How I Found Myself in the Back of a Military Cargo Aircraft For 12 Hours {Part I}

Tim and I woke up to our alarm at 3:45am on Saturday, the automatic coffee maker already brewing away. Bleary eyed, I said goodbye to the BOQ and we headed to Kadena AFB to get me registered for the space-available flight to Seattle. The flight was scheduled to leave around 9am – we got there at 5:30 to make sure I got a seat.

So did everyone else.

I didn’t get a seat.

The lady at the counter told us there was another flight leaving at 9:30 that evening for Travis AFB in California. A direct flight to Travis, with no stops on the mainland, which she assured us had plenty of seats available. We said we’d think about it, and went to get Subway.

I said hello to the BOQ (again) and we started planning my trip (again). We ended up finding a direct flight from San Francisco to Kansas City the next day for a ridiculously low price, figured out how to get me to San Francisco from Travis (about an hour away), and found some hotel options close to the airport. Tim programmed all this into my iPhone like I was a kid traveling alone for the first time. When I felt reasonably confident that I could do this, I decided to try to get on the Travis flight.

But first we napped like it was an Olympic sport.

When we got to Kadena this time, there were still a ton of people waiting, so there was a while when I was sure I wouldn’t get on this one either. Just when I’d checked the movie theater schedule for that night and decided what I wanted for dinner, they called my name and I got a seat.

When I got out my wallet to pay for my ticket, the guy at the counter told me this flight was completely free – that probably should have been my first indication of what was to come. I paid $4.25 for my meal, and that was all it took to get me on a direct flight across the Pacific. Pretty awesome, I thought. Much better than shelling out about $1800 for a one-way ticket.

It was free, the ticket guy said, because it was a cargo plane.

Now those of you who know how my mind works might understand how the first thing I pictured was the cargo plane in Temple of Doom that was filled with crates of chickens and crashed in the Himalayas after the pilots jumped out of the cockpit with the last two parachutes, leaving Indy and Willy and Short Round to escape by jumping out on the inflatable raft. Either that, or having to be strapped into seats around the side of the plane like paratroopers ready to jump out the back. I was not excited about either of these scenarios.

Stay tuned for Part II, complete with frantic iPhone photos.


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