Michael Chowdry

Michael A. Chowdry (1955-2001) was a Pakistani-American businessman who became the founder of American-based cargo carrier Atlas Air in 1992. He made the Forbes 400 list and with a net worth of $920 million, ranked among the richest American businessmen of Pakistani heritage before his death in a plane crash in 2001.

Born in Pakistan in a Muslim family, Chowdry emigrated to England aged 15 . He was a grandson of Chowdry Akbar Buttar; a government bureaucrat. In 1976, he moved to the United States where he graduated from the University of Minnesota Crookston in 1978 with a degree in Agricultural Aviation and a burning desire to put his formal education to use. Always a flying enthusiast, he started his aviation career flying crop dusters and selling Piper airplanes to cover his college tuition.

Chowdry expanded his business into buying and selling landing rights at constrained airports in the early 1980s. In 1984, he started a company named Aeronautics Leasing, which leased passenger airplanes to major carriers such as Pan American, British Airways and Trans World Airlines. In 1992, Michael Chowdry founded Atlas Air which propelled his business to new heights. The Purchase, NY-based company operates a fleet of B747 freighters in 101 cities and 46 countries and has a market capitalization of about $1.39 billion.

On January 24, 2001, Michael Chowdry lost his life while flying his personal Czech-made Aero L-39 Albatros jet trainer with Jeff Cole, aerospace editor of the Wall Street Journal. The plane crashed in Watkins, Colorado, killing both Chowdry and Cole. Chowdry was survived by his wife Linda, two children, two stepchildren and one cousin.

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