UPS has ordered 14 Boeing 747-8 Freighters in a surprise deal that breathes new life into the jumbo widebody programme.
The order, disclosed by Boeing, includes options to buy another 14 747-8Fs. The manufacturer has not given a timeline for deliveries.
"These aircraft are a strategic investment for increased capacity for UPS customers around the globe," states Brendan Canavan, president of UPS Airlines.
UPS will use the 747-8s to "upsize our network in both new and existing markets", Canavan adds.
It is the first jumbo freighter order for the Atlanta-based carrier since it cancelled a deal to buy 10 Airbus A380 Freighters a decade ago.
For Boeing, the order comes at a critical moment. The 747-8 backlog had dwindled to 15 aircraft, including several going to airlines that no longer intend to accept delivery. Boeing is reducing production of the 747-8F to 0.5 per month, which chief executive Dennis Muilenburg described on 26 October to analysts as a long-term, sustainable position.
The UPS order almost doubles the official backlog for the widebody freighter, extending production at current rates by more than two years.
"We've continued to make the 747-8 Freighter even better, and we look forward to seeing UPS introduce it to its fleet," says Brad McMullen, Boeing's vice-president of sales for North American and leasing customers.