Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Meet Jesse Cervantes

Jesse and his dogsWhen reflecting on when his dream to fly the 747 first took flight, Captain Jesse Cervantes credits his parents.

“My father spent his entire career in management at a Colombian airline so I was exposed to aviation at a very early age,” Jesse recalled. “And, because visiting family and staying connected with them was so important to my mother, I was only 40 days old when I took my first flight. We traveled a lot as a result of the benefits from my father’s job, and whenever I was on an airplane, I begged to see the cockpit. I was mesmerized by all the instruments.”

Growing up in Colombia, Jesse also learned about the importance of a strong work ethic at a young age.

“Colombians are hard workers,” said Jesse. “We are very resourceful and aren’t afraid of challenges. We believe that hard work is the key to success.”

That resourcefulness – which may just be in Jesse’s DNA – is what Jesse relied on to make his dream come true.

After moving to the United States, Jesse initially pursued a career in hotel hospitality. But he just wasn’t completely content.

Captain Jesse Cervantes in cockpit.

Captain Jesse Cervantes in cockpit.

“My dream was to fly the 747, and I knew I wasn’t going to be truly happy unless I tried to make that dream come true.”

Realizing that dreams take time, Jesse stayed focused.

He enrolled in flight school in Florida and earned his commercial pilot’s license. Unfortunately, jobs were scarce at the time, so Jesse made the decision to return to Colombia, where he received his International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) license. He spent 10 years flying the DHC-6, the B727, the RJ-100 and the DC-8.

In April of 2000, Jesse returned to the United States to take a job with Polar, where he began flying the 747-400. He transitioned to Atlas Air in 2001 and upgraded to Captain in 2005.

“My path wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t completely linear, but I am doing exactly what I dreamed of doing,” said Jesse. “Everything I did, every sacrifice I made during the 10 years it took me to get the job with Polar was completely worth it. I am very grateful for all that I have achieved and for all that I have today.”

“My approach to life – all aspects of it – is tied to my Colombian upbringing. My mother instilled a sense of gratitude in me,” Jessie said. “And my father, throughout all his years at his airline, taught me about commitment and loyalty. My heritage influences how I live my life and approach my job here at Atlas.”