Saturday, April 12, 2008

Writer's Island - Flight - 4/12/08

The Writer's Island prompt this week was flight. This is what came to my disheveled mind:

Having spent 20 years in the Air Force it is obvious that I have done my share of flying. Though I was never a pilot or on a flight crew I have logged countless hours on both military transports and commercial planes. I used to enjoy flying until the douche bags of 9/11 ruined it forever for me (and many others). Gone are the days of arriving at the airport 20 minutes before boarding. Now we must arrive two hours prior to the scheduled departure (which is never actual) and endure a screening process as if we were attempting to enter the Lincoln bedroom. I am not complaining. I want my flight to be safe and have an absolute minimum of terrorists on board with me. So, I endorse the inconvenience.

When I was young, married, and broke, living in Denver in the early 70s, Stapleton International Airport was a source of entertainment for my wife and me. We would go sit in the arrival/departure lounge and watch people come and go. We would make up stories about people we observed. The airport was the best place to people watch. Sometimes we would play spy at the airport and try to pick out which of the travelers were CIA or KGB. We would even bring our own refreshments because airport prices were not much different then than they are now. A hotdog and a coke required a cosigner. Again, the assholes of 9/11 have made that activity impossible, as you can’t even enter the gate area without a ticket.

One of the benefits of military service is that you could fly anywhere in the world that the Air Force does for free. This program was called Space-A. We took advantage of that privilege many times. Sometimes we would just go to the terminal and fly to whatever destination was readily available. That was an adventure sometimes, as you could not always get back from that country in a timely manner. For instance, I have flown from England to Greece and had to fly from there to Germany in order to get back to England. It was also possible that the plane would not bring you back to the same base you departed from so you might have to arrange ground transportation from one base in England to another. But that only added to the adventure. So traveling space available required patience and plenty of time. Though I still have that perk, I have not tried to fly this way since the shitheads of 9/11 have probably screwed that up too. I am certain that a lot of flights are now destined for locations I have no interest in visiting.

One anecdote that came to mind while I was writing this post was a military Space-A flight my kids and I took from Germany to the states. The only other passengers on the plane were federal prisoners being transported to the maximum penitentiary at Leavenworth Kansas. The prisoners were held in stockades in Europe until they get enough to full a C-141 transport. The terminal staff informed me that this was the only flight available for the rest of the week and we could take it as long as I knew the situation. There were several armed guards accompanying the hundred or so prisoners and many of them were so after conferring with my kids I accepted the risk involved. We were given specific instructions and assurances of our safety with regards to the inmates. We were not to talk to them, accept or give anything to them, and other common sense warnings. It was very much like the movie Con Air except that flight had no families on it. Oh yeah, and ours did not crash. What I didn’t realize though was that FAA regulations in those days required all prisoners be unshackled and the guards could not have access to firearms during the flight. Military personnel are armed in the cockpit, but those were the only weapons allowed. So we were flying with a hundred or so prisoners who could at any time attempt to take control of the aircraft. Well, they never did, though I kept a watchful eye (not sure why) until we arrived safely without incident.

Another time we were flying in a KC-10 tanker plane. A couple of hours into the flight, a crewmember came up to my son, Josh, and asked him if he wanted to see something cool. He, of course, wanted to see something cool. Doesn’t everyone? He was escorted back to the rear of the plane where he got to witness the refueling of a flight of F-16 fighters. He was close enough to be nearly face-to-face with the pilots. They showed him in detail how to link up with the fighter and start the flow of fuel. Not every kid gets to see that.

We have also been on a plane that’s engine caught fire, flew through a spectacular but terrifying lightening storm, and have diverted to locations that were not on the flight plan.

Yes, flying was an adventure before the whoresons of 9/11 ruined it for me (and others).


Greyscale Territory said...

What fantastic, unique life experiences you have had flying!

This was a fascinating read!


Redheels said...

I like thinking about flying, well actually not the flying part, but the destination. You are well traveled and I find that very interesting since I am not.

I always learn from your posts.

Lucy said...

wow, you have had some exciting flying experience! I was glad you named the movie, because it immediately came to mind and I was starting to rack my brain.
Those Mf's of 9/11 not only ruined flying for me... I can no longer enjoy watching planes fly over my home without wondering if they may crash into it.

tumblewords said...

For sure, things have changed and not for the better. I used to fly a lot and now can barely stand to hit the airport queue to pick up an arriving friend or family member. Too bad. Airports and flying used to be fun! Mostly. Nice post and photos!

Robin said...

Oh how I would love the chance to just travel, wherever the flight ended up taking me...

Flying's in my blood too (one step removed that is). My grandfather flew in the Air Corps with Billy Mitchell, my dad and another cousin fly private planes, and I have another cousin who flies S&R helicopters into places I don't want him to be to do things I don't want to know about. (Keep a good thought for him, he's newly married and about to deploy for a year. Again. To some very unsavory places. Again.)

PS It took me months, but I finally did the meme you tagged me for ages ago :).

anthonynorth said...

Great post. Brought back memories of my time in the RAF. Ah! the stories :-)

Anonymous said...

Really original storyline.
Well written and kept my interest
peeking. Thank You
I enjoyed that!
Miss Rose