Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Navigator takes final flight with 911th before retirement

Lt. Col. Stan George, navigator with the 911th Operations Group, is welcomed by wing members Tuesday after his Fini Flight at the Air Force Reserve Station at Pittsburgh International Airport. Lt. Col. George has been in the Air Force since 1980, when he attended the Air Force Officer Training School. 

Lt. Col. Stanley George’s retirement party was so loud Tuesday afternoon that it prompted some calls to 911.

He and other members of the Air Force Reserve 911th Airlift Wing spent about 20 minutes circling low over Downtown Pittsburgh in a C-130 Hercules so they could see the sights and take some photos.

A handful of people called the county emergency dispatch and reporters called the unit’s base at Pittsburgh International Airport around 1:30 p.m. when they heard the plane fly overhead, said Master Sgt. Mark Winklosky.

“The thing is you get a big plane like that that comes in lower than they usually go, even though it’s still at the safe ceiling, and people are like ‘What’s going on?’” he said with a chuckle.

“We asked air traffic control for permission to fly over the city and they encouraged us,” said Lt. Col. George, 59. He will officially retire Friday after 36 years as a navigator with the Air Force and Air Force Reserve.

“Fini flights” are a tradition when someone retires from the Air Force, Lt. Col. George said, and he got to choose where the crew flew.

The two-hour flight consisted of practice approaches in Morgantown, W.Va., and Johnstown, and sightseeing above the hills of West Virginia and Pennsylvania before circling around the city, he said. When they landed, his wife, Annette, was there to help the crew eat cake and douse him with champagne and ice water.

Lt. Col. George spent 12 years on active duty and has been stationed in Pittsburgh since 2007, when he moved from Milwaukee. He said he and his wife plan to move back closer to family in Wisconsin and spend more time with their four grandchildren.

“It was beautiful out there,” Lt. Col. George said about his last flight with the U.S. Air Force. “The weather cooperated and we got to see good sights and do some good training. It was just a very awesome experience.”


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