FedEx pilots will be the first in the U.S. to test new wake separation standards the FAA will put in place at the cargo carrier's hub in Memphis on Nov. 1.
For FedEx, the re-categorization, or RECAT, will result in about 1nm reduction in in-trail spacing for landings and takeoffs for the carrier's widebody and Boeing 757 fleet. The pilot's union says the reduction could boost capacity at Memphis by as much as 20%, though FedEx officials at this point are saying only "double-digit" increases as the operations have not yet begun.
RECAT is the result of about 10 years of research and testing by the FAA and industry, and the new standards are set to go into place at other airports in 2013 and 2014, presumably if Memphis is a success.
I've put a table together showing the difference in separation between FedEx's various aircraft, and the difference is substantial.
There is some talk on various pilot websites about FedEx pilots being "Guinea Pigs" for RECAT, but hopefully that's just hot air.
As my friends at NASA used to say, one test is worth a thousand expert opinions, and this "test" is about to begin.