The three early-production freighters were scheduled to be Atlas Air’s first deliveries in 2011. Subsequently, Boeing rescheduled these aircraft to early 2012 and three...

Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, Inc. has exercised its order-termination rights in connection with three early-build Boeing 747-8 Freighters.

The three aircraft were part of an order for 12 Boeing 747-8Fs which Atlas Air announced in September 2006.

Atlas Air now expects to receive three 747-8Fs in 2011, four in 2012, and two in 2013. The first five of these aircraft have been placed under long-term ACMI (aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance) wet-lease contracts, three to be operated for British Airways and two for Panalpina.

“As prudent asset managers, terminating the first three aircraft was the right decision for our fleet, our customers and our stockholders,” says William Flynn, president and chief executive officer of Atlas Air Worldwide. “We expect the remaining 747-8Fs in our order to be better-performing aircraft than those we have terminated.”

Atlas Air ordered 12 Boeing 747-8 Freighters on September 12, 2006 but on September 21, 2011 said it was canceling its orders for the first three aircraft because of Boeding's lengthy production delays and the aircraft not performing as specified. The carrier intends to take delivery of the remaining nine 747-8Fs in its order

Adds Flynn: “The 747-8Fs represent a substantial investment in the growth of our business and are the cornerstone of our long-term fleet strategy, reinforcing our position as the most-advanced, most-efficient and most-reliable provider of outsourced aircraft and aviation operating services.”

Atlas Air says it notified Boeing that it was exercising its contractual termination rights with respect to the three early-production 747-8 freighters after lengthy delays and performance considerations.

The three early-production freighters were previously scheduled to be Atlas Air’s first deliveries in 2011. Subsequently, Boeing rescheduled these aircraft to early 2012 and three more recently built, better-performing 747-8 freighters were moved to the 2011 delivery positions.

Atlas Air expects to receive its first 747-8F from Boeing in October, followed by two in November and two in the first half of 2012. The first three aircraft will enter ACMI service with British Airways and the second two with Panalpina.

“We are delighted that our first five new aircraft allow us to extend our long-standing relationships with two premier customers,” says Flynn. “And we look forward to placing additional 747-8 freighters with other customers.”

By year-end 2013, Atlas Air’s cargo operations are expected to include nine 747-8Fs and 24 747-400 freighters. It also expects to have two passenger 747-400s and three passenger 767-300ERs providing charter service to the U.S. military and other customers.

In addition, Atlas Air expects to operate at least 11 customer-owned aircraft in its CMI (crew, maintenance and insurance) operations. These operations include four 747 Large Cargo Freighters for Boeing, five 767 freighters for DHL Express, and two additional 747-400 passenger aircraft for SonAir.

Atlas Air Worldwide expects to retire its five remaining, older-generation 747-200F cargo aircraft by mid-2012, keeping its modern, more-efficient 747-400F aircraft in service. The company also expects to return two 747-400BCFs (Boeing Converted Freighters) to their lessors at the end of their lease terms in early 2014 and early 2015, respectively. These two aircraft were leased as bridge capacity due to the delay in the delivery of the first 747-8Fs.

“Aggressive management of our fleet, the addition of new, better-performing and more-efficient aircraft, our new military-passenger charter operations, the continuing growth of our asset-light CMI operations, other growth initiatives, and the scheduled retirement of older aircraft give us confidence in our ability to meet the expectations of our customers and investors,” concludes Flynn.

Atlas Air’s decision to cancel its orders for its first three 747-8Fs is the second piece of bad news to emerge within the past week regarding the Boeing 747-8 Freighter.

Although Boeing had planned to deliver the first two customer 747-8Fs to launch customer Cargolux on September 19 and September 21, the Luxembourg-based carrier decided three days before the September 19 delivery ceremony for the first aircraft not to take delivery of either of its first two 747-8Fs as scheduled, because of unresolved contractual issues.

The Cargolux decision forced Boeing to postpone at short notice its planned extensive celebrations around the deliveries of the first two 747-8Fs.