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American Airlines pilot gifts wings to kid with Down syndrome


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A well-traveled set of pilot’s wings landed in new hands.

Joseph Weis, an American Airlines pilot, passed on his wings this month to a young passenger with Down syndrome during his final flight.

As Weis was retiring, Hezekiah “Ki” Alsedek, 2, was making his first trip with his mother, Sarah Tamar Klitenick, on the flight from Madrid to Miami on Oct. 2. 

“When Captain Weis found out his last flight at American was Ki’s first flight, he wanted to pass along his wings to a future generation,” Ross Feinstein, spokesperson for American Airlines, told USA TODAY in a statement. 

Weis, who began flying for American in March 1985, always enjoyed engaging with his passengers, Feinstein said.

During the flight, Klitenick and her son sat in the same row as Weis’ wife. In the sky, Klitenick learned it was Weis’ last flight, and there was a water salute scheduled when they landed. As a tradition for retiring pilots, water is blasted in an arc over an arriving or departing plane. 

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Midflight during his break, Weis came over and told Klitenick he wanted to pass his wings on to Ki. They pinned the wings on Ki in the plane’s cockpit.

“It was just a humongous honor,” Klitenick told USA TODAY. “That he felt moved to do it was even more special.”

Ki still talks about “Captain Joe,” his mother said. He likes to wear his new wings around and enjoyed the experience of flying.

Klitenick said it was really special to share the story with their family. 

“All of us at American are truly touched by the actions of Captain Joseph Weis,” Feinstein said. “We are proud of Captain Weis and wish him all the best on his retirement. We also look forward to welcoming Ki on future American flights, along with his wings.”

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Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/2019/10/14/american-airlines-pilot-gifts-wings-child-last-flight/3976168002/



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