Celebrating Black History Month, Sharing our Colleagues’ Stories: Meet Colin McLean

Captain Colin McLean.

Captain Colin McLean.

Captain Colin McLean was captivated by the magic of air travel early in life. Learning about his aunt’s career as a pilot helped fuel a childhood fascination with aviation that began with collecting model airplanes and grew to become his life’s ambition. 

But, he said, it was the encouragement of others along the way that helped shape him into the respected pilot, mentor and leader that he is today. 

“Throughout my career, others have rendered their time and assistance to me, and they have passed on to me invaluable advice, without which I may not have gotten where I am today,” said Colin. “Captain Steve Turner (recently retired Southern Air Director of Flight Operations) played an integral role in my career. He has the ability to motivate and inspire while achieving the main objective.”

Colin’s gratitude for the help and encouragement he’s had from Steve and other mentors throughout his career inspires him to serve in that role for others. 

“I am very grateful to be a mentor. As a captain, I take the opportunity to motivate others around me,” he said. “It is a rewarding experience to see someone excel in their dreams knowing that you contributed to that process. Teaching by way of example is vital. Mentoring is a selfless exercise, which changes lives and gives us hope.”

Captain McLean early in his aviation career.

Captain McLean early in his aviation career.

Colin said he is especially mindful of the need for mentorship of women and people from minority backgrounds in aviation. 

“People of color and women are hugely underrepresented in this business, especially in the pilot profession,” said Colin, who volunteers as a mentor for Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) and Women in Aviation. “It is no coincidence why this figure is so low, considering the cost of obtaining a commercial pilot’s license and the lack of access to opportunities. It is simply out of reach for many people from underrepresented backgrounds. I am proud of the fact that Atlas has stepped up by initiating programs like Roadway to Giant and Pathway to Success.”

Colin’s own career in aviation began with the support and encouragement of his parents.

“My parents encouraged me to go to college first, which I did,” said Colin, who attended Florida Atlantic University. “During that time, I always asked them, when can I pursue a career as a pilot? They recognized how passionate I was so, they assisted me in going to flight school.”

After Colin obtained his private pilot’s license in April 2003, his parents encouraged him to continue his training, and he achieved his commercial multiengine license in 2004. His first job as a pilot was for a charter company in Fort Lauderdale. He then flew for two cargo airlines, before deciding to return to college.

Captain McLean with Atlas First Officer Hannah Dalla Riva.

Captain McLean with Atlas First Officer Hannah Dalla Riva.

Colin ultimately returned to college and earned his degree in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2009, and he has been accepted into a master’s degree program at the university. In 2015, he joined Southern Air/Atlas Air, where he is now a 737 Captain and Check Airman. 

During his time at Atlas, Colin has become known for his eagerness to uplift and encourage others. His philosophy about mentorship has special resonance during Black History Month, when we honor those individuals whose sacrifices and successes have influenced the lives of others and will continue to do so for generations to come.

“Black History Month marks an occasion when we should all be reminded of those who are still struggling under the weight of poverty and hopelessness and to commit to strengthening the bond between Americans,” Colin said. “I see this month as a time when those among us who may have achieved leadership roles should step forward and help to pave the way for the greater good of the young and disenfranchised.”   

He continued, “Black History Month should be a time for action and to commit to the betterment of human beings as a whole.”