Recently the River Rattlers of Strike Fighter Squadron 204 (VFA-204) from Naval Air Station/Joint Reserve Base New Orleans celebrated the retirement of Commander Tim Kurtz. Better known as Scorch, Cmdr. Kurtz is believed by the squadron to be the oldest active USN fighter pilot, hanging up the g-suit at the age of 54.


The New Orleans Advocate posted this fantastic article about Cmdr. Kurtz and his fini-flight, but we wanted to highlight something very special about Scorch’s last ride in the Hornet.

As Scorch taxied in after landing at the New Orleans Lakefront Airport, his 18-year old son Charlie (who just so happens to be an NROTC student and a lineman at Lakefront) marshaled him in, placing chocks and signaling for his father to cut the engines one last time.

It’s not every day that your son or daughter marshals you in – that has got to be an unforgettable experience for both!

The River Rattlers are unique among most US Navy squadrons in that they were established as a reserve unit from the get-go, first commissioned as VA-204 in 1970 and flying McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawks from NAS Memphis. They operated the small and nimble attack aircraft until 1977, and then stood down for a brief period. The next year they moved to their current home of NAS New Orleans and started receiving the LTV A-7B Corsair II, and operated the type for the next 13 years. In 1991 the River Rattlers received their first F/A-18 Hornet and were redesignated VFA-204 to acknowledge their new fighter role.


VFA-204 belongs to the US Navy’s Tactical Support Wing, formerly known as Reserve Carrier Air Wing 20. Although the TSW is officially based at NAS Fort Worth JRB, it is comprised of units all over the country, including VFC-12 Fighting Omars at NAS Oceana, VFC-13 Saints at NAS Fallon, and VFC-111 Sundowners at NAS Key West. That should paint a clear picture of the plethora of BFM experience that lies within the TSW – it’s chock-full of squadrons that are in the business of dishing out humble pies to the fleet aviators by way of adversarial training.

The River Rattlers are no exception, and over the years Cmdr. Kurtz used his expertise to help train countless younger, less experienced aviators. We want to wish Scorch all the best in his retirement!

(Featured image: Eliot Kaminetz/New Orleans Advocate)

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