Two Kenyan-American brothers have made aviation history, becoming the first set of identical twins to be hired as Alaska Airlines first officers. The brothers say they knew they wanted to fly since they were children in Africa, seeing and riding on planes as young as 3 years old.
According to a release shared by Alaska Air, Alex and Alan are believed to be the first identical twin pilots for the airline in the company’s approximately 90-year history.
The news was also posted on the company’s corporate Twitter account, with the caption “We’re feeling twinspired! Alex and Alan are identically gifted first officers … following their dreams to fly together!”
Alex has been piloting with Alaska Air for the longest, flying out of Los Angeles’ LAX airport. Alan has come on most recently, after being hired once he finished his simulator training. He will be anchored out of San Francisco.
When sharing why he chose to follow his brother’s lead and wanted to work for Alaska Airlines, Alan said the culture of the company was appealing.
“When I was working as a fueler, Alaska employees — whether it was pilots or people working across the operation — were always the nicest people who reached out to encourage me,” Alan shared.
Alex agreed that his environment is warm, recalling how people like Captain Rich, Anchorage base chief pilot, encouraged him as he went through his interview process to fly the aircrafts.
He said, “Alaska is like a family – you’re not a number.”
Both young men have had a love for aviation since they were small children in their native land.
They fondly remember being toddlers and their father taking them to see planes arrive and depart, every Sunday after church. They also recalled sometimes tagging along with their mother on business trips — bored with everything except the opportunity to fly on the planes.
When the twins turned 13 years old, their parents relocated to the United States, setting up shop in California. Once in the states, with the continued support of their parents, their love for aviation blossomed.
Alan says their mother bought them the Microsoft Flight Simulator to further support their dreams.
According to PC Gamers, the Microsoft Flight Simulator “is an incredibly realistic game … simulates the entire planet Earth, at full scale, and that means you can fly between any two points in real-time.” The program can simulate flights from one destination to any other state, country, or continent in the world, calling on the player to operate it as if he or she were operating a real plane.
Gamerant says the player experiences flying on the Flight Simulator with “incredible accuracy” and that the experience is “authentic,” “intense” and “immersive” for would-be pilots, especially with the virtual reality update added in the early 2020s, long after the twins were playing on the game program.
“After I started playing with the program, that was it. I knew I wanted to do that [fly] for a job,” Alan recalls.
The two learned the program as teens, and also found time to climb into cockpits, fiddle with control knobs, and imagine their future selves flying together for a commercial outfit.
While that might not be possible with Alaska Airlines now, the two have not given up hope.
“We’ve never flown together professionally because we’ve always been on different aircraft,” first officer Alex said. “The goal is to have one of us upgrade to captain and be operating the same aircraft so we can fly together.”
When that day happens, the twins want one very special passenger on deck: their mom.
Alex said, “We have to get her on one of our flights.”
Being twins and flying as pilots is indeed a rarity in commercial aviation, but so is flying as Black men.
According to a recent report by Zippia, Black pilots make up 1.2 percent of all pilots in the air. This rate dropped from 2.47 percent in 2017. Over the last decade, there have only been two years when Black pilots have made up more than 2 percent of all pilots flying commercial vehicles.
With the hiring of Alan in 2022, the next statistic inches up a little more.