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86th AW commander celebrates final flight

Brig. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, 86th Airlift Wing commander, exits a C-37A during his final flight July 19, 2016, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The “fini flight” is part of a tradition for flyers dating back to World War II, where they fly aircraft they’ve come to know for one last time as they prepare to move to their next assignment. (U.S. Air force photo/Airman 1st Class Lane T. Plummer)

Brig. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, 86th Airlift Wing commander, exits a C-37A during his final flight July 19, 2016, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The “fini flight” is part of a tradition for flyers dating back to World War II, where they fly aircraft they’ve come to know for one last time as they prepare to move to their next assignment. (U.S. Air force photo/Airman 1st Class Lane T. Plummer)

Airmen approach Brig. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, 86th Airlift Wing commander, after his “fini flight” July 21, 2016, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Airmen traditionally come out to greet their commanders after their final flight. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lane T. Plummer)

Airmen approach Brig. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, 86th Airlift Wing commander, after his “fini flight” July 21, 2016, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Airmen traditionally come out to greet their commanders after their final flight. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lane T. Plummer)

Brig. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, 86th Airlift Wing commander, greets Lt. Col. Derek Gallagher, 76th Airlift Squadron commander, before taking off for his final flight as the 86th AW commander July 19, 2016, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Thomas has served in the 86th AW for one year and will be moving on to Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. (U.S. Air force photo/Airman 1st Class Lane T. Plummer)

Brig. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, 86th Airlift Wing commander, greets Lt. Col. Derek Gallagher, 76th Airlift Squadron commander, before taking off for his final flight as the 86th AW commander July 19, 2016, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Thomas has served in the 86th AW for one year and will be moving on to Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. (U.S. Air force photo/Airman 1st Class Lane T. Plummer)

Brig. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, 86th Airlift Wing commander, inspects the engine of a C-130J Super Hercules alongside Staff Sgt. Dominiq Saxon, 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft hydraulics systems journeyman, during his “fini flight” July 20, 2016, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Thomas helped Saxon as he repaired the hydraulics system of the plane after it malfunctioned prior to takeoff. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lane T. Plummer)

Brig. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, 86th Airlift Wing commander, inspects the engine of a C-130J Super Hercules alongside Staff Sgt. Dominiq Saxon, 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft hydraulics systems journeyman, during his “fini flight” July 20, 2016, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Thomas helped Saxon as he repaired the hydraulics system of the plane after it malfunctioned prior to takeoff. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lane T. Plummer)

Brig. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, 86th Airlift Wing commander, approaches his family as he gets hosed down with water during his “fini flight” July 20, 2016, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Fini flights have been a tradition for pilots that are changing bases since World War II. The pilots fly their assigned aircraft one last time, and are greeted by Airmen, family and friends after landing. (U.S. Air force photo/Airman 1st Class Lane T. Plummer)

Brig. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, 86th Airlift Wing commander, approaches his family as he gets hosed down with water during his “fini flight” July 20, 2016, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Fini flights have been a tradition for pilots that are changing bases since World War II. The pilots fly their assigned aircraft one last time, and are greeted by Airmen, family and friends after landing. (U.S. Air force photo/Airman 1st Class Lane T. Plummer)

Brig. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, 86th Airlift Wing commander, poses for a photo in the cockpit of a C-130J Super Hercules during his “fini flight” July 21, 2016, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Thomas has accumulated over 3,900 hours of flight time in his career with 11 different aircraft. (U.S. Air force photo/Airman 1st Class Lane T. Plummer)

Brig. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, 86th Airlift Wing commander, poses for a photo in the cockpit of a C-130J Super Hercules during his “fini flight” July 21, 2016, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Thomas has accumulated over 3,900 hours of flight time in his career with 11 different aircraft. (U.S. Air force photo/Airman 1st Class Lane T. Plummer)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --

Brig. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, 86th Airlift Wing commander, celebrated his final flight in the 86th AW with a “fini flight” July 19 to 20.

 

A “fini flight” is a pilot’s last flight in an aircraft before he or she leaves a squadron, group, or wing or retires from the Air Force.

 

Thomas has served as the 86th AW commander for one year, during which time he says he’s come to learn and appreciate a lot.

 

“It has been an absolute thrill to come back to command again in the Mighty 86th,” said Thomas. “I am immensely proud of all we have collectively accomplished in the past year. We have a great team here at Ramstein and the Airmen have taught me a lot while succeeding in the mission each and every day.”

 

During the fini flight, Thomas took to the skies three times, flying a C-21, C-37A and a C-130J Super Hercules. In all three planes, he was accompanied by Airmen from the 37th and 76th Airlift Squadrons.

 

According to Capt. Brad Field, 76th AS C-21 aircraft commander, the experience of working one last time with Thomas was memorable.

 

“It was a great pleasure to work with him,” said Field. “It was a unique fini flight because he got to fly three planes due to the amount of aircraft the 86th AW holds, but coordinating things for him was easy because I and my coworkers appreciate what he’s done for us. He’s a great leader, and he’ll definitely be missed here.”

 

Thomas arrived at Ramstein having amounted over 3,900 hours of flight time, in 11 different aircraft throughout his 27 years of service.

 

Though he only served at the 86th AW for one year, he believes he has professionally grown during his tenure as commander.

 

“Our location and mission present unique challenges whether they be security, personnel, or materiel,” said Thomas. “Turning these challenges into successes has not always been straightforward, but it was always educational. Every day has been a "school day" for me, as we deal with missions and problem sets no other installation takes on with such regularity.  I think I've grown more flexible, adaptable, and gained a deeper appreciation for the work every Airman does.”

 

Thomas will be moving onto a new position as director of strategic plans, requirements and programs at Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.