Crew Scheduling and Dispatch Take a Look Back at the Iconic 747

As Atlas takes delivery of the final four 747s, we are speaking to our colleagues across the organization about the impact this iconic aircraft has had on both their careers and their lives. Today, some of our dispatchers and crew schedulers reflect on the 747.  

Steven Turner waving (at top) from the 747.

From the time he was a child, Atlas Dispatcher, Steven Turner knew he wanted to fly on a 747.  

“When I was a kid, I watched TaleSpin, an animated television series that featured characters from the Disney film The Jungle Book flying planes, and it piqued my interest in aviation,” said Steven. “Then, when I was about ten years old, I received a flight simulator video game, and I was immediately hooked. I knew that when I grew up, I had to do something with aviation.”  

After high school, Steven entered the Flight Dispatch Program at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). Shortly after graduating, he accepted a job at a regional airline as a dispatcher. He was working there when he heard that the regional airline’s national passenger airline partner was going to retire its 747s. Steven had always been fascinated by the aircraft, and one of his goals in life was to experience being a passenger on the plane.  

“I immediately purchased a ticket from San Francisco to Narita, Japan using my employee discount,” said Steven. “Hearing that our passenger airline partner was retiring its 747 fleet, I didn’t want to waste another moment.”   

At the airport, Steven talked to the gate agent about his love for the 747, and she placed him on a rear-facing seat in the upper deck, where his view out the window looked right at the aircraft’s engine.  

“I couldn’t believe I had finally made it on to the Queen of the Skies,” said Steven.   

Steven’s round trip ticket was a quick turn – he went through customs in Japan and turned right back around to Departures for a flight home, which confused some of the customs agents.     

“The purpose of that trip was not to see the sights or travel to another country, but to get onboard the 747 and get the full experience of being a passenger on the plane.”  

Since that flight, Steven landed a job at Atlas, where he has worked since 2018. As a flight dispatcher, he is required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to be familiar with in-flight procedures and must participate in annual flight observations to satisfy this requirement. As a result of these observation flights, he has had the opportunity to fly on the 747 to Hong Kong, Anchorage, Incheon, Miami and Cincinnati. (And sometimes, he even leaves the airport before his return flight!) Steven is thrilled that in his dispatcher role at Atlas, he gets to work with the 747, his dream plane, on a daily basis.     

Dave Taylor on top of a bridge overlooking the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia.

Aircraft Dispatcher Dave Taylor didn’t initially intend to pursue aviation as a career.  

“I joined the United States Marine Corps looking for an assignment dealing with electronics, but I was assigned to Air Traffic Control and became an Aviation Operations Specialist,” said Dave.  

He joined Atlas as a dispatcher in 2017, where he and his team have an integral role in every flight.     

“As dispatchers, we are responsible for preparing every flight release, every day,” says Dave. “We deal with everything from the weather to specific airport information to fuel to briefing the crew. Along with the Captain, the dispatcher has a joint responsibility to execute each flight safely, meeting all requirements in the most efficient way.”  

As part of his job as a dispatcher, Dave is required to fly once a year with an Atlas crew. It was on one of those flights that he reached what he considers the pinnacle of his aviation career.  

“I had the opportunity to fly to Australia on a 747-8 during my second year with Atlas,” recalled Dave. “At that moment, I felt so accomplished. I was on one of the largest aircraft while working with some of the best in the business. I will never forget that flight!”  

Jose with his daughter Monroe.

Atlas Lead Scheduler Jose Acabon-Pirir’s dream of a career in aviation took flight in middle school, when he had the opportunity to shadow a pilot while taking flying lessons. He attended Western Michigan University’s Pilot Program but switched his major to Aviation Flight Sciences, which was more affordable. After completing a summer internship with a national airline in the Crew Scheduling department, Jose decided to pursue it as a career.

As an Atlas Lead Scheduler, Jose is responsible for overseeing and assisting with the day-to-day operation functions of crew scheduling, ensuring on-time flight departures and compliance with all FAA regulations for all Atlas aircraft, including the iconic 747s. 

“My team has the privilege of working with the 747 every day,” said Jose. “Boeing is not making any more after these four, so I’m proud to be one of the people that get to work with this historic aircraft.

“My team is very involved with the 747s, handling many of the behind-the-scenes functions. We coordinate aircraft schedules according to crew availability, mechanical requirements, weather, customs requests and government regulations and also advise about potential delays or cancellations. 

“I’m proud that Atlas is taking delivery of the final four 747s. These aircraft will position our Company well for the future.” 

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.”

Here at Atlas, we have a responsibility for the world in which we operate. 

Our commitment to safeguard the environment is reflected in how we manage our aircraft, our facilities and our resources by continuously striving to reduce our natural resource consumption and responsibly managing the lifecycle of the materials we use. 

LED lights installed at Atlas Station in George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).

Recently, Atlas’ Supply Chain team spearheaded a number of greening initiatives at the Company’s stations, stores and warehouses, where maintenance supplies and materials are stored, in support of our priority of environmental stewardship.  

“As the company further advanced its ESG commitments, this project became front and center for our team,” said Althea Arvin, Senior Director of Supply Chain Operations. “We realized we had an opportunity in our stores and warehouses to reduce waste, repurpose materials, and rethink what resources we use and how we use them.”

Leading the project for Supply Chain Operations was Todd Read, Regional Manager of Material Operations, Americas. With the help of his colleagues, Todd identified and developed initial opportunities for sustainable process improvements. By the end of summer 2021, Todd developed a plan to target three critical areas to reduce waste, and reduce consumption of electricity and fossil fuels. 

“The heart of this project was strategizing how we can improve efficiencies, while making an effort to be greener,” said Todd. “We started looking at our processes in new ways and thinking about how we can handle materials differently, in regard to items being recycled or process improvements that are more environmentally-friendly.”

Mulch made from broken pallets at CVG.

Aligned with this strategy, Todd and his team began implementing several environmental initiatives such as partnering with organizations to transform old airplane galley carts into furniture and art as well as breaking down old wood pallets at our CVG location in Northern, KY, into mulch for landscaping. Additional efforts include installing LED lights in warehouses and replacing gas powered vehicles and forklifts with electric ones. 

“The work is ongoing, and isn’t new. We have always been looking for opportunities to reduce waste and to be more mindful of our environmental impact at all of our locations,” said Todd.

For Althea and Todd, the hope is that these efforts will lead to more sustainable projects in the future, not only for Atlas but for the industry overall.

An electric forklift replacement model that has started to roll out in Atlas facilities.

“As a supply chain organization, we want to ensure that we’re delivering on our commitments to sustainability and are sending a clear message to the rest of the Company and beyond,” said Althea. “We’re very proud of the work that Todd and his team are doing to advance Atlas’ ESG strategy. Understanding where and how our business interacts with the environment has an intangible value. Our expectation is that as we do our part, the spirit of conservation will become contagious beyond our supply chain and station operations.”

For more information about Atlas’ commitment to ESG priorities, view Atlas’ most recent ESG Report here.

Spotlight on Tom Vize, 747 Fleet Captain

Atlas 747 Fleet Captain and Designated Examiner Tom Vize.

The 747 holds a special place in Atlas 747 Fleet Captain and Designated Examiner Tom Vize’s heart.

“As a child, I dreamed of flying the 747 one day,” said Tom. “For me, the 747 is the most iconic airplane and the most spectacular aircraft ever built.”

Tom knows he is not the only one who feels this way. Over the years he has spoken to many pilots who shared the same childhood dream.

Tom has been with Atlas for over 22 years and has flown the 747 his entire career. He has piloted 747s carrying sport teams, specialty cars, boats and holidays gifts.

Tom has traveled all over the world to more than 100 destinations – including South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and many destinations in between. He says his favorite destination is “wherever Atlas takes me next.”

Atlas 747 Fleet Captain and Designated Examiner Tom Vize in the cockpit.T

“Flying at Atlas is so unique,” said Tom. “It’s challenging and exciting from the cargo we carry to the places we go. There is no other airline that offers this kind of variety.”

Tom has many fond memories of flying the 747 over the years, but there are two that are particularly memorable.

First there was the time that Tom was part of the crew bringing two Navy SEALs, along with all of their equipment from Japan to Guam in 2006.

“We invited the U.S. Navy SEALs to join us in the cockpit, and they thought it was just the coolest thing,” said Tom. “We were so proud to play a role in getting them safely to their next mission.”

Captain Vize’ son, Brandon Eastland, during his time as a United States Army Cavalry Scout.

The other memory is a bit more personal. In 2010, Tom’s son, Brandon, a United States Army Cavalry Scout stationed in Germany, was deploying with his troop to Afghanistan. Tom was scheduled to pilot a flight into RAM, just as his son was about to depart on that Atlas 747 piloted by a colleague.

“I was so grateful that I was able to see Brandon before he left and tell him face-to-face how proud I was of him,” said Tom.

The two were able to spend a few minutes together before the flight. While onboard, each member of the Atlas flight crew took the time to introduce themselves to Brandon and get to know him. It is a special memory for both father and son.

As Atlas takes delivery of the final four 747-8 freighters Boeing will produce, Tom is both proud and sentimental.

Captain Vize (left) with Captain Joe Masone touring the Boeing factory to see the final 747s.

“To see the last 747-8 freighters being built is a bit poignant,” said Tom. “The aircraft has had a long and impressive career. It is a super reliable airplane and can take passengers and cargo anywhere in the world. To be a part of the celebration of the final aircraft is a great honor.”

Tom recently flew the first and second acceptance flights for N860GT and N861GT with his friend and colleague Captain Joe Masone. Tom piloted the plane while Joe rode on the aircraft overseeing the functional checks and system tests.

Captain Joe Masone (left) and Captain Tom Vize touring the Boeing factory to see the final 747s.

“Joe and I met 25 years ago,” said Tom. “Joe was a Captain and Check Airman, and he conducted my 747 training. Joe left that airline to move to Polar and it was through him that I found my way to Atlas Air. It was a real full-circle moment for me to fly with him on these flights.”