Father and Colleague: 5 Families Share What It’s Like Working With Dad

Jun 16, 2019

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For many of us, our parents provide context for our first experiences with jobs, careers and our professional life in general. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a common question to hear when you’re a kid, and it’s equally as common to hear children say they want to do what their dads and moms do every day.

Some parents leave a particularly strong impression on their offspring, even into adulthood. TPG spoke with several families who work together in the aviation industry to learn about the “magic moments” that led these adult children to work in their fathers’ industry.

JD and Tracy, Southwest Airlines

While JD and his youngest daughter Tracy have been working together for Southwest Airlines for more than four years, they’ve been going to work together for far longer.

“My youngest daughter Tracy accompanied me several times to ‘Bring your Daughter to Work Day’ while I was working in Flight Training at Delta Air Lines,” JD told TPG. “She [would] follow me around for a while and then want to see what the flight attendants were up to.” At the time, JD never thought that Tracy might one day follow him into the airline business. But Tracy had so much fun hanging out with the flight attendants, she told told TPG that, “I knew I wanted to do it for sure when I grew up.”

JD got his start in aviation as an Air Force pilot in 1976, retiring as a colonel and a vice wing commander after 30 years of service. He also worked for Delta Air Lines for 15 years before taking an early retirement in 2005 when the company declared bankruptcy. But that wasn’t the end of JD’s aviation career: He began working for Southwest Airlines as a captain in 2006 and has “loved every minute of the last 13 years.”

Several years ago when Tracy was exploring new career opportunities, JD mentioned that Southwest was hiring across many fields and recommended that she look into her options there. Despite the rigorous training process for flight attendants, Tracy passed with flying colors, and her “extremely proud” father had the privilege of pinning on her wings at her graduation ceremony.

JD and Tracy have been able to work several flights together over their years as co-workers. “It is a very odd yet extremely satisfying feeling to work with your adult child in a professional environment,” JD said. “When we do fly together, it is very special, and it is so different to relate to my daughter as a fellow professional and not just as my child. She is good at her job and it truly suits her skill set. Did I say I was proud of her?”

But not all of their trips have been smooth sailing, JD ruefully recounted. “Our best trip together — and also our worst — was one time when we worked a flight route to Indianapolis,” he told TPG. After work, the father-duo spent the evening and following day enjoying the city before heading back to the airport to work their return route home. However, JD accidentally forgot to load Tracy’s work bag into the shuttle van, which the two didn’t discover until they arrived at the airport. “Man, did I feel bad,” JD told TPG. “My daughter was new and she needed her bag and I just left it at the hotel.” Fortunately, a responsible hotel employee found it and quickly put it in a cab headed to the airport for them. “I saved face and handed the supervisor money to tip the cabdriver heavily when he arrived. Thankfully Tracy’s bag arrived at the jet in time to allow us to depart on time. Dad almost blew it.”

Tracy, however, only remembers the good moments, especially since JD retires from Southwest at the end of June. “I will always cherish the handful of times my Dad and I were able to fly and work together,” Tracy said. “I wish we had many more years at the company together, because four and a half years have literally flown by. I’m glad I inherited a love for flying and a love of the industry from him. I thank him for all I’ve learned from him and all he’s done for me as a father/parent. Happy Fathers Day and Happy Retirement Dad!”

Just because retirement is on the horizon doesn’t mean that JD plans to stay grounded. “I have recently started teaching young military pilots on a part-time basis at Travis Air Force Base,” he said. “I am back teaching with flight engineers and boom operators I flew with over 30 years ago. It is like a great fraternity reunion. Despite missing Southwest Airlines in a couple of weeks, a little piece of me will still be there, and I will continue to keep my finger on the pulse of Southwest Airlines through my daughter.”

Harry and Vincent, Allegiant Air

Captain Harry and First Officer Vincent are the perfect example of how passions can be passed down through the generations.

Harry, a captain for Allegiant Air, fell in love with “anything to do with airplanes” after flying to Germany on a family trip as a child. He took the obsession to the next level by starting flying lessons at 19 while working as a machinist in his family’s machine shop. He got his start in commercial aviation with a regional airline in 1987, and his career continued to climb with each job transition across a total of seven different airlines. 

Along the way, Harry didn’t forget to introduce son Vincent to his passion. “My dad would occasionally take me on some of his trips,” Vincent told TPG. “I thought it was the coolest thing. But it wasn’t just flying that was exciting: it was traveling to different destinations that I had never been to before, and probably wouldn’t have visited if it hadn’t been for my dad taking me with him to work.”Both father and son are based out of the same airport in Punta Gorda, Florida, and typically fly together at least once every other month — not only getting to share their love of aviation but the actual cockpit itself. “Flying is something we both love, and the opportunity to share the experience is priceless,” Vincent said.

Despite the difference in their experience levels, Harry and Vincent have also gotten to learn together on the job. When Allegiant transitioned to an all-Airbus fleet in 2017 and Harry underwent training to operate the Airbus A320 in August 2017, he was able to study together with Vince, who was in initial training at the same time.

Father and son have gotten to operate 22 flights together thus far, and sometimes, Harry’s wife Bibi even joins in as well. Bibi, who just began her flight attendant career with Allegiant in May 2018, was able to join Harry and Vincent for a round-trip last Thanksgiving.

“My dad greatly impacted my decision to get into the industry of flying,” Vincent said. “If it wasn’t for my dad, I don’t think that I would have ever flown or even experienced flying an aircraft. As an experienced pilot, he was always there to help me understand the ups and downs, no pun intended.”

Paul and Morgane, Air France

Paul has been working for Air France for 20 years as a ground staff agent. As a British expat, Paul’s English language capabilities coupled with his other skillsets allow him to serve the thousands of international clients traveling through the Paris International Airport each day.

Paul says the shift-style work life afforded by his job gave him a lot of flexibility and free time to raise his daughter alongside of her mother while Morgane was growing up. When off the clock, “We always traveled to far away, sunny and exotic destinations,” Paul said.

“The best thing is my daughter is really starting to understand what I do (and have done) for a living,” Paul said. “It’s like sharing a secret language with her.” Although Paul and Morgane do not work in the same department for Air France, there is enough overlap in what they do that they understand many aspects of each other’s work lives.

“The fact that both my parents work at the airport has had a strong influence on my career choices,” Morgane told TPG. “I am never lost; if I have a question, I can always ask my father for advice.”

Miran and Baptiste, Air France

In 1968, Miran flew to Argentina to visit family at the young age of 7. “It was my first long journey,” he told TPG, and “it was a dream for me to travel so far by plane. This flight was an incredible experience. From that day on, I knew I was going to be a pilot.”

After graduating with a degree in engineering, Miran successfully landed a job as a pilot with Air France when he was 25 years old, where today, he pilots the Boeing B777 on long-haul flights all over the world from his home city of Paris.

Baptiste, Miran’s pilot cadet son, not only grew up under the spell of aviation but specifically with the Air France brand all around him. “I was a baby for my first flight with Air France,” he said. “I grew up with that job in mind and it seemed natural for me becoming a pilot.” Following his father’s footsteps to a T, Baptiste successfully passed the airline’s entrance exam last year and currently undergoes training as an Air France Cadet.

“After 8 months of theory in Toulouse, France, I am in Vero Beach, Florida, to pass the Private Pilot License and the Commercial Pilot License,” Baptiste told TPG. “The purpose is to be, in a bit more than a year, in a cockpit of A320 of Air France or B737 of Transavia as First Officer, basically for medium-haul flights in Europe and North Africa.”

Miran told TPG that his career choice has allowed him to spend more time with his family than most. “With office hours, usually you come back late at home, when your children are already in bed and sleeping. I can be away from home for few days. But during my days off, I am fully at home. When the children were young, I had the opportunity to pick them up at school and go to the park, unlike fathers with office jobs.”

But Miran told TPG he didn’t accomplish this alone; he had a great partner to back him up. “This set up requires a very strong spouse, someone you can rely on when you are far from home,” he said. “She had to manage the hazards of family life alone. I often say that this way of life is a team work. Without my wife I would not have been able to combine my pilot job and my family life.”

While Baptiste and Miran have yet to fly together, the elder pilot hopes the two will have the opportunity to do so before he retires. “Maybe in few years, we will have the opportunity to fly together,” Baptiste told TPG.

Their shared career paths have given the two men even more in common than their family bond. The fact that Miran instructs other pilots gave him additional credibility in Baptiste’s eyes, Miran said. “For once, he agrees to receive advice from his father!” Miran told TPG. In turn, Baptiste provides a fresh perspective for Miran. “I am proud of my son,” Miran said. “When I see him, I feel like seeing myself young again. He is going through the same steps as me.” And when Miran retires, “my relationship with Air France will continue thanks to my son,” he said. “The break will be less brutal.”

The fatherly pride, however, extends to all three of his children — whatever their career paths. “I didn’t want them to choose the same job as their father just for me,” he said. “This must be their choice.”

The Anhalt Family

Rick, retired pilot and patriarch of the Anhalt family, has had a fundamental influence on his children’s career paths. Three of the four Anhalt kids — Matthew, Elizabeth and Catherine — have followed his footsteps into the aviation industry.

Rick got his start as a captain/check airman for regional carrier Britt Airways in the 1980s, retiring from American Airlines as an Airbus A320 captain in 2017.

And Rick nurtured both his career and his family side by side. Whenever schedules permitted, the Anhalt family met up with Rick wherever he was headed. In fact, it became so commonplace that the Anhalt children began coming up with creative ways to do so.

One memorable time, the family conspired to surprise him in his hotel room. “While it was hysterical, I am surprised we didn’t give him a heart attack,” Liz told TPG. “My brothers, sister, mom and I went ahead to his final destination for the day and convinced the hotel to let us in the room before he arrived. It was the ’90s, so we got away with a lot more than what you would today. When he arrived, we jumped out of the bathroom and surprised (scared) him.”

While Rick and his kids love their jobs, they love the industry even more, and sharing that common love has made their family relationship even stronger.

“The best part is being able to relate to and talk about the same things within the aviation industry,” Matt told TPG. “Whether it’s discussing a recent event in the industry or planning our next family vacation, the knowledge we all hold individually from our jobs helps us do this. Even though our specific jobs are different, the four of us working in the industry is another way for us to keep in touch and be together.”

The only downside to sharing an aviation career with Dad? “When the industry is affected as a whole, such as with the 2008 recession, all of us are affected in some way,” Matt said. “It’s kind of like putting all your eggs in one basket, because four out of us six family members have jobs in the aviation industry.”

“Ever since I was a little kid, I loved airplanes and aviation because of my dad,” his oldest son Matt told TPG. “With my dad being a pilot, and being around/involved with aviation since I can remember, all I’ve wanted since I can remember is being involved in the industry in some way, shape, or form.”

As an airside operations coordinator for McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas (LAS), Matt keeps the airfield safe for aircraft operations, as well as serves as a first responder for any accidents or incidents on the airfield. But during his downtime, Matt uses the unique access from his job to document and share beautiful tarmac-side views of planes, support crew and vehicles, and various other aspects of airside operations that most of us never see.

Although Rick has now retired, he and Matt were able to overlap at work a few times. “It was always fun to drive out next to the runway, watch him land, and then follow him to the gate,” Matt said. “Just wanted to make sure he didn’t blow any debris onto my taxiways!”

Both of Matt’s sisters, Liz and Catherine, also work in commercial aviation. A training manager for United Airlines based out of Chicago, Liz told TPG that, “Growing up in the industry as a pilot’s daughter, I only thought of the airlines from a ‘Daddy flies big airplanes’ point of view. Having a more “creative” type personality, I didn’t initially realize there were opportunities for me in the airline industry.”

But after her sister Catherine shared how much she enjoyed her onboarding and training experience with United Airlines, Liz began to give the company and the industry a little more thought, because of the values it shared with Liz’s employer at the time, the Walt Disney Company.

Like Matt, Liz credits Rick with her passion for the industry. “Growing up, when you’re able to say, ‘my dad is a pilot,’ there was a definite sense of pride that came with that. It’s very inspiring to hear him talk about how far he came to do what he did. He’s an incredibly humble man, but he does know how to inspire us.”

Rick’s direction extends beyond his career successes; Liz distinctly remembers what happened when she didn’t get into a school play in the third grade. “I’ll never forget my dad getting me out of bed as I was crying myself to sleep. He brought out a folder and showed me all of his rejection letters from when he was applying to be a commercial airline pilot; and then the last letter was his welcome letter to Britt Airways.”

“Dad told me that becoming a pilot is an incredibly competitive field, but he never let that stop him from pursuing his dreams,” Liz said. “I’ll never forget that night because it taught me to always go after what I want, even if there are roadblocks.”

Today, as a wife and mother to two young boys, Liz says she wants to, “inspire my kids the way my dad has done for me, especially as a woman in this industry.” It sounds like she’s well on her way: both sons already show interest in the industry. “My four-year old’s favorite thing to do on my phone is to track flights and identify aircraft via the Flightradar24 app.”

“Being in this industry has influenced my entire life, and now I see it within my kids,” Liz told TPG. “I want them to appreciate the world.”

Catherine, a flight attendant for United Airlines, agrees wholeheartedly with her siblings’ take on Rick’s influence over her career. “Growing up in an airline family was all I knew. It wasn’t a traditional upbringing, but it’s all I knew and I loved all our traveling.”

As anyone from a large family can attest, big families that remain close into adulthood have endless stories to share. “We have a family group chat and share our location with one another,” Liz told TPG. “It’s not uncommon for us to be in different countries or on different continents, and that’s pretty darn cool.”

As a result of pooling each person’s job perks and available resources, the extended Anhalt family has been able to keep in touch and meet up in destinations and at times that many others cannot. 

Continuing the tradition, the entire family was able to fly to Italy to meet up with Catherine over spring break during her semester abroad in Florence. At the time, Liz was living in Shanghai while her brothers lived in Illinois, so it was really special for the family to be able to come together from their various locations around the world.

Aviation is an integral part of the Anhalt family, as evidenced by Rick’s retirement flight in 2017. The entire family flew from Chicago to Philadelphia wearing T-shirts that read, “Who’s the greatest pilot you’ve ever seen? You’re looking at him.”

The youngest Anhalt sibling, Joe, brought along a camera to document the special day; there was a water cannon send off; and the “entire family and then some” were on the flight as well.

“But what made it extra special was that my husband and my kids were there,” Liz said. “I’ll always have the image of my dad in his uniform, walking through Philadelphia with my son holding his hand. It was an amazing day.”

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