Atlas Air has been awarded a nine-year contract to operate Boeing's fleet of four modified 747-400 Dreamlifters, the logistical backbone of the airframer's 787 global supply chain.

As part of the deal, which begins in September, Atlas Air will receive contractually determined revenues for the operation of the Dreamlifter fleet, while Boeing will assume responsibility for certain direct costs, including fuel.

Boeing will maintain ownership of the custom-designed Dreamlifters, which were modified from 747-400 passenger aircraft.

"Atlas Air is very excited to partner with Boeing as it ushers in a new era in air travel with the first all-new jet airplane of the 21st century. We look forward to working closely with Boeing and to providing world-class Dreamlifter service," says William Flynn, president and CEO of Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings.

Atlas Air will replace Evergreen International Airlines, which was awarded the contract in December 2005 and began operating the first of what is now four Dreamlifters in August 2007.

Boeing first-tier partners on the 787 programme ship large structural assemblies from manufacturing sites around the world by way of the Dreamlifter fleet.

Dreamlifters makes multiple flights per day transporting fuselage pieces from Wichita, Kansas and North Charleston, South Carolina, wings from Nagoya, Japan and horizontal stabiliser from Grottaglie, Italy to final assembly in Everett, Washington.

Additionally, the Dreamlifter also serves to transport centre fuselage components from Nagoya and Grottaglie to North Charleston for integration.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, Atlas Air holds orders for 12 747-8F aircraft that been significantly delayed due to design and production issues related to development of the new aircraft.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news