As Chief Warrant Officer Tom Bain brought his plane to a rest Feb. 22, the aircraft was sprayed by ground crews. No, it wasn’t an emergency landing. It was Bain’s last flight.
As Chief Warrant Officer Tom Bain brought his plane to a rest Feb. 22, the aircraft was sprayed by ground crews.
No, it wasn’t an emergency landing. It was Bain’s last flight.
“Our aviator tradition is to soak down the plane and pilot as they taxi in after their final flight,” the Putnam native explained. “Fire trucks spray water high into the air over the aircraft and it cascades down in a dense shower. As I exit the plane, I was greeted by a soaking by sparkling grape juice — a change made from the normal champagne for my benefit as I no longer drink alcohol.”
Bain, a Ticonderoga High School graduate will officially retire after 23 years in the Army June 30. Feb. 22 was his last flight as a pilot-in-command.
It’s been a great career, he said.
“We soldiers hear over and over again how a grateful nation thanks us for our service,” Bain said. “I want to take this opportunity to thank people for their generous support. While deployed overseas I have received many years worth of Christmas packages and cards from complete strangers and Valentine cards from an entire fourth grade class of school children. I have been greeted at airports by throngs of people welcoming soldiers home from various combat zones. I also have been given thanks by strangers for my service while waiting in the checkout line at stores while in uniform. Thank you for your kind words.”
Bain enlisted in the Army in 1985 after graduating from Ticonderoga High School. He became an Apache helicopter mechanic serving in Fort Hood, Texas, and Illesheim, Germany.
He then left the Army, temporarily, to attend college in Buffalo before re-enlisting in 1993 to pursue his dream of becoming a helicopter pilot.
“In 1994 I attended the Warrant Officer Candidate School at Fort Rucker, Ala., followed by helicopter pilot training at the same location,” he said. “At the time of my retirement, I will have been a pilot for the Army for over 19 years. In that time I served as a scout pilot flying a Kiowa Warrior, a MEDIVAC pilot flying a UH-1 Huey and a fixed-wing pilot (airplane) in the military intelligence community.”
Bain has served in Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, Texas, Fort Drum and the Republic of South Korea. He has served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and hazardous duty tours in Central and South America.
Army tradition allows pilots to make their final flight one of their own choosing.
“I decided to take my final flight out over the Grand Canyon in Arizona,” Bain said. “I had never seen the Grand Canyon and it is within easy flight distance of my Army base at Fort Bliss (El Paso, Texas). It is a majestic sight. Even from 16,000 feet the canyon’s vivid colors and grand scale are apparent. It made for a memorable last flight.
“As I made my final trip as an Army pilot, I thought back to my first flight. I recall Mr. Daughtry, my instructor, flying us out to a huge field near Fort Rucker, Ala., and after briefly describing how the controls worked he let me have them. That UH-1 helicopter reacted like a bucking bronco. I was all over the place as Mr. Daughtry calmly sat there and let me struggle with the aircraft. After what seemed like an eternity, he took over again and settled everything down. He was calm and reassuring when he stated that even though I had no tangible control touch at that time that we had not crashed and that was a good start.
“I would get better as the year went by, and one of my proudest moments was when they pinned those Aviator Wings upon my chest,” he said. “I now wear Master Aviator Wings and still find adventure in every flight, just not as exciting as that first one.”
As Bain nears retirement, he’s appreciative of the support he’s received from family and others.
“The service to my country is not a solo event,” he said. “I have to give great credit to my wife of 20 years, Christine, and my children, Tommy and Caitlin. Without their support, a career in the military would not have been possible. I am eternally grateful for the support they gave me throughout the years and am sorry for the sacrifices and challenges they faced in my many absences.
“In all my time in the military, I never felt any animosity or disrespect from the American public I served,” he added. “While my retirement paperwork will say thank you from a grateful nation, I believe that sentiment goes both ways. Thank you, from a grateful soldier.
“I look forward to the challenges ahead, and thank everyone back home for their support throughout the years,” Bain said. “It has been a great flight.”