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View Full Version : What's it like to ride on a military transport cargo plane?


R. P. McMurphy
04-28-2008, 11:05 PM
I've seen movie type stuff of military personal being transported on cargo type planes. We see the frame of the plane, jumpseats, a bunch of soldiers loaded in like livestock, etc. So, is this at all accurate? What's it like to be transported long distances like this? Is the noise and discomfort unbearable? What about food, water and biological needs?

Any factual or anecdotal information on this type of transport?

Airman Doors, USAF
04-28-2008, 11:15 PM
Depends. A C-130 sucks. Web seats, shoulder-to-shoulder down the sides, cargo stacked in the middle, nothing but a honeypot to do your business in, loud, lots of vibration, especially on the propline...if you must you must, but if you don't have to avoid it like the plague. And this from a guy who flies on C-130s. They're great at some things, but transporting people in any sort of comfort? Forget about it.

A C-5, on the other hand, isn't half bad except for the climb to the passenger area. They are not ADA friendly. However, once you're in the dedicated passenger compartment on the upper deck it's not so bad. Just hope that the C-5 doesn't break, they are notorious for that sort of thing. I spent 3 fun filled days at Westover ARB, MA on the way to the sandbox in 2003 because our C-5 broke. Good times to be had by all.

I've never been on a C-17, so you'll have to ask someone else about that.

Loach
04-28-2008, 11:24 PM
I have more experience with army helicopters but I have been in a few Air Force planes. C130s suck in the way Doors explains. C-141s suck in similar ways. When configured for troops you are shoulder to shoulder with two sets of two rows facing each other. Uncomfortable and smelly, no windows and noisy. Once one person throws up there can be a chain reaction. The thing about C-5s that takes a bit of getting used to is that the seat face the rear so it feels different than what you would be used to in an airliner. The seats are about the same as steerage on a commercial plane. No soundproofing so you have to wear earplugs. As Doors says the ladder up to the passenger compartment is very steep.

Xema
04-28-2008, 11:55 PM
I've never been on a C-17, so you'll have to ask someone else about that.
I flew on a C-17 from Germany to the US. Not nearly as "airliner-like" as a C-5 - you sit in jump seats facing the cargo area. But once airborne you can get up and roam around, climb up to the flight deck and vist with the crew, etc. No "honeypots" - there were normal heads.

All in all, an interesting way to fly.

XT
04-28-2008, 11:55 PM
From my own anecdotal experiences...noisy. Uncomfortable. Cold.

-XT

John Carter of Mars
04-28-2008, 11:55 PM
Just to confirm what's already been said about the C-130. Beats walking, but not by a hell of a lot.

XT
04-28-2008, 11:59 PM
I flew through a tropical storm to Guam in one and was violently ill...for hours. I'm never motion sick but man, I have some bad memories.

I think I would rather have walked...or swum...

-XT

mks57
04-29-2008, 04:12 AM
I used to fly on C-141s quite often. They had airline style seats installed in the forward part of the cargo bay, facing the rear of the aircraft. Cargo pallets filled the rear part of the cargo bay. They were noisy and the climate control was terrible, although it was much improved on the stretched model. They had an airline style galley and toilet. Jump seats were located on both sides of the plane but I never saw anyone use them. Bring earplugs and drink lots of water.

smithsb
04-29-2008, 05:08 AM
Food is usually energy bar, snacks, or whatever you grabbed at the terminal. Most bases have a Subway at or nearby. Bottled water is everywhere. Warming up MREs is forbidden or at least frowned on by the crew - mess problems. The multi-thousand $$$ coffee makers on C-5s seldom works.

The web seats can be fairly comfortable if you can stack enough gear around you to pad thngs out. Getting a nice soft chunck of metal behind you is a real plus ;) .

Never could figure out why the seats (mounted on 463L pallets) faced backwards on a C-141; they are forward on a C-17. Also packed tighter together that the worst commuter airline. I always take the sling seats. Easy to walk around in a C-17, spacious, just don't trip over the legs splayed out all over the place.

Mostly loud and boring - just a couple of porthole to look out. Seeing mountains and endless desert/ocean wears out quick. Also you've just spent most of your adult life waiting in the terminal through delays, cancellations, maintenance, unit moves bumbing you. Just getting on something that is going somewhere else from wherever you've been seems like progress.

Temperature varies from melting to freezing. C-17s have the best control. C-5s that weren't blowing oil fog into the cargo area from engine leaks were good as well. C-130s are ambient - 130+ on the asphalt/concrete while loading and "anything is better than the last half hour" temperature at altitude. C-141s had this ice fog that would slowly fill the cargo section at the rear moving toward you like a 50s Sci-Fi film.

C-17s have a female voice warning system up on the flight deck. When making a descent (steep and heavily banked) into an airfield with any potential of surface-to-air missiles; she reminds the pilots in a reassuring voice that they are exceeding various aircraft flight parameters. Along with the flashing lights of course.

GomiBoy
04-29-2008, 06:52 AM
Wear ear plugs, bring water, and definitely bring a book. If we had ipods then, then I would highly recommend noise-canceling headphones.

Best IMO are KC-135; they have a cargo area up top which is downright comfortable. If you butter up the boom operator, you can watch your jets (F-16s in my squadron) getting refueled during the trip, which is quite cool and the view from the boom operator's seat is simply stunning. But like all military transports, sound insulation isn't that good, and you end up not being able to do anything except maybe read a book if you're lucky. Also quite chilly as the atmosphere control ain't that good. Of course, you're loaded on top of a flying gas tank, so you try not to think about the vast amount of explosive jet fuel you're sitting on :)

I spent 17 hours in a C-130 once, on the nylon jump seats, packed in like sardines. I had a rash on my ass that took 2 weeks to go away afterwards, and was deaf for a day and a half. I'm sure that's where most of my hearing loss came from, that and working on F-16s. Shoulder to shoulder if it's full up; if it's really full up you're not only shoulder to shoulder, but between your knees at a 90 degree angle is another bloke's knee - forget about stretching out. You get real close to your mates real fast. And they're farking slow, too boot. Second for "it beats walking" but only just.

C-141 are also quite slow, but faster than a C-130; still loud and cold and uncomfortable and crowded with tiny seats designed by Torquemada and bought second-hand from Aeroflot.

Probably the best was a C-9 Nightingale - it's basically a Gulfstream IV without all the bells and whistles, acts as a fast medevac plane with lie-down cots. We had a small unit going to the Paris Air Show one year and got to ride on one of those - it happened to be available and going the same way as we were, or else we'd be on a bus from my base in Germany.

I did an incentive ride in an F-16d once; I would imagine they had it slightly worse than we did in C-130s on long-haul, as they'd spend hours not being able to move and getting in-air refueling and pissing in a tube. At least we could stand up once in a while.

Never flown on C-5 or C-17, but I've heard the improvements are vast in both speed and comfort.

Jman
04-29-2008, 06:57 AM
I flew from Kuwait back to Germany in the dead of summer from OIF 2 on a C-130 MEDEVAC flight. (I wasn't wounded, but flew space-A to redeploy...). Coming from the scorching heat and then flying for 6 hours with the cargo bay at 40 degrees or so was not a comfortable experience, but other than that, it was fine. The flight was smooth, but the web seats aren't exactly the most comfortable things on earth.

The thing is, you don't really care at the time. At least, I didn't. Get you from point A to point B safely and you're good. One positive: more legroom than a commercial flight!

Beieve it or not, I spent 5 years on active duty, and that was the only time I flew on a cargo plane. The rest was truck / bus transport or commercial flight. Even my plane into Kuwait was a commercial airliner (chartered).

Tripler
04-29-2008, 07:10 AM
I've had a Space-A flight in a C-130 where it was configured for a paratrooper jump. Put your fists together, and let your knuckles mesh like gear teeth. That's exactly how our legs fit together.

I've flown in a Blackhawk, and that was kind of cool. Plenty of legroom, but fairly loud.

Also took a few Space-A hops in a C-17. I loved it. They had a few pallets and a rolling stock bulldozer. Once we got to altitude, everyone grabbed a piece of floor, laid out what they could, and started snoozing. Me: I kicked my leg up on the wheel of a howitzer, and slept for 4 hours into Afghanistan. It were awesome.

Tripler
The only thing better than that C-17? Was the C-17 outta Afghanistan. :D

GomiBoy
04-29-2008, 07:33 AM
I've flown in a Blackhawk, and that was kind of cool. Plenty of legroom, but fairly loud.

Forgot about my Blackhawk ride in Korea. God-damn Army Warrant Officer (I was enlisted, an E-4) flying the 'Hawk figured I could score him an incentive ride in an F-16 as I was Air Force, so tortured me with low-level bush-hopping until I would do so. Didn't listen to my protests that I wasn't a pilot and couldn't help him at all. It was the only time I was ever motion sick, and I took 9 g's in an F-16 two weeks later. And I had to clean out the heli after the mess I made!

Helicopters suck ass. I will never voluntarily fly in an egg beater ever again.

Second your empty plane love, though - I flew once in a C-130 with nothing in it but 30 guys and a couple of flightline vehicles (look like modified Jeep wranglers but with a short cargo compartment for pulling jets around the flight line). We all got to stretch out, and lying on rucksacks and duffel bags with earplugs in and winter parkas over us it was damn comfortable. It was the only time I've ever slept on a plane when I wasn't passed out or on sleeping pills :)

The thing is, you don't really care at the time. At least, I didn't. Get you from point A to point B safely and you're good. One positive: more legroom than a commercial flight! Gotta disagree with you there. I was enlisted working maintenance on F-16s. I knew what kind of hi-jinks we got up to and what sort of corners we cut to make a jet mission capable, so I had little to no confidence in my fellow maintainers on the flying buses, especially as they were often Guard or Reserve. I remember once trying to convince a flight engineer NOT to super-glue a tripping fuse breaker back into it's socket so a C-130 could take off!

flyboy
04-29-2008, 10:33 AM
I spent 17 hours in a C-130 once, on the nylon jump seats, packed in like sardines. I had a rash on my ass that took 2 weeks to go away afterwards, and was deaf for a day and a half.I spent some of my most miserable hours going from the States to the sandbox in a 130 and had a nice ringing in my ears for the next couple of days. And I wore hearing protection the whole time. My ride matched yours pretty closely. I absolutely hate that plane. My vote is for the C-9 or Gulfstream IV, or the L1011, if that's still in use. There's even a 737 variant which I haven't been lucky enough to get on.

GomiBoy
04-29-2008, 11:00 AM
I spent some of my most miserable hours going from the States to the sandbox in a 130 and had a nice ringing in my ears for the next couple of days. And I wore hearing protection the whole time. My ride matched yours pretty closely. I absolutely hate that plane. My vote is for the C-9 or Gulfstream IV, or the L1011, if that's still in use. There's even a 737 variant which I haven't been lucky enough to get on.

I was going to the sandbox as well, but from Germany. We loaded up, plane broke, kept us onboard for 3 hours while we tested and changed stuff to try to fix it on the ramp, decided to fly to Frankfurt to change planes (30 minutes or so from Spangdahlem), C-130 'fixed itself' in flight so we landed at Rhein-Mein, spent 2 hours on the ground (STILL ABOARD!!) testing, before we finally took off for Turkey and flew into a headwind for 12 hours. Horrible, horrible flight and we smelled like death when we finally got off in Turkey and the f*cking showers didn't work for 2 days!

GusNSpot
04-29-2008, 01:12 PM
What a bunch of pups.
Troop ships are the fun rides.... Bawahahahaha
Try 12 hours in a C-124 Globmaster (http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=C-124+Globemaster&btnG=Search+Images&gbv=2) .......
Try 33 hours in a C-118 (DC - 6, old piston airliner sitting backwards) (http://pictopia.com/perl/get_image?provider_id=425&size=550x550_mb&ptp_photo_id=711771) without being able to leave the plane.

And those who claim they would rather walk...... Bawahahahhaa There are still some of us old farts who know what a military march really is. I'll take a long, rough crossing in a troop ship anytime..... Rather walk.... Bawhahahahahaha

Really Not All That Bright
04-29-2008, 01:49 PM
Depends. A C-130 sucks. Web seats, shoulder-to-shoulder down the sides, cargo stacked in the middle, nothing but a honeypot to do your business in, loud, lots of vibration, especially on the propline...if you must you must, but if you don't have to avoid it like the plague. And this from a guy who flies on C-130s. They're great at some things, but transporting people in any sort of comfort? Forget about it.
On the other hand, if you're younger than 12, it's about the coolest thing ever, and not uncomfortable at all. I got to ride on a Charlie to the Mussandam peninsula (the tip of the Horn of Arabia) where there's a joint Omani/British/ American installation protecting the Strait of Hormuz.

Web seats (and the various internal hardpoints or whatever they're called) are great fun if you regard them as a climbing frame instead of a seating arrangement.

It probably helped that I never get airsick. My (admittedly hardly expert) impression was that C-130s are much more susceptible to turbulence than a similarly-sized jet.

Also, it was only a three-hour flight, IIRC.

Nars Glinley
04-29-2008, 02:00 PM
A slight hijack if I may be so bold. What does a F-16 pilot do if he needs to poop? Peeing in a tube I can understand. Do they take some sort of precaution ahead of time or do they wear diapers?

mlees
04-29-2008, 02:01 PM
I rode a COD ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C-2_Greyhound ) out to a carrier once. Three hour flight. Individual padded seats, but you need them. Seems that plane actively seeks out every rough airpocket it can. Seats face aft.

Shagnasty
04-29-2008, 02:08 PM
A slight hijack if I may be so bold. What does a F-16 pilot do if he needs to poop? Peeing in a tube I can understand. Do they take some sort of precaution ahead of time or do they wear diapers?

You know when another plane moves up next to the F-16 and connects up with a long tube? They claim that it is for aerial refueling but it isn't. The other plane is just a large Porta-Potty

flyboy
04-29-2008, 02:31 PM
A slight hijack if I may be so bold. What does a F-16 pilot do if he needs to poop?You don't. Under dire circumstances, I suppose you could unstrap and use your helmet bag. Keep in mind typical sortie lengths are not that long (although this has changed since the GWOT). Nowadays... I'm guessing those pilots just regulate themselves.

ignis_glaciesque
04-29-2008, 04:57 PM
You know when another plane moves up next to the F-16 and connects up with a long tube? They claim that it is for aerial refueling but it isn't. The other plane is just a large Porta-Potty

Typically, F-16s aren't up in the air that long. Even loaded out with full ferry fuel, I don't think you can keep one in the air longer than maybe five or six hours (like if you're trying to deliver it to an airbase in the aforementioned ferry configuration). I don't know about you, but I'm easily able to plan my poops ahead if I know I won't have an opportunity to for five or six hours. All else fails, I can hold it a lot better than Number One.

sunstone
04-29-2008, 05:14 PM
Back in the day, I remember riding as a passenger in a C 47, which was the military version of the DC 3 airliner built in the 1930s and 40s. I clearly recall watching cars on the highway below us pretty much keeping up with us as we were flying into a stiff headwind.

I believe that this model of aircraft was a major player in the Berlin airlift.

The amenities were tubular aluminum webbed seats. It was loud and very slow, and really quite interesting.

C 130s were the only aircraft in which I've been airsick, and I've been in a number of different aircraft ...the sound of those turboprops somehow did something to my inner ear.

Now the ride in an F 4 on the other hand....

gravitycrash
04-29-2008, 06:34 PM
Ah yes, the C-130. Fun times. The webbed jump seats suck all kinds of ass, not so much for the webbing but from the damned aluminum support bars.
C-130's aren't pressurized so even flying From Okinawa to the Philippines we all were freezing are asses off.
I took the initiative and yanked out my poncho liner and crashed in front of a jeep that we were also transporting. My platoon sergeant didn't say anything, so what the hell? This was back in 1984 so the humvee was just starting to show up. I was tired as hell and trusting the loadmaster enough so that the jeep wouldn't run over me.

The things you do for blessed sleep in the military.

Airman Doors, USAF
04-29-2008, 06:37 PM
C-130's aren't pressurized so even flying From Okinawa to the Philippines we all were freezing are asses off.

They are, but the heating system is primitive at best, full on/full off. The crew cares less about you than they do about themselves, which is as it should be since they're the ones doing the flying. You're just self-propelled cargo in the back.

gravitycrash
04-29-2008, 06:50 PM
Not to dispute you Airman Doors but the C-130 we flew on had about a five foot gap at the back of the plane, you could see the sky, oh yes. Kind of like a clam shell half closed.

I know your the expert here and maybe the Air force guys were just screwing with us.

Beware of Doug
04-29-2008, 06:54 PM
Before I clicked, I was guessing loud, smelly, butt-chafing, stomach-churning and hot/cold.

It appears I was dead-on.

Airman Doors, USAF
04-29-2008, 07:08 PM
If they had the cargo door open, yep, that's exactly what it would look like. Which leads me to ask: why did they have the cargo door open with pax?

gravitycrash
04-29-2008, 07:19 PM
Maybe I'm mis remembering, it was 24 years ago but I could swear the back was open the entire flight.
Would there be any reason to do this? Is this considered unsafe? We were obviously flying at a low enough altitude where oxygen was not a concern.

I'm not sure why I thought C-130's were not pressurized, but this flight was not the first or last that the back door was open while in flight.

Older model perhaps?

Euphonious Polemic
04-29-2008, 07:21 PM
I've flown in a C-130 to Ross Island, Antarctica. We were known as "moveable cargo". Very noisy, no windows, and then there was the aforementioned "honeypot". We were pretty packed in. I wore earplugs and had a book. The heating system was on, I think, but we were wearing full antarctic gear anyway, so didn't notice. My favorite part was when the announced we were "past the point of no return", ie we didn't have enough fuel to turn back, and were committed to landing on the ice shelf even if the weather turned nasty.

FoieGrasIsEvil
04-29-2008, 08:28 PM
I'll second what others have said, especially about the C-130. Noisy, loud, cold, uncomfortable and the airline food was particularly bad.
Welcome to the US military dirtbags!

Marco the Nerd
04-29-2008, 09:18 PM
Not a cargo plane, but a military jet none the less. I have spent 13 hours on a B-52. The only good part was getting a month of flight pay for sitting on the floor for 13 hours.

For those of you not familiar with these fine jets, there is room for 10 people in the cockpit. There are 6 ejection seats. Behind the pilot/co there is a small instructor pilot seat. It has absolutely no leg room. Downstairs behind the nav/rnav is an instructor nav seat. Not a bad place, but the urinal is literally at your elbow. Number nine is on the shitter. And finally there is the 10th man position. 10 man can be on the bed, but he must be belted onto the floor behind the IP seat for takeoff/landing. There is a half hammock attached to the ceiling for him to lean against.

There were 7 people on board. The bed and shitter stacked were full of bags, gear, and extra equipment that we were taking home with us. Guess who was lowest ranking.

Sitting on a hard floor for such a long time, with the engines vibrating causes you to go painfully numb in the extremities. There is no place to go, no one to talk to, and not even room to stand up and stretch. Even a good book and a full MP3 player get old after a while.

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