(CNN) – During the commercial aviation pandemic downturn, countless skilled pilots are pulling out to save the jobs of their younger cohorts. During Captain Paul Holmes’ last flight for Delta Air Lines, a chance conversation with an air traffic controller brought him back to his early days at the airline.
Air traffic controller Ashleigh Goldberg with her late grandfather William Hochbrunn, a former Northwest Airlines pilot
Courtesy Ashleigh Goldberg
Ashleigh Goldberg, controller of the Boston Center, gave a hint about Holmes’ retired flight and turned on her microphone and asked if he would fly for Northwest Airlines before it merged with Delta in 2008. Goldberg said her grandfather, William Hochbrunn, was a northwest pilot.
“Bill Hochbrunn was your grandfather?” asked a surprised Holmes.
“Yes,” replied Goldberg.
A few seconds of stunned silence followed until Holmes announced that Hochbrunn, who died in 2018 at the age of 96, hired him at Northwest Airlines in 1981.
“We loved your grandfather,” said Holmes over the radio. “He gave us our career with Northwest Airlines.”
“Since the traffic was a bit lost, there was a little more time for an exchange on the frequencies,” Goldberg later told CNN. “It was the perfect end to the book and for Paul the circle came full.”
Captain Paul Holmes (far left), Ashleigh Goldberg and their husband Garrett met in Playa del Carmen, Mexico on October 9, 2020.
Courtesy Paul HolmesC
Since first speaking on August 19, Holmes and Goldberg have met in person and even went on vacation with their families. The two had the opportunity to share stories about Goldberg’s grandfather and its impact on both aviation careers.
“It would mean a lot to him,” said Goldberg of her grandfather, who began flying northwest in 1941. “Nobody in the family has anything to do with aviation except me.”
The chance friendship during the flight was recognized by the FAA and the Goldberg union, as well as on YouTube, where Holmes’ co-pilot posted a recording of the conversation on his farewell flight. “I think it was the best of all flights I’ve had in my life,” said Holmes. “I think it shows that the world is actually still a pretty bright and shiny place. A lot of good things happen in this world, you just have to be open to them and see them.”