First black chief pilot at a major U.S. airline retires

Southwest Airlines captain Louis Freeman, right, gets a hug from flight attendant Gisela Alvarez before he boards a jet to pilot his last flight for Southwest before his retirement in Dallas, Thursday, June 8, 2017. Freeman was the first African-American to become a chief pilot at a major U.S. airline and is retiring after a 36-year career that saw big changes in aviation. His most memorable flight carried the body of civil rights icon Rosa Parks. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Southwest Airlines captain Louis Freeman, right, gets a hug from flight attendant Gisela Alvarez before he boards a jet to pilot his last flight for Southwest before his retirement in Dallas, Thursday, June 8, 2017. Freeman was the first African-American to become a chief pilot at a major U.S. airline and is retiring after a 36-year career that saw big changes in aviation. His most memorable flight carried the body of civil rights icon Rosa Parks. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

DALLAS (AP) — The first black chief pilot at a major U.S. airline is retiring after a 36-year career that saw big changes in aviation.

Louis Freeman says he felt a special burden when Southwest Airlines hired him out of the Air Force in 1980. He says he wanted to be perfect so that the airline would hire other African-Americans.

Freeman made his last flight as a Southwest captain on Thursday, a few days before turning 65, the federal retirement age for airline pilots.

He says he hopes his story will inspire other blacks to pursue careers in aviation.

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