An Atlas cargo plane flying on behalf of Amazon Air, Amazon’s own cargo delivery service that competes with FedEx and UPS, among others, crashed outside of Houston, Texas, killing three people on board.
Amazon and Atlas confirmed the accident with short statements. Neither of them provided details on the nature of the accident.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the flight crew, their families and friends, along with the entire Atlas Air team during this terrible tragedy. We appreciate the first responders who worked urgently to provide support, “said Dave Clark, executive vice president of worldwide operations at Amazon.
“This is to confirm that an Atlas Air 767 cargo plane number 3591 operating from Miami to Houston has been involved in an accident this afternoon,” a statement from Atlas reads. “We understand that the plane crashed near the city of Anahuac, Texas, in Trinity Bay. We can confirm that there were three people on board the plane. These individuals and their families are our top priority at this time. Atlas Air is cooperating fully with the FAA and the NTSB. We will update as additional information becomes available. “
The Boeing 767 cargo plane lost radio and radar contact around 12:45 p.m. local time after crashing in Trinity Bay, near Anahuac, a small city about 30 miles from Houston. Local news reported that officials on the ground said survivors are unlikely.
The plane, Atlas Air Flight 3591, was flying from Miami on behalf of Amazon, according to the flight tracking site Flightradar24.
Many are reporting the accident as a “Prime Air” incident, but this is not completely accurate. Originally, Amazon Air was branded “Prime Air”, and this appears to be the logo that still runs on many of these aircraft, but Amazon changed the name of the service in December 2017. Amazon Prime Air now refers to the efforts of the company to build a network drone delivery.
As we have noted, it is not yet clear what caused the accident. The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed the accident in a statement, deferring the investigation to the National Transportation Safety Board, which said in a tweet that it has sent investigators to the crash site.
With today’s aircraft, Amazon has 40 aircraft operating under the Amazon Air brand, serving about 23 airports in the US.
A looming question is how and if today’s incident will affect Amazon’s larger strategy with cargo delivery.
The company has been building its own cargo plane network since 2015, a strategy that serves a couple of purposes. It gives Amazon more control (both in terms of scheduling and costs) over air logistics for the transportation of goods it sells; and it gives Amazon the opportunity to take on some of the air transportation business that FedEx and UPS provide to other companies.
Amazon Air has grown quietly but steadily over the years. Amazon currently has plans to add another 10 aircraft during 2019 and 2020, leasing them from Air Transport Services Group, a competitor of Atlas. Notably, Amazon has stakes in both Atlas and ATSG as part of this larger bid to acquire other larger freight carriers with their own freight delivery service.