WESTOVER AIR RESERVE BASE, Mass. --
The Air Force has some fascinating traditions: Crud, carrier landings, round metal objects, and the fini-flight hosedown.
For those who don’t know; the fini flight or final flight is the tradition of a pilot or flight crew member who is either leaving the unit or retiring. Upon landing, a large group of people welcomes the member with a fire hose of water after he or she steps off the aircraft.
Splashing departing Airmen has been around since the early 1980s when I first experienced it. As an active duty airman it always seemed like it belonged in the Navy. I’ve always been curious of its origin.
Recently I came across an article in the “Westover Yankee Flyer” from March 28, 1969. This was the former weekly base paper. The story was titled “Splashdown for the 99th."
It provided me a possible clue to the history of the tradition.
According to the article, “splashdown” is what the Western Pacific flight crews called it when a crew would arrive back at the base after completing 100 combat missions over Vietnam. The B-52 and KC-135 crews would be greeted by fellow squadron members and splashed with at least “one airborne bucket-measure of water”. A 100 mission patch was then presented to the waterlogged airman.
By March 1969, the 99th Bomb Wing had completed its second tour of combat duty for the Arc Light missions. Most crewmembers had completed the 100 missions required to receive the patch and the hosedown. Arc light and Linebaker were bombing campaigns that helped end the Vietnam War.
Although the reason for the tradition and name have changed somewhat over the years, the congratulatory gesture remains the same.
The base Facebook page frequently features fini flights, visit it at facebook.com/westover.patriot