On February 23, 2019, tragedy shocked the aviation world when Atlas Flight 3591 went down in Trinity Bay just outside of Anahauc, TX just before 12:45 pm CST. The flight was a cargo transport from MIA to IAH for Prime Air using a twin-engine Boeing 767 and had three people aboard – Captain Ricky Blakely, FO Conrad Aska, and Mesa jumpseater Sean Archuleta. There were no survivors.
When tragedy strikes the aviation world, it affects all of us. We are a tight-knit family, and we are all only a few degrees from the incident. If we did not know those involved, we know those who did. We all pray, hope, and believe that these types of events will never rock our world, but when they do we stand together as one family, regardless of type rating, airline affiliation, or even country of origin. Even though the media did not feel like it was a ‘big story’ and it quickly fizzled out because the jet was cargo and there apparently weren’t enough people aboard to warrant wide coverage, to us it is our family. It affects us all to the core and leaves us with an empty hole in our hearts and in our extended family.
Captain Archuleta was, by all accounts, a stand-up guy who was easy to be around and who cared immensely for others. “I was friends with and flew with Sean,” states Captain Cole Goldenberg. “He would’ve been the first person there for everyone else in a tragedy like this. He is a very special guy.”
Just before the tragic accident that took his life, Captain Archuleta had been hired by United Airlines (UAL) and had already been assigned his class date – he was on his way to the majors! This is a celebratory event that we all look forward to as we move through the life of aviation, and it was not different for the Archuleta family. However, fate took away their moment and left a PW sister behind with her young children to figure out how to face another day without her Captain.
In a gesture of kindness, respect, and utmost class, United Airlines is doing something incredible. During Sean’s Indoc class on March 12th, they will leave his seat vacant in memory of the great loss that rocked the aviation world and the hole that is left in all of our hearts. What an incredibly honorable and classy gesture!
Furthermore, they presented his widow with UAL wings and epaulets. As told by UAL Captain Gunn:
“An update regarding Captain Sean Archuleta. He was the jumpseat rider on the prime Atlas/Prime Air crash who had a class date to begin at United, this week I believe. I operated flight 1009 to Bogota on Friday March 1st. Prior to heading to the airport, I was contacted by the IAH Chief Pilot and informed that his widow would be on our flight returning to Colombia where she currently lives. He asked if I could deliver a package to her from United. Of course I agreed to help in any way that I could. United had her booked in First Class and escorted her to the Polaris Club before the flight with plans for a personal escort to the airplane for departure. I coordinated to have her escorted to the plane and be in her seat about 5 minutes prior to general boarding. His wife Titania speaks only Spanish and although I speak some Spanish it’s definitely not conversational. I offered my condolences on behalf of United Airlines and all United pilots. The circumstances were difficult especially considering that I had never met her. I delivered a stack of condolence cards form both United and Mesa Airlines (his current employer) as well as a set of United wings and Epaulets. She was a very lovely lady but she broke down when I gave her the wings/epaulets. It was clearly very emotional for her to receive the wings. However, I could tell that she was very moved and it meant a great deal to her. Through the interpretation of the flight attendant, she told me that she would save these for her children to see and so that they would know that he was a United pilot. I simply said that it would have been a pleasure and and honor to fly with her husband. She thanked me and told me that United had been very good to her and that she was grateful for their support. It appears that united stepped up and treated her with respect and helped an already tragic situation.”
Hats off for an awesome gesture of kindness, respect, and utmost class. I think the fact that they did not feel the need to publicize their act of kindness as even more upstanding and honorable. There is enough negativity in the world. There is enough hatred and stereotyping to fill up volumes. The media often clings to those things that are certain to up readership and line pockets. However, THIS is the stuff we should make viral, friends!
Well played UAL, well played.
To our sky brothers whose lives ended too soon, tailwinds brothers. May you find blue skies and soar in peace on your forever wings. Your aviation community misses you.
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**information verified with sources
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