I had a bit of an interesting experience this week that I don’t think most people ever really get. I had the opportunity to be a part of the crew that took a plane on its very last flight. With the development of the C-130J it is quickly replacing the older, and better, C-130H. Yeah, I know, I’m biased.
Many of the older planes have gone to National Guard units around the country to finish out their service lives. However, there are a couple of planes that have finished their flying lives and need to be taken to their final resting place.
The disappointing part was that none of us knew this was the planes’ last flight, or fini flight, as we like to call them. Had we known I would have come prepared with my good camera and not left you with these weak images from my phone, but I did what I could.
It really was an honor for me to crew this plane on its last mission. That aircraft served for 40 years in all corners of the globe performing an incredible variety of missions. I don’t know any specifics, but it is reasonable to assume that it carried Soldiers and Marines to critical missions that brought freedom to people in all different countries. It likely carried young men and women that were injured in battle to a hospital that saved their lives.
In the case of those that weren’t so lucky, it likely performed that most sacred mission of returning them to their loved ones draped in the colors that they sacrificed everything for.
It hurts my soul a little to think about these great pieces of machinery having their careers come to an end, but they served their country well, and in the case of this plane, tail #2070, it will continue to serve on the ground for another couple of years. You see, we passed it off to one of the Air Force’s test and evaluation squadrons where it will aid in developing various different products and processes that will make the planes still flying safer and more effective.
It really made me stop and think about how cool my job is. I fly a historic plane that has served our country, and many others, for 60 years now. I get paid to fly in the footsteps of real heroes. It is truly a privilege to try in some small way to carry on the heritage that they left us with.
While most people will never have the opportunity that I did, nor will I likely ever do it again, we all have the opportunity to keep their heritage alive by visiting aviation museums, and by listening to the stories of those who flew these amazing aircraft. Most of us have at least a little bit of aviation history in our own backyards if we only look.
I would encourage you to look around and see what you might find, and please share it with the rest of us because that is the only real way to keep aviation history alive.