Spotlight on Len Funnell: Improving the Lives of Children, One Adventure at a Time

Len Funnell, Maintenance Manager for Atlas Air, has been with Atlas for 12 years. He’s a veteran of The Royal Air Force (RAF) and not one to shy away from a challenge. Len has successfully finished several Ironman races. These races consist of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2 mile run in that order. They are considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting evets in the world.

In his role on the Tech Ops team, Len is responsible for managing all aspects of line maintenance at Atlas’ United Arab Emirates (UAE) station. This includes ensuring Atlas’ vast fleet receives the highest levels of care and maintenance to keep the aircraft operating safely and efficiently for customers.

Most recently, Len has applied his can-do attitude to adventure challenges while raising money to help improve the lives of children.

“It all began in July of 2019,” recalled Len. “My partner, Clare, had done a lot of work with the charity, Gulf for Good, a UAE non-profit that implements sustainable charity projects for children in the developing world. I decided to join her on a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro, which is the highest mountain in Africa.”

The town of Namche Bazaar sits at 11,300 feet above sea level and is the last settlement en route from Lukla to Mount Everest Base Camp. Kongde Ri Peak sits in the background at 20,299 feet above sea level.

After that trip, Len was hooked, by both the personal and physical challenge the trip presented, as well as the opportunity to make a difference. The fundraising Len did for that trip went towards the Larchfield Children’s Home, an official NGO in Tanzania that serves as a safe and secure home for young, orphaned children in Mkuranga.

“If you can do just a little bit to improve the lives of others, that’s a very good thing,” said Len.

Len’s plans to continue to support Gulf for Good were put on hold in 2020 due to the restrictions brought on by the pandemic, but in the fall of 2021, Len participated in the Classic Everest Base Camp Challenge.

The hike was 80 miles round trip. It started in Lukla, a small town in northeastern Nepal, 9,400 feet above sea level. The 12-day trek finished at Mount Everest Base Camp, approximately 17,700 feet above sea level.

“Every step was hard work,” Len recalled. “The higher you go, you see fewer and fewer animals that can survive at these altitudes. But the views are some of the most breathtaking ones I have ever seen. The beauty of this area is endless.”

Prior to starting the hike, Len and his fellow trekkers spent the day in Kathmandu to visit with Child Rescue Nepal, a charity that has been rescuing trafficked children in Nepal since 1999.

“We met the children this organization is working to keep in school and out of the hands of traffickers. It was incredibly moving to see firsthand the impact our funds would have on the lives of these children,” said Len.

These trips have also reframed how Len approaches his work at Atlas.

“On the last two challenges, I spent days hiking with a very diverse group of people in remote conditions,” recalled Len. “In a scenario like that, there are of course going to be some people who are stronger than others. But, we worked together to help each other be the best each one of us could be. I came away with a new purpose to instill teamwork as I saw firsthand how that improves productivity and yields the best results.”

He continued, “I also learned while trekking that everyone has a story and usually they are willing to share it if they are encouraged to do so. I make a point as a manager to bring the same kind of environment to my team to strengthen our relationship and build trust.”

Len’s colleagues are always interested to see what he takes on during his ‘vacation’ away from Atlas. According to his manager, Derek Jackson, Senior Director, Maintenance, he continues to surprise the group with his adventurous travels.

“Climbing Kilimanjaro and the base camp of Everest are major accomplishments for Len,” Derek said. “Working with world cultures like this is part of Len’s personal diversity and inclusion objectives. It has also strengthened his capabilities as an Atlas manager working alongside local support agents in the Middle East.”