As the crisis in Afghanistan continues to unfold, our Atlas team has stepped up to serve without hesitation, to care for the world we carry. At the time of publication, we have carried over 3,500 passengers on 12 flights.
For weeks now, our colleagues have been working relentlessly in support of Operation Allies Refuge; Atlas Air has been operating relocation flights for the repatriation of U.S. citizens and Afghan nationals and their families eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs).
That is in addition to our normal contract work with AMC (Air Mobility Command, a major command of the U.S. Air Force) to move cargo and carry troops all over the world.
It has been and continues to be, according to John Dietrich, President and Chief Executive Officer, “an impressive showing of logistical expertise and a commitment to coming together as a team in support of a most important and meaningful mission. The news and images from Afghanistan are heartbreaking. We are so proud of and humbled by the role our colleagues are playing in safely carrying evacuees to the United States. They are all heroes.”
“These missions are so important yet so incredibly difficult,” said Jeff Carlson, Senior Vice President, Flight Operations. “Those who are on the front line are taking care of passengers who are understandably frightened and unfamiliar with air travel. They are working through unusually taxing circumstances as well as incredibly long days on the aircraft (flight hours plus hours on the ground during the security vetting of passenger manifests). Despite all of this, the professionalism and sensitivity of our crews has not wavered for one moment.”
Bricker Martin, Director, Defense & Government Programs, arrived at Dulles International Airport (IAD) Wednesday afternoon and has seen the team in action. “Our team on the ground and in the air – it’s clear they want to be here. They are all doing whatever they can, regardless of the hour or how long it takes, to treat our passengers well and make them comfortable.”
“Prior to the official activation of CRAF on Sunday, August 22nd, Atlas Air stood at the ready to support the Department of Defense’s need for evacuating personnel and voluntarily committed to a number of missions before the government called upon us,” said Bill Grobasky, Director, Passenger Charter Sales. “In addition to the three 747s that were called up by CRAF (click here for the Company’s press release), we have been providing 767 passenger aircraft in support of the evacuations and other missions.”
The effort has been herculean from the start.
“Atlas didn’t have a station at Dulles prior to this operation,” said Mike Reingold, Passenger Service Supervisor. “Between ground ops and flight ops, we built an entire station in 12 hours to prepare for the first waves of evacuees from Afghanistan. It was hard work but it proves that when we are needed in a heartbeat, we can deliver.”
And, the team hasn’t stopped delivering. Mobilizing and coordinating these flights has been, and continues to be, a massive undertaking requiring round-the-clock support from dedicated, compassionate colleagues around the world and across the organization – on the ground, in the air and behind the scenes.
Crew Planning and Crew Scheduling has been focused on soliciting crew volunteers, adjusting to a high level of schedule volatility related to these missions, and backfilling openings created by delays and legalities, all the while continuing to support and crew our routine operations.
Adding to the challenge is that the bulk of our team’s effort is anything but routine. “We all understand protocols for the charter flights we operate but we have never before experienced the nuances of an evacuation relief flight,” said Nardia Gooden, Catering Commissary Lead.
“It’s been a lot, but we have all come together to learn and develop a process that meets the cultural and religious requirements of our passengers – from removing certain foods on the aircraft, to developing signs in Farsi that help clarify aircraft procedures for those passengers who haven’t flown before, to keeping a sensitive eye and anticipating what our passengers might need considering many left their country with only the clothes on their back.”
That means sending colleagues – PSRs and ground ops staff – to Costco or Walmart to purchase diapers, bottles, formula, and personal hygiene products for the assembly of amenity kits.
“From an operations standpoint, everyone is doing whatever needs to be done in order to execute these missions,” said John Nardone, Senior Director, Military Charter Program.
“This has been an extremely complicated effort due to volume, rerouting and schedule changes coming in last minute. Mindy Bulone, Operations Specialist, along with our Ground Operations staff and the Operations Managers in the GCC have all been fantastic, working so hard to coordinate the schedules, adjust for changes and communicate them out to AMC. The dedication they have shown has been extraordinary.”