United pilot surprises teen he inspired


Robert Loesch was just 10 years old when he stepped aboard one of our flights from Chicago O’Hare to Denver seven years ago. Now age 17 and headed to flight school, he says it was that flight with Captain Denny Flanagan that changed his life.

Robert recently learned of Denny’s upcoming retirement and wrote a touching letter about the huge impact Denny’s actions had on him.

“It gave me goosebumps to see him in that simulator today and pursuing his dream.”
- United Captain Denny Flanagan

“I had always had a passion for aviation, but that night you helped shape my future and became a role model in my life,” he wrote. “From that moment on I have been working to become a pilot at United Airlines. Not just any pilot, though. I hope to someday carry on your legacy of premier customer service … You go above and beyond to make sure everyone has a very pleasant experience flying on your aircraft. I read in an article a few weeks ago about your retirement flight coming up. Tears came to my eyes … Thank you so much for continuing to be an inspiration to me and many other pilots.”

In support of Robert’s pursuit of becoming a pilot – maybe even a United pilot! – we couldn’t resist inviting him to our Denver Flight Training Center where he toured the facility, met with our recruitment team and even sat in a Boeing 757 simulator with an instructor.

While Robert sat in the simulator learning from the instructor, Denny paid him a surprise visit.

“I am shocked right now,” Robert said. “This is already so incredible and having him here in person makes this that much better. It’s so exciting to see him again and to sit beside him in the simulator.”

Denny said, “I was awestruck to meet Robert. What a great young man and inspiration to other young men and women aspiring to get into the aviation industry. It gave me goosebumps to see him in that simulator today and pursuing his dream, and what a great job he did in there! I’m very impressed with him and I know he’s going to be a great pilot.”

Over the next 20 years, we’ll hire more than 10,000 pilots based on retirements and attrition alone. In that same time period, U.S. airlines will need to hire more than 50,000 pilots. As Denny nears his June 1 retirement date and passes the baton to our next generation of aviators, Robert’s letter came as a delightful surprise.

“Receiving that letter truly just sums up my career,” said Denny. “Knowing that I made an impact on this little kid and learning that he is now on the path of realizing his dream of becoming a pilot couldn’t be more rewarding for me.”

Watch the video of their reunion below.

Captain Denny Flanagan’s final flight – “The best location in the nation is home”

After 30 dedicated years with United, Captain Denny Flanagan flew his last trip with the company, making his final stop at ORD. Watch the video below to see how employees, customers and Denny’s family celebrate his great career and final flight.