Engulfing a 100-year-old piano in flames would normally be frowned upon, but on this day Airmen encouraged pilots to set it ablaze.
The 309th Fighter Squadron invited Airmen from the 56th Operations Group to a block party May 30 at Luke Air Force Base.
“The 56th OG block party was held as a culmination of the 309th FS stand down,” said Capt. Clayton Bailey, 309th FS pilot. “It was a small celebration of the 309th’s long history.”
During the block party several events took place, but this one stood out from the rest. A piano was burned to ashes.
“The story behind this tradition is when a pilot did not return from a mission, his or her belongings and uniform were placed on a piano while various songs would be played,” Bailey said. “Somewhere along the line, one of the celebrations got out of hand and resulted in the piano being burned. It was established as a tradition to burn the piano during these celebrations.”
As time passed, the tradition developed an even more symbolic meaning. The 309th FS pilots revived the old tradition and celebrated the 309th FS stand down, much like the loss of a fallen comrade.
“While we all work together each and every day, we rarely have a social event to relax and get to know each other in a nonwork environment,” said Lt. Col. Stephane Wolfgeher, 309th FS commander. “The piano is burned due to a change, loss or some other transition in a fighter squadron’s life.”
After a time of dining and small talk amongst the revelers, the OG block party ended on a positive note. The Airmen from the 56th OG and their families gathered around the burning piano, celebrating the accomplishments of the 309th FS.