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The Wilmington Air Park, via Google Earth.
The Wilmington Air Park, via Google Earth.

Is Amazon.com running its own air cargo operation?

Vice’s Motherboard published a report Monday evening describing an “air freight transportation operation” flying four flights per day out of Ohio’s Wilmington Air Park, which previously served as a facility for DHL until 2008.

Photo: Julie Clopper / Shutterstock.com.
Photo: Julie Clopper / Shutterstock.com.

While unconfirmed, Vice’s reporting points to a potential new facility run by Seattle-based e-commerce giant Amazon. In September, an unnamed company began shipping consumer goods “for a mysterious client that many believe to be Amazon,” Kari Paul reported.

The mystery company is using four contracted Boeing 767s that fly to and from four U.S. airports — Allentown, Ontario (CA), Tampa, Oakland — that all have nearby Amazon distribution centers.

DHL previously employed 7,500 at the airport in Wilmington, Ohio, which has eight industrial facilities and is a “perfect setup” for Amazon, one source told Vice.

Amazon did not deny that it was running an air cargo operation, telling Vice that “we’ve long utilized air capacity through a variety of great partners to transport packages.”

Amazon's delivery drone.
Amazon’s delivery drone.

In many ways, opening this type of facility makes sense for Amazon to control the logistics of its shipping network. The company has increasingly shown its willingness to take over elements of delivery with an expanding customer base and demand for speed, as evidenced by initiatives including Amazon Fresh, the “Prime Air” drone delivery plan, its own delivery service in San Francisco, the new Amazon Flex package delivery program, and more.

Having more control of the entire end-to-end customer experience would also help Amazon avoid issues it has had with third-party delivery companies like UPS during its busy holiday season.

While not quite as surprising as Amazon’s new physical bookstore in Seattle, running its own airport operations with jumbo jets and a massive sorting facility would be yet another ambitious project from Amazon. Perhaps you can file this one under the famous Jeff Bezos line of “we are willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.”

Read more about the rumored air cargo operations at Motherboard.

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