Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings (AAWW) placed a firm order with Boeing for passenger-to freighter conversion of nine 767-300s. As Cargo Facts speculated last month, this includes four conversion orders previously attributed to an unidentified customer.
The order comes as no surprise, as Atlas’ recent agreement with Amazon requires it to provide twenty freighter-converted 767-300s by the end of 2018. There are only two sources of 767-300 P-to-F conversions – Boeing, and Bedek Aviation Group. Since ATSG, which is also in the process of converting 767-300s for its own contract with Amazon, has booked many slots at Bedek, and since Atlas had already said it would source conversions from more than one supplier, an order placed with Boeing was inevitable.
Perhaps more interesting than the order itself is the question of where the conversions will be done. To date, touch labor on all of Boeing’s 767-300 P-to-F conversions has been performed at the Singapore MRO facility of ST Aero. But with ST having taken majority ownership in the EFW joint venture with Airbus, and now focused on the P-to-F conversion of Airbus A320, A321, and A330-2000/-300 aircraft, it would be surprising if Boeing were not looking for a new partner.
One possibility is Boeing Shanghai, the joint-venture MRO in which Boeing is a majority owner. The venture was founded in the expectation that Boeing would service increasing demand for 767-300 conversions there, and while that expansion in demand has taken several years to materialize, a 767 line in Shanghai is certainly a possibility.
Another possibility is the TAECO facility in Xiamen. TAECO converted fifty 747-400s to BCF freighter configuration, so it would not be surprising to see a 767 conversion line open there.
However, given that Boeing has a significant 737-800 conversion backlog in China, it is possible the company will use Boeing Shanghai and/or TAECO to service that demand, and look to an entirely new source for the 767 conversions. We shall see.
Turning back to AAWW and Amazon, under their agreement, Titan Aviation Holdings (AAWW’s leasing subsidiary) will dry lease the 767 freighters to Amazon, while Amazon will, in turn, hand them back to Atlas which will have its Atlas Air airline subsidiary operate them for Amazon’s Prime Air network on a CMI basis.