Aboard the C17: The Super Loud Monster of a Plane

The view from the front of the C17, looking back.  Everyone is cozy by this point in the long flight!  Thanks for the thumbs up, my friends!
The view from the front of the C17, looking back.  Everyone is cozy by this point in the long flight!  Thanks for the thumbs up, my friends!

After one short day of delay, a mass of USAP employees boarded a C17 towards Pegasus Field in Antarctica.  There was a Condition 1 storm in McMurdo the day we flew and everyone was chattering about how they were going to spend their day once we were released to our hotels due to weather.  Hot in ECW gear, my pockets were loaded with avocados, apples, and nuts from a New Zealand grocery store.  A coworker convinced me that I would be thankful for the fresh produce, even though my cold weather gear (produce included) added an outstanding 52 pounds of extra weight to my 5’2” frame.

After a safety briefing and a couple hours of sitting around in our snow pants, everyone was shocked to hear the announcement that we were about to board the plane.  Everyone settled into their seats and put in their ear plugs, ready to spend the next 6 hours flying towards the Antarctic cold.

C17’s are enormous military planes.  Big enough to hold a couple hundred people plus thousands of pounds of cargo.  (I geeked out an Googled it: 174 feet long and 54 feet tall with a 170 foot wingspan!!!)  The plane is not insulated, therefore the roar of the propellers is near-deafening.  98% of passengers have earplugs in and everyone has to shout loudly to communicate.  Many people spend the time on their laptops or reading a book (likely a book about Antarctica.)  Others put on sunglasses and “Big Red” parka and then sink into a nap.

There is a near constant line at the left side of the plane full of people with full bladders who are waiting for a person in the tiny box of a bathroom to take off their jacket, overalls, fleece layer, wool layer so they can do their business and put it all back on again- carefully making tiny movements to avoid accidentally dropping their the strap of their overalls into the toilet (which will not flush for the first hour of flight.)

Some people are line up by the one small porthole window, waiting for their turn to stare at the clouds and hope that a mountain will pop up at them and stick around long enough for a photograph.

Others stand in line next to the stairs that lead up to the cockpit.  The crew graciously invited passengers up to say hello, ask questions, and take photographs.

Most of us sat in excitement, nibbling on the goodies in our brown paper lunch sacks, ready to land on the ice.

 

Bunny boots are funny boots!
Bunny boots are funny boots!

 

 

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