The Cold Blue Yonder


Long underwear shirt: Check.

Turtleneck shirt: Check.

Jacket: Check.

Fleece vest: Check.

Hat: Check.

Down throw/fleece blanket: Check.

Sleeping Pad: Check.

Is Lady Cat 6 gearing up for some sort of Arctic expedition? No! I’m preparing to fly space a on a C-17!

There are many aircraft available in the AMC repertoire, from government-chartered commercial airplanes, just like civilian airlines, to executive jets, to tanker planes, to cargo planes of all sizes.

My most favorite is the C-17 cargo plane. It’s big and roomy, so I can get up and wander around during the flight without the bother of narrow aisles, taking advantage of the huge, cavernous interior space. Most of the time, it’s also possible roll out a blanket or camping pad on the floor and stretch out and sleep (and, I do!). But, it’s a nippy ride and it’s best to be well-prepared.

Savvy travelers are always ready for any type of aircraft! After a bit of trial and error, my sponsor and I have put together a small backpack which contains all the necessities for a comfortable flight – the items mentioned above, plus a nifty blow-up Klymit Static V (also available at Amazon and other vendors) sleeping pad that folds and rolls down to the size of a nalgene water bottle! This duffel, crammed additionally with snacks, sleep masks, and various electronics, is one of our designated carry-ons. We take it no matter what our initial craft might be so we are ready to take advantage if a C-17 should appear on our travel horizon.

Two more words of wisdom: Ear Plugs! Cargo planes are extremely loud, and ear plugs are a necessity! Kind and gentle passenger terminal personnel and flight crews will have enough to distribute to everyone prior to engine start up, but I find those quite hard and just a tad too large for my delicate, feminine-sized ear canal. I prefer to stock our own, and I prefer Mack’s®.  They are pliable, nicely sized, and very effective for surviving hours inside a shrieking aircraft engine echo chamber with hearing intact. Purchase a gross!  You never know where, when, or under what circumstance – flying, snoring partner (not me!), paper-thin hotel walls, overly chatty fellow passengers, screaming children, your mother-in-law  (but not mine!), you just need some freaking quiet (PLEASE!), etc. – you’re going to need an effective set of earplugs!

Mack'simum protection on long, loud flights!

Mack’simum protection on long, loud flights!

After successfully completing roll call for a C-17, one further hurdle awaits. The mad scramble for the “warmest” spots on the plane! During the school bus ride out to the waiting aircraft, passengers begin eyeing each other–checking out carry-on luggage, comparing ages, noting who has children – anything that may affect the results of the “race”.  When the bus doors swing open, we’re off! There’s a tumultuous rush out the bus door, across the tarmac and up the plane steps! Like Wal Mart opening for Black Friday!  Elbows, purses, pillows, strollers, car seats and bags fly in every direction!  We–who have learned to travel light, are spry, and unencumbered by small children– pull ahead and score two seats near the front of the plane, the prime location to take advantage of the heat, if it’s working! Others sprint back to the emergency exits mid-plane and the giant heating ducts that blow warm air, if there is any, straight down on the seats directly below them.  The stragglers, some heartbroken and some ignorant of what is to come, settle themselves into the rest of the seats.  Pre-flight is finished, the emergency procedure brief is complete, the door closes, the engines wind up to a screaming howl, and, off we go!

As we reach altitude and the temperature plummets, some of us will be toasty warm. Some will freeze their patooties off. And next time, the frozen ones will know better than to laugh at those who suit up for winter in the 90 degree cabin on the ground. They, too, will kit themselves out like Nanook, and be ready to have a warm, comfy, restful ride on the wondrous C-17!

Morning, Mount Rainier, McChord, and my favorite ride!

Morning, Mount Rainier, McChord, and my favorite ride!

7 thoughts on “The Cold Blue Yonder

  1. I was flying back from our EML location alone with my six month old daughter and got caught up in the Cat VI rush to make sure they boarded before us in order to get the better/warmer seats. Unfortunately for them, the flight crew made them move when I got on board for my daughter’s comfort. I understand that Space – A is a free for all and I was packed accordingly for both of us, but it was a crappy start to our trip home. Fortunately the next flight we had couldn’t have been anymore different and I had Cat VI travelers helping me with my bag and car seat, checking in on me during the flight to make sure we were both ok, lending me their cell phones since we don’t have one in the States at the moment, and waiting with me until my family was able to gain base access. So maybe before you knock over some children running to your warm seat, remember that we are all fellow travelers and some kindness is always appreciated.


    • Oh, my! Everyone at Lady Cat 6 (me) is sorry you had such an unfortunate experience! Let me assure you that neither I, nor my sponsor, has ever knocked anyone over, and I certainly would never advocate anyone else doing so! Both of us are also quite a helpful to others we encounter on our travels. I’m happy your second flight was more pleasant for you!


    • We bought ours at REI, but if you google Therma-rest pad you should be able to find them. There are several options! Others have used cheap blow up pool floats so they could ditch them upon arrival if desired. And, once, we were on a flight where a group of people had a queen size air mattress they blew up with a foot pump, and they all stretched out and played cards and games for the flight!


  2. Every flight we have ever been on they let the families with children get on and off the bus first! We always help mothers traveling alone. Our last trip a young mother had a baby in a carrier, a bag, and a car seat in a backpack. Have you ever seen one of those? They are big, bulky and heavy. My husband carried the baby and backpack to the bus and to the plane. Another Cat 6 man carried the baby up the stairs to the C-5.
    We are all fellow travelers and as such the majority try to help each other. Just as everywhere else there are exceptions.


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