Retiring Rochester Area Air Force Pilot Circles Chehalis-Centralia Airport and Parents' Home on Final Flight


Following his career in the U.S. Air Force (USAF), 39-year-old Major Nick Cooley of the 4th Airlift Squadron out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord flew a C-17 transport plane for a final flight Wednesday. 

During his “fini-flight,” Cooley performed two low-level flyovers at the Chehalis-Centralia Airport at approximately 1:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon before heading north and doing a low-level flight over his parents’ house in Rochester. 

Among those in attendance at the airport for Cooley’s “fini-flight” included family, friends and even some Chehalis City Council members and city staff. 

Cooley graduated from Rochester High School in 2002 and joined the USAF shortly after, according to his childhood friend, John Cordell. During his Air Force career, he got the chance to fly as Air Force 2 for former Vice President Dick Cheney. 

“(Cooley) was flying into Guantanamo Bay and taking Secret Service in, and when he got on the ground they told him they had a phone number for him to call. He got nervous and was going, ‘What the hell happened?’” Cordell said. “He called and they were saying the vice president’s airplane took a bird hit on the way here and, ‘He was wondering if you could give him a ride back to D.C. afterwards.’ And he was like, ‘Well I can check my schedule, yeah I can do that.’”   

In an email to The Chronicle, Cooley explained that his flight Wednesday still included tactical exercises, including mid-air refueling and assault landing practice before conducting the low-level flybys. 

“Then (I) climbed up to 18,000 feet for a tactical descent — all four engines in reverse thrust — into the low level route VR331 for a high speed overhead back into McChord,” Cooley said in the email. 

Now that his USAF career is over, Cooley plans to transition into the civilian world as a pilot for Delta Air Lines, according to Cordell.