WASHINGTON - A United Airlines pilot surprised his son returning home from deployment in Kuwait. The captain piloted a military-chartered flight with his son's unit on board and the soldier had no idea his father would be flying the plane.
The airline and flight crew were both in on the surprise and it all went off without a hitch, caught on camera with passengers posting it onto social media.
"Very overwhelming," said pilot Mario Lopes. "A lot of support from a lot of people. Apparently this video has made a lot of people cry. It made me cry."
Lopes's son was returning home after a nine-month deployment in the U.S. Army.
"United was chartered to do a military charter," the pilot said. "I happened to see it and was able to pick it up, so my wife and I kept that a surprise. We wanted to surprise him on his return home."
It was a very emotional reunion for the father and son.
"His eyes opened up like saucers and he was extremely surprised and we just embraced and hugged," said Lopes.
And the two just couldn't stop crying and hugging.
"When I was hugging him, I did say welcome home, I love you and kissed him on the cheek and we just hugged for a few minutes," he recalled.
Captain Lopes lives in Gainesville, Virginia. His son, First Lieutenant Mario Lopes, is based at Fort Story in Virginia Beach. The YouTube video showing the two reuniting has over 200,000 views and counting.
"It's nice that something touches our hearts and we are all human and caring human beings," said Captain Lopes.
The surprise reunion happened in Frankfurt, Germany at the beginning of the flight. Captain Lopes has been a pilot for 40 years and he never thought he would have an opportunity like this.