by Pam Zubeck
Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart on Wednesday climbed into the cockpit for the last time, piloting a 302nd Airlift Wing C-130 from Peterson Air Force Base.
The commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and Northern Command will retire July 1 after 39 years, 22 assignments and 60 combat missions.
According to an account posted on NORAD's website, he taxied under plumes of water fired from a pair of Peterson fire trucks and was doused with fire extinguishers and bottles of champagne by his fellow officers as he left the aircraft for the final time.
"It was great," he said. "I couldn't have asked for more in my career than a chance to fly with these guys and see some of Colorado. Good mission, great crew, the squadron has just been great to fly with. For me, it's a high point, and it's good to have the chance to fly my last mission in a tactical aircraft."
The final or "fini" flight is a long-standing Air Force tradition that traces its roots to the Vietnam War when pilots would commemorate their final combat mission.
Although a fighter pilot by trade, Renuart has flown with members of the 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson since taking command of NORAD and NorthCom in 2007 and chose to fly his last mission in one of their C-130s.
Renuart is to be succeeded by Vice Admiral James A. Winnefeld Jr.