Zak Khogyani, who fled Afghanistan as a boy, helps fly greater than 1,000 refugees to the U.S. many years later

Rising up, Zak Khogyani all the time liked airplanes. He stated grandfather, who realized to fly in 1924, was one of many first pilots in Afghanistan and influenced his fascination with flight. Khogyani liked constructing mannequin airplanes and watching them from afar. 

“Every time we flew, my dad and mom would say I’d vanish mid flight. I might be going and trying out the galley, the bathrooms, speaking to the flight attendants,” he advised CBS Information. Generally, he’d even find yourself within the cockpit, hanging out with the pilots for so long as they’d let him.

However earlier than he reached his objective of changing into a pilot, Khogyani and his household needed to flee Afghanistan. His father was a politician, and a goal of the Soviets throughout their invasion of the nation within the Nineteen Seventies.

Zak Khogyani and his household fled Afghanistan. However he ultimately moved to the U.S. and fulfilled his dream of changing into a pilot.


The household confronted many obstacles in making an attempt to depart the nation. “They allowed us to get on a struggle and we flew to Tehran and once we acquired to Iran, my father met us there. And that is the primary time my brother and I came upon we would by no means be capable to return,” Khogyani stated, tearing up on the considered leaving his dwelling.

The household ultimately made their option to america and Khogyani had a household of his personal – and fulfilled his dream of changing into a pilot. 

He now lives in Phoenix and has flown for 27 years – greater than half of these with United Airways. He says he loves experiencing new locations and assembly new folks. “And it is not misplaced on me the great accountability of flying folks from A to B,” he stated. “Reuniting households, reuniting {couples}, you realize, bringing conferences collectively, it really makes the world a a lot smaller place.”

In the summertime of 2021, Khogyani acquired to take some life-changing flights. When Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, United Airways helped fly refugees to the U.S.

“All of us watched the information because the scenario in Afghanistan was unraveling and I heard the Division of Protection would possibly set off the CRAF flying,” Khogyani stated, referring to the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, which helps the Division of Protection with airlifts in emergencies. “I knew I needed to do one thing.”

“I used to be in a really distinctive place the place I assumed possibly I may make a distinction whether or not huge or small. And I could not simply merely sit on the sofa and watch it occur with out doing one thing to assist the scenario,” he continued.

United was in a position to fly 8,500 passengers on at the very least 30 worldwide and 30 home flights, a spokesperson for the airline advised CBS Information. Khogyani was on three round-trip flights – generally within the cockpit, generally within the cabin, translating for folks.

“For a lot of, lots of them this was their first time on a passenger plane, so there was quite a lot of unfamiliarity, there was a language barrier,” he stated. “To not point out the emotional facets they had been experiencing.”

Khogyani is aware of what it’s wish to flee your private home and he had the chance to narrate to the refugees on the humanitarian mission.

CRAF at Dulles Worldwide Airport in Dulles, VA. August 26, 2021. Khogyani helped on three spherical journey flights from Afghanistan to the U.S.

Chris Kleponis through united.

“Many people got here as much as to me. To start with, they had been possibly amused that somebody in a pilot uniform spoke their language and was from Afghanistan. However the overwhelming factor that they conveyed was that one, that they had been very happy with me, which was very humbling,” he stated, getting emotional once more. “And likewise that I gave them quite a lot of hope to see that somebody who left beneath comparable circumstance and had overcome comparable obstacles…and succeeded in life.”

Khogyani stated he was glad he may consolation the refugees, many who left with nothing however the clothes on their backs.

“It grew to become very evident that they wanted the whole lot,” he stated, including 8,000 volunteers from the airline helped donate items. 

“By the second flight, we had pacifiers on board, child bottles, components, diapers,” he stated. “By the third flight we had nurses on board, we had paramedics on board, to fulfill all their wants.”

Khogyani additionally stated particular person crew members introduced luggage of sweet with them toys for the youngsters on board. “To stroll to the aft galley to simply examine to see how issues are going and to see 5 little ladies sitting on the galley ground and flight attendants braiding their hair is a second I’ll always remember,” he stated. 

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