Alexandra's Notebook

A Galaxy of a Problem

There were times, some of them quite comical though serious, that happened during my tenure in the military. Point in case, the day we had an emergency diversion—due to bad weather—of a USAF Galaxy cargo plane. Which was 3 hours out and would be landing on fumes by the time it got to us—the only base it could divert to due to it’s size and weight.

While our runway was rated to take the weight, we nonetheless had to have a 3 month closure in order to redo and resurface the runway after this single plane diversion. An unforeseen consequence which made me wonder, just who exactly footed the bill for that?

That aside, and with only 3 hours notice and due to the really shitty weather elsewhere. We, that is, the base, had to somehow accommodate this behemoth.

The comical part to this situation was the fact that, because of the sheer size, never mind weight of this plane, it’s wingspan alone was going to take out two small buildings on landing unless …

Unless said buildings were either moved, or dismantled for the landing. Moving was, at that time, in that timeframe, obviously out of the question. As to demolishing them? Nada. They both housed delicate radar equipment. But, regardless, somehow, in that 3 hour window, engineers and crews figure out a way to take off just enough of the side and top to both units in order to accommodate the Galaxy’s wingspan.

I’ve never seen people move so fast and yet, so precisely in order to achieve this herculean feat. And, as this huge plane started on it’s final approach, nearly all of the base personnel, including most of the Americans station on-base, were lining every available safe spot they could in order to get a good view and or take photos of the landing.

It was quite the achievement let me tell you. I’ve never witnessed anything like it since and probably never will. And I sure as hell will never forget being in the air traffic control tower watching this monster land. And yes, before you ask, there were more than a few beers to celebrate at various parties later that night, all across the base.