FedEx said Friday it has finalized a deal to take over the lease of Boeing’s Dreamlifter Operations Center at Paine Field in Everett and will begin flying 757 cargo operations there this fall.

The Snohomish County-owned airport built the facility at a cost of $30 million in 2013 to house and do maintenance on Boeing’s fleet of four giant Dreamlifter cargo planes — the modified 747 jumbo jets with bulbous upper fuselages once used to ferry sections of the 787 Dreamliner from around the world to the final assembly line in Everett.

This spring, Boeing closed down that production line and consolidated 787 assembly in South Carolina. Though the Dreamlifter still flies into Paine Field to deliver large 767 components from Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas, the tempo of flights is much reduced and Boeing no longer needs the operations support center.

FedEx is taking over the 68,745-square-foot facility as well as the aircraft ramp and parking lot, a total of 19 acres. Financial terms were not disclosed.

A new daily Boeing 757 flight will operate Monday through Friday between Paine Field and the FedEx Express World Hub in Memphis, Tennessee.

The grounds around the buildings offer the ability to expand later with additional gates and more flights, FedEx said.


“Paine Field is already a driving economic force in Snohomish County, and this expansion positions our network for continued success in delivering for our customers,” said Tim Wertner, senior vice president of U.S. operations west at FedEx Express, the air cargo arm of FedEx.

Paine Field Airport Director Arif Ghouse said in a statement that the FedEx deal was good news for Snohomish County’s residents as the area continues to recover from the pandemic.

“We welcome the prospect of additional employment opportunities when FedEx Express starts operations later this year,” Ghouse said.

FedEx said the new service will offer north Seattle-area customers up to two extra hours in extended pickup times, as well as earlier market delivery times, additional dry ice capabilities and increased overall market capacity.

Severely hit by the pandemic’s impact on global air travel, Boeing has stated it is “reviewing every piece of real estate, every building, every lease, every warehouse, every site,” which includes a target to shrink the company’s office space by 30%.

Boeing said Friday that FedEx made an unsolicited approach to take over the Dreamlifter facility. The overture was eagerly embraced.

According to a document reviewed by The Seattle Times in April that outlined the terms of the negotiations then underway over the lease transfer, Boeing sweetened the deal for FedEx by agreeing to make a $1.8 million bond payment due on Nov. 1 as part of the annual rent.