Saturday, July 23, 2022, may have been an important day for Southwest Airlines, but it was also the day “a dream came true” for the Petitt family.
On that day, Captain Holly Petitt and First Officer Keely Petitt flew their first flight together, making them Southwest’s first ever mother/daughter pilot team. Flight 3658 was from Denver, where the two pilots are from, to St. Louis.
“It’s been a dream come true,” said Holly, the mother, according to Southwest Airlines. “First, I found this career and fell in love with it, and then that one of my kids fell into this and in love with this career too. It’s surreal.”
While a mother/daughter pilot team is unusual, it’s rare when you consider the number of female pilots in general.
On the one hand, the number of women holding Federal Aviation Administration student pilot certificates doubled between 2007 and 2017, which shows a growing interest among female pilots. However, in the U.S., just 6,994 women hold FAA certificates as airline pilots, which is 4.4 percent of the total number of airline pilots, according to CAPA – Centre for Aviation.
Two Separate Flight Paths
Holly Petitt started her aviation career right out of college as a flight attendant working for another carrier. After riding the jumpseat in the flight deck, she realized she wanted to learn to fly planes.
“I sat up there and just had an ‘aha!’ moment where I was [like], ‘This is it,’” Holly said, according to Denver7 ABC. “I realized this is what I want to do with the rest of my life.”
Holly then began training and obtaining her flight certifications. She has now been a pilot for Southwest for 18 years.
Meanwhile, Holly’s daughter, Keely, grew up around aviation.
“I grew up watching my mom, just an awesome example of what it means to be in aviation and a strong female pilot,” said Keely, Denver7 ABC reports. “And when I was little, I would always go with her on her trips.”
Keely’s life changed when she was 14 and she and her siblings received a discovery flight as a gift.
“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,” Keely said. “And I just remember going up on my intro flight, ‘Oh my gosh, this is what I want to do forever.’”
After realizing she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a pilot, Keely began to seriously pursue her passion for flying. First, she earned her pilot’s license, and then she “even landed an internship at Southwest in fall 2017,” Southwest reports.
In May, just like her mom, Keely was hired by Southwest Airlines.
“Southwest was always the end goal for me,” Keely said. “There was really never any other option.”
A Flight That Was A ‘Dream Come True’
Holly recalls that she then gave a special speech to the flight’s passengers.
“I’m going to interrupt my normally scheduled briefing here for some exciting news: Today is a really special day for me,” Holly remembers, reports Denver7 ABC. “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.”
As you might expect, applause then broke out among the flight’s 175 passengers.
“Thank you all for being here. This is an exciting day for us and for Southwest Airlines — a very special day,” Holly remembers saying. “We are the first mother-daughter duo ever on the flight deck of Southwest Airlines, so thank you for being here.”
So, after that memorable day, will Holly and Keely fly together again? It’s possible.
Holly and Keely don’t have a regular schedule working together but they may fly together if they can trade flights with other pilots so their schedules align again.
For more about pilots, be sure to also read: