Oct. 8, 2018, © Leeham News: Amazon, the giant on-line retailer, continues to move quietly to expand its Amazon Air cargo carrier, with plans to grow the airline to a size that could rival FedEx, market sources tell LNC.
Amazon’s contracting with Atlas Air, ATSG and others for Boeing 767F services is well known.
So are plans for a $1.5bn cargo center at the Cincinnati (OH) airport (which is really across the state line in Kentucky). This expansion will support more than 100 airplanes. Operations are targeted to begin in 2020.
Prime operates about 40 through its airline partners and is in the market for 10 more, LNC is told.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Amazon originally leased 919 acres for its project, but in January 2018 added 210 more.
While the current project has been public for a long time, LNC is told this is but one phase of a multi-phase expansion plan.
At least three more phases of equal size are said to be planned. This would provide space for 400 airplanes.
Amazon has long been rumored to be interested in ordering 100 new-build 767-300ERFs from Boeing, but nothing has materialized.
Nevertheless, Boeing plans to take 767 production to 4/mo early next decade. The rate is now 3/mo. It’s unclear if the rate increase is for the KC-46A aerial refueling tanker, which is assembled on the same line as the commercial 767, or in anticipation of freighter orders. UPS is said to have interest in ordering the airplane as it faces aging aircraft in its fleet. UPS already flies the 767F.
FedEx currently has nearly 400 jets in service and 86 on order, including the 767-300ERF. Another 285 propeller aircraft, mostly Cessna 208Bs, are also in service.
UPS has 246 jets in service and 25 on order.
Amazon is reported to be scrounging the airplane market for used 767s to convert to freighters in the future. There are more than 400 767-300/300ERs passenger aircraft in service, according to the Airfinance Journal Fleet Tracker. There are about three dozen in storage.
It’s unclear if Amazon has shown any interest in used Airbus A330s for P2F conversions. The early models are just hitting the age where acquisition cost is low enough to make this an option. The first A330-200P2F program is now underway.
Amazon is also known to have inquired in the used market about Boeing 737-800s and Airbus A321s that could be converted to freighters.
The possibility of acquiring early Boeing 777s for conversion to freighters also has been mentioned, but this is characterized as purely speculative.
IAI Bedek is performing engineering on a P2F program, but Boeing abandon plans for its own 777-200 P2F. Instead, it’s studying a 777-300 P2F possibility.
Old, lightweight 777-200s and 777-300s (the non-ER version) would make good airplanes for Amazon, one industry expert says. The type of cargo Amazon flies cubes out long before weight becomes an issue. The lightweight structures of the early 200s and the non-ER 300s would easily accommodate Amazon needs, this person said.
There is no known indication of Amazon’s interest in the 777, however.