I am at KAF, inching just a little bit closer to home…
The other day, in my post Back to Apache, I explained the ‘Show Time’ for helicopters is two hours before scheduled flight time, but I never go more than an hour ahead of time because the aircraft are rarely on time, let alone early. Well I learned that thought process was seriously flawed! Ignoring the designated time & doing my own thing nearly screwed me out of my ride yesterday!
Our flight was scheduled for 1321, with a showtime of 1121. At around 0830 I was told that the flight was running early by about an hour – they had an early morning scheduled pick-up at Apache and then would return to Apache for us as the final leg to KAF. I was told I should be sure I was on the HLZ at least 90 minutes before flight time versus my normal 60 minutes. Of course, in the back of my mind I dismissed this thought (they are NEVER that early) and went about my business tying up last minute things before I left.
At around 1100 the guy that was traveling with me stopped by my office to let me know he was headed to the flight line. I sent him ahead and said I would be there in 15 minutes. Of course 15 minutes turned into 30 and as 1130 rolled around I decided I should probably get going. I had a few more things to stuff into my ruck and was taking my grand old time because of course it was still close to 2 hours before the scheduled flight time.
I hadn’t been in my room more than 5 minutes when I heard the unmistakable sounds of a Chinook
…I looked at my watch & thought – ‘there is no way…’ but I left the tent & looked in the air & said to myself ‘WTF! I will never get there in time’. I went into hyperspeed, grab-n-go mode. I honestly have no idea how I was able to stuff the last few items in the ruck, grab my body armor, helmet, weapon & ruck and start sprinting…ok, fast waddling…to the HLZ.
I honestly surprised myself that I was able to get there before they even started loading the aircraft. I stopped at the ramp to actually close my ruck & put my gear on. Unfortunately, this little delay in loading on my part, caused me to sit in the last available seat, near the middle of the aircraft, no where near the open windows of the door gunners. Ugh, I really dislike flying Chinooks without fresh air. The aircraft is always hot, stale & gaseous smelling. The ride is always bumpy, rocking & nausea inducing.
I did my best to block the thoughts of the next 45 minutes from my mind; hoping & praying we wouldn’t have any stops. Good news, no stops with a direct flight to KAF. Bad news, the ride met my expectations to a tee! Hot, humid, stale air and a very bumpy, rocking ride. Within the first 10 minutes I was doing all I could to hold my stomach in check . Not good…
Luck was on my side as fortunately I was able to keep everything in check & we landed at KAF without incident. KAF did not disappoint either. I was welcomed with strong, dusty, hot winds with just the right amount of sewage aroma to ensure I didn’t want to stick around too long.
One more wake-up & I will be flying west! Woohoo!