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    NY Air Nationl Guard officer takes"final flight" at end of 33-year career

    NY Air Guard officer takes "final flight" after 33 years

    Photo By Senior Master Sgt. William Gizara | LtCol David Panzera, pilot for the 109th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard,...... read more read more



    Story by Eric Durr 

    New York National Guard

    STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Scotia, N.Y.—After a 33-year career that included two years at the US embassy in South Africa, a very cold night on an Antarctic glacier after an unplanned landing, and flying the prime minister of New Zealand to McMurdo Sound, New York Air National Guard Lt. Col. Dave Panzera made his final Air Force flight on Tuesday, July 17.

    “It is a whole mix of emotions,” Panzera said after touching down in LC-130 “Skier 02.” “It’s amazing that your career lasts decades and then it is over in an instant.”

    “But you get to be with a bunch of people that you love dearly, especially my wife Wendy who has supported me all of these years,” he added.

    The 51-year old Panzera, who has overseen the annual Civil Air Patrol Cadet encampment at Stratton Air National Guard Base since 2014, decided to spend his last time behind the controls of an LC-130 flying 27 CAP Cadets on an orientation flight.

    The final flight is a tradition in which a retiring military pilot’s accomplishments are recognized by his peers following his or her last mission.

    Panzera, at the controls of the massive transport, made the traditional pass over the administrative building and then landed to be greeted by family, friends and colleagues.

    His wife, two daughters and two sons, sprayed him with a fire hose from a base fire truck for the traditional wet down. Then his mother Eva Panzera followed up with a spray of Champagne.

    The final flight is traditionally a training flight, so this was a chance to do something with the cadet program, Panzera explained. The co-pilot is also involved with the CAP cadet program and the scheduled loadmaster, Airman 1st Class Jason Falvo, was once a CAP Cadet in the program at Stratton, Panzera said.

    He was also able to have his father Joseph, a retired Air Force security policeman and CAP member; and his son Phillip, a CAP cadet; on board with him.

    “It was a real honor for those of us on the plane to fly with Dave,” said Civil Air Patrol Lt. Col. Bryan Benedict. “I’ve known him for 13 years and he is first rate.”

    It was special for the whole family, Wendy Panzera said.

    “This is the culmination of his career and the kids get to help me,” she said before turning the hose on her husband.

    Panzera, a resident of Warnerville, N.Y., joined the Air Force in 1985 as an enlisted Airman. He served in an organizational maintenance unit and as a crew chief on a C-130, before he entered Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in 1989.

    Panzera was enrolled in Air Force ROTC and when he graduated he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and sent to flight school.

    He joined the 109th Airlift wing as a traditional guardsman in 1994 and in 1995 he flew his first mission to Antarctica in support of the National Science Foundation.

    The 109th Airlift Wing is the only unit in the U.S. military that flies ski-equipped aircraft that can land on both snow and ice.

    The LC-130 “Ski Birds” the 109th flies, are used to carry supplies and people to National Science Foundation bases in Antarctica and Greenland.

    The wing also flies missions in support of the Canadian and American militaries in the Arctic as well.

    During his career he’s landed at the southernmost runway in the world, at Amundsen- Scott Base at the South Pole and the northernmost runway at Canadian Forces Station Alert at Ellsmere Island above the Arctic Circle, Panzera said.

    “When I looked at my orders the other day, I had a total of 2.5 calendar years of duty time on Antarctica,” Panzera said.

    He figures he’s flown about 4,000 hours in the Antarctic and another 1,250 hours on Greenland missions, with almost 1000 more spent on Department of Defense missions worldwide, Panzera said.

    One of his best missions flying the LC-130 was in January 2013 when New Zealand Prime Minister john Key and his wife Bronagh needed a ride for a scheduled trip to McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. The United States and New Zealand both have bases on Ross Island there and the New Zealand leader needed a lift.

    “It was really awesome to be a state airplane,” Panzera recalled. “We didn’t call our self “Kiwi One” (on the radio) because we thought the New Zealand Air Force might not like it.”

    “But we flew him down there in “Skier 96” which is the aircraft named after the “City of Christchurch” (New Zealand),” he added.

    Christchurch, New Zealand is the New Zealand base for American aircraft heading for Antarctica.

    A February 2000 flight was not such a good one, Panzera said. His aircraft was the third heading for Antarctica from New Zealand and he was forced to make an unplanned wheeled landing on a glacier.

    “There was some damage to the airplane and we spent the night in 30 to 35 miles an hour winds. The wind chill was minus 80 degrees or more. We got to use all that survival training,” Panzera said.

    One of his coolest jobs was serving as the New York National Guard’s State Partnership Program representative at the United States embassy in Pretoria South Africa from 2007to 2010, Panzera said.

    He worked out of the defense attaches office and arranged partnership training between the New York National Guard and South Africa. He also worked with the militaries of Lesotho and Swaziland, the two small landlocked countries within South Africa.

    He got to help South Africans attend American military schools too, Panzera said.

    “It was an amazing time,” he added.

    In 2006 and 2007, Panzera attended Air Command and Staff College on a full-time basis. He got to participate in organizing the annual Gathering of Eagles Foundation program in which people who’ve played an important role in aviation or military history speak to the Command and Staff College students.

    He worked to have retired Army Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, author of the book “We Were Soldiers Once and Young,” about the Seventh Air Cavalry’s first battles during the Vietnam War, speak to the group, Panzera said.

    He was able to arrange for actor Sam Elliot—who starred as Command Sgt. Major Basil Plumley in the movie version of the book— to narrate the video introducing Moore, he added.

    The Air Command and Staff College was where he was really introduced to the Civil Air Patrol and its Cadet program, Panzera said.

    The Civil Air Patrol, the Air Force’s official auxiliary, consists of men and women who volunteer their time to perform emergency service work, promote aerospace education, and oversee the cadet program which produces future aerospace leaders.

    “They mirror the core values of the Air Force,” Panzera said. “When I got to see the cadet program and how it dovetailed so nicely about what I knew and loved about the Air Force, I had to get involved.”

    Panzera serves as director of cadet programs for the composite CAP squadron which meets at Stratton Air National Guard Base.

    “I’ve had a lot of fun growing this program here at the base,” he said.
    With his military career coming to an end, Dave Panzera is gearing up to begin a new one as a pilot with Jet Blue Airways.

    He’s already been training to fly the Airbus A320 and will be based out of Boston.

    “I’m excited about it. It’s a growing company,” Panzera said.

    “He’ll be gone, flying more than ever,” his wife predicted.



    Date Taken: 07.17.2018
    Date Posted: 07.17.2018 15:40
    Story ID: 284644
    Location: SCOTIA, NY, US, NY, US

    Web Views: 1,383
    Downloads: 1