LOVELAND, Colo. — Two Colorado pilots made their dream come true by becoming the first mother-daughter duo to fly together aboard an a Southwest Airlines flight earlier this month, but that's not where their story starts.
Holly Petitt, of Loveland, is one very proud parent. She spent a lot of time as a working mom, first as a flight attendant, which helped paved her path to becoming a pilot once she had an opportunity to sit in the jump seat.
“I sat up there and just had an 'aha!' moment where I was (like), 'This is it. This is what I want to do with the rest of my life.' So I went home, told my husband Todd and he laughed because we had three kids, the youngest was 1, Keely was just over 2 and Zoey was 3-and-a half-(years-old). That's when I took my first flight lesson. He said, 'Okay, let's do this.' And we just took it one step at a time."
Holly has had a successful career as a pilot with Southwest Airlines for 18 years. Now, she is enjoying another “first” in her life: Her middle child Keely, now 25, decided she, too, wanted to become a pilot just like her mom.
“I grew up watching my mom, just an awesome example of what it means to be in aviation and a strong female pilot. And when I was little, I would always go with her on her trips," Keely told Denver7 recently.
From about age 13, Keely says she’s always known what she wanted to do.
“For Christmas, she got each of us kids a flight where you go up in just a small plane with an injector for an hour and get to see what it's like. And I just remember going up on my intro flight, 'Oh my gosh, this is what I want to do forever.'”
In May, Keely earned her wings and just like her mom, Keely was hired by Southwest Airlines.
“When I knew I wanted to fly, I always dreamt of like, this magical flight where I'd be able to fly with mom and it almost, for so many years, felt like it was so far in the future. “
The magic happened for Keely and Holly on Saturday, July 23.
Their schedules aligned and they were assigned to Southwest flight 3376 from Denver to St. Louis and all the way to San Jose. Finally, the two were in the cockpit together. Holly then walked to the front of the plane, grabbed the microphone and gave a speech to the passengers. One she had never given before.
“I’m going to interrupt my normally scheduled briefing here for some exciting news: Today is a really special day for me. I would like to introduce to you, your first officer, a brand new member of the Southwest team of pilots and my daughter, Keely Petitt. Keely come on out here," she recalled saying.
The crowd of 175 passengers broke out in cheers and applause as Keely walked out smiling and waving.
Holly went on, “Thank you all for being here. This is an exciting day for us and for Southwest Airlines; a very special day. We are the first mother-daughter duo ever on the flight deck of Southwest Airlines, so thank you for being here”.
It was mission accomplished for two pilots with the same passion and the same dream.
What happens next? Holly and Keely don’t have a regular schedule working together. They know they’ll have to work on trading with others to make it happen again. For now, this historic trip was well worth it.
“It’s a dream come true to have my daughter sitting beside me.”