Tuesday, February 3, 2009

40+ hours on a plane

I'm in Afghanistan now, more on that later, but first I have a story about the flight over. We flew from McChord Air force base in Washington (the state) to some small air base in Germany. I'd tell the name, but I don't remember and it's not important to the story in any way. I was lucky enough that I got to sit in first class on a 747. It was very impressive, with a video screen for each seat. You could play whatever movie you wanted. The chair turned into a bed. There was ample space for my feet, and all the random junk I was carrying. It was a really enjoyable flight. We left in the late evening, so I just watched a movie and then slept. When I woke up we were in Germany to refuel and change crews. We were only supposed to be on the ground for about an hour and a half, but of course everything up till that point had gone right, so it was inevitable that the plan would have to change.

As we were taxiing to the runway to take off the pilot came over the intercom to announce that our flight was going to be delayed at least 18 hours due to weather. Our next stop on our journey to Afghanistan was Manas, Kyrkistan, and Manas was at zero visibility and not expecting a change. In a more developed country zero visibility isn't as much of a hindrance, but in a third world country it most definitely is. Eighteen hours on a plane is a little long, especially after a ten hour flight from the states, so our chain of command did the sensible thing and got us rooms at a hotel. Here is were the catch came in. The only hotel that could take nearly 300 people on short notice was roughly 2 hours away in Frankfurt. We had a plane full of soldiers, and each soldier was carrying weapons. Customs frowns on taking weapons into the country, even if it is soldiers. We can't just leave the weapons on the plane, there are going to be crews coming on the plane to change out the food that will be expired 18 hours from now, etc. Germany won't let us through customs with our weapons, and staying on the plane with that many people is out of the question, so we had to send everyone to the hotel, leave the weapons on the plane, and leave guards. Since I was in first class, I volunteered to stay on the plane with three other soldiers from first class.

Everyone left, including all of the crew. The only people that stayed on board with us were a few of the maintenance guys. One of the Germans from the airport brought us over a case of beer and the maintenance guys gave us full privileges on the plane. I basically did everything on the plane that you always want to do, but never actually do when on a plane. Every switch, every button, every little cabinet, I flipped it, pushed it, or opened it. I also got an in depth tour of the cockpit. All the food on the plane was going to be thrown away, so we could eat whatever we wanted. I ate the crew meals because their food was much better than the first class meals even. I actually had a blast. When we finally got cleared for take off I had spent over 25 extra hours on the plane. When we landed in Manas it was about 41 hours after taking off in the states. It was quite the adventure.

Here is the beer. Bitburger is what it was called. I'm not much of a beer drinker, I prefer mixed drinks, but this beer was pretty good. I figured that since I was in Germany, and alcohol won't be accessible for awhile that I may as well have a few. Thanks to whom ever it was from the airport that "accidently" left them on the plane.

Heres two of the other guys enjoying the food and movies.