In Celebration of World Pilots’ Day: How Atlas Prepares Pilots to get Their Careers off the Ground

In celebration of World Pilots’ Day on April 26, let’s go behind the scenes of how we prepare our pilots to travel the world!  As pilots get their Atlas career off the ground, their first stop is Miami, home to Atlas Air’s world-class Training Center. Pilots will typically spend their first three months in the training center. “Safety is our top priority in all aspects of training,” said John Schumacher, Senior Director, Flight Procedures, Training and Standards. “We also emphasize professionalism, personal responsibility and the importance of interaction in every component of training.”

Trainee pilots first attend several weeks of Basic Indoctrination, Security/Emergency Training, Aircraft Systems, and System Integration Training (SITs) prior to completing their oral exam. New pilots will then step into one of the company’s eight simulators housed in both the training center and local training partner facilities.  The company proudly owns four 747 Sims, two 767 Sims, one 737 Sim, and one 777 Sim.

After successfully passing their oral exam, pilots work with their instructors and Sim partner to complete Fixed Base Simulator Training (FBS), Full Flight Simulators (FFS), the FAA Type Rating/PC, Line Qualification Training (LQT), and other fleet specific required training.  “After months of hard work, successfully completing their training is a very proud moment for the students and instructors. Their safety and success is top of mind for everyone in the Training Center,” said Teressa Mastrosimone, Director of Training Center Operations.

Once they have received their type rating and completed training in Miami, new pilots are next scheduled for Operating Experience (OE) —an extension of their training – on an actual aircraft.

Atlas Air’s professionals also train the crews that fly Air Force One, a contract Atlas Air has held since 2007. Those crews are trained on the Air Force’s VC-25, a modified version of the Boeing 747-200, and receive ground and flight-simulator training at Atlas Air’s Training Center.

Verne Yoder has been a pilot at Atlas Air for five years and runs Pilot Professional Development and initial Crew Resource Management for new hires at the training center. “I like to be one of the very first people they see because on the very first day I am going to tell them how much I like working for Atlas Air,” he said.

Yoder usually has up to 25 students per day. In the Human Factors class he teaches, trainees are taught how to manage challenges that are presented operationally. The goal is to foster an environment in which the crew can work together to solve any problems that arise. Trainees learn from both instructors and each other.

“Our instructors have a lot of tenure and knowledge,” Mastrosimone said.  Many of our instructors are pilots who spent the majority of their careers at Atlas Air. “Going through training as a new hire, you are able to hear from someone who flew the line for 20 years. They’re not just telling you about flying the airplane, but their experiences and life at Atlas,” she added.

Many instructors split time between flying the line and teaching new trainees in the Training Center, but Atlas also leverages retired pilots as instructors. Retirement age for pilots is 65. “Some pilots have reached retirement age, but instead of hanging up their hat, they stay on board working in the Training Center where they can share their wisdom with the next generation of aviators.”

From the minute new pilots are hired by Atlas Air, they are supported by the entire Atlas family. From training schedulers to fleet captains, from classmates to instructors, pilots at Atlas Air always know someone has their back.

“Through the entire training journey, beginning to end, you have an extensive support channel of people and resources,” Mastrosimone said.

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Atlas Air's world class training center in Miami Trainee pilots attending class at Atlas Air's training center in Miami