Monday, July 27, 2015

Well, I'm back

John Kittridge drove me back to Valhalla Ranch this morning. There was a joyful two-Bernard committee waiting to welcome this prodigal son back, and the overstuffed chair was ready for me after I finished the ritual greetings, sniffs, and buttscratches.

Thor in his summer suit Valkyrie in her summer dress

Yesterday's transcontinental trip was my first flight on the new C-17 transport! Here's a stock photo.

 Takeoff was extremely late (3 hours); after all, we were just extra cargo! They stuffed me in at the 940 mark (centimeters?), port side.  The old web seats have been replaced with a slightly cushioned ergonomic design, it seems, complete with a personal fire protection evacuation hood ... no life vest, though.

The flight was more of a family overnight experience than the usual cattle car feeling on commercial flights -- kids and some adults spread pads on the cargo floor, unpacked their PBJ box meals, refilled their cups and flasks from coolers full of ice water. Hate to think what some clear air turbulence would have done.

Plenty of leg room, though, about eight feet from the side mounted seats to the center of the empty cargo bay. And noisy children? Not a problem, we all had earplugs in to damp out the sound of the engines rumbling through the hull at our backs.

 The youngest member of the loadmaster's team marched smartly down the line checking seat belts with a polite frozen half-smile on her face, looking very professional. Nomex flight suit was more fashionable than one would think for a fireproof set of overalls. It fit better than many uniforms that the services have inflicted on women service members.

She engaged in a spirited discussion about the port-a-potty pallet with the square-built loadmaster of perhaps twice her age. They were beyond passenger hearing range in the thundering cavern, but it involved a lot of pointing. The complex sequence involved in raising and lowering the aircraft tail ramp that fascinated all the kids in the audience (yes, me too) was hers to carry out as well --clearly a full partner in the team's work. Times are changing, if slowly.

On the ground again, the taxi dispatcher asked what city the Andrews AFB passenger terminal was in. Right, I said -- thanks, it may be midnight, but I'll find other transportation. With a base map in hand and orienting on the lights of the flight line, I walked through the empty night time streets to the Air Force Inn.

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