— -- A soldier returning from deployment got quite a sweet surprise thanks to a clever plan from his father.
Capt. Mario Lopes, a Washington D.C.-based pilot with United Airlines, learned that his son, First Lt. Mario Lopes, was scheduled to return from Kuwait on April 14. When Lopes learned that there was an opportunity to pilot a military flight to Norfolk, Virginia, on the same day, he knew he had to seize it.
"I told my wife that this couldn't be a coincidence," Lopes said. "No one could confirm or deny if he would actually be a passenger on my aircraft, but I knew I had to take the chance and find out."
When the day of the flight came, Lopes briefed the crew about his plan to surprise his son and asked for their help in distracting him.
"I gave my lead flight attendant Audrey a bag of Mario's favorite cookies to distract him while I tried to sneak onboard," Lopes told ABC News.
And then the moment arrived.
"It seemed like time was standing still; I was anxious, excited, and just could not believe that this opportunity was ahead of me," Lopes said.
Once his son was on board and before the flight took off, Lopes made his entrance.
"I made my way behind him and asked, 'First Lieutenant Lopes, what are you doing on my aircraft?'" Lopes told ABC News. "When he turned around we embraced for as long as I could hold him. I cannot express the emotions I felt holding my son after not seeing him for so long."
The touching reunion was captured on camera and it's something that Lopes said he will never forget.
"I have been flying since I was 17, I've worked for multiple companies prior to my 27-year career at United. I've had a lot of memories, but this flight is by far the most important to me," Lopes said.