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These Delta pilots are father and son — flying has cemented their ‘incredibly special’ bond

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A father and son have a unique take on flying. 

Cole Kaynor, 30, is a first officer at Delta Air Lines. He’s also the son of Rich Kaynor, captain and managing director for Flight Training and Standards at Delta Air Lines. 

The two have worked at the same company for just over a year, but their bond already has grown stronger through working at the same airline, they told Fox News Digital in a recent email interview.

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Rich Kaynor, an Atlanta-based pilot, received his license in 1978 and worked for Northwest Airlines until 2009, when the company merged with Delta. 

Cole Kaynor, a resident of Tacoma, Washington, recounted growing up with a father in aviation. He said that when his dad talked about his job, his father’s eyes “always lit up.”

Cole Kaynor, pictured as a child, grew up watching his father fly planes — but didn't think that would be his own path as an adult. 

Cole Kaynor, pictured as a child, grew up watching his father fly planes — but didn’t think that would be his own path as an adult.  (The Kaynor Family)

When Cole Kaynor’s eighth birthday party was held at the Portland International Airport, he and his friends received a behind-the-scenes tour of air travel operations, he said. 

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Having his dad guide the group through the experience was special for him, but he never felt called to aviation, said the younger Kaynor.

“While I was growing up, there were times he mentioned that I should consider aviation as a career … It never resonated with me,” he said. 

Rich Kaynor (at left) has been a pilot for nearly 40 years — something his son, Cole Kaynor, recalls being proud of as a child. Today, both men fly for the same airline. 

Rich Kaynor (at left) has been a pilot for nearly 40 years — something his son, Cole Kaynor, recalls being proud of as a child. Today, both men fly for the same airline.  (The Kaynor Family)

When training to be an EMT, however, Cole Kaynor said he had a “light-bulb moment” while speaking with his parents about the different elements of the perfect job for him — realizing they aligned more with being a pilot than being an EMT. 

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“I saw my dad’s eyes light up, and he said, ‘If you like all of those things — and you can pack a suitcase — you should be an airline pilot!’” the 30-year-old said. 

Cole Kaynor enrolled in flight training to become a pilot.

He moved back in with his parents in order to afford school after his dad and his mom, Julie, said he needed some “skin in the game,” he said.

“Being able to share the experience with my dad has already been the thrill of a lifetime.”

Throughout the numerous hours of studying and flight practice, Cole Kaynor said he knew the goal would be worth it.

“Every time I needed the extra bit of motivation to study for a test … keeping that goal in mind provided the spark I needed to get the job done,” he said. 

The Kaynors' father-son bond has grown thanks to their shared career path, said dad Rich Kaynor and son Cole Kaynor. 

The Kaynors’ father-son bond has grown thanks to their shared career path, said dad Rich Kaynor and son Cole Kaynor.  (The Kaynor Family)

Rich Kaynor knew his son would be successful from his own experience in the industry and from what he knew about his son, he said.

“Although I can still share insight or historical perspective on things, Cole’s maturity and wisdom is self-made,” he said. 

In February 2022, Cole Kaynor was hired by Delta Air Lines to fly the A320 aircraft — something Rich had hoped for over 40 years to see. 

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“Although I was planning to finish my career flying the A350, I just knew I had to re-qualify on the A320 and finish my career flying with Cole,” Rich Kaynor said about his decision to go back to training.

A year later, Rich Kaynor flew an A320 aircraft from Los Angeles International Airport to the Lihue Airport in Lihue, Hawaii. Then, with his mom on board, Cole Kaynor flew the aircraft from Lihue to Seattle, Washington. 

Rich Kaynor (left) and Cole Kaynor flew together for the first time in February 2023 — something the proud dad had hoped for years they'd experience.

Rich Kaynor (left) and Cole Kaynor flew together for the first time in February 2023 — something the proud dad had hoped for years they’d experience. (The Kaynor Family)

Another special part of that day? Cole Kaynor turned 30 years old while in flight. 

His son did well, said the dad.

“I’m happy to turn over the airline reins to him knowing we’re in good hands.”

“As predicted, he flew like a pro and smoothly rolled it onto the runway with snow falling in [Seattle],” he noted.

Flying with his son has only grown the pair’s bond, said the elder Kaynor.

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“I often look at his schedule to see where he is … looking for the next opportunity to hop on one of his flights,” he said. 

Cole Kaynor (on the left as a boy) and his dad, Rich Kaynor, are both pilots and share an incredible bond. On right, the two pictured together.

Cole Kaynor (on the left as a boy) and his dad, Rich Kaynor, are both pilots and share an incredible bond. On right, the two pictured together. (The Kaynor Family)

This experience has been special, noted his son — and not one many fathers and sons get to experience. 

“Being able to share the experience with my dad has already been the thrill of a lifetime,” he said. 

In December 2023, Rich Kaynor will retire officially from Delta Air Lines after 14 years with the company.

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Although the two were pilots together for only a short time, the proud father said his son is more than ready to continue the Kaynor legacy. 

“I’m happy to turn over the airline reins to him knowing we’re in good hands.”

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