Sunday, February 25, 2007

Why I Hate Riding in a C-130 (Or, The Two-Hour Winged Bus Ride From Hell)

Imagine the cargo hold of a C-130 transport plane; maybe 45 feet long by 15 wide. It's narrow and cramped, and the bulkheads are lined with exposed piping and bundles of wire, so you feel like you're sitting inside the belly of a giant metal whale. Think Jonah.

Now imagine the hold crammed with you and almost 60 other people. There are no seats; only canvas slings that fold out from the wall. Everywhere you sit, it seems like a chunk of metal is going up your ass. The roar from the propellers is deafening, and there's a thirty mile per hour headwind the whole way, so for two hours the plane jounces violently in the grip of severe turbulence.

The first time you rode in one of these things, you were armed and just beginning your journey into a combat zone. Combat landings, you were told, were a common practice, because when coming in for an approach, a fat-slow-moving aircraft coming in along a low, straight line makes a delicious target for enemy small-arms fire and rockets. It might have been harrowing, the first time it happened, but at least you understood. Now, all you can think is, Sure, the takeoff's gonna be hairy, but after that it's all smooth sailing into Kuwait. You tell yourself this, and for some reason it makes your normal fear of flying manageable.

And somewhere, God is laughing.

Sure enough, the plane guns it off the runway at Anaconda, pitching sharplys soon as the wheels are up. That's a little dodgy, but not bad. Still, consider what might go through your head when, an hour and a half into the flight, the pilot cuts the throttle and banks hard left. The plane drops like a stone from 30,000 feet.

Bastards, I think. They all said the pilots don't pull this shit going into Kuwait. Lying sons of bitches.

Oh well. I wasn't wearing clean shorts anyway.


Blogger fjb said...

Enjoy your leave to the fullest, and best wishes to you both.


3:41 AM  
Anonymous Anne Freeman said...

*snicker, tries hard not to laugh*

Oh baby...I guess this means flying home for leave next fall won't be so hard now, will it?

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh those planes are fun....*sigh* spent 22 hours in a jump seat last time I went to the middle east. I swear it took a week for the waffle imprints to come out of my butt!

5:33 PM  
Blogger Dan old vet said...

I rode in a C130 in Vietnam from ChuLai to Cam ranh bay in 1971. There were absolutely no seats in the cargo bay. We took our places on the floor, I chose to lay near the wall so I could hang onto a rib.

5:24 PM  

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