Photo © Peter Tonna
The aircraft was in a G-rig with means 3 cargo pallets and 60 seats. We were doing an airlift to the MidEast and back, with a few stops in between. There were few pics outside of the aircraft due the rules of no pictures on the ramp areas for security, so mostly wing shots. So I had to be out of site of lurking eyes from security.
12/7 NAS Whidbey Island, WA-NAS Brunswick, ME-St Johns Canada-Lajes Field, Azores
Wednesday morning. Crew brief was 0700 for a 0900 launch. I put my gear on the plane beforehand so I could get some other stuff done after brief and before departure. We were flying to NHZ to pick up 8 pax and 3500 lbs of cargo and 28K of fuel. We filed for a fuelstop at YYT for our transit to LJS (Lajes Field, Azores) where we would RON(remain overnight). The aircraft commander (TAC) opened up 15 seats for space A's to NHZ. We were delayed by an hour due to GPWS test failure, and a search as to whether 1.this could be deferred, 2. whether maintence could see if new part was available, 3. whether we could do an equipment swap.
This was the outcome to each of those proposals:
1. Couldn't be deferred, due to terrain and because of CFIT concerns in the Azores, Spain, Crete, and Canada.
2.Part was available
3. Equipment swap wasn't an option, aircraft 116 was on DET over in Japan, a/c 608 was down for a scheduled engine change, and a/c 113 was having a windscreen replaced, engine was replaced, but had to be run-up checked, and was not configured for the required mission. So the the part was changed
Meanwhile, I went into the terminal to see if any Space A's were trying to hitch a ride. No space A's, so I went to ops to make a few phone calls for ground assistance and fuel requests at the FBO at YYT. The decision from maintnence was to replace the part because CFIT concerns in the Azores, Spain, Crete, and Canada. At 0950 we closed the doors and we were on our way. We took off heading south east towards SEA before we would make our our left turn east towards Brunswick, ME. The aircraft was light enough we could go nonstop. I slept half of the way, the other half was spent doing the required paperwork needed for our departure from NHZ and YYT. Clearance forms and weight and balance forms are needed for the pilots know what there weight and limitations are for take off and landing. We arrived at NHZ around 1830. It was so cold, temperature was down to 10 degrees. It took a few minutes for me to get my thermal gear on. I went out to inspect the pallet of cargo. The pallet was stack 2 inches too high, so I asked the lift coodinator to take few items off the top, so it would be in standards of clearance of the cargo door. We took on 28,000lbs of fuel, and the total cargo weighed under 3000 pounds. The bags were loaded in the rear baggage pit to add a little wieght in the rear. The passengers were boarded around 1915 local, from the rear stairs becuase when carry pallets, the aft stair way is used because of the rollerdecking in the fwd fuselage floor.
View of the cabin
We took off at around 1925 local and headed for YYT for a quick fuelstop. It was about a 1:15 flight-time. We landed there close to 2145 with the timechange. We deplane everybody into the FBO whle the aircraft was fueled up. I did the neccessary clearance forms needed for the next. The fuel load for this leg was 31K. After fueling was completed, we were on our way to Lajes Field we would layover during the day. We took off at about 2230 headed out over the Atlantic Ocean heading southeast, Our cruising altitude was 36,000ft. Pretty uneventful flight. I just read a book, went to the cockpit and chatted with the pilots for awhile shooting the breeze. About hour prior to landing, I was looking over some of the forms needed for the outbound flight from Lajes. Local time at present position was about 0410 local. We cleared to land at Lajes at 0435. We touched down at Lajes Air Base. We parked on the west ramp, next to a KC10 from McGuire AFB, and a Gemini Air Cargo DC10. We unloaded the passengers so that they could go to lodging. Myself and the crew put the aircraft to bed, I put the finishing touches on some paperwork. It was about 0545, the aircraft was shut down. we loaded our stuff on the bus, and headed off lodging. We would depart that night for Souda Bay, Crete.
12/8, Lajes Field, Azores.
We had the day there in Lajes. I slept until about 1300. I went for walk about the base. Took a scenic walk along the road that over looks the airport, went to Burger King, had a salad, walked down to the Exchange, bought some food for the rest of the crossing that night. 1600 was the report time for a 2000 launch. Checked out of the room, put my things on the bus that was heading back down to the aircraft. I did some of the numbers, the pilot went off to base ops to refile some of the flightplan due to restricted airspace rules that popped up becuase one our aircraft carriers was conducting flight ops in the Med, so we had to change our routing abit. The crewchief fueled up the aircraft. The passengers were brought out to the aircraft about 1920. The pilots got there about the same time. We were loaded and ready to go, when the crewchief noticed, we had a big stone gouged into one our right maingear tyres. The decision was made to change the tyre. So we called for a maintnence squadron to bring out a jack and nitrogen cart. We had a spare tyre the forward baggage compartment. We changed the tyre, threw the old one in the baggage pit, it took about an hour do it. Luckily we had that spare. We took about 2045 headed for NS Rota, Spain. Flight time: 4hrs. We cleared the Spanish coastline shortly before 0300, saw Portugal off in the distance. We circled for a bit before we were given clearance. It was still pitch dark out when we landed. We touched down at Rota, and taxied for a bit. We parked and shut down engines. The ground agent, Consuela(very cute) came out to meet the aircraft, she asked us if we needed the lav service, asked if we were staying, I said no, just fueling. The bus took us and the pax into the terminal. I did some paperwork, got some coffee. One our piots then came in and said there was a fuelspill around our aircraft. The crewcheif had overfilled the left wing tank and fuel came shooting out of the vent. Firetrucks were soon on the scene to clean it up, flashing lights everywhere. At that point we knew were were going to be there awhile, so we went in the cafe and got some breakfast. About 30 minutes they had the spill cleaned up. We then reboarded the passengers. It about 0500 when we lifted off headed for Souda Bay, Crete. Flight time: 3hrs.
Over the Med
My sleeping quarters to catch a quick catnap.
12/9 NSA Souda Bay, Crete
The sun came up shortly after we took off, so most of this flight was in daylight. We cruised across Southern Spain, flew over Majorca Island, and straight across the Med to Souda Bay. We turned on final to the Souda Bay Airport.
Approaching Souda Bay
Landing in Souda Bay.
We landed shortly after 0800, nice warm day there. We cleared customs, unloaded the passengers, they headed for their lodging, we went into the terminal file for the flight to Qatar the next morning. After all that was done, we got our own bus and headed for our hotel. We had 30 hrs on deck, so we went to have some fun.
12/10 NSA Souda Bay, Crete-Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar-NAF Sigonella, Scicly
0900 was the pick up time for an 1100 take off. We got to the aircraft around 0945, did our preflight, got the refueling done around 1020, pilots were still doing their walk around, which allowed me for a quick snap of a Navy C-130.
We loaded the passengers at 1045. 1110, were on our way to Qatar.
We took off heading southeast nothing but water until we cruised over the Egyptian coastline. I was asleep most the way, recovering from the night before.
Somewhere over Egypt, making a left turn.
About 2.5 hrs into the flight we made a right turn, crossing the Red Sea, crossing over the the coastline of Western Saudi Arabia. We bagan our decent about an hour out from Al Udeid Air Base, I started to get some of the forms ready. We were to unload these guys, pick another group and take them back to the states. We were cleared for landing about 1510 local, and then the gear was lowered for our arrival.
Sand dunes in on approach.
Outer perimeter fence.
Turning of on taxiway Kilo
What is known as Tent City.
C-17 from McChord AFB, WA.
We park on the T-Line. For those that don't know, Al Udied Air Base is a transportation hub for the war effort. It handles more cargo than any place in the world. The sound of freedom.
After the pax unload their gear from the plane, the lav truck comes up to the aircraft, and services the lavatories. We unload the pallet with a K-Loader, rather than a forklift. The the aircraft is now empty. Now, I take a few minutes to grab a few pictures.
C-17 from Charleston AFB, SC.
The front office.
I removed the overwing exit to get a good snap.
NYANG C-130 from Niagara Falls, NY.
The pilots go off to get some camelburgers from the grab "N" go flight line kitchen. I start with the paperwork for the preceived lift that we're supposed to take back to the states. The Navy Logistics rep who handles the cargo coming in and out says that he doesn't know of a lift that's supposed to be going back with us. He checks with his supervisor, and nothing. The lift apparently cancels. So we have to re do the forms. The good news is, we can go nonstop from Al Udeid to Sigonella, Scicly. We add more fuel and top out at 36K of fuel on board. It's a 6 hr flight, but with an empty airplane, we're good to go. We cancal our fuelstop in Souda Bay. The pilots come back with our camelburgers for the leg to Scicly. We close all the doors, spool up the engines, and taxi out.
A view of the Herc operations area.
We were wheels up at 1715. on our way heading to Sigonella, Scicly. Flight time was estimated at 6 hrs, 20 mins. we headed due West as the sun went down. We ate our camelburgers during this leg, made some coffee for the pilots to keep them awake. It was nice having an empty plane, slept most the way. The cabin was dark as can be, as most of the crew in the back snored their way to Scicly. About an hour before landing, I did our landing paperwork, customs dec forms and other stuff. We were overnighting here, so we some stuff to do. We turned on to finals at around 1900 local. We touched down at 1910, and pulled into park at exactly 1918. 6 hrs 3 mins block time. Not bad for a DC9. We put the aircraft to bed and headed of to get some food and entertainment in Moatha.
12/11 NAS Sigonella, Scicly-Lajes Field, Azores-Halifax, NS Canada
Today, starts our flight home to the states. We We check out of our rooms and head out to the aircraft. Our pilots are filing for the flight to Halifax. We determine the favourable weather across the Atlantic will allow us nonstop from Sig to Lajes, and straight to Halifax without having to stop in St John's. We get the diplomatic clearances to RON in Halifax, which is fine by me, love Halifax. We take off shortly before 10am heading west. Nice clear day, and smooth until we hit the west coast of Spain, and then it gets bumpy, real bumpy.
We land in Lajes around 1700, for fuel, load up with about 36K of fuel. Minimal headwinds are forcast in our direction with exception of the hurricane that was blowing through, but we're well above that, so no problems. We estimated a 6pm arrival, and we were close, 1810. We park at the FBO at Halifax. A USAF MC-130 is on the ramp there with us. We park the plane for the night and head to Halifax for the hotel.
12/12 Halifax-Detroit Metropolitan/Wayne County Airport, MI-NAS Whidbey Island, WA
The next morning, we get the aircraftaround 0800. Pilots go in to file for the flight home. They pick DTW for the entry point in the US to clear customs and immigration. Then file to go straight home. There was snow the night before and a little accumulated on the wing. As the sun came up, the snow melted. The pilots determine that deicing is needed, and cancel the order for it. We close all the doors, and with 34K of fuel on board, we head across the border, to DTW to clear customs. We then head home to Whidbey. We arrive there shortly after 1930. With nothing to unload, not really much else to do. We cleaned the airplane during the flight. And so ends a successful mission.