(NEW YORK) — It was a milestone day for both: a pilot on his last flight of an almost 35-year career — and a 2-year-old on his first international flight.
It ended with them both in the cockpit where retiring American Airlines Captain Joe Weis gave his pilot’s wings pin to 2-year-old Ki Klitenick during Weis’ final flight from Madrid to Miami.
In a video, Weis pins on Ki the “real wings” — the ones he earned over the last 34 years.
An airline pilot’s final flight can be emotional. There’s usually a water salute — an honoring ceremony in aviation where arcs of water are sprayed over an aircraft. The captain’s family typically rides along for the final flight. It turned out that Ki and his parents were sitting next to Captain Weis’s family on the journey home, his wife Wendy and nephew.
“Wendy had called me from her seat and told me about [Ki’s mother] Sarah and it being his first international trip. There was a bit of a connection,” Weis told ABC News’ Good Morning America.
Captain Weis came to visit the family during the flight, but Ki was sleeping. He told Klitenick to bring Ki to the cockpit when the plane landed if they had the time. They did, and that’s when Ki got Weis’ wings.
Weis told GMA that his wife is a former flight attendant and when she retired a captain gave her his wings.
“That meant a lot to her,” he said. “I always had that in the back of my mind.”
Ki’s mother praised Weis’ thoughtfulness.
“It’s amazing that on a day all about him, he found a way to pass something so special on to someone else,” she said.
“I think of all the flights he’s flown, all the ways he has brought people together all over the world. It was so emotional,” said Klitenick.
As for Weis, he splits his time between Florida and Kentucky and plans to keep on traveling, but now by RV.
While it was Ki’s first international trip, it surely won’t be his last. His mom told GMA the 2-year-old was a natural traveler, hardly bothered by the time change and was greeting people in Spain with “hola!” all the while.
And from now on whenever he flies, his mom said he’ll always have a treasure to bring along: Captain Joe Weis’ wings.
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