September 25, 2014 (by Capt. Elaine Nowak) - Aircrews from the 107th Airlift Wing flew their final C-130 flight and were greeted with a water salute on September 25th.
C-130H #87-9282 from 136 AS receives a 'water salute' after returning from its final flight by a crew from the New York ANG's 107th AW to Niagara Falls ARS in Niagara Falls, N.Y. on September 25, 2014. It was the last C-130 flight for the 107th AW as it converts to MQ-9 operations. [ANG photo by SMSgt. Raymond Lloyd]
The unit is in the process of converting from the C-130 Hercules tactical transport to the MQ-9 Reaper, a Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). The flight was the last time 107th aircrew members will fly C-130s. The mission was flown in partnership with the 914th Airlift Wing, Air Force Reserve, who will continue to fly the C-130 from Niagara.
It is a long-standing aviation and Air Force tradition that marks the milestone of an aircrew member’s last flight. Comrades spray water or champagne on the aircrew as they exit the aircraft. It is dubbed the “fini flight.”
As the aircraft taxied in, two fire trucks from the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station Fire Emergency Services made an archway of water. Members of the 107th and 914th Airlift Wings lined the flightline to be present for the historic event. As the crew exited the aircraft, they were met with buckets of water, sprays of champagne and cheers.
Col. John J. Higgins, 107th Airlift Wing Commander served as the navigator for the fini flight. It was the last flight of his military career.
“It is a day of mixed emotions. We are transitioning from the C-130, which we’ve been flying since 2008 and have become comfortable with, having deployed with it to Iraq and Afghanistan. However, we look to the future with excitement as we take on the MQ-9 mission,” Higgins said.
Lt. Col. Douglas Eoute, was the aircraft commander for the flight. “It was nostalgic. I have been flying for 25 years. It was bittersweet. We are looking forward to the future but we’re going to miss flying up in the aircraft,” he said.
Today marked the end of the C-130 era for the 107th Airlift Wing. The conversion to the RPA mission is underway. Many members are currently in training or have recently completed training as RPA pilots, sensor operators, intelligence coordinators and other high-tech communications positions. The unit is on course to be fully operational by 2017.
Since it was first organized during World War II the wing has flown propeller driven fight planes, supersonic jets designed to knock down enemy bombers, ground attack aircraft and giant KC-135 tankers.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the community for their support of the 107th and ask for their continued support as we convert to the MQ-9. I’d also like to thank the 914th Airlift Wing for being our partners in C-130 operations and convey my gratitude for all they have done for us,” Higgins said.