Bob Ringold made his final approach to Rochester International Airport last week. Mayo Clinic's chief pilot would then make his final taxi to the Mayo Clinic Air Ambulance hangar — 12 years after joining Mayo Clinic and as he closes the cabin doors on his 40-year career in aviation.
He was hoping it "was just going to be another day," he told KTTC-TV.
But Rochester International Airport's Fire Department had other ideas, adding a dramatic flair with a water cannon salute on the taxiway.
"It's very gratifying that they did that for me," Ringold told KTTC. "It's also kind of embarrassing. I don't like the attention but appreciate the sentiment that goes with it."
Ringold, who is certified to fly Mayo's medical helicopters and airplane, began his career with Mayo Clinic as an air ambulance helicopter pilot based in Mankato. He later became a check pilot and then chief pilot. For the last few years, he's served in a leadership role at Mayo Clinic Ambulance, managing the medical aviation program, air operations certificate, and serving as a relief pilot for open shifts.
"Bob's leadership and professionalism have been essential to the rapid success of Mayo Clinic's aviation program."Joel Kozlowski
Joel Kozlowski, director of Aviation Operations for Mayo Clinic Ambulance, says Ringold has made a positive impact from day one.
"Bob's leadership and professionalism have been essential to the rapid success of Mayo Clinic's aviation program," Kozlowski says. "From the perspectives of the Federal Aviation Administration, industry leaders and auditors, Bob's hard work and persistence to excellence have been uniformly recognized."
When Ringold accepted a pilot position at the Mankato air ambulance base in 2010, he flew Mayo's BK-117 and EC145 helicopters. At the time, Mayo Clinic's air ambulance helicopter operations were supported by a contracted vendor. After a few years, Ringold transitioned to Mayo Clinic, serving as one of Mayo Clinic's first check ride pilots. In 2015, he accepted the role of chief pilot. He helped Mayo acquire a King Air airplane and guide operations in the U.S. and Canada. He also managed growing helicopter and airplane programs.
"Bob has always been a skilled, seasoned and safe pilot, but he also developed many contacts and had a good understanding of the regulatory process, which was a tremendous help in Mayo Clinic acquiring a Part 135 aviation operations certificate and leading the way in achieving top accreditations for the program," Kozlowski says.
His leadership allowed the medical aviation department to increase its capabilities to better support patient needs, Kozlowski says.
"And equally important as his aviation and business prowess, is his endless support of our mission and his allegiance to the primary and supporting values of Mayo Clinic," he says. "Bob will be greatly missed, but we share in his joy as he reflects on a distinguished aviation career."
Ringold gives that sentiment a return flight.
"I will miss the people. It's a very good bunch of people that work here and a lot of good friends have to make sure I come back for coffee," he told KAAL-TV. "I really enjoy the flying but I will probably miss the people more than anything."