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U.S. transportation chief praises deicing facility as important upgrade in American supply chain

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg headlined a roster of airport dignitaries and elected officials, who attended the opening of the Consolidated Deicing Facility (CDF) at Memphis International Airport on Tuesday (Nov. 29) afternoon.

“I am so proud to join you in the opening of this 3.3 million-square-foot facility, with the ability to de-ice 12 wide-body airplanes at the same time,” said Buttigieg.”

The country’s top transportation official praised the CDF as a major accomplishment in “modernizing the supply chain” and fighting against inflation.

“Transporting food, toys, and medicine where they need to go quickly and efficiently will reduce the cost of shipping goods,” Buttigieg said. “Modernizing the supply chain is a critical element in the fight against inflation … and this innovative aircraft deicing facility is one of the many ways we are modernizing America’s supply chains.”

A state-of-the-art deicing truck approaches a FedEx plane to showcase equipment that will be ready whenever winter weather sets in. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

Local airport officials took a few victory laps for the “grand opening” of the CDF and touted the importance of Memphis in the global transportation of cargo.

“Memphis International Airport is America’s distribution center,” said Scott Brockman, the airport’s president and CEO. “As the largest cargo airport in North America, this centralized deicing facility will be a great benefit to all during the winter months.”

The $309 million de-icing facility was funded with $174 million from the Federal Aviation Administration and $135 million from the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, which owns and operates Memphis International Airport (MEM), as well as two general aviation airports, General DeWitt Spain airport near Downtown and Charles W. Baker airport in Millington.

U.S. Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg said improvements made and/or soon to be made are “President Biden’s vision for infrastructure “coming to life.” Looking on (l-r) are: President and CEO of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority Scott Brockman; Federal Aviation Administration Deputy Administrator Bradley Mims; and Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority Board Chair Michael Keenan. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

Much was made about Memphis being the busiest cargo airport in the world between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., thanks to the FedEx shipping operation.

Mayor Jim Strickland (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the deicing facility is important for the economy. “Memphis, largely thanks to FedEx, is the country’s busiest cargo hub, and I say, the world’s best,” said Strickland. “Getting as many planes in the air as efficiently and safely as possible is vital to keeping local and global economies moving.”

Strickland admitted that, initially, he did not understand the importance of deicing a plane since Memphis doesn’t get that much snow and ice.

“It was explained to me that any moisture must be removed from a plane,” said Strickland. “Of course, if that moisture freezes, you’re going to have some problems.”

More specifically, airplanes are designed to fly with their surfaces free from snow, ice, and frost. During the winter months or while flying in colder regions of the world, icy materials can build up and disrupt the airflow, destroy the lift of a plane, and interfere with a safe take-off.

According to the Aviation Foundation, “Enough ice build-up can cause the engine to stop working … ice on the wings and tail of an airliner can be fatal.”

Buttigieg called U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis “a relentless advocate for this region.”

Cohen called Buttigieg the most important official to Memphis.

Congressman Steve Cohen (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

“No one is more important to Memphis than Secretary Buttigieg because we are the transportation city,” said Cohen. “More infrastructure investments enhance the opportunity for Memphis to connect the world with its bridges and highways. We appreciate President Biden’s commitment to modernizing infrastructure.”

The CDF was applauded for its environmental safety features. The drainage system uses containers to collect fluid, which the city will use to sanitize city wastewater.


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