Got to the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center) at 0600 this morning. We were given a bag lunch and a set of earplugs on the way out to the plane and then we got on the huge C-17 at about 0800 with the full compliment of ECW gear - the the long johns, the fleece pants, the carheart bibs, the three layers of long underwear tops, the big white bunny boots, and tucked beneath my arm was the big red jacket.
The outside and therefore the inside of the plane were huge. (Notice the mechanic in the actual engine checking the turbine blades.) Rows of five facing forward in the middle and then a single row of fabric seats on each side facing inwards. Inside was fascinating from an engineering standpoint. Unlike a commercial carrier, every bit was exposed. Wire bundles going every direction made me feel like I was on a spacecraft.
I could even look up the stairway up into the cockpit on the second level. I later asked if I could go up during the flight and was politely refused on the expectation that if everyone saw me go up, they would all want to go. (On a side note, one guy now knows me as "Cockpit Ben" as he overheard me excitedly talking about my 747-400 post landing cockpit visit.)
South we flew for three and a half hours. Every now and then I would get up so I could look outside. Anytime that I could see the ocean, it looked stormy. White water everywhere. The "screaming 50s" (a reference to the story 50-60 degrees of South latitude) seemed like it was living up to its name.
I was standing up talking to the Load Master air force guy, when he motioned me that he had to listen to his headset. From the look on his face, I knew he'd heard the news. And shortly we were in a shallow bank to east. At that point we were about two hours away and over the pack ice. It was an amazing view.
On the C-17, I happily found out that the PSR is at McMurdo station. So theoretically we could get all the way to the Ice and then turn around if the weather wasn't cooperating. They need three miles of visibility and a cloud ceiling of at least 1500 feet. At the time we turned around, the wind was gusting to 40 knots, with a 28 knot crosswind, and only half a mile of visibility. The pilot also told me that even if the wind stopped before we got there, it normally takes about an hour for all the blown snow to settle out of the air.
So back we came, a total time in the air of 6.5 hours. I'm tired and a bit dehydrated despite my best efforts to hydrate. Dinner soon after a shower and then do it all over again tomorrow, hopefully with a landing at McMurdo. I am quite happy overall though. The experience wouldn't be quite the same had we not gotten the full experience of boomeranging. I also got more time to check out the C-17 cockpit once we landed back in Christchurch.
Well that's all for now. Thanks for your comments and we'll see what happens tomorrow!
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