A FAMILY OF PILOTS. . . Father, son recreates iconic cockpit moment

LOS ANGELES. — When Ruben Flowers III was training to become a pilot at Southwest, he stumbled across an old family photo.

The picture shows him in the cockpit, sitting in the co-pilot’s seat as his father prepares to fly the plane.

“I wanted to be in that seat,” says 30-year-old Flowers III, looking back at his toddler self. 

He was determined to “recreate that moment” and fly with his dad before he retired.

His father, Ruben Flowers Jr., now 65, flew for Southwest for nearly 30 years.

“It was coming down to the last moments,” Flowers III says. 

”We didn’t know if I was going to make it (through training) in time.”

But on Flowers III’s second official flight as a pilot for Southwest, he got to be the co-pilot on his father’s final flight, which happened on March 3. 

They went out for a big breakfast before the trip from Omaha to Chicago.

“It was just great, great to be able to do that,” says Flowers III, who lives in Detroit. 

“It was surreal to look over there and see him.”

He decided when he was 17 that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, because his dad always seemed so happy to go to work.

“I love flying, it’s the best office view in the world,” Flowers Jr. tells PEOPLE.

It’s a career choice that runs in the family: Flowers Jr.’s brother is also a captain for Southwest and his cousin is a first officer training to become a Southwest captain. 

Flowers III’s younger brother and sister both have pilot licenses, but are still training to become commercial airline pilots.

“I look forward to making their journey as well,” says Flowers III.

On his final flight with Southwest, Flowers Jr. not only had his son in the cockpit, but his brother and his cousin, too. 

“It was a dream of mine to make this happen,” Flowers III says. “It was my number one goal to fly with my dad.”

When they landed in Chicago, the younger Flowers continued on flying. His father went to a retirement reception.

“I really enjoyed flying with my son,” Flowers Jr. says. 

“It was truly a blessing for me. It was just awesome.”

The photo recreation has inspired other people to approach Flowers III and ask what steps they need to take to become pilots, too.

“That’s been great,” says Flowers III, who shares his experience so others can “chase their dreams.”

He is often told by other pilots how much they learned from his dad, as well. 

“It motivates me to be a better person and a better pilot each day,” he adds. — PEOPLE.

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