by Tommy Towery
Once is a while I find myself with no news or no material from which to create a story which will appeal to all my fellow classmate readers. This is one of those times, primarily because I am not at home where I keep my stash of memorabilia and photos. Instead, I am sitting in the inn at Travis Air Force Base in northern California, awaiting a flight back home to Memphis.
Sue and I started this journey with a drive from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi, to catch a “Space-Available” flight to visit my daughter in the San Diego area and babysit her three-year-old twins while she and my son-in-law attended a convention in San Francisco. The process of flying the manner which we fly may not be of interest to many of you, but I know several of my readers are military retirees, a status which allows them the opportunity to travel in the same manner so I shall give a little lesson in doing so for them, and an informational bit for you others.
Space-Available, or Space-A as it is normally called, is a benefit afforded to people who are either still on active duty in the military, or are honorably retired from any branch of the U.S. military – normally following at least 20 years of active military service. It is not available to normal veterans who did not retire. It gives these people the opportunity to fly without charge aboard military aircraft which has seats available . These flights are normally on cargo type aircraft which end up with some extra space which can be offered to passengers who wish to travel where the aircraft are headed. Note these are extra seats on normally scheduled military mission aircraft and not aircraft which are scheduled specifically to carry retirees to a desired location.
Military retirees and their dependents can sign up to be considered for one of these flights up to 60 days in advance and seats are offered to the retirees based upon their sign up date with no special consideration for rank. Various military bases and National Guard and Reserve units may post their planned flights up to 72 hours in advance and potential fliers can call and see where planes are headed and how many seats might be offered. Seasoned fliers know the normal routes and destinations from standard bases. Routes and seat allotments can change up to the last minute so it is always possible to be bumped from a flight even at the last minute. This has happened to Sue and me a couple of times. One time we were on the bus headed toward the plane when we saw the doors close and the plane taxi away from us.
These flights are no-frill flights and usually the seats are those on the side of the aircraft and not normal passenger seats like found on commercial aircraft. Sometimes the planes are military versions of commercial planes with real seats, but that is not the norm. The one major advantage is there is no cost to fly this way. Many flights are to Europe or Hawaii and Japan. Often we have to pack our own lunch and there is little insulation on the aircraft so earplugs are required to reduce the noise level and jackets to fight the cold. One big advantage is often there is room to get up and walk around during the flight and there is no one in a seat in front of you reclining and no kids behind you kicking your seat. Many Space-A travelers carry sleeping bags with them and as soon as we are cleared after takeoff spread them out on the floor and sleep the whole flight.
You have to be very flexible and learn the tricks to this type flying, and often you might go east to go west. The Memphis Guard normally flies to Washington D.C. so we might fly to the base there in hopes of finding a flight headed toward California. On one trip home a couple of years ago we flew from Southern California to Northern California, then a flight to Washington, D.C. and on to Charleston, SC. We swapped planes there and flew to Jackson then on to Memphis. This trip took us two days to compete, but commercial tickets would have cost us over $800 and we spent only $60 to overnight in Charleston. The trip we are currently enjoying did not do that. Instead we drove to Jackson, Mississippi, and got seats on one of their planes headed to northern California. I have a friend who lives here so we spent the weekend with him and his wife, then on Monday got another flight which went to Miramar Marine Corps Air Station near San Diego. (That’s were Top Gun was filmed, by the way.) My daughter picked us up there and we spent a week with her. She then drove us to Riverside, California, to March Air Force Base, which was less than an hour from her house and we spent the night in the billeting there and the next morning flew back to Travis, where we are now.
One of the downsides is we are at the mercy of the flight schedules, and the plane which should have been flying back to Jackson, where we left our car, has had mechanical problems, so we have spent an extra three days here, in base lodging, while we have waited for it to be repaired. As of this moment, we are scheduled to try to get a seat on a plane leaving at 2:10am tomorrow.
Sue and I have flown to Hawaii six times in this manner, and came home from England following a re-positioning cruise the same way. We have flown on about seven different military aircraft type, ranging from a 737 type to an 8-seater Beechcraft King Air. Most often we fly on C-17 cargo aircraft like the ones in the pictures above.
If any of you classmates are retired military and want to talk more about how to go about utilizing this earned benefit, give me a call.
Enroute to Memphis, TN - As stated above, Sue and I are on our way home from a trip to California.Maybe by the time we have to do next week's issue we will be home and I will be back to my desktop computer.
Click on the image above to see the information about the
upcoming joint '64-'65-'66 2015 Reunion.
Butler High School
Last Class Graduates
by Mark McCarter
The Huntsville Times
Before all the green caps with white tassels flew into the air and the S.R. Butler High Class of 2015 marched off the floor, before the last of the shrieks and whistles and woofs and airhorns echoed through the third-full arena, there was the proper, solemn punctuation.
A little after 4:30 p.m. Friday, the crowd inside Propst Arena at the Von Braun Center stood and the Butler alma mater was played and sung. It has these lines:
How many times we've walked these halls
We'll walk them once more.
Yet ... they won't.
Butler High has officially closed, its 64-year history to be turned over to contractors and silent auctions and sentimentalists.