After 45 years and more than 12 million miles in the air, a Delta captain said goodbye on Friday.
A water cannon salute welcome Captain Calvin "Cal" Flanigan as he returned from his final flight from Los Angeles.
Flanigan began as a mechanic back in 1968, but eventually realized his childhood dream of becoming a pilot.
"Even as a little kid watching airplanes take off when I was 9 or 10 years old, I knew I wanted to fly," said Flanigan.
In 37 years, Flanigan flew more than 12.5 million miles to more than 95 different cities, amassing some 27,000 hours of flight time as he became the most senior pilot in the entire airline. The pilot, who never missed a day of work in all his decades, was looked upon as a role model by other Delta employees.
"He's been the number one guy for almost eight years now. I don't think that's something that will ever be replicated, certainly in my lifetime," said Steve Dickson of Delta Airlines.
Delta rules state that pilots must retire when they reach 65; Flanigan's 65th birthday is Saturday.
"I'm going to miss the people. I really, truly will miss the people," said Flanigan.
Flanigan said that he had other offers to retire, but wanted to fly until the very last possible moment.
"After 37 years of doing what you love and not being able to think of any profession that you would prefer versus what you were doing, you know, I know it's time," Flanigan said. "I'm 65 tomorrow so there's no denying that, but do I still love it? Yes, I do. But it's time to pass the baton, and I've recognized that, and I'm going to do it."
Flight attendants and pilots gathered to welcome Flanigan back as he arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Friday.
"The list of accomplishments is long, but I think even more than that, everybody realizes what a great friend and colleague Cal has been throughout his career," said Dickson.
Cal and his wife plan to do more traveling together now that he's retired.
205 N. Michigan Avenue Ground Floor Chicago, IL 60601 Station Operator: (312) 565-5532 Newsroom: (312)565-5533