Atlas Leaders Inspire Next Generation of Aviation Professionals

(L-R) David Tidwell, Undergraduate Program Officer for the Department of Aviation at Auburn; Dr. James Birdsong, Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator, Aviation Department; John Dietrich; David Miller, Instructor, Auburn University and Cade Kennemer, Certified Flight Instructor, Auburn University.

(L-R) David Tidwell, Undergraduate Program Officer for the Department of Aviation at Auburn; Dr. James Birdsong, Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator, Aviation Department; John Dietrich; David Miller, Instructor, Auburn University and Cade Kennemer, Certified Flight Instructor, Auburn University.

John Dietrich, President and Chief Executive Officer, and Jeff Carlson, Senior Vice President, Flight Operations, recently visited Auburn University in Alabama to speak with students in the school’s Aviation Program about Atlas Air and to offer insights from their own careers. 

Auburn’s aviation program has grown from 88 students in 2014 to more than 600 in 2021. Students will graduate with Aviation Management or Professional Flight degrees and have the option to take courses on air cargo operations.  

John and Jeff were invited to campus to observe the thriving program and share the story of Atlas Air Worldwide and the many opportunities to build successful careers here.

David Tidwell, Undergraduate Program Officer for the Department of Aviation at Auburn, said the students, most of whom are in their junior or senior year, appreciated learning about the variety of careers available at AAWW. 

“John’s and Jeff’s willingness to share what they have enjoyed throughout their careers and what they considered as they decided what to pursue next as they built their careers really resonated with our students,” he said. “That kind of insight is really valuable as our young professionals begin their careers.

John said he welcomed the invitation to visit Auburn and glimpse the workforce of tomorrow. And, he said, he was impressed with what he saw.

“Connecting with students who are pursuing aviation as their life’s work reminds us why we do what we do as we share our company’s unique story,” John said. “These impressive students are all prospective colleagues, and we hope they consider joining our great team at some point.”

Following the presentation, students led a tour of Auburn’s Flight Education facility.

“We welcome the interest in Atlas from this next generation of aviation leaders,” Jeff said. “It’s clear that we will learn from them as well.”

Students who took part in the Cargo Connect event.

Students who took part in the Cargo Connect event.

Atlas’ Dan Abaroa, Senior Director of Commercial Analysis & Revenue Management, Global Sales & Commercial Development, and Jim Vallerie, Manager, IT Business Services – Corporate and Commercial, recently served as panelists at The STEM Alliance’s First LEGO League Robotics Team Virtual Expert Night a middle school in Larchmont, New York.

First LEGO League (FLL) is a competition that introduces science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to children through fun and exciting hands-on learning. Participants gain real-world problem-solving experience through a guided, global robotics program, helping students and teachers build a better future together.

The STEM Alliance, which sponsors local New York FLL teams, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing STEM education and enrichment initiatives to ensure equal access to STEM learning opportunities to all.

Each year a theme is chosen for the competition, and this year’s theme was “Cargo Connect.” Teams made up of middle school students were asked to reimagine the global transportation system and explore ways of improving how people access and deliver needed and desired goods, making all communities more connected.

Barry Fried, STEM Education and Digital Equity Consultant for The STEM Alliance of Larchmont-Mamaroneck explained, “As a part of their robotics league work, teams are charged with considering and proposing new solutions for the future of transportation. The exciting program encourages young minds to look at big topics – like global transportation – and use research and creativity to address a community-based problem related to that sector.”

To help the children get started, The STEM Alliance hosted a virtual Experts Night, where students were invited to ask their questions about cargo and logistics. Atlas’ Dan and Jim participated in the event, along with a panelist from GXO Logistics, spending two hours answering the students’ questions.

“The kids had such great questions,” said Dan. “This event took place after storms hit New York and many questions were focused around finding solutions to the impact of weather events – such as flooding – on the delivery of packages.”

Dan talked to the students about steps Atlas takes to prevent weather damage when shipping cargo and potential solutions, such as incorporating robotics into the future of these deliveries, like loading and unloading packages.

“Dan Abaroa and Jim Vallerie, who served as expert panelists for our FIRST Lego League Team research night, were simply fantastic,” said Margaret Käufer, President of The STEM Alliance, who hosted the event. “Atlas’ preeminence in air cargo transportation is unquestioned, but the patient and thoughtful answers that Dan and Jim provided were truly invaluable. They were intuitive mentors to these young minds.”

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to engage with the students,” said Dan. “I was there to provide them with help and guidance but seeing things from their perspective taught me a few things too. They offer a different viewpoint about challenges with cargo and had great ideas. It is always important to be on the lookout for different ideas that disrupt the way we are doing things so that we can learn and grow as a company.”

The STEM Alliance was appreciative of Dan’s and Jim’s time and shared how it motivated the students.

“We are encouraged that the students now have better insight into the supply chain demands and how challenges require the coordination of teamwork and communication to strategize and overcome these challenges, particularly during these past couple of years,” Barry said.

Atlas Chief Financial Officer Spencer Schwartz introduced the Company to The STEM Alliance and recruited Dan and Jim to play a role. “Dan and Jim did a fantastic job. We thank them for sharing their time, expertise, thoughtfulness and mentorship.”

The students are now working on their cargo connect projects and will present them to a panel of judges at the Hudson Valley League later this month.

Learn more about the program here.

 Atlas Air Worldwide Orders Four New Boeing 777 FreightersInvests in Modern, Fuel-Efficient Aircraft to Serve Growing Airfreight Demand

Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, Inc. announced today it has ordered four new Boeing 777 freighters in response to strong customer demand for dedicated international wide-body airfreight capacity, particularly in the fast-growing e-Commerce and Express markets.

The first of the four new 777-200LRFs is expected to be delivered in November 2022 with the other three expected to be delivered throughout 2023. This investment will bolster Atlas’ 777 fleet, which currently includes 14 freighters that the company operates or provides to customers on a dry-lease basis through its Titan Aviation Leasing subsidiary.

“We are excited to expand our fleet and service offerings for our existing and prospective customers with these four new 777s. With the best team in the industry as well as our focus on innovation and prudent fleet management, Atlas is serving the evolving needs of the global supply chain and delivering value for our customers,” said John W. Dietrich, Atlas Air Worldwide President and Chief Executive Officer.

“These new aircraft will advance our strategic growth plan as we continue to capitalize on strong demand for dedicated airfreight capacity. This investment aligns with our disciplined approach to deploying capital and meets our strict return guidelines when investing in aircraft. We anticipate this transaction will drive strong earnings and cash flows, and enhance shareholder value,” Mr. Dietrich added.

Atlas’ investment in these new 777s – the largest and longest-range twin-engine freighter in the world – underscores the company’s ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship through the reduction of aircraft emissions, resource consumption and noise.

“We are honored that Atlas Air Worldwide, as a global leader in airfreight, has once again selected to grow with Boeing and our freighter family. These new 777 freighters provide Atlas with more capacity, fuel efficiency and operational flexibility for its customers,” said Ihssane Mounir, Boeing Senior Vice President of Commercial Sales and Marketing.

In addition to its 777 fleet, Atlas is the world’s largest operator of Boeing 747 freighter aircraft, with 49 in its current fleet. As previously announced, the company will take delivery of four new 747-8 freighters during 2022, with the first delivery expected in May. These aircraft are the last four 747 freighters Boeing will produce. The company also operates and leases sizable fleets of 767 and 737 aircraft for domestic, regional and international cargo and passenger operations.

Boeing 747 400 PassengerLong before an Atlas flight lifts off for its destination, enormous effort is undertaken company-wide to ensure its journey will be a safe and successful one. Beyond the safety features built into the aircraft, the care and expertise of our teams on the ground and in the air is critical for delivering every one of our 68,000+ flights* a year safely. Safety protocols are in place not just to protect goods on an aircraft, but also to protect the crew.

At Atlas, safety is a core value, and there are a number of safety programs and best practices in place to support this commitment.


Atlas has one of the most rigorous training programs in the cargo shipping industry with qualified pilots undergoing an approximate three-month training period.

Atlas has established strict pilot certification requirements. Pilots are required to have their ATP license, the pilot’s equivalent of a doctorate. While obtaining an ATP license requires 1,500 to 2,000 flight hours, Atlas Air looks to hire pilots with 3,000 to 4,000 flight hours.

Atlas keeps all training in-house, during which pilots split their time between a classroom and both fixed-base and full-motion simulators. On their first few operational flights, new pilots fly with a “check pilot” to ensure that their training was sufficient.

But pilots aren’t the only employees who benefit from Atlas’ rigorous in-house training approach. With more than 24,000 training events provided each year, every employee who touches the aircraft receives significant training, much of it related to safety.

SMS Implementation

While training provides Atlas with a strong foundation for safety, technology in the form of safety management systems (SMS) has come to play a large role as well. SMS connect multiple data systems and human reporting to ensure pilots and crew are continually aware of any potential issues relating to the aircraft.

SMS relies extensively on reporting from several sources on all levels, during every phase of any flight. SMS requires any and all safety concerns be submitted by anyone with knowledge of these concerns, whether they are pilots or members of the ground crew. The system compiles these reports, assesses risk in real time and sends findings to the crew.

“We have various safety reporting programs where anyone can submit a safety concern to the company, and we’ll take any necessary action,” said Bryan Brown, Senior Director of Safety for Atlas Air.

SMS has become the cornerstone for all safe flight practices and was mandated by the FAA in 2018. But, by then Atlas was ahead of the game. Before the mandate, Atlas proactively participated in a voluntary SMS pilot program. This effort demonstrated Atlas Air’s commitment to going above and beyond established safety protocols.

Ongoing Checks

Training and technology are crucial to keeping pilots and crews safe. But safety doesn’t stop there. Certain tasks are delegated to specific individuals for each flight to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

One such safety check is a pilot’s maintenance review of each aircraft with the mechanic.

“Once the pilot is seated in the flight deck, he or she will review the aircraft maintenance log prior to flight departure,” Bryan said. “This procedure happens every single flight. Another crew member conducts a safety walk-around to review all major components of the aircraft.”

The checklist continues with the Loadmaster speaking with the Captain to explain what cargo is on board and the loading process, while another crew member does a security check of the materials on board. Depending on the aircraft type, a crew member conducts another walk-around once the cargo is loaded to verify safety mechanisms are in place.

“Safety is the foundation of everything we do,” Bryan said. “Every step our team takes on the ground and in the air is tied to operating safely and compliantly.”

*Based on 2020 data.

Atlas plane flying through the cloudsAtlas Air is proud to be the employer of choice for some of the top pilots in the air cargo industry. The Company cares for its crew members in the cockpit and beyond with special perks and outstanding benefits. Here are a few examples:

Live Anywhere, Fly Everywhere with Gateway Travel

Pilots who fly with Atlas appreciate the ability to live anywhere in the United States. Other carriers often require pilots to get to their base through standby travel or jump seating, which can be unpredictable and requires pilots to leave home days before their scheduled flight.

When it’s time to make it to base, Atlas Air purchases the pilot a positive-space ticket, ensuring a seat on their commuter flight. This eliminates uncertainty and unnecessary waiting while giving pilots extra time to spend with family and friends.

Family Comes First

Atlas Air understands the importance of caring for our pilots’ families. With gateway travel, there is no need to uproot loved ones. In addition, pilots who work for Atlas Air have expressed that they always feel cared for during a crisis. If a pilot falls ill and is far from home, for example, Atlas Air will arrange to fly that pilot’s family to see them, in addition to providing the support and company of local colleagues for the pilot until their family arrives.


Atlas Air pilots are leaders and capable decision makers, and Atlas trusts them to make the important calls. The Company maps out the overarching mission, but the pilots execute it. By offering their pilots exciting and challenging destinations, Atlas Air gives them opportunities to build rewarding and lasting careers.


With trust, flexibility and the support of family, pilots for Atlas Air are prime candidates to experience a variety of different flying and mission types. To that end, Atlas Air encourages pilots to bid for different bases or schedules in order to experience new locations and types of flying.

The wide variety of customers at Atlas Air provides pilots with opportunities to vary their flying as they move through different phases of their careers. They have the option of flying short, domestic flights, if routine is appealing. But those looking for something different can bid for a base that offers overnight cargo flights, high-profile passenger charters or even flights in support of our military.

As mentioned, pilots don’t have to relocate or even start at the bottom of a seniority list as they make career shifts, as Atlas Air will get them where they need to be.

The Chance to Make a Difference

The variety of assignments offered at Atlas Air provides the opportunity for a more impactful career. Atlas pilots have transported personal protective equipment (PPE) and vaccines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Others have flown to and from Afghanistan to get refugees to safety. Atlas pilots also bring military members back home to see their families.

This rewarding work makes flying for Atlas Air so much more than just a job.