PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- The historic 50-year training mission of the T-2 Buckeye came to a close with a sundown ceremony and fly-by at the Mustin Beach Officers' Club aboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola Aug. 22.
A crowd of more than 250 active-duty and former aviators, air and ground crew and civilians gathered for a celebration of the Buckeye's service life and retirement, which included a video history presentation. NAS Pensacola Training Air Wing Six's VT-86 was the last training squadron in the Navy to use the aircraft.
The Buckeye, which has trained thousands of naval aviators in its 50-year history, has flown more than 3.4 million flight hours, according to the Naval Safety Center and was the Navy's longest-serving jet trainer.
"We're saying goodbye to the aircraft for good," said VT-86 Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Bradley Close. "A lot of naval aviators cut their teeth on this aircraft, and for 50 years its given good service. The T-2 Buckeye will not be used in naval aviation training anymore."
Most of the remaining Buckeyes will join other retired military aircraft in "the boneyard," a long-term preservation facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, Close said.
"I had my last flight four or five days ago in the mighty Buckeye," Capt. Peter Hunt, commanding officer of Training Wing 6, said. "It's a great airplane, but we understand that you can't keep stuff forever, and the new T-45C Goshawk is fantastic. It's going to bring our training a good 20 years into the future overnight."
Retired Navy Capt. Dean Fournier, president of the Pensacola Council Navy League, was one of many at the sundown who had fond memories of the Buckeye.
"I started off as a student in the T-2A," said Fournier. "I came back flying it again as an instructor and ended up with 600 to 700 hours in the aircraft. It's built well, and the people who put it together have a lot to be proud of."
Training Wing 6 trains and graduates approximately 450 Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and international students annually. The wing's primary, intermediate and advanced training courses prepare weapon systems officers (WSOs), naval flight officers (NFOs) and electronic countermeasure officers (ECMOs) for service around the world.
For more information on Training Wing 6, visit www.cnatra.navy.mil/tw6/.