The Commercial Team Reflects on the 747 and Its Impact

As Atlas prepares to take delivery of the final four 747 next week, we spoke to the Commercial Team about this iconic aircraft. 

Paul Sawhny

For Paul Sawhny, Senior Vice President of Fleet Planning and Asset Management, Sales and Marketing, Atlas Air and Senior Vice President and Global Head of Technical, Titan Aviation Leasing, working with the last 747 ever made is especially meaningful given that he began his career with the first.

In 1985, Paul joined Pan Am as an Airframe Engineer, where he worked on the first commercial 747, N747PA, known as Clipper Juan T. Trippe. That aircraft was one of Pan Am’s fleet of more than 50 747s.

After Pan Am ceased operations, Paul joined the Atlas Air start-up team in 1992, serving as an advisor before coming onboard full time in 1998 as Vice President of Technical Operations. He left Atlas in 2002 to return to business school and rejoined the Company in 2019 in his current position.

His return meant that Paul would have the opportunity to work with the very last 747, which rolled off the line at the Boeing plant near Everett, Wash. on Dec. 6, 2022.

“It’s the alpha and omega for me,” said Paul, whose first experience with the iconic aircraft came in 1971, when the first 747 was delivered to Air India, where his father was head of technical operations.  “I have been fortunate to begin and end my career with the 747, and it is to this aircraft that I owe much of my career.” 

Graham Perkins

Graham Perkins, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing, EMEIA, grew up near an airport in Calgary, Canada. By the age of six, he was in love with aviation and captivated by the B747.

“All three major Canadian carriers (at the time) flew the B747’s into my city, and I would plane spot with my binoculars to see these giants coming and going,” he said. “To say I was in awe of the size and grace of these aircraft would be an understatement. … And it is something I still feel to this day every time I see a B747.”

Graham remembers the first time he had the opportunity to step inside a 747. It was 1975, on a flight from San Francisco to Sydney for a family holiday.

“When we approached this plane to board, I remember stopping dead in my tracks to stare at this incredible machine,” he said. “It was love at first sight, as they say. I remember the sights, the sounds, the smells and the experience like it was yesterday. While recently attending the delivery of our first B747-8F to Kuehne Nagel, I felt exactly the same way: my heart skipped a beat!”

Today, Graham works with customers who contract with Atlas to use the Company’s 747s to support their cargo business.

“Knowing the capabilities and performance of these incredible aircraft makes my job to place these planes that much more enjoyable,” said Graham, who celebrated his 20-year anniversary with Atlas in September. “It is a source of pride to know that we operate the largest fleet of B747s in the world, and our customers value this from us.

“A lot of (Atlas’) success and attitude to win was developed on the back of the B747 itself. We should all be very proud of that and very thankful to this incredible aircraft that changed aviation forever. Luckily, we will see our latest deliveries flying for the next 30 to 40 years, so our success will continue well into the future.”

Brian Munson

Brian Munson, Staff Vice President, Global Charter Sales, Sales and Marketing, has built his career around the Boeing 747 freighter, working with every variant of the aircraft ever made in the various roles he has held throughout the aviation field.

Brian remembers the first time he was “up close and personal” with the impressive B747-400F. He had just joined Polar Air Cargo in Indonesia. As a former loadmaster, he was familiar with the 747-100 and 200 freighters. But this new aircraft was something different.

“I was absolutely blown away by the size and power of the aircraft,” Brian said. “I recall walking onboard for the first time, and the plane still had that ‘new car’ look and smell to it. When I went on the 400 freighter for the first time, I was greeted by one of the pilots or loadmasters who showed me around the various systems and controls.”

After years of experience with other versions of the 747 freighter, he was fascinated by how much technology had advanced with the 400.

“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work in various roles supporting all variants of the Boeing 747 freighter, including the 100, 200, 300, 400 and -8F, throughout my career in the industry,” he said. “The 747 always has and always will hold a special place in my heart. It truly has been the backbone of my career. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such an incredible aircraft, and I am grateful to be a part of such a special team at Atlas Air.”

Jaavid Ali

The first encounter Jaavid Ali had with a Boeing 747 was as a child in Trinidad and Tobago. He and his father traveled to Montreal to visit their family on a flight aboard a 747-200.

“I had no idea then how vital the aircraft was to the world and how the 747 would impact me as an adult,” said Jaavid, Senior Director, Charter Sales and Marketing.

In the late 90s, he realized his lifelong dream of working with the 747-400 when he took a job working with the ground crew of a British airline at JFK.

“I was always amazed at the size of the aircraft and how much it changed the way we travel today,” Jaavid said. “Unfortunately, during my time at that airline, I never flew on the 747.”

But that changed when he joined Atlas in 2000. At that time, the Company had a jump seat program that allowed employees to travel to Atlas destinations under certain circumstances.

“I took full advantage of this by visiting Dubai, UAE, Sydney, Australia and Hong Kong,” said Jaavid, who joined Atlas as an Operations Controller in the Global Control Center (GCC). “My first flight on a 747 was with Atlas from JFK-MIA on a 747-200SF, which was being positioned to MIA for a maintenance check. The flight happened to be flown by one of the Atlas chief pilots, and it was a fantastic experience, one that I will never forget.”

In 2010, Jaavid was part of the team involved in developing the systems and managing the four highly modified 747 “Dreamlifters” on behalf of Boeing. He moved to the Atlas Sales Team in 2017, where he leads the day-to-day Commercial Charter business and works to optimize the short- and long-term utilization of the Company’s 747 fleet.

“During the pandemic, the world saw the 747 as a lifeline, transporting life-saving goods and equipment and keeping the economy going,” he said. “The 747 has impacted people around the globe positively. It has been a big part of my life. I once dreamed of flying the 747, but I settled for the next best thing and never looked back.”