EVERETT — As Bill Rogers’ last flight for Southwest Airlines began descending at Paine Field Friday two fire trucks were lined up at the airfield, watching closely as the plane emerged from the low hanging clouds. But no emergency was expected. Instead, they were there to greet Rogers with a traditional water cannon salute to honor his three-decade career at Southwest.
The fire-fighting rigs released a massive arc of water that stretched high above the Boeing 737 as the plane taxied toward the terminal. A line of well-wishers greeted Rogers and his wife, Mari, as they disembarked from the plane. A water cannon salute is often used in aviation to honor special flights.
“It was emotional, but cloudy,” Rogers said describing the 15-minute flight, which began at Boeing Field in Seattle.
Rogers, 66, of Mukilteo spent 27 of his 30 years at Southwest overseeing the delivery of new planes from Boeing to the airline. Stationed onsite at Boeing, Rogers was tasked with crawling through the aircraft examining parts as the planes were being assembled. His job was to ensure the planes met Southwest’s standards.
He still remembers the day he accepted delivery of his first Southwest plane — Aug. 3, 1991. Over the span of his career Rogers supervised the delivery of 570 planes.
The 737 remains Rogers’ favorite.
“Because it doesn’t take a very tall ladder to inspect it,” he explained.
On his final flight, Rogers had the best seat in the house. From the cockpit he was able to watch the plane take off and land, and fully experience the water salute.
His future plans will keep him in the cockpit, at least a little longer. Rogers and wife plan to spend retirement exploring the Puget Sound islands from their recreational plane.
Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @lizzgior.