Atlas Air adds a 767-300BCF Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings has taken redelivery of a 767‑300BCF (27568, ex-Neos) from Boeing and this week put it into commercial service with Atlas Air [FATs 005122].
Although the aircraft is currently utilized for routes that are consistent with Amazon’s own-controlled network, the 767-300BCF is not dry leased to Amazon like the other nineteen 767Fs Atlas is contracted to operate on the e-tailer’s behalf.
“The aircraft will be deployed in our network to serve our broad array of customers,” Atlas confirmed in a statement. Originally, Atlas’ 2016 agreement with Amazon was for a total of twenty 767-300Fs, but this number was reduced to 19 in February following the loss of 25865, according to Atlas’ 10-Q filing for its 2Q19 ended June 30.
Based on the timing of the induction for 27568 in March, it seemed likely that this conversion would replace the aircraft that crashed near Houston. For now, however, Atlas’ leasing arm, Titan Aviation Holdings, continues to lease nineteen 767-300Fs to Amazon, which are then operated on a CMI basis by Atlas Air. Still, nothing prevents Atlas Air from operating aircraft on behalf of Amazon under different commercial terms – as would appear to be the case with 27568.
As part of a separate agreement with Amazon announced in March, Atlas-affiliate Southern Air will begin operating a total of five 737-800BCFs for Amazon by year-end. At Amazon’s discretion, Southern Air could begin operating up to fifteen additional 737-800BCFs for Amazon by May 2021. At present, four aircraft are in service with Southern Air.
Of the nineteen-unit 747-8F backlog, most future deliveries will go to UPS, which still has fifteen of the type remaining on firm order with Boeing. As for the other four units in Boeing’s order book, although the order is attributed to an “unidentified customer,” the four aircraft are likely to end up in the fleet of a Volga-Dnepr Group carrier. Last year, at the Farnborough Airshow, Boeing and the Volga-Dnepr Group announced an order for five 747-8Fs. Boeing delivered one unit from that order (64787) to Aviation Capital Group in March, which in turn leased the aircraft to AirBridgeCargo [FAT 004793].
Why opt for anonymity? Customers choose to remain unidentified for a variety of reasons, and in this case it is unclear why the customer remains unidentified in Boeing’s order book. Perhaps a third-party will purchase the aircraft from Boeing and lease them to a carrier-affiliate of the Volga-Dnepr Group – as was the case with Aviation Capital Group.
Where does this leave the future of the 747-8F? For now, production of the aircraft chugs along at a rate of 0.5 units per month. Without any further orders or changes in production rate, the 747-8F backlog will dry up around year-end 2022. Boeing has formally hinted at the inevitable end to the program since as early as 2016 when the company announced with its 2Q16 earnings results, “If we are unable to obtain sufficient orders and/or market, production and other risks cannot be mitigated, we could record additional losses that may be material, and it is reasonably possible that we could decide to end production of the 747.”
Of course, shortly after the statement was published, UPS placed its order for fourteen 747-8Fs in October 2016 and converted options for an additional fourteen into firm orders in February 2018. While this order was certainly seen as a lifeline for the program, additional orders of a similar magnitude would be required to realistically keep the program operational. While in the past, it may have seemed reasonable to assume that aging 747-400Fs would boost demand for the -8F, many current and former 747-400F operators, such as China Airlines, EVA Air, Kalitta Air and Volga-Dnepr Group have instead turned to the 777F with recent orders. While another UPS-like deal could be in the cards, as time passes, and as additional operators opt for the 777F, this scenario is tougher to imagine.
Earlier this week, the express parcel delivery unit of Beijing-based JD.com, JD Express, inaugurated a new passenger-facing service counter in the departure hall of Shanghai Hongqiao Airport (SHA). At the airport, JD Express now offers passengers the ability to send items that they cannot check-in or may not want to carry onto their flight before entering the security checkpoint. The service counter is located in the third floor of the Departures hall at SHA’s Terminal 2. Customers and businesses utilizing the service need not be departing out of Hongqiao to utilize the service.
While the service initially targets passengers with items they’d rather not carry on board, the program represents the next phase in JD’s growing express operation and begs the question, how soon might the operation add additional freighters? Although Cargo Facts expects JD’s own-controlled operation to grow, for now, JD Logistics ACMI-leases a single 737-400F from Tianjin Air Cargo.
767-300Fs for Nordstar? Following this year’s Moscow Aeroshow, which took place last week, reports surfaced that Russia-based regional carrier NordStar plans to add between one and five freighter-converted 767-300BCFs to its fleet. Although the 767-300F platform may seem like a stretch for a regional carrier with a fleet of just nine 737s and five ATR 42-500s in passenger configuration, NordStar may have the right partners to make the operation work.
According to the reports, the Kratos Group, which manages cargo terminals throughout Russia, will utilize some of the capacity, and assist with the leasing of the aircraft from the international arm of Russia’s State-owned leasing company, GTLK Europe. At present, GTLK Europe has no 767Fs in its portfolio, but does have a single 767 in passenger configuration in its portfolio, according to the lessor’s website. GTLK also leases a 747-8F to Silk Way West.
Recent freighter aircraft transactions: China Airlines firmed up orders for three more 777Fs from Boeing [FAT 005116-5118].The Taiwan-based carrier had previously signed an MoU for three 777Fs plus options for three more.
DHL Express took redelivery of an A330-300P2F (231, ex-Thai Airways) from EFW [FAT 005124]. This is the third converted A330-300 for DHL. The aircraft was ferried from Dresden (DRS) to Malta (MLA) to be painted.
SF Airlines took redelivery of a 757-200PCF (29441, ex-TUI Airways) from Precision Aircraft Solutions [FAT 005119]. The aircraft was converted at the AMECO facility in Chengdu (CTU).