A 64-year-old Southwest Airlines pilot retired yesterday after nearly 37 years with the airline, and his celebration above is sincerely moving.
When he started at age 25, Louis Freeman was Southwest’s first black pilot, though he didn’t know it at the time. He later became the first black chief pilot at any major U.S. airline, paving the way for pilots of color in an industry where minorities are scarce.
“It never occurred to me, but when I got here I was the only pilot of color ― it didn’t take long to figure out,” he told the Associated Press. “I put a whole lot of pressure on myself because I had to get it right. I had to be perfect because I wanted them to hire more of us.”
Freeman is clearly beloved at the airline, where he mentored plenty of younger pilots. Five of them turned up at the gate for Freeman’s final flight from Dallas to Chicago on Thursday, the Chicago Tribune reports.