Saturday, 21 February 2009

Beast of the Sky


Believe it or not, the first plane I ever flew in was a C130 Hercules; I was just 18 at the time and hitched a lift from Cape Town to Pretoria for a weekend of partying. South Africa at the time still exercised military conscription and those who shared my final year of high school, were among the last to ever be called up for it.

As it happened in those days, a letter arrived in the post telling you where to and when to report, if you didn’t, the military police knocked on your door and dragged you off. You either got called up to the navy, the air force, or the infantry, discovering your designation only when the dreaded letter arrived. It was essentially a lottery with the infantry being the short stick that nobody wanted to draw.

The majority would go off to the army and those who got the navy or the air force were very much considered to be the lucky ones. Myself and my lifelong friend Dean, were the only ones at our school who received an air force call up that year which was much cause for celebration, after all, the likelihood of being shot at had just gone down by about 400%.

After Basic training I found myself at Ysterplaat (Cape Town’s Air Force Base) and Dean ended up stationed at Waterkloof in Pretoria. With Dean being a trims clerk (responsible for weight distribution on cargo planes) he was able to get me onto flights, and with his dad having a home in Johannesburg at our disposal, I had every reason to head up North from time to time. I used to fly up on Fridays and fly back on Mondays after weekends of heavy parting at place called Bella Napoli in Hillbrow Johannesburg.

Amazingly I had the opportunity to fly in Hercules C130, Hercules C160 as well as having gone up on several occasions with Cape Town’s well known Dakota squadron, long before I ever set foot on a commercial airline. What I can tell you is while flying in a Hercules is an adventure experience of note; it’s possibly not the best introduction to flying, in tomorrow’s post I will tell you why.

Photo: Hercules by Blyzz courtesy www.flickr.com

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