Final flight: Bemidji Airport honors retiring pilot
BEMIDJI -- When employees at Bemidji Regional Airport learned of Lance Broadbent’s retirement from American Airlines, they made sure to give the pilot of 33 years a send-off to remember last Saturday.
Immediately after landing from his Minneapolis flight, Broadbent was welcomed to Bemidji by flashing police lights and a water cannon salute -- in a surprise orchestrated by his sons and the airport staff.
“It’s a special moment,” Broadbent’s son, Evan, said.
Broadbent, who was set to retire this October at the age of 65, is one of hundreds of American Airlines pilots to accept early retirement offered by the company -- as commercial air travel has declined amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“This has all happened so suddenly,” Broadbent said. “It made more sense to take the leave than stay.”
But when the opportunity arose last Saturday to accompany his sons, Evan and Lee -- both of whom are also commercial pilots -- on a flight from Minneapolis to Bemidji, Broadbent embraced the first-time chance for two generations of his family to share the flight deck.
“This was an incredibly special day. The fact that three of us were on the flight deck together is rare. This is really, really rare, and it’s more than I could have ever asked for,” Broadbent said. “This is a thrill that -- I’ll just put it this way -- this is my proudest moment as a father to ride with these guys today.”