I'm just in from an abbreviated Happy Hour… abbreviated coz it's HOT outside… where I was entertained for a bit by a C-130 orbiting around Portales. This is more unusual than it might seem, seeing as how Cannon Airplane Patch is home to more than a couple of C-130s. But the "pattern" is such that aircraft from Cannon rarely fly around or over P-Ville, what with the Melrose Range being 180-out in direction from Portales. As a matter of fact, it was rare for us to see F-16s, back in the day when Cannon hosted the 27th Tac Fighter Wing. But we digress.
So… there I was… nursing a cool beer and enjoying a cigar while watching that C-130 make a few passes over P-Ville before droning out of sight. I got to thinking that even though it's warm here on the ground… it must be nigh unbearable in that olive-drab heat sink called a 130. It gets cooler at altitude… cold, even… but at 1,500 feet, which was about the altitude of this 130 in question, it's still danged warm if not outright hot inside the aircraft.
Which, of course, brought to mind one of the few occasions I had to be on the inside of a C-130. That was back sometime around 1976 and I was sitting inside a C-130 on the U-Tapao AB ramp, sweating my ass off as we taxied towards the runway for to get airborne and fly up to Udorn AB in upcountry Thailand. "Sweating my ass off" is putting things quite mildly, Gentle Reader. It was probably north of 110 degrees (with something in excess of 90% humidity) on the ramp at U-Tapao, and Gawd-only-knows how hot it was on the inside of that 130. Sweat was oozing from every pore on my body, soaking my uniform in the process, and each minute seemed like an hour as we oh-so-slowly taxied out to the runway. And then the loadmaster and his assistant walked the length of the web seating (see here for various illustrations of the seating accommodations on a pax-equipped 130) and passed out blankets to everyone. I'm thinking this guy had a supremely weird sense of humor when what I really needed was a fan… or some sort of portable air conditioning device. "Trust me," sez the kindly loadmaster, "You'll need that blanket."
So… to make a long story short… we were finally cleared for take-off and ascended to our cruising altitude, which I guestimate was about 15 or 20 thousand feet. And it got COLD. We, all of us, sat there in our sweat-soaked uniforms which had become amazingly efficient evaporative cooling devices and listened to our teeth chatter. That ONE blanket I had been given didn't seem like it was nearly large enough, nor warm enough, to comfort me. And it wasn't: I was literally freezing my ass off and never did warm up until we touched down at Udorn AB not quite two hours later… whereupon we re-entered the USAF's own flying furnace as we taxied to the terminal. It was hotter on the ramp at Udorn than it had been at U-Tapao, if you can believe that. Or so it seemed.
So, anyhoo. The mind works in strange ways… and a short time ago I found myself both envying those guys in that 130, and sympathizing with them at the same time. I suppose you hadda be there… and for the briefest of moments, I was.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.