AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Thousands of passengers race through Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas to destinations across the globe.
On June 2, Texas panhandle native and Southwest Airlines Captain Larry Vaughan was one of those passengers, but his trip had been planned for a while. After 31 years, he would be flying his retirement flight to Amarillo.
“It’s bittersweet because I love my company, love my job. I’m gonna miss it, but that’s alright. We’re leaving it in very good hands,” said Larry.
His time with Southwest is a family trait. Seven of his family members, five captains, and two flight attendants, have worked for the airline — all starting with his father, Doyle.
“He was the 17th pilot for Southwest Airlines, and it was just phenomenal. And he was one of the pioneers,” said Larry.
When his father retired, it was all Vaughn’s in the cockpit: Larry and brothers Lynn and Kevin all taking to the sky with dad. In 2017, the group made more company history by retiring an aircraft close to the family’s heart.
“It was aircraft 374. We picked up brand new in 1993 we were able to retire that airplane; the same family picked it up retired it,” Larry said.
The family affair continued onboard Southwest Flight 113 to Amarillo. His two brothers, also Southwest captains, would be joining him in the cockpit for the flight. They would be joined by their sister, Terri, Lynn’s girlfriend, Cyndi, and two close friends, Karl and Debroah, all flight attendants with Southwest.
“We have a big Southwest family,” said Larry.
“There are other airlines that would not allow family members to work in the same company,” said Larry’s brother, Capt. Lynn Vaughan. “We want this airline to be family-oriented.”
Friends, family, and co-workers gathered at Gate C1 in the airport to give Larry a proper sendoff.
“He has been, as he mentioned, a great representative of Southwest Airlines. He takes care of our customers, but most importantly, he really takes care of his fellow crew members and fellow employees. And you can ask anybody that flies with him. What a pleasure it is to fly with him. He’s been a great professional aviator. He’s done this job with the humility and the dedication. It’s just been an honor to know him these last several years,” said Southwest’s Chief Pilot for Las Vegas, Steve Durbon.
One of the passengers on the flight was Gloria ‘Glo” Schaffer. She knew Larry’s dad and worked with all three brothers at the airline.
“It’s just been a very special relationship. I’m honored that they wanted me to be a part of it,” said Schaffer.
In Southwest style, it would not be a retirement flight without a party at cruising altitude.
“Let’s raise our glass to Capt. Larry Vaughan,” flight attendant Karl Ingraham said over the intercom. “Here’s to your larry!”
What made the flight even more special is the fact that Larry’s mom, Marcella Crabtree, was able to be on board.
“Oh Larry, I tell you, it’s hard to believe that many years have gone by and you have retired. That just makes me that much older and I wish you wouldn’t do that,” said Crabtree.
“My brother and I roofed houses and built decks for five years to get money to fly three times a day. Southwest would fly over Amarillo on the route to Albuquerque, and we would both look up and point and say, ‘That’s where we’re going to be one of these days,’ and that’s where we are today,'” said Larry.
Larry will stop flying in his retirement. He hopes to fly private jets out of Amarillo. He and a group at Blue Sky Airfield will also continue to fly their WWII biplane over events in the panhandle.
Watch Capt. Vaughan’s full gate ceremony below: