First African American Chief Pilot To Fly With A U.S. Airline Retires After 36 Years With Southwest

CHICAGO (CBS) – A pioneering African American pilot made his last flight into Chicago on Thursday following a four-decade career.

A special ceremony was held Thursday at Midway Airport for Captain Louis Freeman on his last day in the cockpit. WBBM’s Mike Krauser reports.

Freeman boarded a Southwest Airlines plane in Dallas headed to Chicago on his final flight after 36 years with the airline.

“Of course I am going to have a couple of my bosses on board, but because I am leaving anyway they can’t fire me,” he joked.

He arrived at Midway to tears, a crowd and a water cannon salute by the fire department.

Captain Louis Freeman was the first black chief pilot to fly with a U.S. airline and the first black pilot to fly for Southwest Airlines.

He took a moment to reflect on his life.

“I was raised to think that I was as good as anybody, but better than nobody,” Freeman said. “And that is what I still feel. I can do anything that I put my mind to. I can do anything I put my heart to.”

He said he could not believe the outpouring of love.

“Hopefully I set a good foundation, a good example,” he said.

He acknowledged he will miss the cockpit.

“I am happy I got a chance to do it,” Freeman said. “To be able to say I flew big jets.”

Freeman reached the mandatory retirement age of 65.

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