Western Global 747-400 providing peak season capacity at MSP in 2018.
Updated December 8, 2019
Every December, holiday shopping in the US creates a huge demand for air cargo, as gifts get sent between distribution centers, retailers, and consumers. Peak season creates some great spotting opportunities for aviation enthusiasts as well, as cargo airlines increase frequency, swap equipment, and lease capacity from other carriers - virtually every airport that sees regular mainline cargo traffic will see some interesting traffic.
If you're interested in seeing some of these flights, check out our smart flight alert service - you'll get an automatic notification when unusual-to-your-airport equipment is on the way in.
Based on analysis of the smart flight alerts we've been sending to subscribers across the US, here's a look at equipment that went into service in late November; we'll update this post again in mid-December, when another round of aircraft are expected to go into service (we've heard rumors about Asia Pacific and 21 Air providing lift for UPS in that time frame).
- N999YV, flying for CargoJet
Two or three 767-300s, presumably operating for UPS, most of them starting on November 26.
- N317CM: SDF-MHT
- N363CM: MHR-CAE
ABX also operates flights for DHL and Amazon, and their 767 freighters have been throwing alerts at other airports, mostly for flights to/from DHL's hub at CVG.
Amazon's US air cargo network is dominated by 767s operated by Atlas and ATI. Further analysis is needed to see if there are new routes or increased frequencies, however, based on alerts getting thrown for aircraft in Amazon's livery, they're not serving new cities as part of their peak operations. That's probably only noteworthy in that it confirms Amazon's fully utilizing their fleet, and aircraft in Amazon colors aren't getting bounced over to support Atlas or ATI's peak support for UPS or DHL.
747-400s, operating for FedEx since December 2. Atlas flights operating for FedEx fly with FedEx flight numbers, most appear to be replacements for existing routes.
- FDX2: MEM - STN
- FDX4: MEM - CGN, MEM - CDG
- FDX51: MEM - SJU
- FDX415: ONT - MEM
- FDX802: MEM - ONT
- FDX5038: MEM-CGN
Atlas aircraft operating on behalf of FedEx:
- N405KZ (white tail)
- N416MC, Ex-Polar/DHL livery
- N471MC, white tail
747-400s for UPS since November 19. Atlas flights for UPS fly with Atlas flight numbers, many are direct replacements for existing UPS routes with the same number, others appear to be new:
- GTI1082: SDF - EWR (replacing UPS1082)
- GTI1181: PHL - SDF
- GTI1187: PHL - SDF
- GTI2077: EWR - DFW (replacing UPS2077)
- GTI2194: SDF - PHL (replacing UPS2194)
- GTI2773: IAH - SDF (replacing UPS2773)
Atlas aircraft operating on behalf of UPS:
Two 767-300s flying out of SDF for UPS, starting November 26. Have been flying between MCO, MIA, PHL, and SDF.
Also worth noting - N360CM is still wearing a unique patched Air Incheon livery.
Cathay Pacific Cargo
747-8F B-LJK threw a high priority alert after stopping at SDF on December 6; unsure if this will be recurrent.
FedEx aircraft have thrown alerts at many, many airports across the US as they adjust equipment assignments for peak. As mentioned elsewhere in this post, Atlas and Kalitta 744s are also being substituted on some of their long routes.
A single 727-200 noted so far, flying SDF-RIV for UPS.
Several additional 747-400s operating out of MEM for USPS. Destinations include HNL, LAX, OSC, SFO, and SJU. Started December 1.
- N740CK (Kalitta / DHL)
National Airlines flew for UPS in 2018's peak season, but both of their active 744Fs are currently flying military routes. Perhaps they'll join UPS in the next round?
Also worth noting, per PlaneSpotters.net, they've got three more 747 freighters and an A330-200F joining their fleet in the near future; none of them have flown recently (per FlightAware), so hopes for them participating in peak would seem slim, though.
One of their 747s, the dual-liveried N903AR, has been throwing alerts on some unusual routes recently; isn't clear that it's peak-related though. Something to keep an eye on.
In the United States, noteworthy equipment appearances for aviation enthusiasts during peak season are largely due to UPS's reliance on partners for additional capacity. The first big round of wet leased equipment started flying for UPS around November 26, and another round will be starting the week of December 9. We've heard 21 Air, Atlas, and Asia Pacific will be sending additional aircraft to UPS at that time.
As with FedEx, there have been many smart flight alerts sent for unusual UPS equipment being reallocated throughout their network.
Annoyingly, WGA flights don't usually trigger alerts until after they've arrived and departed; fortunately for enthusiasts, they seem to quickly establish an operational pattern. As in past years, they have a good number of aircraft operating out of SDF for UPS.
- N356KD, 747-400, to SDF on December 2; presumably starting UPS operations.
MD-11s; started on November 26. Have been bouncing through CLE, DFW, ONT, ORD, PDX, PHL, SDF, and SLC.
- N415JN: white tail
- N435KD: white tail
- N512JN: white tail
- N513SN: white tail
- N542KD: first flights since April
- N581JN: large titles / no tail logo
Nick lives in Burnsville, MN with his wife and three children. He grooves on railroad and aviation photography, geography, weather, and LEGO. A freelance web developer, he started JetTip's smart flight alert service in 2017. He can frequently be found atop a step ladder at MSP's Aircraft Viewing Area.