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13th Marine Expeditionary Unit


13th Marine Expeditionary Unit

"The Fighting Thirteenth"

Pilot’s final flight a ‘family affair’

By Tech. Sgt. Bob Oldham | | October 29, 2003

After flying more than 8,700 hours in Air Force planes, an Arkansas Air National Guard C-130 Hercules pilot flew the most memorable two hours of his entire 34-year career Oct. 28.

Lt. Col. Larry Hill, a 154th Training Squadron pilot, said his last two hours of flying were the best because he was onboard with his twin daughters -- Capts. Elissa Granderson and Leslie Hill. Both are C-130 pilots in the squadron.

“This is probably my most memorable flight in all my years of flying,” the colonel said.

Squadron officials received Air Force-level approval in early October for the colonel’s daughters to join him on his final flight. Officials here said it may be the first time a father was accompanied by twin daughters on a “fini flight.”

Before takeoff, all three were looking forward to flying together, cracking jokes and reminiscing about their years together. Once it was time to plan the mission and discuss the colonel’s final flight, it was all business for the trio and the rest of the crew.

Onboard the cargo aircraft, typical aircrew banter filled the headsets as the crew ran checklists to prepare for takeoff.

After a two-hour flight that took the crew over Memphis; Greenville, Miss.; Texarkana, Ark.; and back to the base, they slipped into the local pattern for a final pass over the base.

As the aircraft zoomed over the airfield one last time, the colonel said he felt a lump in his throat as he saw his fellow aircrew members and maintainers lined up on the tarmac, awaiting his arrival. He did not have much time to take it all in because he was in a steep left turn that would take him back to the runway to land.

As the crew taxied the plane to its parking spot, they had to navigate between a cordon of airmen who snapped to attention and saluted as the aircraft passed.

“That was quite an honor,” the colonel said. “You don’t know how hard those guys work (or) the conditions they have to work in -- the cold and the heat -- to keep those airplanes going, and to think enough of me to come out there and stand at attention while I finish my last flight. That’s wonderful.”

While the flight was memorable for the colonel, it was also fun for his daughters.

“I was a little nervous (as the flight began),” Leslie said. “I know how he’s picked us apart in life, and I thought he’d critique us, but he didn’t.”

As with just about any father, he sometimes offers his daughters his opinion.

“He tends to come through the squadron and give us some unsolicited advice,” she said. “We’re like, ‘Hey, we’re not at home, we’re at work.’”

Perhaps the only break in “radio discipline” came when Granderson identified their landing position in the local pattern.

“She said ‘you’re No. 2 behind that one, dad,’” the colonel said. “That’s not how we’re supposed (to) do it … but that’s pretty cool.”

“Oh, my gosh, did I say that?” Granderson asked later, laughing. “There’s no telling how many times I said that today.”

A self-described relic, the colonel began his flying career in a version of the Lockheed Constellation that was a radar surveillance aircraft. Later, he transitioned to the KC-135 Stratotanker and finally to the C-130 in 1986 when the squadron changed from a refueling mission to a C-130 training mission.