Meet the Atlas Crewmembers Who Flew the First Flight for Project Airbridge

As the coronavirus situation continues to unfold, one thing is certain: Atlas is committed to supporting the global effort to protect healthcare workers and stem the spread of the virus.

On Sunday, an Atlas 747 touched down in JFK – from China – with 80 tons of desperately needed personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies. This high-profile flight, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as part of the White House’s Project Airbridge, carried 130,000 N-95 masks, nearly 1.8 million surgical masks and gowns, more than 10.3 million gloves; and more than 70,000 thermometers for distribution in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Atlas Air PilotsThe journey began Sunday, March 28 at Shanghai Pudong International (PVG). According to crew on that first leg, our Shanghai station representatives did an outstanding job getting cargo loaded as efficiently and safely as possible. As a result, the flight departed at 4:18 a.m., local time and 42 minutes ahead of schedule.

First Officer Steve McKechnie was among the crew headed to Ted Stevens Anchorage International (ANC) and said, “It may have looked like a regular flight, but it was very special – and rewarding – given what we were carrying on behalf of FEMA.

Captain John Bell added, “I’m glad we could play a small role in this massive effort to protect our healthcare professionals and save lives.”

It was Captain David Moriconi who took over the left seat in ANC for the final leg to JFK. Like the previous crew, he was impressed by how well coordinated and smooth the flight was, from start to finish, including the stellar support provided by ANC operations and ground staff.

“As a native New Yorker, with a 92-year-old aunt locked up in Manhattan, it felt good, both personally and professionally to help my people,” said Captain Moriconi.

First Officer Alvaro Cardoso was also appreciative of the opportunity to help. He was originally slated for time off, but Scheduling called on Thursday, March 26 to ask if he would consider volunteering for this trip on his day off.

“It’s very scary and very concerning to see how COVID-19 cases are increasing exponentially on a daily basis all over the country, and particularly in New York City, which is now the new epicenter in the United States,” Alvaro said. “I didn’t hesitate in accepting this trip, because I believe each one of us has a duty to do something that might just make a difference.”

Also onboard was First Officer Usman Chatha, who was deadheading/jump seating on the flight. Although he was not part of the operating crew, he chose to travel in full uniform.

“I am so proud to be associated with an airline that is playing a crucial role in transporting medical supplies, including much-needed ventilators. We are witnessing unprecedented times and I was honored to be part of that flight.”
Usman continued, “Atlas Air is an ideal corporate citizen. It does not leave any stone unturned when it comes to delivering service from the military to civilians who need support.”

Jim Forbes, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer described watching Sunday’s 747 landing in JFK as “a proud moment in Atlas’ history.”

“We are proud to support efforts to deliver extremely critical medical supplies to the United States, and we are so thankful to our crews for making this happen,” added John Dietrich, President and Chief Executive Officer of Atlas Air Worldwide.