Delta pilot retired, friends celebrate pandemic-style

Captain Doug Ralph officially retired from Delta Air Lines Monday, April 27, on his 65th birthday.

To celebrate his career, Ralph’s wife Sheryl put together a “fly-by” celebration with community friends, pilots and flight attendants driving past their Northern Kentucky home in recognition of his 28 years with Delta.

Paradegoers not only festooned their cars to look like airplanes, but one man even dressed up in a full jet airplane costume to celebrate.

“It was pretty fun and very gratifying that many people took time out of their lives to show up to say congratulations,” Ralph said. “It was a very humbling experience.”

Ralph didn’t start out in airplanes. He went to school for architecture and realized it wasn’t his niche. Ralph then found himself joining the Marine Corps where he became a helicopter pilot as well as a flight instructor. In 1983, he transitioned to the reserves, in special operations, working also as a stockbroker in San Diego.

His Delta career began in 1991, transitioning to an international captain in just two years. Ralph has served as a lobbyist for the Air Line Pilots Association in Washington D.C. and as a pilot representative as well as on Delta’s board of directors from 2015-2019.

“Kind of a mixed bag of things. No real straight line in anything there,” Ralph said.

And no common farewell.

While everybody was driving by Ralph’s home, he already had a Zoom call from 20 pilots celebrating his time at Delta.

“It was really unique, my wife of 25 years totally caught me by surprise.”

The Enquirer will provide regular stories from the Heart Land displayed as Greater Cincinnatians cope with the new coronavirus pandemic. Here are more stories from earlier in the week: