Southwest’s First African American Pilot Retires After 36 Years

Filed Under: Southwest, Videos

Nowadays most of the stories we hear in the airline industry are negative and involve bad customer service, etc. So sometimes it’s nice to share a feel good story, for once. Southwest’s first ever African American pilot, who has been flying with the airline for 36 years, took his last flight yesterday.

Here’s a video of Captain Lou Freeman that Southwest posted to their YouTube account back in February, during Black History Month:

Dallas News has the story of Captain Freeman’s retirement flight yesterday from Dallas to Chicago:

Wearing a white shirt, blue slacks and American flag tie, Freeman seemed at ease in the hours before his 12:40 flight from Dallas to Chicago on Thursday, joking that he’d been “practicing his landings” in preparation for his final ride. He’ll turn 65 on Monday, the federally mandated retirement age for U.S. pilots.

“As long as I get us to the gate with no dings and no dents, I’ve done my job,” Freeman said. “I haven’t dinged an airplane yet and I don’t plan to start today.”

“It’s bittersweet,” Freeman said of his retirement, “because I know I won’t get the chance to do it anymore. But I’m happy that I got a chance to do it. To be able to say I flew big jets.”

What a cool guy! He interviewed at Southwest in 1980, and was their first African American pilot, as well as the first African American chief pilot of any major US airline. He spent six years in the Air Force before joining Southwest, back when they were only a regional airline with under 200 pilots. I’m sure he never imagined what the airline would eventually become.

So, what’s he going to do with his retirement?

Freeman said he plans to spend his retirement traveling and spending time with his family. He plans to have his son — a flight instructor and aspiring airline pilot — take him up for a ride on Monday for his birthday before heading to Seattle to see his daughter.

Congrats to Captain Freeman on an awesome career!

(Tip of the hat to Drew)

  1. Nice. Airplane cockpits are getting noticeably more diverse over the last 5 years and I hope the trend keeps up.

  2. Congratulations Captain Freeman, an incredible milestone through adversity most people only read about. You Sir, lived it. Our hats hearts and prayer for a long long retirement for you and family

  3. I attended pilot training with Big Lou at Reese AFB in 1974-75. Always a class act. Congrats on a stellar career!

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