On Aug. 31, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued Amazon.com Services LLC a temporary registration certificate for a 767-300ER (25274, ex-WestJet) the e-commerce giant had recently acquired [FAT 005606].
This is the first aircraft registered directly to Amazon, according to the FAA registry. Although it is early yet to tell if the acquisition is a harbinger of a shift in Amazon Air’s strategy to one that favors owned aircraft over leased aircraft, the acquisition is nonetheless a sign of Amazon’s long-term commitment to the 767-300F platform, according to sources familiar with the company’s operations.
Rumblings of the WestJet acquisitions have been around since late spring, after four airframes were taken out of service and listed for sale. In July, Amazon reserved five registrations with the FAA, one of which is now linked to unit 25274.
While the registration indicates Amazon’s direct ownership of the aircraft, it does not speak volumes to the company’s plans for airframe. Unit 25274, still in passenger configuration, is now at Philadelphia (PHL). A second ex-WestJet aircraft possibly acquired by Amazon (25576) is at Lake City (LCQ) in Florida, where 25274 was prior to its ferry flight to PHL. Two additional WestJet 767-300ERs, 25246 and 25363, have been in storage at Calgary (YYC) since March. The FAA only identifies one Amazon-owned aircraft at this time, and although it’s not unheard of to acquire a single aircraft, sisterships are often sold as a set.
As the Amazon Air fleet grows, the calculus of leasing versus owning an aircraft begins to change. Owning an aircraft outright may be justifiable if Amazon plans to operate it over the long term. Leases, on the other hand, allow much greater flexibility if there were uncertainty as to how long the aircraft would operate on its behalf. Amazon’s 767-300ER freighter leases with Cargo Aircraft Management (CAM) and Titan Aviation span five to ten years and include extension options.
Amazon has multiple options for converting the aircraft and placing them into service. Amazon does not have an AOC of its own, and instead relies on other carriers to operate on its behalf. As far as the conversion is concerned, Amazon could work directly with one of the two companies currently converting 767-300ERs, Boeing or Israel Aerospace Industries, or have a CMI operator manage the conversion.
Amazon’s first 767 leases to expire are the twelve 767-200BDSFs it is committed to leasing from CAM through 2023 after the original five-year lease agreement was extended. Amazon has an option to lease those for another three years.
Amazon could not be reached for comment.
Amazon Air launched in 2016 with three CMI operators: Atlas Air, ABX Air and ATI International, but has since added more. Last year, Southern Air began operating 737-800BCFs on its behalf, joining Atlas Air and this year, Sun Country Airlines was added as a second 737-800BCF operator.
As of today, Amazon is committed to dry leasing a total of eighty-one freighters by next year. This figure includes forty-two 767Fs from ATSG, nineteen 767-300Fs from Atlas and twenty 737-800BCFs from GECAS.
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