In 1994, Southwest Airlines pilot Ruben Flowers took a picture with his young son in the cockpit of his plane. Twenty-nine years later, his son, who is also called Reuben Flowers, recreated the image with his father, only this time his father was about to captain his final flight after almost 31 years in service.
Flowers Jr. told CNN that he chanced on the picture while he was looking through photo albums at his grandmother’s home. In the old photo, his father smiled in the pilot’s seat while he, a child at the time, gazed on in admiration.
His father recounted his experience with young Flowers in a Southwest Airlines news release, “Ruben rode in the car to drop me off at the airport for trips growing up. He’d always tell me, ‘Don’t push the wrong button,’ as our inside joke.”
He added that his son “tagged along with me to the training center in Dallas growing up to learn more about our operation, experience the simulators, and spend time at the airport, which felt like a second home to him. He flew in simulators with me before he even had a driver’s license.”
Following in his father’s footsteps some years later, young Flowers also became a pilot for Southwest; and the moment his father prepared to pilot his final flight from Omaha, Nebraska, to Chicago’s Midway Airport, Flowers Jr. was next to him again, but this time as his first officer.
He said to CNN, “It was a dream of mine to make it to this point to fly with my dad; it was probably my number one aviation goal.”
Flowers Sr.’s brother, Southwest Captain Chris Sailor, and his cousin, Southwest First Officer Chuck Jones, also joined the flight. Flowers Sr. said, “To look over and see your loved ones sitting right next to you is a great feeling. It feels like my son was 5 years old and running around days ago, and now he’s reading me the flight checklist!”
The father-son team decided to recreate the 1994 photo for the father’s final flight.
“It was just great to be able to recreate that moment,” the younger Flowers told CNN. “It was a dream-come-true moment.”
The family has seven pilots, including the father-son team. Flowers Sr.’s daughter and his youngest son are also pilots, and he hopes they will also join the Southwest Airlines family.