GECAS has signed a deal with Amazon's all-cargo airline Prime Air for the lease of 15 additional Boeing 737-800 cargo aircraft as the online retail giant expands to a fleet of 70 aircraft within the next two years.
The deal with Prime Air is in addition to the five 737-800 Boeing Converted Frieghters (BCFs) already leased from GECAS, says the lessor. It adds that the aircraft will operate within the USA from over 20 gateways in the Amazon Air network.
"These new aircraft create additional capacity for Amazon Air, building on the investment in our Prime Free One-Day programme," states Dave Clark, senior vice-president of worldwide operations at Amazon. "By 2021, Amazon Air will have a portfolio of 70 aircraft flying in our dedicated air network."
GECAS was launch customer for Boeing's 737-800 passenger-to-freighter conversion program in 2016. The first 737-800BCF was delivered last year and GECAS plans at least 50 conversions. The 737-800BCF has a rigid cargo barrier and 12 maindeck pallet positions, with a maximum structural payload is 23.5t (51,800lb) and a maximum range in excess of 2,100nm.
Launched in 2016, the Amazon Air operation supports package delivery to Amazon's rapidly expanding customer base choosing fast delivery. Amazon says it will open new air facilities this year at Fort Worth Alliance airport, Wilmington Air Park, and Chicago Rockford International airport. The main Air Hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International airport will open in 2021.
GECAS chief executive Alec Burger tells FlightGlobal that the lessor "continues to be bullish on freighters. It's portfolio management, life extension, and is a system win between GECAS and GE Aviation in terms of getting more life out of the engines and aircraft."
Currently, 4-5% of GECAS's portfolio comprises of cargo which Burger says is a "sensible place to be" and could rise "slightly".
Additional reporting by Sophie Segal