Jim as a keepsake. And with that, Jim took off in Zachary, bound for Indianapolis to deliver FedEx's newest cargo jet.

Later on that cloudy, cold January day, Jim maneuvered the new 767 through a low cloud layer and descended in Indianapolis. He indicates that the final approach into Indy was challenging. Descending through dense clouds, the jumbo jet picked up a thick layer of ice, despite the latest anti-icing equipment. And if that wasn't enough, Jim reports that strong winds buffeted the empty jet on final approach. 

All in a day's work, though, for this FedEx pilot, delivering the goods.

Today, the FedEx 767 named Zachary transports packages all over the world as part of one of the world's largest fleet of cargo aircraft. So, the next time you open a FedEx package, it may have been delivered to you by Zachary, a FedEx 767 named after a friendly airplane-loving Grand Haven 4-year-old.

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