PEOPLE OF INTEREST
Atlas Air Captain Manuel Cabianca is happy at the controls of his 747. As a cargo pilot, he transports goods all over the world.
BY MARY ANN KOENIG
On a recent trip to Santiago, Chile, pilot Manuel
Cabianca looked out the window from the cockpit
of his 747 and saw television news crews gathering
on the tarmac below.
The Vero Beach resident and captain for Atlas Air regularly
flies cargo in and out of Santiago. But that night, there was an
unscheduled change in the routing.
He’d had a few days lay-over in Santiago after flying there
from Campinas, Brazil, an airport about an hour and a half
from Sao Paulo. The normal route would be to return directly
to his base airport in Miami. But the company asked him to
take the plane back to Campinas instead.
While on the ground in Santiago, Cabianca examined the
paperwork for this off-schedule flight and saw the name
Global Sanctuary for Elephants. Ramba, a female Asian
elephant, estimated to be around 60 years old, was trussed
inside a metal crate and about to be loaded onto his plane. It
was big news in Santiago.
Air-lifting a 7,000-pound elephant over the Andes Mountains
was a first for Cabianca. Atlas Air transports goods and
cargo all over the world, and Cabianca has flown for the airline
for more than a dozen years. He’s seen his share of exotic
and alluring cargo. “But this was my first elephant,” he says.
Cabianca’s job as a freight pilot takes him around the
world. His regular route is out of Miami and into Latin
America, but the routes can be unpredictable. Sometimes
it’s Bogota, Colombia; other times it’s Tokyo, where he
always looks forward to authentic sushi. But it can also be an
around-the-world venture — a schedule that can take seven
or eight days, encompassing five different 12-hour legs to
circle the globe.
These talented pilots carry merchandise around the world
with little recognition for their role in keeping goods and
commerce flowing on an international scale.
As a young boy, Cabianca always dreamed of becoming a
pilot. He grew up in Sardinia, an island region of Italy in the
Mediterranean Sea. His home was only a few miles from a
military base where German, English and American aircraft,
such as Tornados, F-104 Starfighters and Phantom jets would
fly night-time sorties over Europe. “I remember vividly, in
The CARGO PILOT