ATLANTA, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- United Parcel Service just added some serious muscle to its global delivery fleet.
The package shipping company announced Thursday it has placed an order for 14 new Boeing 747-8 jet freighters, the plane-maker's newest and most innovative version of its flagship jumbojet -- not to mention the largest cargo plane in existence.
"UPS is making several strategic capital investments for increased global operating capacity," UPS CEO David Abney said in a statement. "These investments will help enable customers to expand their presence in new and existing markets while fueling our profitable growth and attainment of UPS's long term business objectives."
The 747-8, assembled in Everett, Wash., was introduced five years ago and has been a slow-selling aircraft, mainly due to its fuel consumption rate from four engines. More fuel-efficient planes like the 777 and 787 have killed off some of the demand for the passenger 747, which has been in service since 1970.
The 747-8, though, is the world's most fuel efficient jumbo air freighter.
Of the 109 747-8 planes that have been delivered by Boeing since 2011, most are being used to ship freight. No American carrier has purchased or ordered a 747-8 for passenger flight.
Nonetheless, Boeing said Thursday that it still believes in its third generation 747 aircraft.
"UPS could not have selected a better aircraft to meet its growing business needs," Brad McMullen, vice president of North America sales for Boeing's commercial aviation arm, said. "We've continued to make the 747-8 Freighter even better, and we look forward to seeing UPS introduce it to its fleet."
All 14 of the new planes are expected to be delivered by 2020, UPS said. The order also includes an option for an additional 14 freighters.
Once the planes are delivered, UPS will join two other cargo airlines as the world's second-largest operator of the 747-8 after Lufthansa, Germany's national carrier, which owns 19 for passenger service.
At 250 feet and 2 inches, the 747-8 is the world's longest aircraft. The Airbus A380, the largest aircraft in the world, however, does not have a cargo version.
The 747-8 will also replace the current Air Force One, a 747-200 variant, in the coming years. The U.S. Air Force has said it expects the next presidential plane to begin testing in 2018 and begin carrying commanders in-chief in 2023.