Matthew Wright still remembers his first time flying solo. He was 16.
He had been taking flight lessons in Addison, Texas, a few times a week. After a lengthy ground school course and 20 hours of instruction, his flight instructor, Dale Lenhert, decided it was time for Matthew to begin flying by himself.
“But of course, Dale didn’t give me any advance notice,” he says. “He unplugged his headset and reached for the door handle before telling me to come back after three touch and goes.”
The door slammed shut, and Wright was immediately terrified.
“Then the adrenaline kicked in, and I headed for the runway,” he says. “That was still one of the best days of my life.
Flash forward nearly 17 years, where Matthew found himself under the instruction of Dale once again. This time, however, he was Matthew’s Simulator Instructor for Southwest.
“It was pretty cool to have my first flying instructor guide me through my last formal training program as a professional pilot,” he says. “It was fitting that he trained me for the job that was just a mere aspiration when we met 17 years ago.”
But in reality, Matthew’s dream of being a Southwest Pilot was more than just a wishful thinking. He grew up in a Southwest household—his father Frank Wright was a Southwest Pilot for 28 years. While he says he never made an official proclamation that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, it was generally understood by his family that working for Southwest was what he wanted to do.
“I got to watch my father do what he loved to do every day,” he says. “I guess it was contagious because it’s been the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do.”
After completing his Private Pilot’s License at 17, Matthew attended the University of Oklahoma where he participated in their Aviation Program. While there, he completed his Instrument Rating and Commercial License in addition to his Bachelor's Degree. The summer prior to his senior year, Matthew completed his multi-engine certification in Dallas and was hired to fly cargo in a small twin engine airplane until he graduated in 2006.
Under Dale’s instruction, Matthew watched his dream of flying for Southwest become a reality.
“Our relationship as instructor and student came full circle in a way that few relationships do,” he says. “Dale is very meticulous and thorough: two great qualities in a flight instructor.”
He says it was Dale’s gentle nature and wealth of knowledge about the 737 and the way Southwest operates it that made his experience as a New Hire enjoyable. He says he’s looking forward to working for the Company that inspired him to be a Pilot, the Company that he grew up admiring.
“I've always felt proud of Southwest, and I'm happy to now work here and contribute to its success,” he says. “Flying is the best job in the world, and I'm very excited to get to do it for Southwest Airlines.”