From the Hangars

African American Aviation History: Celebrating the Career of Captain Cal Flanigan

Feb 06, 2024

Cal Flanigan_FINAL_2013

Captain Calvin Flanigan, 2013. 

With over 45 years of service to the airline, Captain Calvin Flanigan embodies the Delta spirit. His dream was always to be in aviation and when his high school guidance counselor dismissed the notion, Cal used it as inspiration to achieve his goal.  


Flanigan as First Officer ca. 1980.

Flanigan first joined Delta as a mechanic in 1968. A year later he was drafted into the Army for two years. After his service, Cal used the GI bill and savings to start training as a pilot and, in 1976, he became a first officer flying DC-9s for Delta. His dream was realized.


Captain Flanigan in cockpit window after retirement flight, March 2013.

During his career, Flanigan was certified on many different aircraft, logged more than 26,000 flight hours, and flew roughly 12.5 million miles. He landed at 95 destinations on six continents and flew some impressive inaugurals, including Delta's to Dubai. The last eight years of his career he served as Delta's chief pilot. 


Water cannon salute over Captain Flanigan's final flight, March 2013. 

Captain Flanigan's final flight for Delta was from Los Angeles (LAX) to Atlanta (ATL) on a 777 in March 2013. Upon arrival he received a water cannon salute and was met by Delta employees at the gate to celebrate. In his 45 years at Delta, it's said he never took a sick day.


Delta pilots saluting Captain Flanigan upon arrival of his retirement flight, March 2013.

In honor of Cal, the Delta Flight Museum will be showing a new video in our American Express Theater that tells the story of how he inspired another African American aviator, Thomas Witts, to achieve his dream of becoming a Delta pilot. 

Thank you Captain Flanigan for your service and for inspiring future generations of aviators! 

If you have any stories or experiences with Cal please share in the comments! 


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Specialist-Exhibits and Projects



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  1. Srtephanie "Stevie" | Jun 07, 2024

    After finishing an HBCU I was blessed with a career with Delta. I was the first and only Black Air Ground Radio Operator at Delta. Our department was taken over by what we know of as emails. All Delta Pilots mostly now retired are the only ones that know what it was like to actually talk to a human instead of sending an email.


  2. Sharon White | Jun 05, 2024
    Captain Cal Flanigan was a true gentleman. Looking into his eyes you see the soul if a man who has integrity and character. Flying with Cal was such a wonderful experience as you knew ge cared for his crew, would back you up and always do the right thing. Men like him are rare. Thanks for being you and following your dream. 
  3. Cindy Green | Jun 04, 2024
    A gentleman and a scholar.cindy 
  4. Bianca Van Buren | Feb 08, 2024
    He was the absolute best! He always looked out for his crew. All of us. I never saw him have an off day. When we flew with Captain Cal, we knew that it was going to be a great trip.
  5. Martha B. Higgins | Feb 08, 2024
    Capt. Flanigan started at Delta a few years after I did, but I flew with him fairly often from his early days and it was always a pleasure.  I lovely, genteel man who loved to fly and it showed!
  6. John Andrews | Feb 06, 2024

    I experienced and saw many things that Captain Flanigan was a part of. He was a true gentleman, very honest  and a true man of integrity and character. One day back in the 90s Cal and I worked together in the International Chief Pilot Office. We drove over to a retirement celebration of mechanics at the TOC. These were guys he had worked with as a mechanic in the early years. As we walked into this huge area of guys celebrating, almost everyone of those guys retiring who had worked with Cal stopped their celebration and all walked over to offer their congratulations to Cal for being the International Chief Pilot. This was a true tribute to Captain Cal Flanigan who had busted his rear working with them during those years. 
    That was then and now something that I truly was so honored for Cal and for these men stepping up and recognizing him in a time that was for them. 


  7. Bob Mink | Feb 06, 2024
    THANKS For your many years of servce.  I am very proud of my 43 years with Delta and have many great     Memories. Happy retirement Captain

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