I love flying on airplanes. The feeling of being airborne is unparalleled by anything else in this world. As an American soldier it is to be expected that I fly on a regular basis; going from post to post, training events, or even just back home for a visit. I have flown in commercial jets all the way down to Blackhawk helicopters. When I deploy the plane of choice for the military is a 767 or bigger. I assume that it is because of the number of people needed to transport and the distance they need to go that is a determining factor in the choice. I guarantee ladies and gentlemen, that you have not lived until you fly in a C130 during a combat landing.
The C130 is specifically built for these types of maneuvers and they like to do them often in combat. Imagine if you will, being in a plane that is circling the airport. You are sitting along the fuselage facing the center and you’re wondering if you are going to land anytime soon. Suddenly, before you can finish the thought you drop. You drop straight down one hundred feet in an instant. As you continue to fly in a circle you are periodically dropped at one hundred feet intervals. Have you ever been on a rollercoaster that drops that quickly? Two things happen to you when this happens. One, you are lifted up out of your seat and held in place by your seatbelt. Two, your stomach takes up residency inside your throat and you spend your time trying to swallow it again. This is exactly what it is like while doing a combat landing.
Another fun ride is a Chinook helicopter. The Chinook is a tandem rotary wing aircraft that can maneuver surprisingly well. I love it when you are riding in one of these and they bank left or right. Since you are sitting along the walls, when they bank you are virtually hanging by your seat belt or being pressed in by the centrifugal force. Both of these aircraft are all fun rides and I am always in anticipation and excitement for a ride, like a kid waiting in line for a ride on the Matterhorn at Disneyland.
The strangest thing happened to me when I was going home for mid tour leave. The normal process of flying down to Kuwait and doing all that stuff is pretty standard. We got into the C130 and flew down, no combat landings on this trip unfortunately. Then from Kuwait we boarded a 767 airplane and flew home. The flight is about 16 hours long with one stop in Germany usually. On this plane ride I spent most of my time in anticipation of being home with my wife and daughters. I thought about things to do, places to eat at, and etcetera. I also watched a couple of movies and ate some deliciously disgusting airplane food; I was starving at the time so it was delicious. After a few hours in the air I finally got comfortable enough to fall asleep.
The best thing about flying in a huge jet is the people you get to sit next to. I was fortunate enough to sit next to a girl, so I didn’t have to worry about smelly farts or any other nasty smells that men produce. I had my packet of gum in my leg pocket so when my breath got a little funky I could chew a piece and be able to talk if conversation ever came up. Luckily, she slept most of the way. One time I woke up, noticed I was facing her; she coughed a little, and whew—I just about died. Finally, once she woke up and I woke up, I quickly pulled out my pack of gum, slid a piece in my mouth, and offered her a piece nonchalantly. She took the piece of gum, chewed it for about a minute, and then asked me some random question.
From Dallas Home
The most unfortunate part of sitting next to a girl on an airplane is having to contend with the occasional fart that comes up. Luckily for me there were only a couple of times one came up. The first one I just held it in, I held his brothers and sisters in as well. Finally when I had to let one go, I excused myself, went to the lavatory, and blasted it. The last one I had to deal with was when we landed in Germany. I had been holding one in for about two hours at this point, and it was begging me to be let free. I allowed the girl to go before me, not to be a gentleman mind you, but because I was beginning to be in serious pain and had to let the fart go. Once she was far enough away, I kept the ole cheeks clenched until I got onto the tarmac. After an exaggerated step with my right leg I felt much better, soon though I heard, “Jesus Christ man, did it smell that bad when you ate it!?!”
Anyway, sorry I digress. This is not a fart story. Just thought I’d throw that out there.
So there I was back on U.S. soil, we had landed in Dallas with no more problems. After sixteen hours of flying we had arrived. We processed through and about an hour later I was awaiting a flight to Killeen. Killeen is a three hour drive south of Dallas so I was going to be flying on a little turbo prop airplane. You know the kind with the propellers in front of the engines, very small too. These planes hold about twenty people tops. An hour after arriving at the gate I boarded the little turbo prop that would take me home.
I have never in my life boarded a commercial airplane from the back before so this was a new experience. I got my seat, which surprisingly had more leg room than the 767 I just spent sixteen hours on, plus the seats were far more comfortable. I guess they want to make their twenty passengers more comfortable. The engines started up with a distinct sound. The sound was much like a lawnmower but a lot louder. The takeoff was a little rough and we rocked from side to side as if the wings were being dipped intentionally, but it leveled out shortly after making it to ten thousand feet. The dull roar of the engines made me believe that they were going to give out at any second but they held. What happened next spooked me.
The Plane Crash
About thirty minutes into the flight we got some turbulence. With the turbulence we dropped maybe twenty or thirty feet then climbed back up. When we got back to ten thousand we hit another spot of turbulence, this time it rocked the plane to starboard and dropped us another twenty feet. We dropped twenty feet while leaning to the right. Suddenly the engines changed sound, we leveled, but dropped another twenty feet. Then with a loud and terrifying boom the plane was rocked port side and started shaking from left to right. You could feel us losing altitude quickly, and just as loudly and suddenly the fuselage was punctured by a propeller. With another loud bang the oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling. The plane continued to shake violently from side to side then it veered to the left, and hard. “This is the captain…*grunts*…we have lost the port engi…shit, hang on.”
At this point we’re going down, there is no doubt about that. We end up in a nose dive and the pilot is trying like hell to bring it up. All my years of flying in combat type situations had not prepared me for this. As we are plummeting to the Earth at a virtual forty five degree angle, I start to realize my own mortality. I glance out my window as I begin to deny God’s will…soon, very soon I will discover the mysteries of the great beyond. “NNOOOoooooo.”
“Hey, troop what’s the matter.” A voice says from right next to me. I am gently and then a little more forcefully woken up. “Dude, you’re dreaming. Snap out of it.”
I awaken with a start, confused, disoriented, and then happy. We have landed in Killeen safe and sound. My life has been spared for the moment.