Atlas Air Worldwide, Ameriflight launch pilot pathway program

Another airline has taken matters into its own hands to fill positions in the face of rumored shortages of qualified pilots for major commercial jets. Yesterday, New York-based Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, Inc. said that its subsidiary airlines, Atlas Air and Southern Air, have entered into an arrangement with Dallas-based cargo carrier Ameriflight to offer its pilots a “guarantee” for its qualified candidates to interview for positions at Atlas and Southern.

An Atlas Air 747-8F, one of the aircraft Ameriflight pilots will qualify to fly under the program

The program aims to address an increase in demand for the company’s subsidiary carriers’ services – one notable example, Atlas Air’s growing relationship with Amazon Air – while serving as an opportunity for newer pilots to advance their careers.

Ameriflight CEO Paul Chase bolstered the notion of the program as a career-building opportunity for pilots, and stated that the partnership will make Ameriflight “the nation’s top place for pilots to become professional, major-airline-ready aviators.”

Once participants have undergone Atlas’ airline transport pilot certification training (ATP/CTP) program – a requirement for pilots that wish to qualify for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) airline transport pilot exam – and gained acceptance of employment, they will then be qualified to fly 747s for Atlas Air or 737s for Southern Air. (The determining factor between a pilot’s assignment to wide- or narrow-body is dependent on how many hours the particular pilot has logged at that point.)

Teamsters Local 1224 has expressed dissatisfaction with working conditions and pay at Atlas Air over the past year. Air Cargo World spoke with Atlas Air executive council chairman Captain Bob Kirchner, who explained the impetus behind the program from a pilot’s perspective.

Atlas Air pilots of the Teamsters 1224 protesting outside of Amazon’s headquarters in August

“Ameriflight is hoping from their end to recruit pilots and say ‘Look, we’re a pipeline to Alas Air and the big jets’… A lot of these regional carriers are having trouble keeping people [pilots], so this way, there are certain milestones that the pilots have to achieve before being recommended to Atlas.” However, he added that union group Teamsters 1224 does not believe that the program will “move the needle at all,” Kirchner said, in terms of maintaining a consistent employment of pilots long-term.

Airlines FedEx and Emirates have rolled out comparable programs in hopes to attract qualified pilots over the last year to address the potential shortage of candidates due to the increased demand for airfreight.

To read more about this issue, follow the link to our coverage of FedEx’s program.

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