In its relatively short 30 years operating, Atlas Air, Inc. has made a name for itself in providing cargo and passenger solutions worldwide - all done on the airline’s fleet of Boeing 747s. Read about N522MC, a 747-200 that flew with Atlas before becoming the latest PlaneTags.
Atlas Air, based in New York, is named after Atlas, a Titan in Greek mythology who was condemned to hold the heavens aloft as a punishment for rebelling against Zeus. The airline’s livery of blue, gold and white and the image of Atlas holding a golden globe depict this boldly. Atlas Air provides passenger charter service and aircraft leasing, and is world-renowned for its cargo airline service.
Atlas Air began operations in 1992 when the late founder, Michael Chowdry, began leasing freighter aircraft to other airlines on an ACMI (Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance and Insurance) contract basis. At that time, most freight hauling was an afterthought, mainly whatever cargo could fit in the baggage hold of passenger planes on passenger routes. Atlas Air seized the opportunity in the air cargo sector and began leasing freighters to other airlines.
The first aircraft was a Boeing 747-200, and the all-Boeing fleet grew from there. Today, Atlas’ fleet includes 40 Boeing 747s ( 36 747-400s and 4 747-800s), giving them the title of the largest 747 operator currently. Six of the 747-400s are configured for VIP passenger transportation; 34 of the remaining 747s are freighters which operate in 119 countries across 425 destinations.
For the past several years, the airline has been voted “Leasing Provider of the Year” and “Charter Operator of the Year”, as well as other industry and customer choice awards over the years. In 2016, Atlas announced a long-term partnership with Amazon to provide and operate 20 767-300 converted freighters to support Amazon’s e-commerce delivery capabilities.
The Boeing 747-200F was specifically designed to carry cargo, with long distance capabilities. It could be configured with or without a side door and had a capacity of 105 tons and an MTOW of up to 833,000 pounds. 393 total 747-200s had been built when production ended in 1991, 73 of which were 747-200F. Some 747-200s were also converted to 747-200F and 200SF (Special Freighter) models.
Our plane, MSN 21783, was constructed as a 747-200 and took its first flight in December 1979. Originally registered as HS-TGB and named “Srisobhakaya.” It was delivered to Thai Airways and flew with the airline until 1996. Read about another Thai Airways 747 on the PlaneTags blog: Thai Airways 747: Culture and Hospitality On Board
In 1996, it was converted to a 747-200(SF) cargo configuration and delivered to Atlas Air in April 1996. Now registered as N522MC, it was then leased back to Thai Airways as a cargo aircraft for a short time.
Enjoy this video of N522MC, preparing to take off and deliver 62 tons of life saving pharmaceuticals to Africa.
In September 1999, ‘522MC was returned and operated under the Atlas Air colors for another 12 years. Finally, it was stored at KROW in December 2011 until being officially transferred to KMHV and withdrawn from service in March 2012.
MotoArt owner Dave Hall first encountered the retired Atlas Air 747 while he and the team were working at the MotoArt storage at MHV. “The silhouette of the 747 and the colors and logo of Atlas really made it stand out,” says Hall. “Many of our PlaneTags customers also noticed it in photos and it quickly became a must-have for some of our collectors.”
Hall acquired the aircraft in 2021 and the team headed out to Mojave to get the material to create PlaneTags.
The crew is regularly asked why the plane could not be flown again or be donated to a museum. Why do we take a perfectly good aircraft and cut it up?
The simple answer is that when MotoArt finally gets its hands on these retired aircraft their valued parts have already been sold or removed.
What remains is destined for scrap, and many times the team is one of the last to touch the plane.
The Atlas Air Boeing 747 PlaneTags are stunning, in an array of blue, white, yellow, grey, and other fabulous combinations. They are numbered to 10,000 and can be engraved to personalize them as keychains or luggage tags. Aircraft skin collectors and fans of Boeing’s 747 Queen of the Sky will want to add this to their collection.
PlaneTags are available online at planetags.com, on the PlaneTags app, and at the MotoArt PlaneTags shop in Torrance, California. Stop in to pick out your aviation gifts and collectibles and meet the team.