May is AAPI Heritage Month: Recognizing Our Founder, Michael Chowdry

Michael Chowdry.

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month is a time to recognize the culture, history and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Today we shine a spotlight on a very important Asian American entrepreneur: aviation industry leader and Atlas Air’s founder, the late Michael Chowdry.

The payments on this plane were $2,800 a month, according to his wife Linda, from an interview with the Colorado Sun, which required that he keep the plane operating any way he could.

“He was always seeing and taking the next step forward,” said Linda. “He was fearless. He had some business failures and lost businesses. When this happened, he came out with just enough to take that next step forward. He also learned lessons that he never forgot along the way. He always had ideas about what he wanted to do next.”

Michael began his aviation career piloting crop dusters, selling Piper airplanes and giving flying lessons to farmers. He soon added selling and buying landing rights at several airports to his repertoire. And, in 1984, he launched the company Aeronautics Leasing, which leased passenger airplanes to major carriers such as British Airways, Pan American and Trans World Airlines.

The early 1990s were a challenging time for the aviation industry. Some airlines went bankrupt and Michael had to take back planes he had leased out through Aeronautics Leasing. He managed to absorb the losses and stay out of bankruptcy himself until Pan Am returned a 747 cargo plane. Instead of going under, he leased the plane to China Airlines, providing Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance and Insurance (ACMI).  In 1992, Michael founded Atlas with a single Boeing 747-200 converted freighter (registration number N505MC).

Atlas has come a long way in the 30+ years since Michael founded the company. We are now a leading global provider of outsourced aircraft and aviation operating services. Our companies operate the world’s largest fleet of 747 freighter aircraft and provide customers with the broadest array of Boeing 747, 777, 767 and 737 aircraft for domestic, regional, and international cargo and passenger operations.

Hear more about Michael, including his humble beginnings, his vision for breaking through in the aviation industry and his commitment to customers, from his wife Linda Chowdry in this video recorded during Atlas’s 30th Anniversary celebration in 2022.