In the air and on the ground, the Atlas team remains focused on supporting the humanitarian relief efforts out of Afghanistan while delivering an abundance of kindness and compassion.
From answering the call to duty in the middle of the night to making passengers feel safe and protected, this team has gone above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of thousands of Afghan evacuees.
That’s no surprise to Scot Ridgway, Staff Vice President, Flight Operations. “In tough times like these, our team continually rises to the challenge. When we first made the crew aware of these flights, it was no surprise that so many volunteered and bid for these flights.”
Atlas Air has helped evacuate more than 7,800 individuals. We have flown 22 roundtrip missions using three of our 767 aircraft and three of our 747 aircraft.
Captain Sean Kelley, who recently retired from the United States Air Force, brought 370 passengers into Dulles International Airport (IAD) on September 2nd and shared, “I feel terrible that these folks have had to uproot, separate from their families and loved ones, and now have to begin a new, major evolution in their lives through no fault of their own. Yet we were very happy and very honored to deliver them to safety, where their immediate needs will be met.”
He continued, “though there are cultural differences between us, the commonalities of our love of family, the need for safety, and the desire to better ourselves is what eliminates barriers and makes us universally the same. I think it’s amazing for Atlas Air to be part of it and I’m proud to work here.”
The magnitude of this particular flight and the part First Officer David Evangelista played (along with Captain Kelley and First Officer Usman Chatha) was perhaps clearest at the very end of the flight, when he witnessed children smiling and hugging each other in relief.
“This was my first mission and I was so excited to be a part of it. As an immigrant myself (from Brazil), I know it’s overwhelming to leave everything you know and come to a new country. I served in the U.S. Navy and I feel like I served again today, like I did something for the greater good – bringing them to the United States, a great nation and land of opportunity. I love this country and I love Atlas.”
Atlas Air 767 First Officer Ryan Collins, who participated in an earlier mission was equally moved and shared, “Listening to the stories of the refugees who I had the privilege of flying was heart wrenching and changed my life. It was an amazing experience.”
Kellie Vaughn, an FSI Flight Attendant, also shared her gratitude for the experience. As she prepared to leave for her third mission, she said, “When I get on the plane, it is my duty to take care of others. My job is –as are these missions – very rewarding.”
Similar sentiments were prevalent out on the tarmac and behind the scenes across the Company.
“This operation has included the most memorable and meaningful moments of my career,” said Riley O’Connor, Senior Passenger Services Representative (PSR), who has been on the ground at IAD since the official activation of the Civil Reserve Activation Fleet (CRAF) on August 22nd. “It’s been a humbling experience and incredibly gratifying to help these people start a new life. I know I will be reflecting on all of this for years to come.”
Maridalia Sangiovanny, Senior Crew Planner at Atlas Air Worldwide headquarters agreed and added, “It’s always a great feeling to help those in need. Atlas has always played a big part in moments such as these; I am very proud of the Company as a whole and especially the partnership between my team – Crew Planning – and Crew Scheduling!”