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Final flight gives reason to celebrate

Lt. Col. David Irvin, 171st Air Refueling Wing pilot, completes the last flight of his career November 18, 2011. (National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ann Young) (Released)

Lt. Col. David Irvin, 171st Air Refueling Wing pilot, completes the last flight of his career November 18, 2011. (National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ann Young) (Released)

Lt. Col. David Irvin, 171st Air Refueling Wing pilot, completes the last flight of his career November 18, 2011. (National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ann Young) (Released)

Lt. Col. David Irvin, 171st Air Refueling Wing pilot, completes the last flight of his career November 18, 2011. (National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ann Young) (Released)

Lt. Col. David Irvin, 171st Air Refueling Wing pilot, completes the last flight of his career November 18, 2011. (National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ann Young) (Released)

Lt. Col. David Irvin, 171st Air Refueling Wing pilot, completes the last flight of his career November 18, 2011. (National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ann Young) (Released)

PITTSBURGH -- The time between Thanksgiving and the New Year is for many, a time for traditions. Traditions are what set us apart from others and create strong bonds. The Air Force, being a family of its own, has some pretty strong traditions too.

One of which is called the Final Flight or "Fini" flight. It is the last flight of an aircrew member's career and is marked by a celebration upon returning to his or her base where close family and friends await his or her arrival. Keeping with tradition the retiree is hosed down and presented with a bottle of champagne.

The "Fini" flight tradition can be traced back to the Vietnam War when aircrew would commemorate the completion of 100 combat missions. The 100th safe last landing was truly a reason to celebrate.

The 171st Air Refueling Wing has recently helped celebrate two Final Flights to honor the careers of dedicated aircrew members, Lt. Col. Rick May and Lt. Col. David Irvin. Before the year comes to a close, we plan to honor Chief Master Sgt. Nick Lucyk with one additional "Fini" flight. They are meaningful to the retiring member and his or her family, and bring them together with the aviator's Air Force family. Whenever you have the chance to participate in traditions whether it is with your personal family or Air Force family it is always a good thing as it brings camaraderie and togetherness.