The Memphis Group   by   Derek Higgs
Page 1
  Field Trip: The Memphis Group

June 3rd, 2000  Derek Higgs


The Trip

Well, Steve Smith and I went down to the airplane graveyard in Greenwood, Mississippi. It was pretty much the most amazing trip I've taken in a long time. Hot, yes; long, yes; but the opportunity to go to this place and climb around airplanes in places one has only read about was a real experience!
The Captain's seat in a 747-100

Before this trip, Steve and I had met only once for lunch. Most of the time I've known him we have only discussed stuff over the Internet, even though we work on the same road but two miles apart every day. He has been looking for real aircraft parts to start his cockpit with for several months now, but not really getting any response from a lot of the people he's been sending e-mails to. He finally got hold of Newell Williams, who is a salesperson for The Memphis Group, a company who is in the business of spares support and parts refurbishment for the airline industry. The Memphis group is also involved in aircraft disassembly. Newell invited him down to Memphis and Steve asked me if I wanted to come along. Hell, yes!

We left right after work on Friday for the six-hour trip to Memphis. It might be in the same state, but the largest city in Tennessee is 390 miles from Knoxville, where we started out. We could have gone to the beach in less time! We finally arrived at the hotel we booked and hit the sack.

The next morning, we went to the offices of The Memphis Group and met up with Newell and his father-in-law. Newell has been working for The Memphis Group for sixteen years, but had never been down to Greenwood. He seemed just as excited as we were to take the trip down there! His father-in-law had just retired from the Tennessee Air Guard as a loadmaster on C-130's and C-141's and he had many interesting stories to tell on the way.

Greenwood, Mississippi is located 140 miles from Memphis, right on the edge of the Mississippi delta. It was a 2-hour trip from Memphis. Living in Tennessee, I thought I lived in the South. I was mistaken. Where we went was The South! It seemed like a whole different way of life down there.

When we turned off the main road onto the airport access road in Greenwood, we started to see the tails of several aircraft poking over the trees. Most of them had their former airline markings painted over, but the color and design of the graphics gave their former owners away. There were two former TWA L-1011s, three or four ex-United 747-100's, a generic DC-10, a ex - Polar Air Cargo 747-100, and several ex Olympic and Garuda A-300s parked in front of the main hanger. More aircraft were located further down the runway, including 3 or so ex United 737's, the nose section of another 737, and three more 747's in various stages of disassembly. Other aircraft that I didn't pay much attention to were also parked off to the side.
Some of the lineup in front of the hanger

At the main hanger, we met Richard Cordel, who was the Head guy there at the salvage area. Richard is a wiry older gentleman who has been in the aircraft parts business for many, many years. He has cut up more planes than he could count in locations all over the world. His office is a virtual museum to the aviation industry over the last several decades, with photos, newspaper clippings, nameplates, etc. lining the walls. Of course, the main hangar at the yard itself is full of parts of aircraft sorted out into neat piles. Seats over in the corner. Brake pads, arranged on pallets. Ductwork, doors, flaps, linkages and more were everywhere.