Boeing’s 747-8 final assembly line at its Everett facility looks set to keep churning out the iconic aircraft well into the 2020s thanks to a new order from United Parcel Service (UPS) for up to 14 freighters amid “unprecedented demand” in its air freight business.
UPS said on Thursday (US time) said the order was in response to “accelerating demand”, with deliveries to run until 2022. The global freight and logistics company has exercised options to purchase 14 747-8Fs it held from a previous order made in 2016.
Further, the company noted the US government’s recent tax changes, which among other initiatives reduced the corporate tax rate, had resulted in tax savings which has enabled it to “significantly increase capital investments and to make them earlier than previously planned”.
“Our intra-US next-day and deferred air shipments are expanding to record levels, and UPS’s International segment has produced four consecutive quarters of double-digit export shipment growth,” UPS chairman and chief executive David Abney said in a statement.
“To support this strong customer demand, we continue to invest in additional air capacity, providing the critical link our customers need to markets around the world.”
In addition to the 14 747-8Fs, the global freight and logistics company said it would also purchase an additional four new 767-300ER freighters.
UPS Airlines president Brendan Canavan the new aircraft would allow the global freight and logistics company to upgauge aircraft on existing routes, creating a “cascading effect that will boost capacity on regional routes around the world”.
“As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of UPS Airlines today, we are seeing unprecedented demand for our air products,” Canavan said.
There have been 136 orders for the 747-8 as of December 31 2017, according to the Boeing website. The figure does not include UPS’s new order.
Of those, 47 have been for the 747-8I passenger variant, which have all been delivered to Air China, Korean Air, Lufthansa and private customers.
Meanwhile, Boeing has delivered 77 747-8F freighters, with 12 unfilled orders. The backlog includes 11 aircraft for UPS under a previous order signed in 2016.
The airframer is building six 747-8s a year, meaning the new UPS order represented more than two years of production.
Powered by four GEnx-2B engines, the 747-8F has cargo capacity for 46 shipping containers, with 34 on its main deck and 12 in its lower compartments.
Boeing has been banking on an upturn in the cargo market to spur sales of its evergreen 747 as airlines turn to fuel-efficient, twin-engine aircraft such as the 777-300ER/777-X or A350-900 for long-haul passenger services.
“UPS has clearly tapped into the power and efficiency the 747-8 freighter brings to the market,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and chief executive Kevin McAllister said.
“We’re impressed with how UPS is leveraging the airplane in its operations and excited to see them bring additional 767s into their fleet.”
UPS had 13 747-400 freighters and three 747-8Fs in its fleet of 239 owned aircraft at the end of 2017, according to its website.