Editor’s Note: Geo’s memoir, Brothers of the Cloth, a true account of special mission unit soldiers, is now available for pre-order. You can purchase it here.
Traveling with the U.S. Air Force was quite the crapshoot I must say. The instances of breakdowns were depressingly high. The C-130 Hercules four-engine propeller-driven medium transport was a very dependable aircraft; to fly with those usually meant a parachute jump into our destination. The C-141 Star Lifter four-engine jet-propelled cargo transport was less dependable, tending to be more obstreperous regarding maintenance requirements and breakdowns.
The venerable C-5A Galaxy heavy transport aircraft was plain persnickety and at times the substance of nightmares to fly with. With so many thousands of aircraft subsystems on board, there was a high propensity for something to go sideways. There was a rule of thumb that suggested it was a fairly safe bet that if you could get through the first hour of flight after takeoff you would arrive at your destination. But the first hour of the flight was typically when something got pear-shaped causing the aircraft to turn back around.
The mood of flying with the Air Force was the same as flying with the airlines in the States in that there was much frustration and anguish when flights were delayed, canceled, and breakdowns left us stranded. I have spent a lot of time meandering at Dover Air Force Base where the C-5 fleet is amassed. Leaving Ft. Bragg NC only to careen off to Dover AFB seemed to be an ever-widening trend with the aircraft:
“The pilot must have forgotten his wallet.”
“The co-pilot left his coffee pot turned on back at his apartment.”