1980 grad creates a buzz in Northfield with surprise flyby

LtCol J Healy, USAFHow do you cap off a quarter century of service with the United States Air Force? You fly over your alma mater in a C5A Galaxy Military Transport aircraft.

LtCol John Healy '80, USAF, was gearing up for his retirement ceremony last Thursday when his Wing Commander at the New York Air Base gave him the stick for one final run. "They just threw me the keys and said take her for a ride."

Healy, a pilot with the Air National Guard, knew exactly where he wanted to go.

After visiting his Albany area home - and the New York State Police barracks where he is a full time Trooper - Healy set his course for Northfield, Vermont.

Healy approaching from the southAt 1342 hours, he approached the campus at high altitude from the East, and then circled out past Dole Hill and to the South, eventually turning the nose of his jet up the valley, with Norwich University in his view. His plane dropped the flaps and landing gear for stability, and then came down to just above the legal altitude, with exact coordinates for the cupola on Jackman Hall.

"The noise made me jump to the ceiling," said Laura Amell, executive assistant to the vice president for institutional advancement, whose office is on the top floor. "It sounded like a train coming through the window!"

Immediately afterwards, Norwich University AFROTC personnel fielded several phone calls from concerned citizens asking if an aircraft was down.

Outside his office on the first floor, Colonel Tim Van Splunder '77, Professor of Aerospace Studies, stood with his officers and staff to give Healy his farewell retirement salute.

healy overhead"It doesn't happen a lot, but some of our Norwich grads have fond memories of marching tours on the UP, so they make a salute flight to thank all the cadets for continuing to AIM HIGH in the Air Force," Van Splunder said.

LtCol Healy, who feels supremely grateful that he has been able to serve his country for so many years, is nonetheless relieved at the prospect of retirement. "My unit has been so busy with Operation Enduring Freedom, I am lucky even to be able to retire," he said.

As for his final flight over the UP, he admitted that it was memorable. "It was an honor to be able to do that on my last official flight before retiring from twenty-five years with the United States Air Force," Healy said. "It was a very emotional moment."

In September 2005, Healy will return to The Hill once again to celebrate his twenty-fifth Norwich Class Reunion.

Only this time, he'll be piloting a 2004 Ford Explorer.

dweggler@norwich.edu, January 2005

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