Pilot Delays Takeoff for Dying 2-Year-Old's Grandfather

Filed under: In The News


In a brilliant flash of humanity that almost makes up for the bad press airlines have been getting for years, a Southwest Airlines pilot delayed takeoff of a flight last week out of compassion for a desperate Arizona man who was trying to reach the bedside of his dying 2-year-old grandson.

Mark Dickinson, an engineer, was in Los Angeles on a business trip when he learned his grandson, Caden Rogers, was brain dead and about to be taken off life support at a Denver hospital. The boy had suffered head injuries a few days earlier, allegedly at the hands of Theodore Madrid, the boyfriend of Dickinson's daughter, Ashley Rogers, ABC News reports.

Dickinson rushed to Los Angeles International Airport, only to be met with a typical long, slow-moving security line. So, naturally, he appealed to airport workers to let him move to the front of the line.

"I talked to some people in line and tried to tell them what was going on and they were pretty much of the opinion that it didn't matter what my particular situation was. I needed to go like everyone else," Dickinson tells ABC. "Everybody just acted like it was no big deal."

Dickinson realized he wasn't going to make the flight and felt anxious because he didn't know when he would be able to get on another one. So, he called his wife for help.

Nancy Dickinson, who was back home in Palominas, Ariz., called Southwest Airlines customer service and begged them to hold the plane until her husband could get there, ABC reports.

By the time Dickinson cleared security, the flight's departure time had already passed, but he grabbed his stuff and ran for the gate.

"I was carrying my belt and running in my socks to the terminal," Dickinson tells the network.

When he got the gate, Dickinson was surprised to see the plane was still there and the door to the jetway still open, ABC reports.

"They said, 'Hey, are you Mark Dickinson?' and I said, 'Yeah,' and they said, 'We're holding the plane for you.' "

The pilot was standing by the jetway, waiting to board the plane until Dickinson got there. As he rushed onto the plane, Dickinson thanked him and asked if he could quickly use the lavatory before take-off, ABC reports.

"He said, 'No problem. They can't leave without me, anyway,' " Dickinson tells ABC. "I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe they even knew who I was."

The pilot, whose name has not yet been released, held the flight for 12 minutes at LAX, which ABC News aviation consultant John Nance says is "an eternity."

Dickinson made it to Denver in time to be with his daughter before Caden was removed from life support, ABC reports, adding that the boy's organs were donated and he was buried Jan. 12.

Dickinson says he couldn't find the pilot after the flight to thank him properly, and now just wants to shake his hand, ABC reports.

"I can't tell him how grateful I am that he did that for me," Dickinson says.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.