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! 


    Austin Vallejos-Coleman

    Specialist-Exhibits and Projects