Mother-Daughter Pilot Team Inspires Passengers (And The Internet)

Currently, only seven percent of licensed pilots in the US are women, therefore, finding two women flying a commercial airliner is a rarity. Even more exceptional is finding a mother/daughter team at the helm.

Yet that is what Dr. John R. Watret, the Chancellor of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a self-described aviation geek, discovered when he asked to visit the cockpit of his Delta flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta on March 17. Watret tweeted a photo of the pilots after he landed, writing, “Just flew from LAX to ATL on Delta piloted by this mother daughter flight crew. Great flight. Inspiring for young women.”

Watret was alerted to the presence of the mother/daughter duo after another passenger asked if her children could visit the cockpit. When they returned to their seats, the chancellor overhead the kids excitedly talking about the “mother and daughter” flying the plane, so Watret asked if he could visit too.

“I thought that was amazing. I was in awe,” he said after meeting Captain Wendy Rexon and her daughter, First Officer Kelly.

It is not purely a coincidence that the Rexons are both pilots. Wendy’s husband is a pilot for American Airlines; her father is a retired pilot; and her other daughter is also a pilot. Watret was mainly inspired by the mother/daughter team since he is the chancellor of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a private university that offers associate, bachelor, master's, and PhD degree programs in arts and sciences, aviation, business, engineering, computer programming, cyber security and security and intelligence.

Watret is also well aware that more women are needed in the field. “There has to be more diversification in the industry,” he said. “It’s crucial and one of the key factors we focus on. When there are more opportunities, everyone wins.”

“The first officer had a great role model for becoming a pilot – her mother,” he added. “It’s good for aviation and inspiring for all of us.”

Watret, who said that he seldom posts to social media, said his photo of the Rexons had gotten an incredible amount of attention. So far, the tweet has received 612 comments, 18,000 retweets and 51,000 likes.

Delta was also happy to see Watret's tweet and responded, writing, "John, thank you so much for the shout-out of this dynamic duo. We are very #DeltaProud of Wendy and Kelly! #KeepClimbing"

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According to Women in Aviation International, a nonprofit organization that promotes advancement of women in all aviation career fields and interests, in the US, there are 98,161 commercial pilots, of which only 6,267 are women. The numbers have been fluctuating for the last two decades with little improvement. In 2009, there were 8,289 female commercial pilots, while in 2002, there were 7,454. Perhaps, the Rexons will begin to reverse this trend.

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