Friday, February 3, 2012
As it turned off the runway and came towards me, it's size was gigantic! At least two homes could be built inside it's fuselage. Nobody was supposed to go near it. Nobody really knew how to act with the Russians, and besides, we didn't speak their language. But the Navy pilots had a plan, and they found the Russian pilots, and a lot of hand gesturing occurred then an opportunistic Navy pilot came to me (the driver of the transport golf cart) and said:
"This is your chance - take us out to the AN -124 and we can probably get you inside with us." So now we were heading past all the barriers, a couple of Russian pilots, two Navy pilots, all in uniforms or flight suits, and one skinny young flight instructor kid, driving the golf cart - and the pilots were getting waved through past security! I stayed silent, but I was glad I had my camera in my backpack.
At the transport plane, the pilots gathered around, pointing and talking. Another golf cart came out, this time a pilot brought his girlfriend or wife. A navy pilot came up to me, grinning ear to ear.
"What do you have to trade?" he said
What do you mean?"
"If you have anything to trade them, trade it, and they'll take you inside!"
I assessed what I had. I didn't want to trade my camera. "Will this work?" I held up a Bic pen.
"Let's go see." he said, so we walked to the gaping rear ramp, where one of the Russians was on guard. I held out my pen. The Russian looked at it, took it, smiled, and we were in!
It took a while to walk through the cavern of the airplane, and at the other end of the cargo bay, we started climbing a small steep ladder to the flight deck. Inside, I was amazed. Everything was spotlessly clean, but there wasn't as much electronic gear as I would have expected. Everything, even the switches, were large.
I wasn't sure if I would get in trouble if I tried to take a picture, nobody else had their cameras with them, and at best it would be uncool, and at worst, maybe commit an international offense. So I waited for the others to all be looking elsewhere, and I took a quick picture of the most interesting thing close to me, which looked like a systems control panel for the aircraft. Note the Russian lettering.
Too soon it was over. One of the Navy pilots started looking concerned, and said "We have to get back." So we all went down the stairs and rode the golf cart back to the public side of the yellow tape.
I will always remember how happy that Russian looked to get that Bic ball-point pen!
Onwards & Upwards,