Atlantic Skies holds the singular distinction of being the oldest, continuously operational virtual airline on the internet.
It was on January 4, 1993 that Andrew Phillips first opened our doors for business as Atlantic Skies Airlines. In a brief period of six months the new airline grew to a peak of over 200 pilots from all over the world.
By our 1st anniversary hubs had been established in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, and Dallas. Soon afterwards, however, there was a steady decline in pilot numbers and popular hubs such as Boston and San Francisco had to be shut down. This sort of attrition would prove to be normal in the virtual airline industry, and is the second major cause of here today, gone tomorrow VA start-ups. Although growth for the airline seemed promising in the second quarter with active negotiations to open international hubs, the airline continued to suffer from a lack of management attention, which would prove to be the largest factor in the failure of many virtual airlines in the years to follow.
In May of 1994 founder Andrew Phillips resigned his position as president, citing a lack of time to give to the airline. Matthew Eppink was hand-picked to replace him and took over the reigns of leadership, but only temporarily. Brad Hodges was made president of the newly named Atlantic Skies International the following August. It was in July of 1997 that he reorganized the company, changing the position of president to chairman in order to align the airline with current practices in the business community.
We enjoyed many stable years under Mr. Hodges’ leadership, and then, in April 1998, Chairman Hodges resigned his position and Tim Cailloux became the latest leader of the 700+ organization. During the months of April through June, however, Atlantic Skies International began to see not only high attrition rates, but slow progress to meet the needs of the pilots still flying. The two big problems all VAs face were rearing their heads once gain.
Chairman Cailloux stepped down citing time constraints and former Chairman Brad Hodges returned. Atlantic Skies International was renamed Atlantic Skies and during the last half of July 1999 the company was reorganized with operations moved to a new headquarters at Salt Lake City International.
In July 2000, Atlantic Aerospace Corporation, one of the first virtual airline holding companies, was formally organized, and Atlantic Skies was made its primary carrier. Subsidiary airlines also added at the time included Atlantic Charters, based in Miami, Florida; New England Express in Boston, Massachusetts; and Atlantic Aerospace based at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
In January the following year, Brad Hodges announced that he was resigning his position as Chairman and Owner in order to accept the deputy director position at SimNASA. On January 15 2001 Jerry Halladay, a long time pilot and strong voice in management, stepped up to the plate and took control as Owner and Chairman of AAC.
Changes came quickly after that. Patrick Riley, a fairly new employee, joined management as the corporation’s chief planning officer and immediately began suggesting changes. Chairman Halladay, whose interests lay primarily in the day-to-day operations of the corporation, recognized that this new upstart had not only the drive but the creative skills to make broad and lasting positive changes. Stepping down yet still maintaining overall control, he handed Atlantic Aerospace Corporation over, and in March of 2001 Patrick Riley became the sixth person in the company’s history to hold the top leadership position.
Jerry Halladay continues to serve on the board of directors as CEO/Owner, and takes an active role in management, while Patrick Riley still gets his own private bathroom on the top floor that Jerry is barred from.
In 2002, with the 10th anniversary of the founding of Atlantic Skies Airlines rapidly approaching, a discussion was held among the Atlantic Aerospace Corporation board of directors. Many virtual airline holding companies had been established since AAC had been formed, and enough time had passed to recognise that the paradigm simply did not work. It made for a very thinly spread management force and pilot attention suffered as a result.
Around that same time we began to use an automated PIREP system, dubbed AACars, that interfaced directly with both MSFS and our website to submit flight data during and after a pilot’s flight, as well as allow the pilot to choose a new assignment without any manual management dispatch. This was a huge step forward in VA administration for the time.
The decision was made early in 2002 to amalgamate all Atlantic Aerospace Corporation subsidiary divisions under the Atlantic Skies name and to dissolve Atlantic Aerospace Corporation completely. We were going back to our roots. So, on 4 January 2003, Atlantic Aerospace Corporation ceased to be and Atlantic Skies assumed all of its assets and holdings. As a reflection of that, we also changed our logo from the stylised compass rose to what we now affectionately call the Sail Tail.
We continued for a few very pleasant and productive years, using AACars despite the paradigm shift, until 2007. That desktop program had begun to show its age, so we explored a few others and finally settled on one that required almost zero management interaction after properly configuring various options. A little bit of adjusting pilot ranks, working with fleet movements, but generally it allowed the airline to roll forward almost completely unattended.
This proved to be a mistake. Apathy from the executive lead to apathy from the pilots. Operations, after awhile, ground to halt, though we never completely shut our doors.
Now, 2018, we’ve begun a campaign to rejuvenate Atlantic Skies by coring down our international operations, moving our headquarters from Salt Lake City to Baltimore, and adopting a management system that tries to use the best of both the old ways and the new. Pilot reports and pilot applications will be reviewed before being accepted, but they’ll still be submitted automatically. There will be live flight maps and tools to gauge a pilot’s progress, and interesting challenges through the use of charters, multi-leg tours, and perhaps special operations such as disaster relief and rescue flights. We’ve done those successfully before, and we can do them again.
Atlantic Skies has been the past in the virtual airline industry. Now we’ll be the future, as well.
And we’ve got a new Sail Tail, too!