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Pilot turns in wings for higher calling

SCARBOROUGH (WGME) -- On Sunday a local pastor had his first Sunday where he's not also flying fighter jets on the side.  After 24 years of active duty Eric Samuelson of Gorham retired to now become a full time pastor.

"In the Air Force and the National Guard to be honest with you I'm the only pilot-pastor that I know of," said Samuelson.

On Thursday he made his final flight over Portland, flying one of three F-15's over the city to mark his departure from the military.  

"As we approached the runway you have time if you're a little bit higher over ground have time to look to left or right we could see a line of cars and even people along the fence line cheering," said Samuelson.

Dozens of people, many members of The Rock, Samuelson's church in Scarborough, lined the Portland Jetport's runway Thursday afternoon.

"They came in fast, fast and furious," said Chelsea Prescott, a member of the Rock Church.

Samuelson will now move from serving his country to serving his congregation, becoming a full time pastor at Scarborough's The Rock Church.

"Really military life is certainly a life of sacrifice and for good of country and good of community church is a lot like that," said Samuelson.

Samuelson says The Rock congregation has grown from 70 to now 700 members.

CBS 13 asked Samuelson if he'll miss flying fighter jets he said, "I know there will be days when the sky is blue or the weather's perfect and I'll think, I would love to fly today," said Samuelson. "But to be honest with you I have so much excitement and passion about being a part of the church that I really look forward to the opportunity to be more involved here just as much as anything that I'll miss in the military," said Samuelson.