The success of every Atlas Air flight begins and ends on the ground.
Fleet maintenance. Proper fueling. Cargo loading and unloading. Communication with air traffic control. Passenger check-in and support. These tasks and more are among the responsibilities of the Ground Operations team. Jobs in Ground Ops offer the chance to touch every aspect of the airline industry. No two days are the same, and the work is never boring.
For Sean Cleary, Senior Manager of Ground Support Services at Atlas Air, the path to Ground Ops was an unexpected one. He first started working in the airline industry when his friend got a job handling baggage at an airport. Sean’s father had worked in the industry on the cargo side, and Sean decided to join his friend.
The job stuck with him. Even while pursuing higher education and holding other part-time jobs, Sean was always thinking about returning to an airline. Years later, he earned his pilot’s license, but he didn’t want the travel schedule required of an airline pilot. Working in Ground Ops offered an appealing compromise.
Now, Sean gets to experience the airline industry from all angles. It’s his job to stay as tuned-in to the operation as much as possible. Sometimes that means running out to the airplane and operating controls. Other times, the job entails loading and unloading cargo or coordinating a passenger flight. And there’s still the opportunity for travel—with a far less demanding schedule than pilots.
Sean also manages the many vendors that play a role in a flight. On the fuel side, he manages about 140 vendors in addition to 60 on the deicing side. He occasionally travels to meet with them wherever they’re based around the globe. Sean works hand-in-hand with the Quality Control team to set up audits for those vendors to ensure service levels are where they should be.
Every day in the life of an Atlas Air Ground Ops team member is different and always interesting. Sean’s job, for example, is global. He wakes up to emails from Asia and parts of Europe answering questions asked the night before. Recently, he traveled to Salt Lake City to help coordinate and promote an Atlas Air flight that brought a load of masks to the local school district in response to COVID-19. He also helped coordinate an Atlas flight to Riga International Airport in Latvia for the opening of that airport’s new cargo terminal.
“Anyone who is interested in aviation should consider working with Ground Ops,” Sean said. “It’s a great way to learn about so many aspects of the aviation industry and why every role is important.”