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A legend retires, MH-60G Pave Hawk tail number 009 soars one last time

MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter at t Hurlburt Field, Florida

The tail number of a MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter is displayed during the retirement flight for the MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter at t Hurlburt Field, Florida, May 5, 2021. U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Chad P. Franks, 15th Air Force commander, flew the very same MH-60 Pave Hawk during Operation ALLIED FORCE, rescuing a downed F-117 pilot from enemy territory; in 1999, during the operation, the helicopter belonged to the 55th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field. The helicopter is to be displayed at the Hurlburt Field Memorial Air Park. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Robyn Hunsinger)

MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter at t Hurlburt Field, Florida

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Chad P. Franks, 15th Air Force commander, and crew taxi the retirement flight for the MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter at Hurlburt Field, Florida, May 5, 2021. Major General Franks flew the very same MH-60 Pave Hawk during Operation ALLIED FORCE, rescuing a downed F-117 pilot from enemy territory; in 1999, during the operation, the helicopter belonged to the 55th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field. The helicopter is to be displayed at the Hurlburt Field Memorial Air Park. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Robyn Hunsinger)

MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter at t Hurlburt Field, Florida

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Chad P. Franks, 15th Air Force commander, and crew taxi the retirement flight for the MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter at Hurlburt Field, Florida, May 5, 2021. Major General Franks flew the very same MH-60 Pave Hawk during Operation ALLIED FORCE, rescuing a downed F-117 pilot from enemy territory; in 1999, during the operation, the helicopter belonged to the 55th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field. The helicopter is to be displayed at the Hurlburt Field Memorial Air Park. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Robyn Hunsinger)

MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter at t Hurlburt Field, Florida

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Chad P. Franks, 15th Air Force commander, and crew prepare to land the retirement flight for the MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter at Hurlburt Field, Florida, May 5, 2021. Major General Franks flew the very same MH-60 Pave Hawk during Operation ALLIED FORCE, rescuing a downed F-117 pilot from enemy territory; in 1999, during the operation, the helicopter belonged to the 55th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field. The helicopter is to be displayed at the Hurlburt Field Memorial Air Park. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Robyn Hunsinger)

MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter at t Hurlburt Field, Florida

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Chad P. Franks, 15th Air Force commander, poses in front of a MH-60G Pave Hawk after completing the helicopter's retirement flight to Hurlburt Field, Florida, May 5, 2021. Major General Franks flew the very same MH-60 Pave Hawk during Operation ALLIED FORCE, rescuing a downed F-117 pilot from enemy territory; in 1999, during the operation, the helicopter belonged to the 55th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field. The helicopter is to be displayed at the Hurlburt Field Memorial Air Park. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Robyn Hunsinger)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --

Soaring across the purple mountains majesties, above the fruited plain, flies the last flight for the MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, tail number 009.

The MH-60G Pave Hawk  009, piloted by U.S. Air Force Capt. Tanner Bennett, MH-60 Aircraft commander, took off from the 66th Rescue Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada and touched down in Pensacola Naval Air Station, Florida for a very special send off.

Maj. Gen. Chad P. Franks, 15th Air Force commander, took command of MH-60G 009 in Pensacola NAS and flew the final flight to Hurlburt Field, Florida. Both he and 009 have a history together when then, Capt. Franks, flew combat search and rescue missions in 1999 during Operation Allied Force.

“This Pave Hawk represents the hard work and accomplishments of the men and women of the 55th Special Operations Squadron who took great care of 009 when I flew it in 99’,” said Franks. “It is an honor for me to fly this retirement flight.”

The 55th SOS originated as the 55th Air Rescue Squadron in 1952. In 1966 is was redesignated as the 55th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron. The MH60G began it’s operations in 1982 under the 55th ARRS, which later became the 55th Special Operations Squadron 1988. While under the 55th SOS, the MH-60G was flown during Operation Just Cause, Operation Desert Shield/Storm, Operation Provide Comfort, Operations Northern Watch, Operation Allied Force and various other Special Operations missions.

The 55th SOS received several decorations and recognitions while operating the MH60G, which continued the legacy of the 40-years of distinguished lineage that proceeded the 55th SOS. Today’s flight represents the heritage and lineage of those that operated and maintained this helicopter.

That’s what made the preparation for this flight even more honorable. Bennett stated the maintenance team at Nellis AFB worked very hard to ensure 009 was safe to fly.  

“The maintenance team was jobbing it,” said Bennett. “With as many hours 009 has, they made sure that it was safe for everyone.”

The end of a lifecycle for any aircraft differs for each one. For 009 being 32 years-old, with 11,000 hours, and multiple deployments, to fly it one last time made this retirement special.

“It’s pretty awesome in terms of Rescue history,” said Bennett. “For us to take her home, with Maj. Gen. Franks flying the last part, and knowing it will be on display for future pilots is an honor to be a part of.”

Bennett recalled that he had flown 009 multiple times and had been used in several Red Flag exercises to help train pilots.

“The stories it [009] could tell,” said Bennett.

According to Bennett, aircraft usually are sent to the boneyard, and used for parts so other Air Force units can use them for their aircraft.

“I’m just honored. It’s lucky that this MH-60 gets to ride out into the sunset,” said Bennett.

Retiring an aircraft, especially 009 that has a legacy with many Special Operations and personnel recovery missions, though bittersweet, is knowing that it will now rest in a place that will remind everyone of the contributions of all the Airmen that served in the 55 SOS. 

The parts will be used to aid future aircraft to accomplish their missions, and continue to save lives, So That Others May Live!