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One more flight from the Gods

Aircraft going through water hoses

U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, taxis through fire trucks’ streams in an U.S. Air Force T-38 Talon during his final flight at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., August 24, 2020. The fini-flight is an Air Force tradition dating back to World War II that celebrates a pilot’s military career. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Derek Seifert)

Gen. Holmes exiting aircraft

U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, exits an U.S. Air Force T-38 Talon, after his final flight at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., August 24, 2020. During Holmes’ three-year tour as the ACC commander, he is responsible for organizing, training, equipping and maintaining combat-ready forces for rapid deployment and employment while ensuring strategic air defense forces were ready to meet the challenges of peacetime air sovereignty and wartime defense. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Carlin Leslie)

Sara Holmes spraying husband with fire hose.

U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, is sprayed by his wife, Sara, after completing his final flight at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., August 24, 2020. Holmes’s family, along with members of ACC, came out to celebrate his final flight as an Airman. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Carlin Leslie)

Spraying with fire hose

U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, is sprayed by his wife, Sara, after completing his final flight at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., August 24, 2020. Holmes’s family, along with members of ACC, came out to celebrate his final flight as an Airman. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Derek Seifert)

Photo Of Gen Holmes signing forms

U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, fills out his flight forms, after completing his final flight at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., August 24, 2020. Holmes is a command pilot with more than 4,000 hours, including over 530 combat hours in the F-15A/B/C/D/E, and has also flown the T/AT-38, T-37, and T-1A. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Carlin Leslie)

Gen. Holmes and Wife Sara posing for a photo

U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, and his wife, Sara, pose for a photo after Gen. Holmes’ final flight at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., August 24, 2020. The fini-flight is an Air Force tradition, dating back to World War II that celebrates a pilot’s military career. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Carlin Leslie)

Sara Holmes kissing husband Gen. Holmes

U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, is kissed his wife, Sara, after completing his final flight at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., August 24, 2020. Holmes’ family, along with members of ACC, came out to celebrate his final flight as an Airman. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Carlin Leslie)

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”- Leonardo da Vinci.

The commander of Air Combat Command donned his G-suit and helmet, stepping to the flight ­line as an active-duty fighter pilot one last time. 

U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, ACC commander, flew his final flight aboard an Air Force T-38 Talon over the Atlantic, August 24, 2020. 

When individuals ask if Gen. Holmes is going to miss flying his response is simple. 

“It’s one final flight,” Holmes said. “I am perversely proud of the fact that I have a Form 8 in an airplane and that I am still a qualified pilot and I can go fly the airplane that I am qualified on for my fini-flight.”

Officially known throughout the Air Force today as the “fini-flight,” historians claim the tradition originally bloomed during the World War II era in the days of the U.S. Army Air Corps, when pilots returned from their final combat mission. Today, the ritual usually takes place either before the pilot changes station or before an aviator retires.

Holmes’s fini-flight culminates more than 39 years of service to the Air Force and his country. 

According to Holmes, many of the contract maintainers that are currently working on the T-38 Talons for the 71st Fighter Training Squadron were maintainers in 1998 when Holmes was an operations officer for the squadron.  

“I have a long relationship with a lot of the guys [maintainers] out there, it’s been great to continue to be a part of what they do,” Holmes said. “I am really going to miss being around the people who fly and fix airplanes and do all the other pieces that Air Combat Command supports.”

For decades, it has been customary for the pilot to be drenched in water and champagne upon landing. Holmes was soaked by a fire hose and champagne by his wife Sara and colleagues from the 1st Fighter Wing. 

Holmes is a command pilot with more than 4,000 hours, including over 530 combat hours in the F-15A/B/C/D/E, and has also flown the T/AT-38, T-37, and T-1A. 

For his fini-flight Holmes flew a REDAIR/Aggressor support mission against his son Capt. Wade Holmes, an Air Force F-16 Viper pilot with the 121st Fighter Squadron, acting as enemy fighters creating barriers that limit U.S. aircraft.

Holmes concluded that he is perfectly happy to go do that last ride, flying a T-38, doing REDAIR support training somebody in Air Combat Command even his son.  

“The benefit is I have had several fini-flights, had my last combat sortie and Afghanistan was my last operational flying,” Holmes said. “This T-38 flying I have gotten to do has been extra gift, and every time I go fly I am kind of stealing one from the gods.”

(Portions of this article were provided by ACC/PA)