A Day in the Life of a Crew Scheduler

Every day, Atlas Air flight crews and pilots cross continents and oceans, balancing everything from weather to target takeoff and touchdown times, freight delivery needs, and compliance commitments.

Working behind the scenes on the ground, striving to ensure all this happens like clockwork, not only at the right place and time, but also with enough time built in, are Atlas Air’s crew schedulers.

“There’s no better way to learn the aviation business and to see how an airline runs than by spending time as a crew scheduler,” said Ryan Piper, Senior Director of Crew Scheduling and Training at Atlas Air. “You touch so many pieces of everything.”

Thriving in a busy environment

Crew schedulers and air operations analysts – a new role at Atlas Air – have the opportunity to thrive as they support Atlas Air’s complex flight and scheduling logistics operations.

In a single day, a crew scheduler fields hundreds of phone calls and as many emails, interacting with pilots to coordinate schedules for all flights and assigning crew members to those flights.

Crew schedulers work directly with pilots to address issues that may arise during their workday, acting in real-time to support flight crews. This means crew schedulers are responsible for managing the day-to-day flight activities of crew members while also ensuring compliance with department standards.

On any given day, crew schedulers leverage their skills to make calculations and craft strategies based on weather, schedule changes, and the need to re-position flight crews to other stations. It’s up to crew schedulers to keep everything on-track. This includes making sure pilots fly within flight time limitations, which is 30 hours per week, or about 300 to 350 hours per month, and have enough time to meet reset requirements, including resetting a plane’s flight system.

A typical 12-hour shift for a crew scheduler is full of action and problem-solving. Everything they do helps crew members operate safely, efficiently, and in accordance with regulations. That can mean sending a ‘latest out time’ (or latest possible departure time to safeguard all the nuanced needs within the pilot’s flying schedule) to the crew, operations, and dispatch.

“Really good crew schedulers thrive in a busy environment,” Piper said.

One crew scheduler’s perspective

For Timea Kovach, a manager of crew scheduling at Atlas Air, the excitement of being a crew scheduler is only second to the excitement of being a pilot. Kovach, who is Hungarian, was the first woman in her country to get a flight-engineer degree along with a private pilot license and commercial pilot license with instrument rating.

But while Kovach felt she had found her calling working in aviation, she decided she wanted a job with less travel after she had children. For Kovach, becoming a crew scheduler offered her a way to stay involved with flights while pursuing a new type of career.

“The job was a perfect fit,” she said. “I loved the connections to the crews and the airplanes, and I loved my colleagues.”

Piper said Kovach exemplifies the mix of aviation knowledge and emotional intelligence required of a crew scheduler.

Atlas Air thanks our crew schedulers and air operations analysts for everything they do.

In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’re featuring our talented AAPI-identifying employees across the Company. AAPI Heritage Month is a time to reflect, celebrate and recognize the influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans in our history, culture and achievements. Here at Atlas, we celebrate our Asian American and Pacific Islander colleagues and their contributions.

Blythe at an air show in Hawaii with her sister Noel and bother Martin.

This week’s employee spotlight is on 767 First Officer Blythe Lutz. Blythe, who also is an instructor with the Human

 Factors team, is from Hawaii. She has been with Atlas since June 2019 and recently married 777 Captain Andrew Lutz.

Tell us about your ethnicity and heritage.

Hawaii is a unique place because there really is no majority there, everyone is part of the melting pot. My Dad is Okinawan and my Mom is Caucasian, or Haole, in Hawaiian. That makes me Hapa, which means “half” or “part of.” Most of the immigrants came to Hawaii during the sugarcane days. Christian missionaries who married Hawaiians were allowed to own land, which eventually led to the rich business owners overthrowing the Hawaiian Monarchy. Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Puerto Rican and Korean immigrants came to work on the sugarcane plantations, and after finishing their contracts, most elected to stay.  

Blythe and her family in Hawaii. This photo was used as their Christmas card many years ago.

Growing up in Hawaii, I was aware that people looked different than I did, but everyone looks different there, so that was normal. I didn’t realize what a special childhood I had until I moved to the mainland for college. I did a lot of typically American things growing up like playing soccer and playing in the Marching Band, but I also was in a Halau and danced Hula when I was young, and I learned to play the Ukulele.

Who inspired you to pursue a career in aviation? 

 

My Dad has been working as a flight attendant for a passenger airline for more than 50 years. He loves working and traveling as a flight attendant, and I observed that. In high school, I was assigned a career project in which I was to interview someone in the field I was most interested in. I came home and announced that I would interview my Dad. I often tell my husband Andrew that it is magic that my parents were able to raise three children in Hawaii on one modest income. My Dad is proud of what he has achieved but wanted more for me, as most parents do. So, he suggested that I become a pilot. He said we would get to fly to the same places, but I’d make a lot more money. Instead of letting me interview him for my career project, he set up an interview with one of the UAL pilots, Stan Snow. 

My Dad has so many wonderful qualities, and I feel like I am standing on his shoulders. He is a hard worker and loyal. My intention is to follow his lead and continue to do the best I can every time I come to work.

What was your career path and how did it lead you to Atlas?

After flight instructing, I worked at a 135 company flying UPS feeder routes in a C402/4 and a Metroliner. The single-pilot experience of night freight gave me confidence in my abilities.

My arrival at Atlas Air (then Southern Air) appears to be an accident, but I believe everything happens according to God’s plan for me. I applied at Atlas and a passenger airline in Hawaii (which was my preferred choice because I was trying to get back to Hawaii) at the same time in 2019. After interviewing at Atlas in Purchase, I didn’t hear back for weeks. Then I went to interview at the other company, which went well, but they wanted me to have crew experience and jet experience. Still not having heard back from Atlas, I attended the Women in Aviation convention and ran into Scott Anderson, who remembered interviewing me. He said they had been meaning to get back to me and immediately offered me a position on the 737 for Southern Air, to which I replied, “What is Southern Air?” 

My intention was to get the 737-type rating and immediately apply to Hawaiian the following year. However, I met Andrew and have really loved working at Southern and now Atlas. The people are amazing, and our work-life balance is great.

Please share something that is unique about your culture.

Although it has been many years since I moved away from Hawaii for college, I always try to carry the Aloha Spirit in my heart. Aloha means a multitude of different things, but in my heart, it means caring for others and living in harmony with one another. 

A bonus fact is that Aloha Spirit is a law that was passed for people who hold public office and work in the judicial system in Hawaii. They must treat their constituents with care and respect.

Which traditions are most important to you today? 

Today, the most important traditions to me are rooted in my faith in Jesus. I love going home to Mililani, and I am planning on being there much more often on the 767. But my life is no longer defined by being from Hawaii. I will always love returning, but my home now is wherever Andrew is.

What do you want our Atlas colleagues to take away/learn from celebrating AAPI Heritage Month?

Blythe’s wedding on Sept 4, 2021.

People in Hawaii are able to make fun of each other and also love and respect each other. It is a special equilibrium that more people should appreciate and try to incorporate into their daily interactions. It is so easy to see red when we discuss hot-topic items, but we should remember to take a step back and know that is great that we all have different ideas and backgrounds. How boring would it be if we were all the same?  

Atlas Air has launched its Pathway to Success Program for pilots with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Embry-Riddle is the first school to participate in the program through which Atlas Air will recruit, train and hire qualified graduates of Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach, Florida Aeronautical Science degree program.

“We are excited to partner with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a leader in aviation education, through our Pathway to Success program for pilots,” said John W. Dietrich, President and Chief Executive Officer of Atlas Air Worldwide. “Atlas Air will further enhance our stellar workforce by recruiting highly qualified pilots directly from Embry-Riddle. Those students will have first access to join our talented team at Atlas Air and fly our formidable fleet of aircraft for our unparalleled network of customers around the world.”

This program is designed to place highly trained aviators into professional positions.

“A key goal at Embry-Riddle is to help graduates secure meaningful, well-paying jobs,” said Dr. Alan Stolzer, dean of the College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach, Florida campus. “We also strive to support the industry by preparing skilled aviators who are exceptional decision makers. Embry-Riddle’s agreement with Atlas Air is well aligned with both of those objectives. It is a win-win for our graduates and for the aviation industry.”

Program Criteria

Embry-Riddle graduates selected to take part in the Atlas Air Pathway to Success program will be granted preferential interviews with Atlas Air. To be considered, candidates must meet these and other criteria:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Science (3.0 grade point average and an exceptional flight-training record)
  • First Class medical certificate
  • Three full semesters of service as a full-time Certified Flight Instructor
  • FAA Commercial Pilots certificate with a multi-engine rating
  • FAA Flight Instructor certificate
  • Graduate with academic experience required for Restricted Airline Transport Pilot (R-ATP)
  • Reach R-ATP eligibility and required minimum flying experience within two years of graduation

First Officer trainees in Atlas Air’s Pathway to Success program enjoy benefits including a monthly stipend, medical benefits, 401k, required courses and check rides.

A video introduction and letter of recommendation are among the program’s other requirements. For complete details, and to determine eligibility, Embry-Riddle students should contact Lauren Burmester in Career Services, lauren.burmester@erau.edu.

In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’re featuring our talented AAPI-identifying employees across the Company. AAPI Heritage Month is a time to reflect, celebrate and recognize the influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans in our history, culture and achievements. Here at Atlas, we celebrate our Asian American and Pacific Islander colleagues and their contributions.

Hassan Hoque, Lead IT Security Analyst.

This week’s employee spotlight is on Hassan Hoque. Hassan has been at Atlas for six years and was recently promoted to Lead IT Security Analyst. In his role, Hassan is primarily focused on protecting the Company’s sensitive data from cyber threats. Ensuring that our operating environment is secure every hour, every day is a big job, but as Hassan explains, “working alongside talented colleagues who are committed to the same vision is how we get the job done.”

Hassan, who’s Bangladeshi, kindly answered a few questions about his career, life and heritage. Here’s a bit more about Hassan in his own words.

What was your career path and how did it lead you to Atlas?

I started my career in financial services. I graduated college with a degree in mathematics, and my first job was at investment banking company, where I worked on the trading floor. After a few years, I started to gravitate toward technology and eventually took a position as a systems engineer. After 15 years at the company, I went to work at a cable news channel as a security and systems engineer.

The aviation industry wasn’t on my radar until a recruiter called and suggested I interview for a position at Atlas. I met with Nate Maurer, who is now my manager, and knew immediately that this was the right next step for my career. It continues to be a fabulous opportunity.

How important is it to you that Atlas recognizes Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?

Hassan with his wife Safa.

It’s important for Atlas not only to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, but also to recognize the many cultures that contribute to the Company’s diversity. The different ideas and perspectives found within Atlas are what will make our organization thrive. Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a great opportunity to learn about other countries and cultures from our Atlas colleagues. I am proud to be part of Atlas’s recognition.

 Please share something that is unique about your culture.

One of the things that I would say is different in Bangladeshi or the Asian community is the timing of when children leave the family home to go out on their own. Instead of going out on your own immediately after graduating from college, it’s very normal to continue living with your parents until you get married. That’s what I did. I graduated from college and moved back home to be with my parents. I left when I got married. The family unit is very tight and very close in our culture.

Which traditions are most important to you today? Which ones are you focused on instilling in your children?

Growing up, I read the Quran twice. My parents had a tutor come in at various points while I was growing up to teach me how to read Arabic. Learning how to read the Quran is a really important part of our religion. Now that I have my own children, I want them to learn how to say the prayers – just like my parents made sure I did. So, I am sending my children to Islamic school to learn about Islam, how to do the prayers and the significance of Ramadan. I love that they are following in my footsteps and learning all of this.

 What’s a fun fact about you – personal or professional – most people at Atlas don’t know?

I was born in Russia and spent a significant portion of my childhood in Thailand. While both my parents are Bangladeshi, I only lived in Bangladesh for two years. My father was a diplomat and we lived abroad in a number of different countries. We moved to the United States – Queens, New York – in 1989 when I was 13 years old. My parents still live in Queens today.

Hassan with his wife Safa, son Aayan and daughter Anayah.

Do you have a role model or mentor in your life?

I would say it is Nate Maurer, not because he is my boss but because of who he is as a person. Nate has a natural gift that makes people gravitate towards him, especially when he speaks.

His willingness to share his skills, knowledge, and expertise has positively impacted my career and personal life.

From the fields of Colombia to the highways of the U.S., the North American flower market is an enormous system with complex variables and spikes in demand. Flowers are popular year-round in America, especially on days like Mother’s Day in early May.

Flowers shipped from South America on Atlas Air flight Atlas Air plays an integral role in the larger system by carefully carrying flowers from South America to their destinations, whether that be weddings or supermarkets. Atlas Air works hard making sure flowers are kept bright and fresh—and that they arrive on time to lift spirits and make memories.

“We’re a small but important part of the supply chain,” said Luis Fernando Del-Valle, Regional Director, Brazil, Colombia & Argentina. “It takes an agent to coordinate it, a farmer to grow it, a trucker to drive it, and, finally, an airline to bring it. And that’s us.”

Making people happy

Transporting flowers is so important because, as the last few years have shown, the  flowers are important to Americans. Frank Diaz, Director of Sales and Marketing at Atlas Air, whose job includes forecasting, said he thought that demand for flowers during the pandemic would fall along with hotel bookings and event cancellations.

“I was so wrong… the demand from consumers durinAtlas Air flying flowers around the world for Mother's Dayg COVID for flowers was just as big as it ever was,” Diaz said, adding that the pandemic may not have had as great of an impact on demand because people still wanted flowers in their homes. “I was really pleasantly surprised how resilient the flower business is.”

For Diaz, this offered a striking reminder of why the many flower shipment flights that Atlas makes, such as during peak flower holidays like Mother’s Day, are so meaningful.

Supporting local growers

Del-Valle said the American flower market also supports the farmers who grow them, such as in Latin America. Each Mother’s Day season, Atlas ships over five million kilograms of flowers—including roses, hydrangeas, and carnations—from South America total. Earlier this year, Atlas Air dedicated over 50 flights from Columbia and Ecuador to fly flowers to the U.S. ahead of the Valentine’s Day rush.

“Consumers and shippers are supporting local economies and farms,” Patricio Sanchez, Regional Director, Chile, Ecuador, & Peru, emphasized. “In Colombia, flowers are one of the largest parts of the country’s economy. They’re important for those communities and people.”

In fact, Colombia is the second-largest exporter of flowers in the world. For both Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, Atlas Air doubles the number of flights it flies from Ecuador and Colombia.

Taking the Temperature

The main difference between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day is temperature: there’s a bit more risk when flowers could be exposed to heat in May. But Atlas Air takes countless precautions to ensure flowers stay as fresh as possible, from the moment they leave the farm until the moment they are in mom’s hands.

Before flowers are loaded onto an aircraft, they must be transported to the airport. To ensure freshness, flowers are transported in refrigerated trucks. Once the flowers arrive, members offload them into large vacuum-like machines that take out moisture to keep them fresh. The cargo is then loaded into coolers, where it’s securely stored at temperatures between two to eight degrees Celsius for the rest of the flight.

Upon landing, the process is reversed. The flowers are unloaded from the aircraft, placed in refrigerated trucks and/or warehouses, then shipped to their final destination.

“If I’m shipping it, I’m supporting it”

Diaz has been involved in the transportation of flowers for over a decade now and has made it a habit to always buy flowers to support the flower market.

“If I’m shipping it, I’m supporting it,” he said.

When asked how his wife reacts to the flowers he brings home, Diaz laughed. “I’ve been at Atlas Air for 12 years. Before, there was a certain reaction to it. Now, if I don’t do it, my family is like, ‘where are my flowers?’”

Flower shipments on an Atlas Air flight

Interested in a logistics career? Check out our career openings here: https://careers.atlasairworldwide.com/