People: The power of a thank-you note

A little boy’s dream comes true—nearly 20 years later

Brandon Lagos was 7 years old when a CFI visited his elementary school.
Preflight December 2019

Sharif Hidayat (left) and Brandon Lagos.
Photography by Mike Collins

Brandon's letter.The young second grader did as his teacher instructed and wrote the CFI a thank-you note, adding his own personal touch by cutting out an airplane and taping it to his letter: “Thank you for sharing your job with us. I might be a pilot on[e] day. Look at this. Sincerely, Brandon Lagos.”

The CFI was Sharif Hidayat, then a brand-new instructor at the former Montgomery Aviation in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He cherished the letter and kept it with his personal belongings for several years. Sorting through his things after a move he found the note and realized that Brandon was the son of a friend he’d met in Maryland. “Is your son named Brandon?” Hidayat asked Ringo Lagos. When he found it was his friend’s stepson, he shared Brandon’s letter with Ringo. Brandon then placed the letter with his personal things and forgot about it.

Flash-forward 19 years later and Hidayat is a designated pilot examiner. On assignment at Maryland’s Freeway Aviation, he glanced at the flight school’s wall of fame and spied a recent first solo for Brandon Lagos. That’s got to be the same kid, he thought.

“So, I said to the CFI, you’re not going to believe this, please give me his phone number,” Hidayat said.

The young Lagos is now a ramp agent for Southwest Airlines and works the overnight shift. Picking up the phone at 10:30 in the morning, groggy with sleep, he soon realized this was that same CFI who’d spoken at his school all those years ago—and he wanted to be his DPE for his private pilot checkride. On August 10, Hidayat checked out that little boy who wanted to be a pilot from all those years ago.

“It’s what this is all about—seeing people realize their dreams,” Hidayat said. “This is a story that was meant to be told. Live out your dreams—and write thank-you notes!”

[email protected]

Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

Related Articles