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Noted in Passing: Taking the graveyard of empires with you…

Human remains found in wheel well of US military plane after desperate Afghans cling to aircraft

A plane later diverted to a nearby third country after its crew struggled to put up their landing gear and declared an emergency, according to the Washington Post.

The newspaper said a body was then found in the aircraft’s wheel well during an inspection.

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  • tim August 17, 2021, 9:06 AM

    The first video is a perfect metaphor for every single decision of the Joe Biden presidency – no real plan, hopelessly stuck, flailing about and dead upon arrival.

  • CC August 17, 2021, 9:37 AM

    Our US representative to the rest of the world is a cowardly piece of shit.
    But it’s not like we didn’t know, is it?

  • ghostsniper August 17, 2021, 9:39 AM

    twitter link gone

  • azlibertarian August 17, 2021, 10:00 AM


    It looks like the Twitter-borg removed it, but I’m not sure I wanted to see it anyway.

    I’ll let out a little airline pilot inside baseball here (to mix my metaphors)….

    People will often ask me about just how dangerous my job is. Overall, it isn’t. In America and the West, we’re very well trained and the airplanes are well maintained. However, that isn’t to say that there aren’t parts of my job that concern me. One of my biggest concerns is ground operations. And within ground operations, the part of my day that gets my full attention is the pushback operation. Here, a pushback tug is attached to the airplane via a towbar. Once we’ve been pushed off the gate, all of that has to be detached. And I’m here to tell you that guys have been killed when they slipped while removing the tow bar, and the aircraft moved forward. Crushed under 300 tons.

    My first thought at seeing those illiterates hanging on to that taxiing C17 was about those on the nose gear. One slip, and they’d be squished like a ripe peach. I question whether the Aircraft Commander would even notice. Also, there is very little wasted space anywhere on a plane. When the airplane is on the ground, with the landing gear extended (of course), there might appear to be a lot of space in the wheel well. If you couldn’t think past your nose, you might conclude that there would be enough space for you to stow away. But when the landing gear is retracted and it folds itself into that wheel well, that space gets quickly taken up by the gear, powered by 3000 psi hydraulics. Falling to your death might be a better way to go than to be squished.

    This whole thing is a damned tragedy. Dunno how anyone recovers from this. I think I’ll try to think about something else today.

  • Dirk August 17, 2021, 10:30 AM

    History repeats, is this the end of our nation building,,,,, errrrrrr stealing. A bittersweet event, ALL dominant nations achieve this level of incompetence. All have gone down, at their own hand. Did we expect a different ending here?

    There is only one way to beat them, cut their heads off.


  • Casey Klahn August 17, 2021, 10:47 AM

    I’m very proud of Matt Zeller. He shoved it up their ass, in detail.

    azlibertarian, thank you for your expert analysis. I was trying to put myself in the pilot’s, and the aircrew’s. heads. This event will surely be a psychological hardship for those fine service members later in life.

    Dirk, JFC. “Stealing” Afghanistan would have been the best thing we could’ve done. As it was, we damned them with too little effort. I guess we agree that we suck, but try to keep up with reality.

  • jwm August 17, 2021, 11:10 AM

    David Warren speaks plainly on the issue.


  • Gordon Scott August 17, 2021, 11:46 AM

    The VA sent me an email telling me how to deal with emotions about Afghanistan and detailed resources available. I assume all of the “customers” got it.

  • ghostsniper August 17, 2021, 12:12 PM

    Haven’t rec’d it yet Gordon, but the day is still early.
    I may have to call them up.
    I just can’t bear the grief.
    But then, I’m doing plywood on the ceiling again today so I guess I’ll just hafta put that grief on hold for a spell. My pappy gave me a backbone.

  • Vanderleun August 17, 2021, 12:57 PM

    Replaced the twitter link (too much for those sensitive morbidly obese purple hair tufted things that work there) with a video. (Might be too much for the sensitive morbidly obese purple hair tufted things that work at YouTube… we shall see.)

  • Casey Klahn August 17, 2021, 1:18 PM

    I see it in the post. That is some shit.

  • gwbnyc August 17, 2021, 1:31 PM

    I bet you see a lot of this with people stowing away to sneak *into* Afghanistan…

  • Casey Klahn August 17, 2021, 1:41 PM

    Afghanistan was yesterday. Today, watch Taiwan. No, really. It’s possibly going hot rn.

  • Mike Austin August 17, 2021, 2:31 PM

    The phrase “Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires” has been around a long time. The implication is, of course, that somehow that dismal and barbaric land is immune from History, that is cannot be conquered. The fact of the matter is that many conquerors have kicked Afghani ass over the centuries, beginning with ancient Persia and continuing with Alexander, the Parthians, the Seleucids, another go-around with Persia under the Sassanids, the Muslims, the Khwarazmians, Genghis, Tamerlane, Babur, and on and on.

    Recall that the US Army sent by George W. Bush defeated the Afghan enemy…wait for it…in FIVE weeks. In other words, all American objectives were accomplished in little over one month. Yes, one month. It took Alexander himself more than a year to do the same. What Bush did after that is…well…subject to question.

    The Afghanis, by and large, are a severely intellectually, culturally, materially and hygienically stunted people. They are scarcely above Somalis in the things that matter.

  • Andrew X August 17, 2021, 2:40 PM

    I have noted here and elsewhere the 80-year cycle:

    1781 – America de facto and in real world separates from Britain, is born as a nation (via violent revolution).
    80 years later…..
    1861 – Fort Sumter ignites titanic civil war, more Americans die in it than any other conflict.
    80 years later…..
    1941 – US is thrust into largest global war ever, goes from being a mid-level military power to a global superpower, a word never before used in the political lexicon, as a result.
    80 years later…..
    …. is 2021.

    Every 80 years, the US either becomes or enters into something of radical upheaval and even bloodshed of a vast scale, a years long process that, at the end of it all, the country is not what it was at the beginning. The old world dies, possibly violently, and a new one takes it’s place.

    Every 80 years.

    1941 didn’t become 1941 for the US until December. I’ve been pretty much waiting for the balloon to go up for eight months. Is this the moment?

    As the femme fatale Audra said upon arrival in that great Star Trek NG episode ‘Devil’s Due’ —

    “Time’s up!”

  • Skorpion August 17, 2021, 2:49 PM

    Interesting observation. Sorta fits in with my post a little earlier about the Soviet Union collapsing two years after *they* got kicked out of Afghanistan.
    Two years in the late-20th Century timeframe, is now two months — or two WEEKS — in 2021.

  • PA Cat August 17, 2021, 3:19 PM

    Apropos of the video that Gerard posted and azlibertarian’s comments about airplanes and their landing gear: here’s a brief video (it must be a clip from a longer documentary) about an African stowaway falling from the wheel well of a passenger plane as the flight from Nairobi prepared to land at Gatwick. The man’s body fell three feet away from an understandably traumatized Londoner who was simply sunbathing in his own front yard.

    The narrator of the documentary says that there are at least 109 known cases from around the world of wheel well stowaways. Toward the end of the clip, he climbs into the wheel well of an actual plane on the ground– with the permission and assistance of an airline pilot. It is scary to see the small size of the space where the landing gear retracts, and equally scary to imagine the desperation of someone willing to try that method of escape.

  • Zaphod August 17, 2021, 7:29 PM

    @AndrewX: Also Sir John Glubb’s observation that median lifespan of empires is 250 years.

    One could call the American Empire an accidental empire. Certainly most Americans never asked for one or wanted one. But it was no accident to those in charge. Everything you read about Wilson and FDR puts the lie to that. Not that Teddy was a saint in that regard, either.

    Aside about Imperial Presidency:
    Just finished reading memoirs of Lucky Gene Fluckey, an incredibly accomplished WWII submarine commander who lived until 2007. He’s very gentlemanly in the way he puts things, but get the impression he was not thrilled by FDR personally ordering his sub to do several dummy arrivals at the pier at Pearl or Midway just so that FDR could film some footage for his home movies.

  • Snakepit Kansas August 18, 2021, 5:49 AM

    I don’t think that even if there was space in the landing gear hole it would be very hospitable. I believe the temperature at 37,000 ft. is going to be about -40C. The company I work for tests computer chips all day long at -40C to see if they will still work in aircraft, satellites and other airborne objects thrown into the sky by our military. -40C is the crossover point where Celsius and Farenheit equate. Not sure any human would survive very long wearing just pajamas at -40C/-40F. Not even for an hour.

  • Jack August 18, 2021, 6:54 AM

    I’ve never really understood why American politicians always look for ways to become involved in any of these dirty little wars. Peace keeping, installing an American presence, protecting American interests (whatever the heck that might mean)….the reasons are endless.

    Who knows what is coming next? In what place Biden will or some other asshole who has nothing to personal or precious to risk, will engage US troops or send weapons. I believe the US will bluster but fold on Taiwan and I’d bet a pretty, crisp, uncirculated $5 that the next US foray will be Africa and the problem will be Chinese expansion. I would find it immensely appealing if US troops would coalesce and tell their commanders that their lives are not going to be used or lost as bargaining chips for any non-threatening foreign war and simply refuse to go.

    As for that chap in the wheel well, it’s sad and unfortunate but he should have thought things through and made a better decision.

  • azlibertarian August 18, 2021, 8:28 AM


    Given that a knucklehead could contort himself in a way that he could avoid getting squished in an aircraft wheel well, the cold at altitude would be the least of his concerns. Those wheel wells are unpressurized. The Time of Useful Consciousness at 37,000′ is measured in seconds. By the time he got high enough to freeze to death, he’d be long dead from oxygen starvation.


  • azlibertarian August 18, 2021, 8:55 AM

    Let me elaborate a bit about the Time of Useful Consciousness (TUC)….

    When the flight attendants or video are going through the safety demo that they’re required to give, one of the things that you’re going to hear is that when the masks drop out of the overhead, you should put on yours first before you try to help someone else (like maybe your kid) put on theirs. This isn’t just you being selfish. If someone near you is struggling to put on their mask, the best way that you can help them is to put yours on first. Absent that, you could slip out of Useful Consciousness* and then the both of you would be in trouble.

    Also, something that a lay passenger probably wouldn’t know, until recently, when a pilot had to leave the cockpit for some reason (e.g. to go to the lavatory), when above 25,000 feet, the remaining pilot should put on his mask as a preventative measure. With Covid, this requirement was eliminated (who wants to put your face into a mask that someone else might have had on an hour ago?). Another something that you might not know is that the oxygen supplied to the passengers comes to you from a little canister in the overhead. When triggered, a chemical reaction delivers that oxygen to your masks, and you might sense a burning odor (probably from the dust on the canister). Not to worry: That’s just the chemical reaction doing what it’s supposed to do. Also, the oxygen system to the pilots is completely different from the passengers.

    The pilot’s oxygen will typically last a couple of minutes longer than the passenger’s. Pilot’s masks usually come with goggles and the oxygen can be delivered under pressure. Once the pilots have their masks on, the first thing they’re going to do is to dive to a lower altitude, given the terrain in the immediate area. The key here is to get low enough, quickly enough so that everyone can get off the masks.

    * Time of Useful Consciousness. The TUC is not the time at which you will pass out. It is the time at which you lose useful consciousness. Not only will this time vary with the altitude, but it will also vary with the rate that the higher cabin altitude is reached and importantly, with your individual physical condition. If you’re older, a smoker or with other lung problems, your TUC will be less than your seat-mate in better condition. Maybe your lips or fingertips will turn blue. You may not be able to answer very simple questions…..”What is 4+3″? Everyone has a different reaction to hypoxia. Again, this is why you should put on your mask first.