It was a moment for the history books Thursday afternoon in Summerside, P.E.I., as a CC-115 Buffalo made one last flyover the city and touched down on the runway at Slemon Park, completing its final flight.
The Buffalo is being retired from service after more than five decades, and a military crew flew the plane from its last home, in Comox, B.C.
Several P.E.I. veterans watched on the tarmac, and burst into applause as the plane came to a stop in front of the airport, including retired Col. Dennis Hopping.
He has fond memories of the plane that he calls "the Buff."
"After almost 18 years of the Buffalo not being at CFB Summerside, it was emotional," Hopping said.
"As a helicopter pilot, I often was on a search over the water and I was always so grateful to see a Buffalo flying top cover."
Hopping was the commanding officer of the 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron in Summerside, as well as commanding officer of the base.
"During my tenure on squadron in the early '80s, we had a number of large ships in trouble on the Atlantic, and we did a number of multiple rescues, up to 26 folks in many cases," Hopping said.
Hopping said the Buffalo was also instrumental in a number of civilian medical evacuations off P.E.I.
"At that time, we didn't have a dedicated medevac aircraft amongst the provinces," Hopping said. "And so 413 Squadron was tasked often to conduct medevac."
Hopping said many Summerside residents would remember the early-morning flights by Buffalo aircraft across the community, and their participation in air events across the Island.
"During opening day of fishing season, we always flew as many aircraft as we could, top cover," Hopping said.
"I think just just seeing the Buff — its shape, its size, has had an impact on everyone here. And it's not a loud aircraft, it can sneak right up on you."
For Summerside historian and veteran George Dalton, seeing the Buffalo was also emotional.
"It was indeed an honour to be invited because there's so many memories in my lifetime of this base, its people and the service they provided. And I really feel it's quite emotional," Dalton said. "Many memories of walking under those wings, and doing air evacs. It was lots of memories."
Dalton said he's pleased that Slemon Park Corporation is planning to pay tribute to the history of the base, so that it is not forgotten.
"A base doesn't have a spirit. It takes a group of people, so many civilians, countless, have worked at this base time or another," Dalton said.
Carl Delaney retired as a major from the Canadian Forces after 38 years of service, including two postings in Summerside where he was born.
"It was just tremendous. It just took me back almost 38 years. I flew in a Buffalo as well, but not as a pilot," Delaney said.
"When we're out to sea during a rescue and when you see a Buffalo coming, you knew they were on your side and we could save somebody's life."
Hopping is pleased that the Buffalo will soon be available for the public to see.
"The Buffalo will represent all those SARs, and all those rescues, medevacs, training missions that we did," Hopping said. "Any Air Force person that has retired on the Island, or in Summerside, will certainly have some affection toward the Buff. They either worked on them, or they flew one or they rode one, and it was just great."
"She worked hard, flew hard and served us graciously."
The plane will receive some final maintenance before being put on display for the public.