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Another 20 Boeing 767s could boost Amazon’s Prime Air fleet

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SEATTLE — Amazon has been seeking to grow its Prime Air fleet of 40 cargo airplanes, with the only barrier being the availability of used 767 passenger jets for conversion into freighters.

But the tight supply of used 767s for conversion just got loosened because American Airlines, due to take delivery of new Boeing 787 Dreamliners, is retiring 20 of its 767s.

Those aircraft were secured Wednesday by an Amazon supplier, opening the prospect of further super-charged growth for the online retail giant’s delivery air force.

The 20 American 767s will be acquired over the next three years by Air Transport Services Group (ATSG), one of two cargo aircraft lessors supplying Amazon with its Prime Air 767 cargo fleet, the company said Wednesday.

In 2018, ATSG added a total of nine newly converted 767-300s to its leasing portfolio, and it had previously secured rights to five more for 2019 deployment. The American jets will boost its fleet of leased 767-300 freighters from 39 to 59 by the end of 2021.

That’s a significantly large boost to the pipeline of available cargo planes of the size Amazon needs. ATSG said it expects to begin freighter modification of six of the twenty 767s during 2019, up to nine during 2020, and no fewer than five in 2021.

In just three years, Amazon has built its Prime Air fleet from zero to 40 widebody jets, half leased from ATSG based in Wilmington, Ohio, and half from Atlas Air, based in Purchase, New York. This year, industry sources say it was shopping around for six more of the aircraft.