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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Space A Adventures

I'm becoming a pro at Space A travel.  I think I'll know all there is to know about it by the time we are done with this tour.  After that, I'll likely never get to travel for free again since we all know how often Submariners get leave.  (Civilians can read that as: Never).  So here is how my 7th Space A journey went.

There were supposed to be 2 flights leaving Guam for Hawaii on Sunday, so I was packed and ready for them.  The last time I called to check the recording at Andersen, however, there was only one flight listed, and it had a show time of 0540.  You're supposed to be there early to make sure you're signed up, so I was going to have to be there at 0500... Which, when you live where we do, that means leaving the house by 0415.  FUN.

I wasn't able to sleep anymore by 0330, so I just got up.  I let Jason sleep a few extra minutes, and we got out the door by 0410.  I was pretty sure I had everything.. We got almost to the gate, and I remembered my jacket. Military cargo planes (which I thought I'd be traveling on) are notoriously cold, so this was not ok.  We went back for my jacket, got off base, and Jason realized I'd left my pillow.  We were already running 15 minutes behind by this time, and we still had to stop for breakfast, so there went my pillow :(

We finally got to Andersen by 0515.  I went to check in, and the chick informed us that they couldn't release a seat count until roll call.  Brilliant.  It's 0515 and Jason is supposed to be at work by 0600.  He called and got someone to stand by for him (Thanks, Bueno!) so he could hang out with me until/if I made roll call.  They finally started roll call at 0615, and announced only 15 seats.  I was pretty sure I wouldn't make it since there were two families in Category 2.  In fact, Jason had left my luggage in the back seat because we were that sure I wouldn't make roll call.  They got through Category 2 with only 4 seats remaining.  Nobody was in Cat 3, and I was the first person signed up for Cat 4, so I made it!  NOTE: If you're going to fly Space A without your sponsor, sign up a month in advance!!

I felt really bad for the two families behind me, though.. Both families had 4 people, and there were only 3 available seats.  I almost gave up my seat so they could fly, but my thought process was this:  #1, the flight leaving Guam on Monday is a C5, and those are not such reliable flights.  For some reason they always get delayed or cancelled altogether.  I didn't want to risk not getting here in time.  #2, If they had signed up far enough in advance (like I did), they would have been ahead of me.. So.. Sorry :(  If I had known then what I know now, that family would be enjoying the Hawaiian breezes by now.

Anyway, so I made roll call, and Jason stayed with me to get my luggage checked.  I walked with him back out to the car where I proceeded to hold my tears in until I'd turned and started walking back.  I'm sick of that man seeing me cry, so I managed to get to the terminal bathroom before I lost my mind.

On to the plane!  So, let me just say, if I am ever able to choose again, I will NOT fly on a KC135.  I am accustomed to flying on a C17, and I don't mind the C5.  For future travelers, here's what matters:  C17s are the bomb.  They usually have extra space so you can lie down, walk around, whatever.  C5s typically have air line type seats, so they are pretty comfortable, just not very spacious.  KC135s, apparently, only have jump seats, and are incredibly small.  The luggage of 15 people takes a lot of space in the 135, which is not a cargo plane like the C17 and C5.  The 135 is an aerial refueling plane, so it was NOT built to carry lots of stuff.. or people.  There was exactly enough space between my jump seat and the crate of luggage for me to stretch my legs out.  The crates were right in the middle of the plane, so there were just two lines of seats on the sides of the plane, and then the crates in the middle.  So what this means, is that there are effectively two aisles for people walk up and down to get to that one bathroom near the cockpit.  Therefore, propping your feet up to sleep is a no-go.  Lying down in the aisle is a no-go.  Besides being incredibly tiny (I'll post pictures of the different people so you can compare), the 135 is not well ventilated.  While my upper body was actually sweating, my feet were freezing inside my socks and running shoes.  Needless to say, seven hours of this was more than a little uncomfortable.

We landed in Hawaii, and this particular plane was going to head on to Pittsburgh today.  Jason and I considered me staying over night here, then taking this flight on to PA and getting a commercial flight to Jackson.  The cost of a last minute ticket to Jackson would be almost the same as the cost of spending 4 days in Hawaii with a hotel and rental car.  After 7 hours on that tiny old plane (I shall refer to the KC135 from here on out as the Pterodactyl), there was no way I was prepared for any more flight time on that one.  Then I heard the crew mention that the flight to Pittsburgh was 10 hours.  Ha!  No thanks.  I'd rather spend a week in a hotel room in HI than 10 hours on the Pterodactyl.

C17 - What I'm accustomed to flying on

C5 - Just so you can see just how BIG these bad boys are
The KC135 - See the difference???  SO small in comparison!

So here I am.  There is a cargo plane going straight to the Air Guard base in Jackson on Wednesday.  My uncle is awesome and has been keeping up with this plane and crew for me.  I know it's going for sure, and on top of that, it's going straight HOME.  This never happens in the Space A world.  No commercial flights for me, just military hotel rooms.  I don't think I'm going to rent a car while I'm here, either.  The BX and Commissary are less than a quarter of a mile away, the gym is right across the street and has a pool, and the terminal is about a half mile away.  I'm still pretty capable of walking, so that's what I'm doing.  I mean, I'll call a cab to take me and my luggage back to the terminal, but for a few days, I'll be fine hoofing it.


  1. Glad you made it to HI and will soon be in sunny MS! Flying while pregnant is a pain-I was at the end of my 8th month when I had to fly 3,000 miles in the tin cans that Air Canada calls planes and I said I'd never do it again! Hope you have an enjoyable couple of days and that you make it home safe and soon :)

  2. Wow! I have been wanting to try Space A since we are in Hawaii and want to make it home to Michigan sometime within these 3 years we are here but I am terrified to try it with 3 kids! That makes 5 of us and that would just be an insane flight and very little chance we would make it on the plane. Thanks for this though, I will keep the different plane types in mind in case we decide to brave it!

  3. I wish I would have figured out Space A while we were stationed in Hawaii. It would have saved me a fortune. Good for you for doing it!