CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Airline pilot is among the most prestigious and demanding professions. 

Somehow, it’s always reassuring to see a gray-headed captain in the cockpit, knowing there is a wealth of experience behind the flight controls.   

But what happens when the captain ages out? 

The mandatory retirement age for airline pilots is 65. Only one-third of these pilots ever make it to retirement due to the strict medical exams that must be passed every six months.  

With mere days leading up to an airline pilot’s 65th birthday, emotions rise. What happens after that very last flight? 

A lot of pomp and circumstance and some pretty impressive waterworks! 

“Water cannons are a very special tradition for the retiring pilot,” explained retired airline captain Lori Cline. “The fire hoses showering the aircraft as it taxis to the gate after the final flight is an honor bestowed upon the captain by airport rescue and firefighters.” 

Cline is a member of the Piedmont Silver Eagles, a 1,200-member group with strong ties to the original and iconic Piedmont Airlines. She, and other members, are on hand to celebrate the retirement of American Airlines Captain Greg Farbo. Both he and Cline started their airline careers with Piedmont, eventually being absorbed into the American Airlines branding.  

Fargo has just completed his last flight, just days before turning 65. He has flown American Airlines Flight 725 from Dublin to Charlotte. His bird is doused with water, and after parking the aircraft and shaking hands with each of his 210 passengers, he takes his last walk off the aircraft.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Captain Greg Farbo for the very last time as he exits the jetway and enters retirement,” shouted the public address system at Charlotte Douglas International’s Gate A4. 

To the sound of cheers, Farbo expresses gratitude, saying the best part of the job that he will never forget is the people.  

Captain Greg Farbo and wife/co-pilot Stephanie.

For the captain, the journey has been a long one — four decades logging more than 30,000 hours, safely flying countless passengers millions of miles to their destinations. 

Dozens of folks gather to congratulate Farbo. Even his very first flight instructor, Bill Settle, also a Piedmont Airlines alum, is on hand to wish him well. He gave Fargo his very first flight lesson 43 years ago. 

“He was an outstanding student; I am happy for him,” Settle said. 

Settle is also retired. He says it can be bittersweet. 

“You pour everything into your flying career, and then it suddenly comes to an abrupt end,” he said. 

‘Captain at home’ 

But that airline career will never truly leave Farbo, thanks to a living souvenir that will remain by his side.  

That’s because his longtime co-pilot is his wife of 11 years. She is American Airlines First Officer Stephanie Farbo. 

“He’s the captain in the cockpit, but I’m the captain at home,” declares Stephanie. 

“True,” her husband affirms.     

The two met on the flight deck more than a decade ago, paired up as a crew flying a trip to Pittsburgh. 

The pair remember it well. 

“It was the Fourth of July, actually,” Greg giddily chimed in, “There were fireworks everywhere.”    

Such husband-and-wife pilot crews are rare and a first for the Piedmont Silver Eagles. 

Being a typical married couple (albeit with atypical jobs), the duo admits they have bickered on the flight deck from time to time but always managed to work it out, keeping the cockpit professional. 

While Captain Greg will spend more time at home, Stephanie will continue in the cockpit. She will never forget their last flight together, flying a Boeing 777 from Dublin to Charlotte.  

“Did you learn anything from the old guy?” the reporter joked.  

“Of course, I picked his brain all across the ocean,” Stephanie admitted. “I had to soak up that last bit of knowledge before he’s gone,”  

“… and I’ve learned from her,” admitted her husband. 

The Federal Aviation Administration is considering raising the mandatory retirement age from 65 to 67.