Why an ‘awe’-inspiring photo of mother-daughter pilot team is ‘good for aviation’

Wendy and Kelly Rexon, pilot and first officer, are a mother-daughter flight team with Delta Air Lines.
Wendy and Kelly Rexon, pilot and first officer, are a mother-daughter flight team with Delta Air Lines. John R. Watret, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Just before his flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta, an aeronautical university chancellor overhead a conversation between a flight attendant and a woman boarding the plane.

The woman wanted to know if her two kids could visit the cockpit of the Delta Boeing 757, according to a news release from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

“The flight attendant said they could – and that they would be surprised,” chancellor John R. Watret said, according to the university.

The mom and her children went to visit the pilots in the flight deck, and as they were heading to their seats on the plane, Watret overheard another conversation. This time, he heard the family talking about the “’mother and daughter’ flying the plane,” according to the release.

“I thought that was amazing. I was in awe,” Watret said in the release. “I asked if I could visit them, too.”

He did, and he took a now-viral photo of the mom-and-daughter pilots. The photo posted to Twitter shows pilot Wendy Rexon and her daughter, Kelly, in the flight deck, according to the university. Kelly Rexon is a first officer, or copilot.

“Just flew from LAX to ATL on Delta piloted by this mother daughter flight crew,” Watret tweeted on March 16. “Great flight. Inspiring for young women.”

Only 7 percent of pilots are women, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s 2017 data obtained by Women in Aviation International. In 2017, 42,694 of 609,306 pilots were women.

Watret’s original tweet received more than 50,000 “likes” and more than 18,000 retweets.

“Family flight crew goals!” Delta tweeted.

About five days after his first tweet, Watret followed up with the story of these women pilots.

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

Kelly’s sister is also a pilot, the university said.

“The viral tweet meant a great deal to Watret because of Embry-Riddle’s commitment to creating more opportunities for women in all areas of the aviation industry,” the university said in the release.

Aviation is expected to need 790,000 new civil aviation pilots over the next 20 years “as several hundred thousand pilots and technicians reach retirement age over the next decade,” according to Boeing.

“As the aviation workforce continues to broaden so that pilots like the Rexons are no longer a novelty, the aviation industry will grow stronger and more resilient to market changes, Watret noted,” according to his university.

Many people on Twitter were inspired by this mother-daughter flight team, and many noted that not just women should be inspired.

“Inspiring to all John, in a white male dominated profession (with all the fixes) in both the USA & Canada, not just women should be thrilled this is finally happening in 2019,” Jane Dummer tweeted.