Father and son team up on fini flight
By SMSgt David Lipp, 119th Communications Flight
/ Published June 26, 2007
OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass -- On a frigid winter day, January 13, at the North Dakota Air National Guard (NDANG), with clouds of vapor evident upon each breath, Senior Airman Bryan M. Hensel, crew chief in the 119th Maintenance Squadron, launched his father, Colonel Cecil J. "Bud" Hensel Jr., for the colonel's final flight.
The colonel is a pilot, and N.D. headquarters director of operations, who took his final flight in an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft (affectionately called the 'Viper' by most NDANG pilots.) Colonel Hensel did not end his long and distinguished career in the United States military, but merely piloted his last flight, or 'fini flight,' in the F-16 due to a mission conversion to the C-21 Lear Jet and MQ-1 Predator at the NDANG.
Colonel Hensel began flying fighter aircraft 25 years earlier in the F-111, and completed nearly 1,500 flight hours in the F-16, while the junior Hensel began his military career with the NDANG, September 2004.
"It was a great honor to fly that many years in fighter aircraft in the U.S. military. I am very proud to have my son act as the crew chief on my final flight in the Viper," said Colonel Hensel.
"I was glad to be able to work on my father's final flight, but I was just doing my job," said Senior Airman Hensel.
"It was a bittersweet occasion," (knowing how much her husband enjoyed his time flying the F-16) said Mrs. Sharon Hensel, who was present in shelter six to watch her husband and son work together on the fini flight.
"The day was filled with such a wide range of emotions from pride in both Bryan and Bud, to a feeling of sadness that Bud's 25 year career of flying fighters for the active Air Force and the National Guard is over, since it has been such a huge part of our lives for so long," she said.
While it was the flight chiefs in the 119th Maintenance Squadron who meticulously planned and coordinated the seemingly chance encounter between father and son in shelter number six for the memorable flight, it was a wife and mother who shed a tear upon shut down of the aircraft engine of the F-16 flown by Colonel Bud Hensel for the last time.