Arriving at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport Nov. 2 for his final AOPA Expo, AOPA President Phil Boyer received a very special honor usually reserved for retiring airline and military pilots—a water cannon salute.
The water cannon salute is a tribute to a retiring airline pilot that is sometimes, but not always, done when a captain is on his last flight after a full career and is acting as pilot-in-command of that flight.
“This was a special honor we wanted to give to Phil in recognition of his many years of service to AOPA and its members,” said Curt Eikerman, operations manager for the airport. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the very first time a water cannon salute has been approved for a general aviation flight. Certainly that is in recognition of Phil’s contribution to aviation as a whole.”
The flight from AOPA Headquarters in Frederick, Md., to San Jose is not Boyer’s last as AOPA president, but the salute was planned to capture the symbolism of his last arrival at Expo, according to AOPA Vice President of Aviation Services Woody Cahall, who orchestrated the salute.
“I knew something was up when ground control directed me to a different ramp area and an unexpected frequency change,” said Boyer, who was otherwise completely surprised by the tribute. “It was really an honor to have this done, and I cannot thank enough all the folks who put this together.”
The tribute required close coordination and approvals from Mineta San Jose International Airport management and emergency services, Air Traffic Control, security officials at the airport, and Atlantic Aviation.
The San Jose International airport is named after former Congressman and Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta, who through the years has been a good friend of GA. He worked closely with AOPA in the days following 9/11 to ensure general aviation had access to the National Air Transportation System, and was a vocal opponent of GA user fees.