J. George Mikelsons

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J. George Mikelsons
George Mikelsons.jpg
Receiving the Tony Jannus Award in 1996
Born 1938
Riga, Latvia
Occupation Founder, ATA Airlines
Spouse(s) Muriel Mikelsons

Juris George Mikelsons (Latvian: Georgs Juris Miķelsons) is a former airline executive and airline pilot in the United States and the founder of ATA Airlines. He was born in Riga, Latvia, in 1938 on the eve of World War II. His family fled to Germany during the mid-1940s to escape the Soviet occupation of his native land.

Early years[edit]

As a child, Mikelsons would peer out of bomb shelters to catch any glimpse he could of the planes being flown in the skies. This was the birth of his passion in life, which was to fly planes. His family moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, during the 1950s where his father was offered a job as a violinist for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

Mikelsons finally began pursuing his passion when he saw a sign offering flights for under $10. It was then that he flew for the first time. This flight sparked his desire to enter the aviation industry. He immediately began flying lessons and became chief pilot and director of the Voyager 1000 travel club.

Founding of ATA Airlines[edit]

In 1973, Mikelsons started his own travel club, Ambassadair, taking a loan and mortgaging his home to purchase a Boeing 720, which he titled "Miss Indy". Ambassadair was a charter-based airline which provided cheap vacation fares. Mikelsons and an employee piloted the plane, loaded the luggage, cleaned the cabin, and served as the tour guide. His hard work and determination allowed him to purchase additional planes for his charter-based airline service. In 1984, after the deregulation of the Airline industry, Mikelsons formed Amtran, Inc., the former parent company of American Trans Air, which later became ATA Airlines, headquartered near Indianapolis International Airport.[1] He also formed ATA Leisure Corp., Amber Travel, ATA Training Corp., ATA Cargo, and ExecuJet.

In 1993, ATA made its initial public offering, trading on the NASDAQ National Market System under the symbol "AMTR". Mikelsons, a noted conservative always notorious for putting his money where his mouth is, purchased a 75% stake in the company. In 1998, Mikelsons retired, giving the reigns of the company to John Tague. Tague began a massive expansion with new aircraft and the establishment of a hub at Chicago's Midway airport. After the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the slump in airline travel and rising fuel costs severely impacted ATA.[2]

Mikelsons came out of retirement to save his troubled airline despite his archaic managerial style. Many of ATA's finest leaders left because of this. ATA emerged from bankruptcy on February 28, 2006 [3] after Mikelson had secured a major code-share agreement with Southwest Airlines. Upon emergence from bankruptcy, Mikelson retired from ATA and its airline holdings, turning the reins of the company to a MatlinPatterson lead board of directors and former Southwest executive John G. Denison. ATA Airlines filed for bankruptcy protection again on April 2, 2008, and announced the discontinuation of all operations "following the loss of a key contract for our military charter business", ATA said on its website.[4]

Personal information[edit]

Mikelsons and his wife Muriel live near Indianapolis and have two children (Jay and David Mikelsons). He is the 1996 recipient of the Tony Jannus Award for outstanding leadership in the commercial aviation industry.[5] Mikelsons owns and flies a Bell Jet Ranger III helicopter. His wife Muriel is a concert violinist.[6] They are active in a number of area charitable organizations, including the Indianapolis Children's Museum and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

ATA Airlines chronology[edit]

American Trans Air Chronology[3]
Company History Year
Ambassadair American Trans Air's predecessor 1973
American Trans Air American Trans Air becomes represented by the letters ATA among the traveling community 1973 - 2003
AMTRAN Mikelsons forms Amtran the parent company to American Trans Air as he seeks to expand into other ancillary aviation and travel related businesses. 1984
AMTRAN Holdings American Trans Air (ATA) officially changes its name to the more "user" friendly ATA Airlines and the parent organization evolves into AMTRAN Holdings. 2003
ATA Holdings Amtran Holdings modifies it name to become the more transparent, ATA Holdings in the hope of attracting investors attention. Its primary holding ATA Airlines / American Trans Air emerges from the post 9/11 financial crisis after J. George Mikelsons forges an alliance with Southwest Airlines. 2006
New ATA Holdings ATA Airlines / American Trans Air - emerges from bankruptcy, J. George Mikelsons leaves the company, and the MatlinPatterson investment firm enters the picture. 2006
Global Aero Logistics, Inc. With the MatlinPatterson investment firms decision to acquire World Air Holdings, along with its recent capital infusion into the New ATA Holdings, ATA Airlines/ American Trans Air parent company name changes yet again to Global Aero Logistics, Inc.. ATA Airlines then assumes the role of Global Aero Logistics, Inc.'s primary holding among the overall corporate structure of its parent organization's family of airlines. 2007
GAL / Global Aero Logistics, Inc. ATA Airlines and Global Aero Logistics, Inc. / GAL's acquisition and merging of World Airways / North American Airlines, is formally approved by World Air Holding's; (a "none public" corporate entity - with over 75% of the outstanding shares controlled by the MatlinPatterson firms stockholders) on August 14, 2007. 2008
Global Aviation Holdings, Inc. "The "GAL's" seek to "rebrand" Global Aero Logistics, Inc., again. The new name of AMTRAN's successor becomes Global Aviation Holdings. 2009


  1. ^ "About ATA". ATA Airlines. Archived from the original on January 5, 2016. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  2. ^ A Look at John Tague, New President of United Airlines - CBS News
  3. ^ a b "ATA History". ATA Airlines. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  4. ^ "ATA discontinues all operations". ATA Airlines. 2008-04-03. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  5. ^ "Tony Jannus Award past recipients". Tony Jannus Society. Archived from the original on July 13, 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  6. ^ "Classics to Moderns". Arts Council of Indianapolis. 2007-09-24. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 

External links[edit]