Father, Son fly together

  • Published
  • By Donna Hibbard
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
A Total Force flight crew of an Air Force Reservist and an Air National Guardsman in the cockpit was also a family affair on a unique final-flight that happened here July 22 which marked the end of a long and distinguished AF career.

After 37 years of military service, and almost 10,900 flying hours (that's five working years in the air), Lt. Col. Robert S. Nicholson, a KC-135 pilot with the 927th Air Refueling Wing, AF Reserves, logged his final flight as an Air Force pilot. His son, Captain David Nicholson, a KC-135 pilot of the 127th Air Refueling Group, Michigan Air National Guard, flew alongside as co-pilot. It took a waiver and approval from the Air National Guard (because ANG owns the aircraft) for the two Airmen to fly together. The AF Reserves also approved of the flight

"It was an honor for me and felt very professional working with David. I'd never flown with him before and it was something unusual and fun," said Col. Nicholson.

Following tradition of long-standing military custom, the elder Nicholson was doused with fire hoses, champagne and soda by his fellow pilots, crew and family members after exiting the cockpit for the last time.

Reflecting later that evening, Col. Nicholson said, "It was tough [knowing] that my final flight was over. I was thinking of all the people on my flight, 30-plus years of flying, thousands of landings, it was all done."

Captain Nicholson acknowledged that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to pilot the Stratotanker with his dad. The younger Nicholson, who grew up in a military family and around planes pretty much knew he also wanted to be a pilot.

Lt. Col. Nicholson joined the Air Force in 1971 and graduated pilot training in 1973 from Laughin AFB, Texas. He arrived at Selfridge ANG Base, Mich., in August 1973 and served 35 years here. Nicholson flew the C-130 A and E models for more than 18 years, logging 6,600 hours. He was activated in 1990 in support of Operation Desert Storm and in the mid-90's to Kosovo. Qualified to fly the KC-135 in January 1993, he has flown the E, R and T model Stratotanker. Nicholson will retire at the end of July after 37 years of service.