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Norman McIntosh doesn't fish. He doesn't play golf. In retirement, there's only one thing he really wants to do: Keep flying.
The longest-serving aviator in the Virginia National Guard, Chief Warrant Officer McIntosh retires today after nearly 42 years of military service.
He stretched it out as long as he could. Today is the day he turns 62 years and 2 months - the Guard's mandatory retirement age.
A Portsmouth native and Cradock High School graduate, McIntosh joined the Virginia Guard in 1971 after a year-long tour as an Army helicopter pilot in Vietnam. As far as he knows, he is the oldest Army aviator still flying.
Like most Guardsmen, he has a day job in addition to his duties as a weekend warrior. An accounting officer at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, he plans to retire from his desk job next year.
"I'll miss this more than that," he said Tuesday after completing his last Guard flight in a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. "This helps you retain your sanity."
Now he hopes to sign up for the Virginia Defense Force, a volunteer auxiliary to the Guard, which has an aviation battalion. That would buy him a few more years, he said: "They kick you out at age 75."
McIntosh's last Guard flight was a victory lap, his passengers a coterie of reporters and photographers. Under a brilliant blue sky, he flew the Black Hawk along the James River's meandering course to Williamsburg, then back to the Guard's aviation facility next to Richmond International Airport, where he set it down gently on the tarmac.
He sat in the cockpit a few minutes to get a grip on his emotions, his short-cropped gray hair a stark contrast to the olive drab chopper. Then he briskly jumped down to a dousing of champagne by fellow Guardsmen.
As was usual over the course of his 5,600 hours in the air, the flight was flawless.
"He taught me enough to take me through two wars safely - no accidents, no incidents," said Col. Rob McMillan, the Virginia Army National Guard's chief of staff, who presided at McIntosh's retirement ceremony.
Among his other Guard duties, he has been an instructor pilot.
The son of a merchant seaman, McIntosh started flying at 16.
He flew 1,334 combat hours in Vietnam, ferrying troops and providing them air cover. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
As a Guardsman he helped establish a medical evacuation detachment, and then deployed with it during the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91.
He participated in the Guard's rescue and relief efforts during a series of natural disasters, including floods in western Virginia in 1976, 1985 and 1995 and Hurricanes Dennis and Floyd in 1999.
Someone asked him, What were his most memorable moments?
That's easy, he replied: The births of his four children.
That was vintage Norm, said his wife, Kathy, whom he met as a student at Old Dominion University. Aviation and the Guard formed a huge thread in the tapestry of their life, but nothing came ahead of his kids.
One of his two sons, also named Norm, played football at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy. His dad attended the games diligently, but his Guard hurricane relief duties in 1999 caused him to miss a few.
One day that season, young Norm looked up during practice and there was Norm Sr.'s helicopter, taking a quick break from the disaster zone, circling the field, checking things out.
The kids are grown now, which means there's even more time for flying.
His wife knew what she was signing on for when she married him after his Vietnam tour, McIntosh said: "She already knew this was a done deal. I wasn't about to quit flying."
Whenever anybody asks him why, he quotes a line from an old John Wayne movie:
"I don't want to talk about what I used to be able to do."