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'Pilot bug' runs deep in family of airline captains

The Wakefield’s got together in June and posed for a photo in their pilot uniforms. Pictured, from left, are Todd, Bruce, Scott and their father Richard Wakefield. Submitted photo

According to 1974 graduate of Hastings High School, Scott Wakefield, it's a big deal to make captain rank in the commercial airline business. Wakefield is now based in Detroit as a pilot captain for Delta Airlines.

"(Becoming a pilot captain) is the ultimate achievement in the airline business," Scott said.

But Scott isn't the only Wakefield to achieve pilot status. The airline business is all in the family when it comes to the Wakefields. Both of Scott's brothers and his father achieved captain status. Even his sister got in on the airline business for a while. Robin LaMonte, Scott's sister, was a flight attendant and a 1975 graduate of HHS. Bruce Wakefield, an HHS graduate of 1976, is an American Airlines captain based in Texas. Todd Wakefield, a 1978 graduate of HHS, is a captain for Delta based in Minneapolis.

The three boys first got the "pilot bug" as they were growing up. Richard Wakefield, the family patriarch, is a retired Northwest pilot who flew for almost 30 years. He retired in 1995, but his career left an impression on his kids.

"I always dreamt of being in the cockpit," Scott said.

Scott said he remembers sitting around watching planes take off at Post Road in St. Paul. He said that his father used to say that he would fly over the farm when he flew in the army too.

"We'd go out there and watch him buzz us," he said.

Todd remembers flying with his father in the jump seat of the cockpit around age 10. They flew from Minneapolis to Chicago in a 707 aircraft.

The family was recently together at a family member's wedding in the Atlanta area — which also happens to be Delta's hub. The boys were able to arrange a tour at the Delta Flight Museum along with a flight simulation.

There was a static display of a 747, an aircraft that Richard actually flew when he was a pilot. The plane on display was one that he used to fly when he worked for the airline. After the tour, the boys took Richard into a flight simulator where he was able to simulate flying an airplane just like the old times.

Todd said that his father is typically pretty stoic so it was difficult to clearly see emotion on his face, but Todd said that he knew he was excited.

"It was fun to see my dad relive his glory days," Todd said.

The line of Wakefield pilots may continue as Todd's son will be following in the footsteps of his father, uncles and grandfather. He begins the aviation program in North Dakota later this year.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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