MIAMI — As previously reported on July 8 by Leeham News and Comment, FedEx has announced Tuesday an agreement to purchase 50 additional Boeing 767-300F plus 50 purchasing options, hence becoming the biggest order ever placed for the type in its +30 years of production.

The new order, valued in almost $10 billion at list prices, has been slotted for delivery between 2018 through 2023, and takes the logbook to 106 unfilled 767F orders for the Memphis-based operator.

Since its initial delivery in late 2013, the 767 Freighters have enabled FedEx to replace its aging McDonnell Douglas MD-10 fleet, planned to be definitely retired by 2021 according to its Q4 2015 statistical book. The new freighters have also also allowed to enhance operational efficiency, by sharing spare parts, tooling and flight simulators with the Boeing 757s in service with the carrier.

“Acquiring additional 767F aircraft is a continuation of our very successful air fleet modernization program and will enable us to reduce structural costs, improve our fuel efficiency and enhance the reliability of our global network,” said David J. Bronczek, president and chief executive officer of FedEx Express, the freight carrier’s airline unit.

Keeping the Production Line Running

The 767 has been in serial production for decades. However, one year after Airbus launched the A330neo, a re-engined version of the twin-engine wide-body aircraft, market perspectives seem to have changed for the passenger-carrying version of the 767. The program is now pretty much depending on the current FedEx orders and the 179 USAF KC-46 Pegasus tankers, which will allow to keep the line running until 2030 at least.

In its second-quarter 2015 financial results announced today, Boeing recognizes an after-tax charge of $536 million on the KC-46 due to higher estimated engineering and manufacturing costs to complete development, certification and initial production of the tanker aircraft.

“While we are disappointed with this charge, we are investing the necessary resources to keep this vitally important program on schedule for our customer, and meet our commitments for delivering the initial 18 tankers to the U.S. Air Force by August 2017 and building 179 tankers by 2027,” said Boeing President and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg. “We have a clear understanding of the work to be done, and believe strongly that the long-term financial value of the KC-46 program will reward our additional investment.”

Even so, Boeing has a bullish view on the future of the 767 program. Despite having retired from its sales catalog the Boeing 767-200 and -400 variants, the planemaker believes that the program is viable for the years to come, as the airliner is being offered in the medium-sized freighter market, competing with the much larger A330F, and after market conversions of older aircraft such as the Airbus A300 and passenger-built 767s.

At the present time, the 767 is produced at a rate of 1.5 units per month. Boeing plans to increase such rate to two per month as of next year.