When it works, it works well. Yesterday after 2 days of cancelled flights and an ID card fiasco, I finally stepped aboard my first Space Available flight- a C-17 to Dover, Delaware. The process was remarkably smooth, organized, and fairly quick, once I was chosen for the flight. The terminal and security resembles that of a commercial airport, but once aboard the plane, very little was familiar. There were 27 jump seats lining each side of the plane and exactly 7 passengers. The first 7 seats on the starboard side were lowered to make room for us, (there will be no spreading out!) and besides our baggage, which was strapped into deck clips, the plane was empty. Turns out that an empty C-17 is absolutely enormous. “Free to move about the cabin” takes on a whole new meaning in an empty C-17. We could have recruited a crew member to play 4 on 4 basket ball, tossed Frisbees, and done running cartwheels down the middle. I strolled, I stretched, I peeked out the one eye level window that wasn’t attached to an emergency exit. It’s a little disconcerting flying sideways and not being able to see out.
Our flight crew consisted of 4, I think. Two pilots, one male one female, and two crew members- maybe flight engineers, all impossibly young and undeniably charming in their khaki pantsuits. Gotta love a young guy in a pantsuit.
In fact our “steward” was a young guy in a pantsuit. The flight safety info consisted of earplugs and a quick, “You guys know the drill, right?” He pointed to the water which consisted of 3 orange igloos strapped to the side, and the “lav.” Easy enough. The flight was easy and uneventful, although cold, and just as I was getting uncomfortable and the novelty of flying crab-style in a jump seat was wearing off, we landed. It was just after 1 in the morning. The bus to the terminal just took a minute and our bags arrived shortly after we did. We followed the leader into the terminal and 3 of us checked in for the morning’s flight to Rota.
There is no shortage of checking in around here. I checked in and showed my paperwork when I arrived at Travis, again at roll call, again to check into the flight, and again at security. I have learned that if they give you a piece of paper, keep it. Someone will invariably ask for it. And I have learned the meaning of the word “slipped” as applied to a flight that you’re trying to get on. It means you’re SOL. Nada. Not gonna happen. Flights “slip” to tomorrow or the next day, and the flight to Rota slipped right off the flight monitor. So here I am in Dover, Delaware, relaxing in the lovely USO lounge where I have met friendly and incredibly helpful people. I slept undetected on the USO lounge couch for a couple of hours (there is some inexplicable ban on sleeping in the prone position anywhere in the terminal) and I’m feeling ready to try for the next flight which is at 8:40 tonight. And there’s another at 10:40, and another in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Unless of course there are more “slipping” of planes clean off the tarmac.