We want to share again a bit more about a giant
of our business, Bill Spohrer who, we reported, died at home December
16 in Sarasota, Florida at age 91.
In case you missed our report you can read
Our industry lost a giant of our time on December 16, 2022.
Waiting in the wings due to a scheduling
hitch for later this month is an extensive detailed study of the life
and times of Gentleman Bill Spohrer created by the “Dean of Aviation
Historians” REG Davies, who served as Curator of Air Transport at
National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Here are some thoughts and a couple of reactions
from people today who recall Bill.
Long-time industry stalwart and cargo executive
Walt Atkinson, who moved from the top job at CO Cargo to get back into
the left seat during the rise of modern air cargo at Bill’s Challenge
Air Cargo said:
“Bill was truly a leader and innovator
in the air cargo industry,” said Walt Atkinson, adding:
“While everyone else chose to use
beat-up old piston bangers, Bill decided to use brand new 757 freighters.
“The key was to make quick turnarounds
and maximize the daily usage of the aircraft because they don’t
make money being parked!
“Operating new aircraft meant that
the aircraft had less maintenance requirements and the systems were more
“I can speak from experience after
my early piloting days at the original Zantop operating “old”
C-46’s and other antiquated “birds”.
“Even in my Evergreen days, when we
operated used jets for UPS, turn-times were paramount and jets did not
require the amount of maintenance pistons needed. Bill was able to convince
the produce and flower growers in Latin America and the USA that Challenge
could reduce the time it took to get the products into the market in a
more timely manner.”
“Bill’s knowledge of the Latin
America market went way beyond just being the head of a cargo airline.
“He understood the culture of each
country like no one I have ever met. He was a polyglot with languages
and spoke them like a native.
“His early exploration days gave him
an overview of the countries that no other airline executive could achieve.
“I enjoyed my time working for him.
“He was regarded very highly by all
of his employees and he will be missed,” said Walt Atkinson.
are saddened to learn of Bill’s passing,” writes Ram Menen,
the man who built Emirates SkyCargo from the ground up.
“Both Malou and I send condolences
to Lynn and all of Bill’s near and dear and also his friends and
“He was an amazing man and good friend.
Bill was TIACA’s first (founding) President, CEO and the Chairman
of Board and I was his wing man (as the Vice Chair) and was honored to
work with/alongside him and got to know him pretty well. He was a pioneer
in the true sense and a great business man. His contribution to the cargo
operation at Miami airport was the foundation of what it is in the air
everywhere to the world today. He virtually transformed Corrosion Corner,
where he based and built the then state-of-the-art handling facilities
for his Challenge Air at the airport.
“He was one of the first to use canine
squad for detection of contraband for all cargo coming from Latin America.
His knowledge of the Latin market was legendary. He built the airline
from the ground up to what it was, when he sold it to UPS.
“Apart from the cargo industry, he
had an Indiana Jones streak in him. He went on many explorations in South
American historic sites, especially to prove that man had flown in pre-history,
much before what history has recorded. It was his passion for ballooning
that sent him on many an adventure trip. He was the central character
in the book “Flight of The Condor,” which recorded his attempt
to build a balloon from material that mimicked what existed in ancient
“Although he couldn’t fly the
balloon himself due to an unfortunate back injury that he sustained during
one of his adventures, another balloonist flew it, proving his theory
“He was also a gentle soul. The last
time I spoke to him was a couple of years back. He was in great spirits
and was enjoying his retirement life with Lynn. He lived his life to the
fullest. The industry has lost a legend and a good friend.
“May the good Lord bless him and may
his soul Rest In Peace.
“We were all blessed to have him amongst
“Bill continues to inspire us as we
celebrate his life so very well lived . . .”