Just what is Amazon carrying on its Prime Planes? [VIDEO]

Closing the door on a fully-loaded Prime Air 767F. Source: Amazon News

In the twenty-month period since “Amazon One“, the first 767F donning “Prime” livery was unveiled to the public, Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings (AAWW), the CMI operators of Amazon’s freighter network, have put a total of thirty-three 767Fs into service for the e-commerce giant.  Apart from the types of freighters in operation, and the route network, little has been released about what precisely Amazon is carrying on the aircraft. That is, until yesterday, when Amazon News released a video that provides a unique inside look at the company’s air operations.

Before we get to that, here’s a quick refresher on Amazon’s air freight operations:

  • To form its Prime Air network, Amazon agreed to lease twenty 767 freighters each from Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings (AAWW), and contracted to have those companies’ subsidiary carriers operate the freighters on a CMI basis.
  • The Prime Air fleet will reach forty units by the end of 2018, and by that time, there could well be a need for more lift to support Amazon’s US operations. At present, ATSG has all twenty committed aircraft in service for Amazon. Atlas has thirteen aircraft operating in the Prime network, and is on track to add seven more by year’s end.
  • Currently, most of the freighters operate in domestic rotation built around a central hub Amazon is developing at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport (CVG).  When complete, the $1.49 billion facility will accomodate up to 100 aircraft.
  • Amazon is now using DHL’s Americas Hub at CVG with DHL providing services to Amazon including sorting operations and ground handling for the Amazon air network.
  • The leases on the freighter-converted 767s currently operated for Amazon by ATSG and Atlas will begin to expire in 2023, but no announcement has been made about what happens after that. Amazon might wish to replace them with more recent conversions, or new-build equipment.

And now for what you’ve been waiting for, just what does the inside of a Prime plane look like? As can seen from the video below (from Amazon News), the aircraft are not simply moving pallets from warehouse-to-warehouse.

Rather, Amazon sorts and consolidates individual parcels into tightly-packed containers, much like an express operator, before the containers are loaded onto the aircraft. Two sizes of containers appear in the video, the AAX which is optimized for the main deck of a 767, and the DQF (LD-8), which fills completely the belly hold envelope unique to the 767. All AAX’s shown carry an Amazon logo, and appear brand new. The DQFs appear to be a mix of Amazon and ACL Airshop containers.

Take a look for yourself:

 

 

While most express carriers utilize containers on the maindeck of widebody freighters, the use of containers on smaller, turboprop aircraft, and in the bellyhold of narrowbody aircraft was a popular topic at Cargo Facts Asia.

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