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Amazon said to be secretly testing own cargo planes in operation ‘Aerosmith’

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Constantly exploring ways to get goods to customers in super-quick time, and keen to avoid the kind of chaos it experienced with shipping services such as UPS and FedEx during peak times two years ago, Amazon is thought to be renting a fleet of cargo planes to improve the efficiency of its enormous delivery operation.

Although the e-commerce giant hasn’t said anything publicly about such a move, a detailed report from Motherboard this week suggests it’s been using a state-of-the-art shipping facility at an airport in Wilmington, Ohio since September.

Aviation holding company Air Transport Service Group (ATSG) is said to be overseeing the operation – thought to be part of a trial at this stage – though no one connected with it seems willing to reveal the name of its secretive client.

The venture, based at Wilmington Air Park and operating under the curious codename Aerosmith, utilizes “a large non-passenger airport facility with major sorting and cargo capabilities,” according to Motherboard.

The facility served as a major hub for DHL between 2003 and 2008, handling around a million packages a day at the time, though since the company’s departure the site has seen little activity. Until recently, that is.

Amazon has reportedly contracted four Boeing 767 aircraft that are known to be making daily flights to airports in Allentown PA, Tampa FL, Oakland CA, and Los Angeles – Amazon has distribution centers within 60 miles of all four of the airports.

Although he wouldn’t give the name of the company, Paul Cunningham, a spokesperson for ATSG, described the cargo as “general consumer goods.” Further evidence that Amazon is behind the operation came when FedEx, UPS, and DHL all confirmed they had nothing to do with the venture.

If Amazon really is running this air cargo operation, it shows the lengths to which the company feels it has to go to ensure a smooth logistical operation, and could be part of a grand plan to take complete control of its complex shipping arrangements.

Amazon took a knock during the holiday season two years ago when customers complained of late deliveries after several big-name shipping firms struggled with the huge number of packages in their systems. The Seattle-based company ended up offering affected customers $20 gift cards by way of apology, and said in response it was “reviewing the performance of the delivery carriers.”

Since then the company has been working on the development of a delivery drone that it hopes can one day transport goods in just a few minutes to customers living close to its distribution centers.

Other efforts to improve the efficiency of its delivery operation include the use of subways and bicycles, and also the launch of an Uber-style system to get more delivery drivers on board.

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Trevor Mogg
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