Air Force Airlines – the only way to fly
You hear time and again how miserable the whole experience of commercial air travel has become. Granted, at times it can be taxing, even for the most seasoned traveler. But next time you find yourself taking to the air – consider this…
Once a month I leave a few hours early from here on a Friday to go catch my flight to North Carolina. This has been my monthly routine ever since my Air Force Reserve unit relocated down south five years ago.
I tell people I fly down there on one of my unit’s C-130 Hercules – a four-engine turboprop that’s low on luxuries but high on ambience…of an unfinished basement that is. So what’s it like to fly in one of these gray cargo planes?
For starters you have to wear hearing protection. There’s not much noise-deadening insulation in the fuselage, so it’s quite loud on board. To put the loudness into context, if I wanted to talk with someone sitting next to me, I have to shout. Next, we typically board from the back of the plane with the engines running, meaning if you don’t have good footing, the thrust may blow you away.
Once on board you sit sideways on nylon jump seats. If the flight is only half full (30-40 people), you do have room to stretch out and it’s actually somewhat comfortable. But if you’re flying with 80+ people, which occasionally happens, it’s a very tight fit – shoulder to shoulder with the knees of the person across from you right in your lap. Not the best way to fly.
In my 21-year Air Force career I’ve logged hundreds of flights on a C-130. It certainly isn’t first class – but it gets the job done. So the next time you see one flying over head, know that the aircraft is filled with people proud to serve their country…and sitting sideways!