A metaphorical gold watch

Usually when the boss turns the hose on you, it's a bad thing. Not so if you're an airline pilot.

We were just about to pull away from the gate in Reno today on Alaska Airlines flight 503, when the first officer interrupted the safety briefing to make an announcement.

He told us the fire trucks would be meeting us on the taxi way. Today was the Captain's last day with the airline. He was retiring after years of service to Alaska. As a tribute to him, the Reno airport sent out the fire trucks to give the plane a shower on the way out to runway. It was a surprise for the Captain, and the passengers applauded.

It's the first time I've been on a plane that received this traditional salute. It's sometimes used for retiring staff, the final flight of a particular airplane, the first flight of a new airplane, or other occasions that call for celebration.

As we pulled away for the gate and made our way to the ceremonial shower, I looked out the window saw ground staff, airport personnel, and employees from other airlines standing along taxiway and waving good bye to the Captain as he drove our plane to runway.

The shower was gentle. There was none of the high pressure noise you get with de-icing. We continued out to the runway, and plane made a steep climb as we took off into the rough mountain air of Reno. We reached Seattle early, and the Captain brought our plane, one of the company's newest (N546AS), into one of the softest landings I've felt in ages. Again, the passengers applauded.

Good luck, Captain. Enjoy your retirement.

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