ABX History

Grow With Us

ABX Air has come a long way in the last three decades. To give you an idea of how far, take a look at this brief history highlighting some of our accomplishments over the years.


During its initial months of operation in 1980 on the grounds of the former Clinton County AFB in Wilmington, Ohio, Airborne Express moved 14,000 packages a night with a total of 550 employees. After just one year under new ownership, and bracing for growth, Airborne opened a state-of-the-art package sorting facility at its base of operations, steadily growing its package volume.

Airborne Express quickly took off to become the third-largest provider of air freight services, due largely to successful investment in facilities, an aggressive course of instrument landing system upgrades, and precise fleet expansion. By mid-1983, Airborne was the only privately owned, operated, and maintained Category II ILS in the nation - one of many firsts for the air freight maverick.

Through a continuous stream of improvements, expansions and additions, Airborne Express, which officially became ABX Air, Inc. in 1988, experienced tremendous growth in the years to come. Renovations and innovations in everything from fleet to fuel operations equipped ABX to build upon its value as a key supplier in the air cargo industry.

Rapidly and quietly growing


By 1990, ABX had grown to 3,400 employees and was averaging 400,000 packages each night. What followed were runway extensions, day sort capabilities, Wilmington Air Park expansion, and more regional hubs.  On its 15th anniversary in 1995, ABX added the 100th aircraft to its fleet. By year 2000, its entire fleet, including the Boeing 767s, had met the FAA deadline for Stage III noise compliance well ahead of schedule.

In 2001 ABX set out on a course of strengthening its focus on market expansion and improved customer service through the introduction of guaranteed morning delivery, broader delivery services, and better web access for small businesses. As a result of DHL purchasing the sales and ground network of Airborne Express In August 2003, ABX Air became an independent public company, entering into contracts with DHL to continue providing lift and package sorting services. Two years later, ABX Air stock began trading on NASDAQ.

Behind the scenes, in front of the pack

As it zeros in on its 30th year of serving the air cargo industry, ABX Air stands behind some of the greatest successes in the air cargo industry, offering shipping, charter, maintenance and hub services, parts and training. ABX continues to invest in the technology, facilities, fleet, and most important, the more than 8,000 employees who move millions of pounds of cargo each night. Through a motivated workforce striving to meet its customers’ needs -- safely and valuably -- and strategic partnerships, acquisitions, and broadening market initiatives, ABX continues to keep its sights set high in serving the air cargo industry.


  • Airborne Express, Inc., was formed in April 1980, when Airborne Freight Corporation (AFC) acquired Midwest Air Charter.
  • On May 1, Airborne Freight Corporation separated the company into four divisions, one of them being the airline. This division consisted of Airborne Express, Inc., (formerly Midwest Air Charter). The airline moved about 500,000 packages each month with 50 planes on 40 scheduled flights. At that point, the airline was operating on 452 acres of land and had over 550 employees across the US in 50 locations. There were 123 pilots, 193 maintenance personnel, 157 ground staff and about 80 administrative staff.


  • The first phase of Airborne's state-of-the-art package sorting facility was put into operation in June of 1981. At an initial cost of $6 million, the sort center covered 83,500 square feet, and was designed to process 50,000 packages each night. Total nightly shipments grew from about 13,750 in January to about 20,275 by December of 1981.
  • Click here for history of the Air Park.


  • Airborne Express passed Emery Air Freight in package shipment volume, to become one of the "Big Three", with Federal Express and United Parcel Service. The first DC-9 C-Check was completed in-house.
  • A sophisticated Category II Instrument Landing System (CAT II ILS) was completed and received FAA approval. It became the only privately owned, operated and maintained CAT II ILS in the US.


  • By the third quarter of 1983, Airborne was flying 42,000 miles a night, with 21 aircraft (landing at 30 airports) and 24 charter flights (landing at 30 airports). On-time performance was 85%.


  • Airborne FTZ, Inc., the airline's subsidiary, received approvals as the nation's only privately owned Foreign Trade Zone in 1984.
  • A new fuel facility for Jet A fuel with a capacity of 410,000 gallons was completed in addition to an expanded facility for Property Maintenance and Ground Support Equipment maintenance.
  • A DC-9 Level B simulator was acquired and configured to Airborne's specifications and standards.


  • The airline's parent company, Airborne Freight Corporation, elected to use the trade name "Airborne Express", with all future public presentation of the company to carry this name. The purpose of the change was to more clearly communicate the corporation's business.
  • The first DC-8 was purchased and put in modification, including an electronic flight instrumentation system (EFIS).
  • Ground was broken for the Airborne Commerce Park, a joint venture between Airborne and a group of Columbus, Ohio, developers.
  • By the end of 1985, the company had 1,113 employees.


  • The package sorting facility was renovated and expanded to more than double its previous capacity. An administrative offices/training complex and a 50,000 square-foot aircraft maintenance hangar were completed. Total cost for the three projects was in excess of $20 million.
  • In 1986, the airline's fleet consisted of 18 DC-9s, 12 YS-11s and three DC-8s with several more DC-8s and DC-9s under option.
  • Approximately 1,340 employees worked at the air park for ABX Air by the end of 1986


  • Property formerly housing Kurtz-Kash was purchased and renovation started. The building would eventually become the first home of the airline’s Base Shops, where component overhauls were completed.
  • A former FAA tower was purchased and moved to Airborne Air Park. It became operational in 1988, and was used to control the airline’s ground activity.
  • By year end, the airline employed over 1,700 people


  • The airline received an "Aircraft Cargo Container" patent for its unique C-Container, designed to fit into the airplane through the passenger door, and to fit the contours of the aircraft once inside.
  • The first Regional Sort Hub opened in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in November of 1988. It was designed to free space on the aircraft and in the package sorting facility in Wilmington.
  • The parent company experienced nearly 40 percent shipment growth.
  • The year-end employee count went over 2,000.


  • ABX's Air aircraft flew 15.2 million miles, using 58 million gallons of aviation fuel in 1989.
  • The package sorting facility operated at capacity with more than 1.3 million pounds of shipments being processed each business night.
  • Regional Hubs opened in Atlanta, Georgia, and South Bend, Indiana.
  • The second Commerce Park Building opened.
  • Nearly 2,500 employees now worked for ABX Air.


  • The airline's DC-8 simulator began operation in 1990.
  • The first phase of the third package sorting facility opened early in 1990, boosting capacity to 395,000 packages each night. The second phase opened in October and boosted capacity in the sort complex to 520,000 packages a night at an additional cost of $9 million.
  • Regional hubs were opened in Roanoke, Virginia, and Columbia, Missouri.
  • The third Commerce Park building was opened.
  • At the close of 1990, ABX Air had 3,341 employees and the average nightly package count was 395,000.


  • The third phase of Sort Building C became operational, and capacity in the three-building complex became 730,000 pieces.
  • A runway extension project was initiated. The project replaced 1,000 feet of overrun with 1,000 feet of runway, then added an additional 700 feet of runway with a 200-foot overrun.
  • ABX Air made aviation history by flying the world's first DC-9 with a newly developed Stage III hush kit.
  • In May of 1991 ABX Air announced a $121 million expansion of the Wilmington Air Park, expecting to add 3,000 jobs by the time the project was completed. The expansion plans included a 9,000-foot runway, a third maintenance hangar and connecting SR 73 and SR 134, among other things.
  • Regional Hubs were opened in Waco, Texas, and Fresno, California. Within the year, the Fresno hub needed to relocate to a larger facility.
  • The employee count topped 4,000.


  • The airline opened its third Aircraft Maintenance hangar in 1992.
  • Airborne was one of the first private companies to have an Aircraft Situation Display (ASD) operational. It allowed ABX to see the aircraft enroute.
  • Four DC-8s and eight DC-9s were added in 1992.
  • By year-end, over 4,700 employees worked for ABX Air across the country.


  • In November of 1993, a Control Tower Operator was added to the tower operations.
  • Unload D opened featuring expanded truck unloading facilities.
  • A regional sort hub was opened in Providence, Rhode Island.
  • The parking apron on C Ramp was expanded, providing parking for 24 more DC-9s.
  • Commerce Park buildings 4 through 9 were opened.
  • Airborne Road construction was completed, and the road opened in 1993.
  • By year-end, over 5,000 employees worked for ABX Air across the country.


  • Construction continued on the Air Park expansion.
  • Commerce Park Building 9 opened.
  • The Fresno Hub was relocated to a larger space.
  • The sort capacity at the end of 1994 was 906,000 packages per night.
  • The number of ABX employees at the end of 1994 was 5,741.


  • Four and one-half years after the announcement of the proposed runway expansion, the new runway was opened. The first revenue flights touched down in September and the runway was fully certified for CAT II ILS by December.
  • The airline celebrated its 15th anniversary and added the 100th aircraft to its operating fleet.
  • A new Fire Station was added as well as new generator equipment to support the new runway.
  • Base Shops moved to a new, 100,000-square-foot facility.
  • Commerce Park building 10 opened and Airborne Logistics Services relocated to that 330,000 square-foot building.
  • ABX Air employees had grown to 5,800.



  • The Boeing 767 was selected as the next generation aircraft for the ABX Air fleet. The 767 boasted a wide-body design enabling more lift capacity. Being nearly 15 years newer, it also had better fuel efficiency and reliability.
  • Work began on the expansion of Sort D and Unload E. They were both completed by year end.
  • Record amounts of freight were moved by many dedicated employees from all departments during the August 1997 UPS Strike.
  • Late in 1997, ABX Air recognized its first 25-year employee anniversary.


  • A refurbished 767 simulator was added to the Flight Training and Simulator Complex. It was installed and certified by 1998.
  • The first 767 revenue flight was in October of 1998.
  • Training was added to instruct employees to work with the 767.
  • Working to meet the FAA mandate of Stage III noise level compliance, ABX Air worked to install hush kits on the DC-9 engines and to complete modifications on the DC-8s to bring them up to the Stage III levels. The 767s arrived already meeting the noise level requirements.


  • To control storm water runoff containing residual deicer, ABX Air teamed with two well-known groups to develop a subsurface water treatment facility. First a pilot-scale model was constructed and tested through three winters. Based on the exceptional results from that study, two full-scale treatment facilities were designed and constructed opening in 2001. One of the developers received an award for the engineering involved in the facility.
  • B Ramp was expanded to accommodate more aircraft parking and C Ramp was expanded. D Ramp was also repaired and then extended.
  • A new facility for the Waco Hub was opened in September and plans were made for an expanded facility at the Providence Regional Hub. The new Providence hub ran freight for the first time in January of 1999.
  • A new fuel farm and de-ice facility were constructed and opened in the first quarter of 1999.
  • Cartage marked the one millionth truck tracked with the SureShip software in April of 1999.
  • In an unprecedented collaboration, many cargo carriers joined to test ADS-B technology. Several carriers converged at Airborne's Air Park in 1999 with modified aircraft to work together to explore the capability of an alternative to T-CAS.
  • Another major innovation, Optical Village, opened in Columbus, Ohio. A development of the Airborne Logistics Services group, it brought manufacturers of many components together in the same area to expedite the production of eyeglasses.
  • The parent company introduced a new service, airborne@home, to reach markets traditionally not part of the Airborne system. Working with the USPS, Airborne delivered packages to post office depots and the USPS managed the "final mile" segment to the residential customers.
  • The Fitness Center was redesigned and moved to a new location, allowing for an aerobics room and more equipment.
  • Concentrating on technology became a priority with the advent of digital manual, an upgraded HRIS system and the approach of Y2K.


  • ABX Air slipped quietly into 2000 with all aircraft meeting the FAA deadline for Stage III noise compliance. Further, Airborne experienced no disruption of service at the Y2K turnover.
  • The Junior Tech program was initiated to allow technicians just out of school to come to ABX Air and sample work in each of the maintenance areas. It allowed them to determine their interests and gain a broader knowledge of all of the areas of Aircraft Maintenance.
  • ABX Air also partnered with CISCO systems and a local school to provide a work-learning opportunity for students studying to become certified CISCO operators. It was the first business/school/CISCO partnership in the state.
  • ABX Air introduced abxair.com. The web site's first tasks were to highlight job opportunities at the company.
  • ABX Air installed over-the-belt scanners to update tracking within the Sort Facility to enable more complete tracking of packages.
  • In 2000, ABX Air celebrated its 20th anniversary. The Ohio House of Representatives issued a commendation to ABX Air, noting the ingenuity of operations and persistent growth as assets to the state.
  • A new machine in Base Shops - a horizontal boring mill - allowed ABX Air to complete more maintenance in-house. In-house maintenance allowed for increased reliability, faster turn and better cost efficiency.
  • The South Bend Regional Hub was expanded to meet a growing volume.
  • Focusing on employee concerns and interests, ABX Air held a Career Fair. Career opportunities at the company were highlighted. This was followed by a School Fair/Opportunity day allowing employees to explore educational options to get them in the career paths explored earlier in the year.
  • ABX TV, the Employee News Network, first aired in 2000. Recognizing that more communication mediums were necessary than were currently available, ABX Air placed 12 TVs in break rooms around the base to display company information and more.


  • After many months of research, an automated express sort area was tested on a small scale.
  • To improve security, turnstiles were installed at base entry points.
  • Recognizing the need to expand services to meet customer demand, the sales division introduced several new products. Things like a guaranteed 10:30 a.m. delivery, a full complement of delivery services and better web access for small businesses were important initiatives for customers. Ground Delivery Service (GDS) rolled out in April of 2000. This reached out to new markets for Airborne.
  • The full-scale subsurface storm water treatment facilities became fully operational and weathered their first winter with ease.
  • An employee-focused web presence was created and debuted in 2001. On the Inside brought together the information most sought by employees in a format they could access from home.
  • September 11 brought the first-ever nationwide grounding of all non-military aircraft for two days. When the FAA cleared flight traffic again, ABX Air had one of the first flights in the air, repositioning an aircraft for the night system. By the middle of the next week, the freight backlog was expedited and the ABX system was back to normal schedule.
  • In time for the 2001 holiday rush, a new Regional Hub was opened in the state of Washington .


  • The first Boeing 767-200 entered revenue service early in 2002.
  • A new DC-9 level C simulator was added to ABX's flight training facilities.
  • ABX Air’s parent, Airborne Express, received overwhelmingly positive marks from a customer loyalty survey, noting that 98 percent were “extremely” or “very” satisfied with their service.
  • The @Home program continued to grow resulting in growth in the day sort package numbers.
  • The Western Washington Regional Sort Center opened in Centralia, Washington.
  • ABX Air employee Elmer Webster achieved 20 years of consecutive excellent attendance.
  • Xenia, Ohio, operations moved to a larger location with over 100,000 square feet of warehouse space.
  • Over 40 ABX Air Aircraft Technicians earned the FAA Ruby Award, recognizing significant hours of training throughout the previous year.


  • ABX Air's second DC-9 simulator received certification from the FAA in February.
  • ABX Air partnered with the Community Blood Center to hold the first ever blood drive on an aircraft recognizing the 100th Anniversary of Flight .
  • In August, cargo giant DHL purchased the sales and ground network of Airborne Express. As a result, ABX Air became an independent publicly traded company, entering into contracts with DHL to continue providing service.
  • ABX Air unveiled its logo.
  • ABX Air became an exclusive, worldwide distributor for Innovative Solutions & Support's DC-9 Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM) technology.
  • ABX Air opened a regional hub in Vista, California.
  • ABX Air broadened its business ventures including work with the USPS and contract work on customer aircraft.
  • ABX Air completed and passed a DOD audit, enabling it to participate in the CRAF program.
  • Aircraft 900 AX debuted the new ABX Air logo – the first aircraft to sport the ABX Air livery.
  • ABX Air delivered its best service levels in several years with a 96.7 percent on-time performance during the fourth quarter.
  • Day Sort set a weight record of processing more than 3.6 million pounds at ILH on December 18.


  • The first revenue flight for the 767-200 special freighter, 797AX, took place on Aug. 16 from Ft. Lauderdale--where it went to support the Miami charters--to Wilmington on Flight 703. This aircraft was the first 767 in the fleet to be given a cargo door.
  • ABX Air introduced Six Sigma training to its in-house class program.
  • ABX Air published its first annual report and held its first Annual Meeting as an independent company.
  • ABX Air earned a FAA Diamond award for Maintenance Training.
  • DHL announced it would move all sort operations from CVG to ILN and set up Wilmington, Ohio, as its main Americas sort facility.
  • ABX Air initiated a Business Literacy Class for management employees.
  • ABX Cargo Services (ACS), a subsidiary of ABX Air, began operations serving the postal service in Indianapolis.
  • The first ABX Air 767 SF went into service. It was modified to have a full size cargo door to accommodate larger, standard freight containers.
  • Construction projects included the preparation for Building F, resurfacing ramp areas and a temporary addition to Building A.
  • ABX Air opened regional sort facilities for DHL in Denver, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Erie, Pennsylvania;and Memphis, Tennessee.
  • The ABX Air Healthcare Center, an on-site facility offering urgent and maintenance care for employees, opened.
  • President Bush held a rally on base.
  • DHL broke ground for Building F.
  • The old tower dismantled from A ramp in preparation for the construction of Building F.
  • DHL upgraded airport to CAT III.


  • ABX Air celebrated its Silver anniversary.
  • ABX Air stock began trading on NASDAQ National Market on May 9, 2005. (The company's common shares had been quoted on the Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board market since it became an independent publicly traded company in August 2003.)
  • ABX Air committed to the purchase of 11 Boeing 767-200 passenger aircraft from Delta Air Lines shortly before Delta declared bankruptcy. The agreement called for ABX Air to take delivery of six of the 11 aircraft in 2006, three in 2007, and two in 2008, with payment due upon the delivery of each aircraft.
  • ABX Air completed the first Cat III landing at the Air Park.
  • ABX Air was recognized with a Bronze Healthy Ohioans Award for its employee healthcare and benefits programs.
  • ABX Air received is final Boeing 767 from ANA for conversion.
  • The International Gateway opened with first Lufthansa Flight arriving into ILN.
  • The Allentown Hub broke ground for a new facility.
  • In September of 2005, in a 24-hour period, ABX Air and DHL transitioned two sort and flight operations into one, moving all equipment and flights from CVG to ILN.
  • The Riverside Hub opened as second largest hub in the DHL system.
  • The grand opening for Building F, as well as other improvements at Air Park, was held.
  • The Kansas City Hub moved to new, larger location.
  • As DHL prepared to move into Admin building, construction began on the rennovation.
  • ABX Air was one of the top 10 teams in nation for Relay for Life.
  • ACS entered into a postal contract in New Jersey to process military mail.


  • ABX Air and Innovative Solutions & Support (IS&S) partnered to offer flat panel displays for aircraft.
  • The International Gateway transferred to DHL.
  • ABX Air initiated a Mentor Program for the Ground department, to encourage employee retention.
  • Fuel storage facilities were increased at the Air Park to ensure integrity of the system.
  • ABX Cares, an employee-funded foundation supporting catastrophic relief to employees, was initiated.
  • ABX Air and DHL amended the Hub Services Agreement.
  • DHL announced that they would operate the new Allentown Hub when it opened. Additionally, DHL would take over Line Haul operations.
  • ABX Air became largest operator of Boeing 767-200s in the world.
  • ABX Air earned FAA Diamond Award for third consecutive year.
  • The A2A program, an airport-to-airport business option shipped its 5,000th container.
  • The new Autosort opened in Building F, diverting all small boxes and letter packages to that sort and retiring the letter express sort in Building C.
  • The redesigned Administration building opened housing both ABX Air and DHL employees.
  • The Employee Welcome Center/Supergate opened. This provided a central parking place for many employees as well as bussing from the parking area to the work areas.
  • ABX Air subsidiary ACS opened postal Surface Transfer Centers (STC) in Dallas and Memphis.
  • ABX Air earned the Gold Healthy Ohioan Award.
  • ACS renewed the Indianapolis STC contract.
  • The Regional Sort Center in Providence opened an annex to support its growing operations.
  • The Xenia warehouse facility was closed.
  • Celebrating great reviews on its 10:30 a.m. service, DHL held an employee event to recognize its success and the part all the ABX Air employees played in keeping service commitments to customers.
  • ABX Air initiated its Litter Free program that includeed monthly roadside clean up days.


  • ABX Air was awarded the United HealthCare Apex Award to honor exceptional and innovative health care benefits strategies.
  • In May, ABX Air flew its first flight as part of a watershed agreement with All Nippon Airways Co. (ANA) of Japan. The agreement marked the first time the Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) had approved a foreign carrier to conduct cargo aircraft operations on behalf of a Japanese airline.
  • ABX Air announced an agreement to acquire Cargo Holdings International, Inc. (CHI). CHI held four companies at the time, LGXTX, Capital Cargo International Airlines, Air Transport International Airlines and Cargo Aircraft Management. This acquisition strengthened ABX Air and diversified its business units.
  • DHL announced it would begin managing the Riverside Hub.
  • Wet lease agreements took ABX Air aircraft into Latin and South America.
  • Aeromexpress Cargo and ABX Air began working together with weekly flights to Central America.
  • Construction began on the employee pharmacy, to be operated by Walgreens.
  • ABX Air initiated a student work program with Wilmington College, allowing the students to work at ABX Air around their school schedules and in the summer with the students earning not only an hourly wage but potential scholarship money as well.
  • In an effort to better align its workforce with the business available, ABX Air had a reduction in force.
  • ASTAR Air Cargo sent an indication of interest letter to ABX Air concerning the purchase of the airline. After careful consideration, the board of directors declined any interest in selling ABX Air to ASTAR Air.
  • The Minneapolis Hub relocated.
  • In another landmark agreement, ABX Air was granted route authority to fly in Mexico.
  • In conjunction with BAE and DHL, ABX Air installed and tested a Counter MANPADS system, an anti missile defense system for non-military passenger aircraft.
  • DHL announced it would begin managing the South Bend Hub operations, as well as the Logistics operations in Columbus, Ohio.
  • ABX Air was included in world’s top 50 airlines.
  • ABX Air purchased its first extended range (ER) aircraft and going into the fourth quarter had a fleet of 37 767s, 5 DC-8s and 59 DC-9s.
  • To complete the CHI acquisition late in the year, ABX Holdings was created as the holding company for ABX Air and CHI.


  • JetVIEW, a digital manual software system, became the latest diverse business offering from ABX Air.
  • ABX Air parked its final DC-8s at the beginning of 2008, retiring aircraft that had been the backbone of the system through the late 80s and early 90s.
  • Gold Healthy Ohio Award.
  • To support the ACMI contract with ANA, ABX Air established the Osaka Domicile, making Osaka, Japan, the home base of flight and maintenance crews.
  • Much of the DHL Air Park was annexed into the City of Wilmington to enable the city to provide water and sewer service to the Air Park.
  • ABX Air initiated service to Halifax, serving a fresh seafood market
  • ABX Air operated regional hubs for DHL in Atlanta, Chehalis, Denver, Erie, Fresno, Kansas City, Memphis, Minneapolis, Orlando, Phoenix, Providence, Roanoke, Salt Lake, and Waco.
  • Based on excellent service and growing demand, ANA extended its ACMI agreement with ABX Air.
  • ABX Air was the airline sponsor of the Air Carriers Purchasing Conference, an industry leading event providing business and networking opportunities for airlines and suppliers.
  • DHL announced it would take over management of the remaining Logistics operations.
  • ABX Air completes and passes IOSA and ANA audits.
  • To better identify what the new holding company can do, the name Air Transport Services Group, with the acronym ATSG, was adopted by ABX Holdings. The stock ticker changed to ATSG.
  • ABX Air hosted a Customer Advisory Team summit with IAI, bringing operators of Boeing 767s from around the globe to discuss issues and solutions with the IAI modification process.
  • In May, DHL announced that to stem its significant losses in the U.S. market it would initiate a new business strategy. That strategy included taking all of the ABX Air DC-9s out of its fleet over an 18-month period, as well as possibly moving the transport and sorting of its express package product to UPS.
  • The DHL announcement resulted in the forming of an Economic Task Force co hosted by the Ohio Lt. Governor and the Mayor of Wilmington. The Task Force is exploring many avenues including working to keep DHL in Wilmington as well as what to do if they leave.
  • ABX Air opened a Transition Center in Wilmington to support employees who were displaced by the DC-9 announcement as well as the resulting decline in freight.
  • The Wilmington situation gained national attention with hearings held both on site at ILN and in Washington D.C., and the presidential candidates included the potential job loss situation in their platform discussions.


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