Monday, September 10, 2012

Flying outside our comfort zone

Our next adventure begins at some point tomorrow, and we are literally flying outside our comfort zone on this trip. Apparently flying to New England for our law school reunion was not enough adventure for us, so we decided to save some money and fly Space A. When I said our adventure begins "at some point tomorrow" I meant that quite literally. We actually don't really know when we will be able to leave Bamberg, when we'll get to Ramstein, and then we have no clue which flight we'll get on or where we'll land stateside. Yes, we are embarking on a true adventure. Are we completely out of our minds?!

So, what is this whole Space A deal anyhow? For my non-military friends and family, Space A is short for "space available." The military flies its planes all over the world to deliver supplies, tanks and equipment, emergency rescues or evacuations, to name a few. When they fly into an air force base, they often have room, or space available, for additional passengers. The program has been around for decades. In fact, my stepfather used to use Space A to fly his family home every year from places like Germany and the Philippines.

If you get on a Space A flight, it's usually completely free (some flights have taxes and usage fees, but they are minimal). Sounds pretty amazing, right? What's the catch? Well, it's about the most unreliable method for air travel. The schedule is released, if it's even released, only 72 hours prior to the flight. All flights can and do change without notice, and there are often flights that go through the air base that were never scheduled. On top of that, there is a priority system for who gets on the flights, and there is a first-come-first-served list arranged according to that priority. We have heard nightmares of folks taking three days to a week to get on a flight, but if you fly outside of school holidays, it's often a bit easier.

Because Big R is active duty, we'll be in Category III, which is typically the best category to be in to ensure a flight. But then, the flight needs to be schedule, and seats need to be open on that flight. Oh boy, this is going to be fun! Big R can put us on the list as soon as his "leave" officially starts. Then we hope we are in a high position on the list.

The next level of adventure is that we will be flying on a military aircraft. How cool is that?! Based on the airports we are hoping to fly into and out of, we will most likely be riding on a C-17 or C-5. Maybe we'll be lucky enough to travel across the ocean with a few tanks! HA! The seats could be jumpseats along the sides of the aircraft. Often during the flight, the folks accustomed to this sorts of travel lay sleeping bags and pillows across the cargo and sleep for the entire flight. The air temperature in the aircraft can be super cold because it's often not well heated and the air is frigid at altitude, so we'll be bringing our winter coats along to stay warm.

We've been watching the tentative flight schedules through the air bases' Facebook pages. Our luck isn't shaking least not yet. Despite some fairly regular flights to our more favorable destinations, this week has become an anomaly. Normally there are about 2-3 flights a week each to where we want to go. in the past three days, we have seen twice that number going to both of those air bases. What does that mean?! It means they aren't going when we need them to on Wednesday. Figures, right? Timing is only everything... Big R is trying to move some things around in the hopes we can escape and catch the last flight out tomorrow, but we're not holding our breath. It looks like if we manage to get on the ONLY flight out on Wednesday, it's going to place us about 4.5 hours away from Big R's home in Connecticut. Huge bummer.

The theme of the game is flexibility. We knew this would be an adventure when we made the decision, and let me tell you, we have thought and rethought the whole process. We're hoping our attitudes will be in the right place, that we'll somehow find patience we normally do not have, and that we relax and have fun with the whole deal. I'm actually pretty excited and anxious all at the same time!!!

We'll be in New England for a little over a week (we're actually not quite sure yet which flights will be available to take home), and I'm really looking forward to visiting with friends and seeing our old law school stomping grounds. It's also going to be fabulous to connect with family and friends in and near New England. I'm just sad we don't have the time or money to see everyone this time.

I promise to return with details from our adventures, especially our flights!




  1. Well, have fun and keep us updated on how it works out. I have mixed feelings about flying space a. The price is unbeatable, but it gets really ridiculous sometimes. I hope it works out for you. I hope you get to go and don't get stuck in Germany, and then I hope you can make it back and not get stuck stateside. Good luck!