DHL Express announced Monday it will invest $192 million to build an aircraft maintenance facility to support its growing fleet at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), where the package logistics provider operates its primary U.S. air hub.
The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority on Thursday approved $1 million worth of incentives for the 305,000-square-foot facility, which will include space for aircraft parts storage, three maintenance parking gates and eight new aircraft gates.
The maintenance center will be adjacent to DHL’s existing cargo operations, on 50 additional acres that DHL will lease from the airport, and house two Boeing 777 widebody freighters side by side. DHL said it expects to complete the project by the end of 2025.
CVG is the main point for connecting DHL’s express network to the rest of the world, with 130 daily flights conducted by a fleet of 60 aircraft. Partner airlines and joint venture Polar Air also rely on the facility. The superhub currently operates on 194 acres with 67 aircraft parking gates and 6.4 million square feet of ramp area. It annually processes about 50 million international shipments bound for the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Latin America.
The company has previously invested more than $250 million in hub upgrades since 2015, including aircraft handling equipment, autosort systems and remodeled interior sections. DHL also has superhubs in Germany and Hong Kong.
DHL Express does some of its own repairs on the tarmac at CVG and sends larger jobs to FEAM Aero, which broke ground in November on a second maintenance hangar. The expansion project will bring line maintenance activities out of the weather and accommodate tasks for DHL’s fleet of Boeing 737, 767 and 777 aircraft. DHL is expected to use a mix of in-house and FEAM technicians to maintain its fleet.
CVG is the 17th-largest airport in the world based on cargo tonnage, according to Airports Council International.
“We are committed to serving our customers and their growing demands, which require an investment to expand our footprint at CVG,” said Mike Parra, CEO for DHL Express Americas, in the announcement. DHL continues to expand and modernize its fleet despite the temporary downturn in the air express market.
Between 2018 and 2022, DHL purchased 28 new B777-200 freighters from Boeing, of which 19 are currently in service. The remaining aircraft will be delivered between now and 2025. In April, the company announced the order of nine 777-200LR freighters from Jetran. Mammoth Freighters, a startup airframe overhaul company, will convert the used passenger jets to cargo configuration and deliver them between 2024 and 2027.
FreightWaves reported last week that Ontario International Airport in California recently approved a proposal for DHL to build a West Coast air sortation hub. Since mid-2021, DHL has invested in major upgrades for air facilities in Miami; Paris; Milan, Italy; Seoul, South Korea; Hong Kong; and Hamilton, Ontario. DHL last fall opened a regional hub at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
CVG is also where Amazon Air has its national hub that routes packages around the country on partner carriers such as Atlas Air, Air Transport International, ABX Air and Sun Country.
British Airways last month launched nonstop passenger service between London and Cincinnati. The Boeing 777 widebody aircraft are also carrying cargo, and DHL has said it plans to use the flights to supplement its own capacity.
757s to Panama
Meanwhile, DHL announced on LinkedIn that one of its in-house airlines, European Air Transport Leipzig GmbH, has transferred two Boeing 757 cargo jets to Panama-based partner airline DHL Aero Expreso for six months. The freighters will bolster DHL’s network in Central America and the Caribbean
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