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Amazon Prime Air announcement
The first branded Amazon Prime Air jet, operated by Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings under a lease agreement, made its public debut in August. (GeekWire photo by Kevin Lisota)

Boeing says it will convert nine used 767 passenger jets into freighters for Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, which will use them in its cargo transport operations for Amazon.

Amazon made a splash in August when it unveiled its first branded Prime Air jet and spilled the details about its air cargo ambitions.

New York-based Atlas Air as well as Ohio-based Air Transport Services Group have been flying packages for the online retailing giant for months. By the end of 2018, each of the companies expects to be operating 20 leased 767 jets for Amazon deliveries.

Atlas Air spokeswoman Bonnie Rodney told GeekWire via email that her company is currently using one aircraft – the branded 767 that made its public debut at Seattle’s Seafair festival. But she added that “we have acquired the vast majority of the aircraft that we will need for Amazon … and we have secured all of the conversion slots” for Amazon Prime Air’s jets.

That includes the nine slots announced today.

“We look forward to supporting Atlas with our Boeing Converted Freighters as they expand their freighter operations,” Rick Anderson, vice president of sales and marketing for Boeing Commercial Aviation Services, said today in a news release.

Boeing converts 767 passenger jets to freighters in Singapore under an arrangement with a maintenance and modification company called Singapore Technologies Aerospace, or ST Aero.

Boeing says it foresees a need to make 400 wide-body jet conversions over the next two decades, with strong demand for 767 freighter conversions due to the rise in e-commerce. The Seattle Times reported that the company may open a second conversion line in Shanghai or Taipei to handle the demand.

The Times estimates the cost of a used 767 airliner at $10 million or less, and the cost of passenger-to-freighter conversion at $15 million or so.

Meanwhile, ATSG says it currently has 11 Boeing 767s flying for Amazon Prime Air, with an additional plane joining the delivery fleet every month or so.

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