"Queen of the Skies": UPS Airlines orders 18 more jets

"Queen of the Skies": UPS Airlines orders 18 more jets
Inside the cargo hold of the modified UPS jets. (Source: Michael Flynn / WAVE 3 News)
Inside the cargo hold of the modified UPS jets. (Source: Michael Flynn / WAVE 3 News)
The cockpit of one of UPS' Boeing 747-8 jets. (Source: Michael Flynn / WAVE 3 News)
The cockpit of one of UPS' Boeing 747-8 jets. (Source: Michael Flynn / WAVE 3 News)
The very large wheels of a UPS 747-8 cargo plane. (Source: Michael Flynn / WAVE 3 News)
The very large wheels of a UPS 747-8 cargo plane. (Source: Michael Flynn / WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - UPS Airlines announced a commitment to purchase 18 new aircraft from Boeing on Thursday.

The company plans to purchase 14 Boeing 747-8 and four Boeing 767 freighters. Adding the freighters will give UPS the room it needs to serve more customers more efficiently, the company said.

"Our customers have been demanding more capacity. This is delivering it in 307 thousand pounds every flight," UPS spokesperson Jim Mayer said.

The order for the 18 cargo jets is in addition to the 14 new 747-8 freighters UPS ordered in 2016.  The 5.3 billion dollar deal in 2016 was considered a lifeline for the airliner - especially after United and Delta decided to retire their passenger 747s.

The announcement February 1 was one of two big milestones for the company - the major aircraft purchase and a historic revival of sorts both came on the 30 year anniversary of UPS's first flight from Louisville.

"As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of UPS Airlines today, we are seeing unprecedented demand for our air products," said Brendan Canavan, president of UPS Airlines. "The new freighters will allow us to continue upsizing aircraft on routes and will create a cascading effect that will boost capacity on regional routes around the world."

UPS Airlines began service on Feb. 1, 1988. The first flight was from Louisville to Milwaukee.

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The 747 jet was never designed for passengers. Back in the 1960s, the future of air travel was supposed to be supersonic transport. So the 747 jets were originally  produced for cargo.

"The best way to make an airplane into a freighter is to load the cargo through the nose," Boeing Senior Historian Michael Lombardi said. "And so Boeing moved the flight deck out of the way, on top of the fuselage, and that's how the 747 got its hump."

Boeing Senior Historian and self-decribed aviation geek Michael Lombardi is thrilled.

"It is so comforting to see that this airplane is going to continue," Lombardi said.

It's not just because Lombardi works at Boeing. Like a lot of people, including Hollywood directors who made the 747 jet a star in over 200 movies, he is in love with the "Queen of the Skies."

"The glory days of the jet age of air travel," Lombardi said of the iconic jets.

The new, revamped 747-8s will have 19 percent more cargo room for UPS.  And unless you catch a glimpse of Air Force One, Louisville may be the best destination to see one.

"Louisville is now the place for all of aviation enthusiasts to go," Lombardi said.

To date, four of the 14 747-8s ordered in 2016 have been delivered. UPS says all of the jets will be in their hands by the end of 2022. The latest 747-8 received by the airline was put into service overnight.

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