A military officer recently received quite the surprise on his flight home from the Middle East after a long deployment.
When United Airlines Capt. Mario Lopes learned that there was an opportunity to pilot a military flight to Norfolk, Virginia, on the same day that his son, First Lt. Mario Lopes, was scheduled to return from a deployment in Kuwait, Lopes knew he had to take the opportunity to pilot the plane, despite not knowing if his son would be on that exact flight.
“I told my wife that this couldn’t be a coincidence,” Capt. Lopes recently told ABC News. “No one could confirm or deny if he would actually be a passenger on my aircraft, but I knew I had to take the chance and find out.”
According to ABC News, on the day of the flight, Capt. Lopes briefed his flight crew about his plan to surprise his son and asked for their help in executing the plan.
“I gave my lead flight attendant, Audrey, a bag of Mario’s favorite cookies to distract him while I tried to sneak onboard,” Capt. Lopes told ABC. “It seemed like time was standing still; I was anxious, excited, and just could not believe that this opportunity was ahead of me,” he added.
Once his son had finally made his way onboard the plane, Lopes walked behind him and surprised him.
“I made my way behind him and asked, ‘First Lieutenant Lopes, what are you doing on my aircraft?’” Capt. Lopes said. “When he turned around we embraced for as long as I could hold him. I cannot express the emotions I felt holding my son after not seeing him for so long.”
The touching moment and the long hug was captured on video. Capt. Lopes told ABC that in his many decades of piloting airplanes, that flight was “by far the most important” to him.
“I have been flying since I was 17, I’ve worked for multiple companies prior to my 27-year career at United,” Capt. Lopes said. “I’ve had a lot of memories, but this flight is by far the most important to me.”