Our Space A flight to Singapore on a C-17.

I’ll post the very first installment of my husband’s guest blog series about becoming a navy pilot TOMORROW! It is taking a while to post because he wrote several entries, and I’m not expert enough to edit them for clarity correctly the first time 😉 Since I didn’t go through flight school, I don’t understand some things that he talks about, so, like many of you who also haven’t been there, I had a lot of questions. I’m excited to post the first installment, though!!

We had a wonderful time on vacation, but I first want to tell you all about the AMAZING ride we had on our way down to Singapore! Remember my first Space A flight on the KC-135, and what a fun experience it was? I really lucked out on this 2nd flight.

We rode to Singapore on a C-17! WHOA!


Unlike the KC-135, there were NO “COMMERCIAL” SEATS – we rode inside the barely-insulated fuselage in tiny, fold-down seats that were attached to the walls! If you’ve ever seen pictures of troops flying to Afghanistan packed like sardines into a giant troop transport plane, then you can envision what I rode in!

Inside a C-17

As you can see, the inside of the plane is totally bare – hardly any insulation, no walls, no “niceties”, no rows of seats – since it is meant to haul cargo. A C-17 can haul up to 3 or 4 helicopters (depending on the kind), so the fuselage is like a giant, fat tube, and the wings look stunted and too short for the plane to actually fly.

The cockpit is above the main body of the fuselage (accessible via a staircase). The fuselage floor is uneven and treacherous, as it is literally a giant pulley and tie-down system that the “Load Masters” (the enlisted airmen who are in charge of loading the cargo plane) use to load and tie-down pallets, helos, tanks, and supplies for the military effort (be in humanitarian, war, or otherwise).

Because I was flying with my spouse service member, I was able to fly “category 3” (wohoo), and we got on our desired flight. I was really, really worried when we arrived because there was a huge crowd! We didn’t do anything specific to fly category 3, as we were informed that I was category 3 when we checked in. If you want to fly with your service member spouse, I recommend that you ask his or her command admin if you need a special letter.

Here are a few highlights from the trip on the C-17:
– Our pre-flight briefer told us that the flight was only 4.5hrs. The flight actually took about 8.25hrs. Surprise! /facepalm
– Holy cold noses, Batman, the temp inside the plane was about 40* for the entire flight. If you Space A during the winter, do yourself a favor and bring a hat, scarf, gloves, winter coat, and maybe an extra pair of pants/thermals in case you have to fly on a C-17 or similar cargo plane. I was dressed warmly, but we had no clue that we would be riding in a freezing airplane and we definitely could have dressed warmer.
– FYI: C-17s aren’t the place for your toddling baby or adventurous young child to run loose. If you’re not sure if you should being your kids on the plane, don’t. There were many unhappy children and parents on the flight.
– It’s SO LOUD during the flight that I had to wear ear protection the whole time. I didn’t hear any crying babies, and I probably wouldn’t have if they were sitting on my lap.
– As with the KC-135, we had to purchase a $5 meal. It contained: a cold cut sandwich, chips, a granola bar, a candy bar, water, and a soda. We are not given options for what the box contains – it is just handed to us, and all the boxes that are handed out on the flight contain identical food. Free water bottles and apple juice boxes were provided, which were not on the KN-135 flight.
– The meal gave me food poisoning, which was so horribly uncomfortable on the flight!!!
– The bathroom was so small it was almost unusable, which was awesome during my period of food poisoning. I had to take off all the layers I could bare before going in. I couldn’t turn around, sit, or even lock the door while wearing any of my cold weather gear.
– I thought that I would be airsick because there aren’t any windows in the fuselage except in the emergency exits. The plane was big enough, though, that I felt okay (only a tiny bit queasy). It helped that I had something in my stomach. If you get airsick and are on one of these flights, definitely sit as close to the front of the plane as you can manage.
– Some people who knew ahead of time that we were taking this giant cargo plane brought sleeping bags and pillows, and found dark corners of the plane and slept the whole way. If you call ahead to the terminal (like within 36hrs), you can find out what kind of plane you will be riding. However, be aware that the people manning the AMC hotline will not be able to give you definite information about how many seats will be available, what kind of seats will be available, and sometimes they may not be able to tell you exactly what kind of plane is coming (depending how early you call). If it’s an afternoon flight, I’d call in the morning.
– We were able to bring unopened food on the flight with us.
– Part of the mission of these C-17 flights is to move large cargo from one American base to another. In the picture above, you can see pallets of home goods on their way to families (aka the belongings of a family that was moved to an overseas base). In the military, we don’t have moving trucks – we have badass military airplanes.

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