Celebrating Black History Month: An Interview with First Officer Wryan Bailey  

Black History Month is an annual celebration that highlights the accomplishments of the Black and African American community and acknowledges their pivotal role in shaping U.S. history. Throughout February, as part of our observance of Black History Month, InsideAtlas will be featuring the stories of our Black colleagues throughout the Company. This week, we invite you to get to know First Officer Wryan Bailey.

First Officer Wryan.

Tell us about your journey to Atlas. How did you get here, how long have you been at the Company?

I started my aviation career as an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior Army Helicopter Pilot. When I got out of the Army, I transported workers to and from the oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. During that time, I bought my first airplane to facilitate my personal transportation to the Gulf – my work schedule was two weeks on, two weeks off. I then went from flying Bell 407s to a type-rated captain in the King 350, flying overseas; eventually upgrading to the DeHavilland-8 series aircraft flying in various parts of the world. After a stint in Afghanistan, I wanted a job which would allow me to be home more often. I always wanted to fly freight, and I had two dear friends already flying for Atlas. So, it was a natural step and has turned into a final landing spot for me. I have been flying for Atlas for going on 3 years.

What’s your favorite part about working in aviation? And what is your favorite part about your job?

My favorite part about working in aviation is the vastness of it. There are so many different styles of flying and careers in general in the aviation field. Seeing various parts of the world, meeting all kinds of people, and still having time for family and my hobbies are what I love about being an aviator; and particularly being in this job.

FO Wryan in the flight deck.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

You will be judged by your steep turns from here on out.” A DPE gave me this advice while testing for my helicopter ATP. It has turned out to be true and critical in my career – it helped me get a job recommendation on the spot.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their career in aviation?

Take your time. Yes, the airlines are great, and you can be in the right seat at any carrier in two years. Go learn to fly. Get a job for a season in Alaska or fly floats in the Bahamas. Explore a little and learn in different environments. You might find a corporate gig being home every night is a better life than just chasing the title of Captain at some major line.

FO Wryan with his family.

What are some things you’re passionate about?

Hunting and conservation are not just passions, but obsessions. Deer, ducks, turkey, raccoon… you name it. I enjoy being President of the Nashville Sportsman Club to support my passion and the hunting community in Middle Tennessee.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Being a Black American, every month and day has meaning to me. It is significant because I can trace my lineage back to slavery. The sacrifices my ancestors made back then I still carry with me today. My ancestors bought land after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. My family still owns that land today. I proposed to my wife on that land. I hunt on that land. My children, the 6th generation, play and learn about conservation and how to farm on that land.

In Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise,” “I am the dream and the hope of the slave.” Knowing what my ancestors went through, being a 747 First Officer and newly selected member of the training department of Atlas Air, I know I am a living presence of their wildest imaginations and dreams.

I hope I inspire others, especially youth, to think of the past as fuel to accomplish their dreams, to make their ancestors proud.

What do you love most about Atlas?

The trust – the ability to do my job freely.

The people – I have had some great conversations above FL330.

The care – from a simple sick call-out to a major home emergency while you are in Incheon.

Atlas will take care of you.