Flying Down Memory Lane: Atlas Pilots Share How the 747 Has Inspired Them

As Atlas prepares to receive delivery of Boeing’s final 747s, we look back at the aircraft that has been such an important part of our Company’s history and success as well as an iconic aircraft to so many members of our team. Here is what some of our 747 pilots had to say about the 747’s significance in their careers and their lives.

Captain Brian King.

Captain and Air Crew Program Designee Brian King has been flying the 747 for all of the 25 years he has been with Atlas. In fact, he shares a special connection with the aircraft.

“I was born on September 30, 1968, the day that the very first 747 was rolled out of the hangar and revealed to the world,” said Brian. “I have been flying it for almost half of my life, and it’s an amazing aircraft. The

plane is the size of a building! It’s almost overwhelming the first time you encounter it. It’s designed so well and is such a wonderful airplane to fly; it’s a technological marvel.”

Transporting troops home from overseas in the 747 is a favorite memory for Brian.

“When I get to bring them back to their families, it’s always special,” he said “After the flight, I like to make my way to the jet bridge and into the terminal to see the reunions.

“At Atlas, we take the 747 to more places than anyone in the world; it’s amazing. And it’s an honor to be part of that.”

(L-R) Captain and Check Pilot Edul Banaji, Captain Joe Masone, Captain Gina Buhl and First Officer William Spencer Barker pose in front of one of the new 747s on the Boeing ramp in Seattle. The pilots were flying the aircraft together to Incheon International Airport (INC) in Korea.

Captain and Check Pilot Edulji (Edul) Banaji dreamed of flying the 747 when he was a child.

“My mother was an accountant, and her office was near the airport,” said Edul. “She used to take me to the viewing gallery, and we’d stand there to watch planes for hours.  I thought the 747 was just amazing.”

Edul’s childhood dream is now his reality. He said his favorite thing about flying the 747 is not the cargo it holds, but the places he has had the opportunity to fly to in his 11 years with Atlas. His favorite memory is flying from Santiago, Chile to Tahiti for a DHL charter flight for Cirque du Soleil.

“I had never flown to that part of the world before,” said Edul. “It’s so quiet and peaceful. It’s an empty expanse of sky.”

Another amazing flight took him from Afghanistan to Kazakhstan.

“We flew over the Himalayas in the morning, and it was a clear sky with no clouds,” he said “We were so high, but it felt like you could reach out and touch the mountains from where I sat in the cockpit.”

First Officer Pencil.

First Officer Diane Pencil boarded a 747 for the first time at age 11. She was traveling as an unaccompanied minor for her transatlantic move from Birmingham, England to Brooklyn, New York to join her father and grandmother, who were already living in the United States.

“It was the first time I ever traveled by air, and the entire flight was magical to me,” Diane recalled. “The flight attendants and the crew treated me wonderfully; I even got to meet the Captain and First Officer and tour the flight deck. The first thing I told my father when he met me at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) was that I was going to be a 747 pilot.”

Committed to her dream, Diane took a position as a gate agent at JFK to earn money while pursuing flying lessons. During that time, she often would visit the jet bridge to watch the 747s on the runway.

“I always worked toward my dream to fly the 747,” she said. “When I had the opportunity to come fly for Atlas, I told them it had to be on the 747.”

Her life has truly come full circle as she is now a 747 First Officer for Atlas based out of JFK, the airport where she landed after that first magical flight.

Captain Morris in front of the B747-8 engine.

Captain Julie Morris grew up in Seattle, where her father worked for Boeing on the 747 program as a Customer Engineer.

“When an airline purchased an aircraft, my father took care of all the details from the paint color to the seating arrangements, helping the customer with whatever they wanted,” said Julie. “He also designed an aircraft part on the 747SP, which is a rubber seal that goes between the upper and lower rudders at the hinge point to help with vibration during the flight.”

Captain Morris in front of Polar N450PA at the Boeing plant the day before it got fueled for the first time.

Julie often visited her father at Boeing and knew she wanted to fly from an early age. Her grandparents had a plane on their farm, and she loved being taken on flights by members of her family, including her dad who had a private pilot’s license.

“In 2000, my dream became a reality; I was hired to fly the 747 for Polar, and I couldn’t wait to tell my dad,” Julie said. “He was so proud. I hadn’t even told him that I applied, so it was a big surprise.”

Captain Morris with her father in the cockpit of a B747-400 while she was in college.

“At the time, my father had not yet retired from Boeing, and he took me out on the flight line so we could check out the 747-400 that was going to Polar before it was fueled up and ready to go. It was an experience I will never forget.”