Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Meet Captain Teresa Dodson

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, observed every year from September 15 – October 15, InsideAtlas will highlight our Hispanic colleagues who share how their culture has shaped them. Today, we introduce you to 747 Captain and Check Airman Teresa Dodson.

How long have you been with the company, and what are your primary responsibilities?  

I started with Polar in 2002 and later transitioned to Atlas.

As a Check Airman, I supervise flying for new hires and new captains and introduce them to the Atlas operating line.

What do you enjoy most about being part of the Atlas team and your role specifically?  

My favorite part of my job is flying with new hires. I get to experience the excitement they have when they first come to the company and are learning how our operation works. It reminds me of my first few years at the company.

How did you find Atlas?c

I like to say that Atlas found me, since I was at Polar. I flew for many years with a few different Alaskan airlines and a few of my former coworkers joined Polar and suggested I look into it. I did and have been part of the Atlas Air Worldwide family ever since.

What do you like best about working here? 

I love the people. We are such a diverse group from a variety of backgrounds, both personally and professionally. I love coming to work and meeting new people. My colleagues are family to me.

What prompted you to consider aviation as a career?  

My father was a pilot in Spain, but he was very traditional, and he didn’t think women should be pilots. In fact, there is a recording of my dad and I having a conversation when I was three years old. He asked me what I want to be when I grew up and I answer, “a pilot.” He responds and says “well, you are a girl, you can be a flight attendant.” Even at three, I asserted that I wanted to be a pilot.

My parents wanted me to be a lawyer and sent me to law school in Madrid (in Spain, law school begins immediately following high school and is a five-year program) but during my third year of school, I decided to give my dream a chance and moved to Alaska to be a pilot, since that’s where the most aviation opportunities were at the time.

What is the best part about working in aviation? 

I like that aviation is a dynamic industry – everything is constantly changing, like new airplanes and new technology. There is always more to learn, which keeps me interested.

Please tell us about your Hispanic heritage and how your culture inspires you. 

I grew up surrounded by hard working, loyal people my family, friends and neighbors. I think those qualities are what contributed to my very strong work ethic and dedication to my career, my colleagues and my community.

I was the fourth woman in Spain to get a commercial pilot’s license. My generation was born under a military dictatorship. We were raised with strict traditional and religious values in a society with very limited options for women outside the role of mother, housewife or caregiver. The women in my generation pushed down walls to become unstoppable and we changed our society. I had to leave my country to fulfill my dream to its full potential: to be a captain of a B-747. I’m very grateful that as an American, I was able to reach my dream. Now, I help mentor women in both Spain and the U.S. to achieve their own dreams of becoming pilots.

Tell us a little bit about your upbringing and the values instilled in you. 

Family was always the most important part of my life, along with our traditions. I speak to my sister every single day. We love our food, wine and music and just being together.

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you / How are you Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month this Year? 

While Hispanic people are joined by a common language, we have so many different cultural backgrounds. What stands out most to me about Hispanic people in America is that we are a group of hard-working people who came to the United States to have American dream. During Hispanic Heritage month, we have the opportunity to celebrate what we have accomplished, what we have in common, and our dreams for the future.

What would your colleagues be most surprised to learn about you?

When I was 18 years old, I got a job as a flight attendant with Iberia Airlines to earn money to pursue my dream of being a pilot. During this time (in 1989) Pope John Paul II was touring the holy sanctuaries of Santiago and Covadonga on an official visit to Spain. Iberia Airlines was owned by the Spanish government and the airplane and crew were offered for his Holiness’s tour while on Spanish soil. I was selected to be his flight attendant during the three day trip. It was a great honor to be selected and a memory I will cherish forever.