Friday, December 23, 2005

Cheney flies in comfort

Cheney flies in comfort
By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer
Wed Dec 21, 8:45 AM ET

ABOARD AIR FORCE II - Vice President Dick Cheney didn't suffer for comfort on the cavernous cargo plane that he rode into Iraq and Afghanistan this week.

The Air Force loaded the plane with the "silver bullet," a mobile home in the sky strapped down in the middle of the belly. The accommodations included sleeping and working quarters that protected him from the noise and cold of the cargo hold during a more than five-hour flight into Baghdad.

The rest of his traveling party was not so lucky. Cheney's senior staff and junior aides were assigned to a cramped three rows of seats in front of the bullet, while reporters and Secret Service agents had to sit in jump seats along the side with a view of Cheney's stainless steel exterior walls.

Cheney used the C-17 cargo plane for security purposes when flying to and from Iraq and Afghanistan. The C-17 is an inconspicuous gray aircraft less likely to draw attention than the normal Air Force II — a blue and white 757 emblazoned "United States of America" in the same style as the president's larger Air Force One.

The 757 — with reclining leather seats for all and a private cabin for Cheney — was used to ferry the vice president back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean and on his trip to Pakistan, his other stop on the four-day tour aimed at building support for the war on terror.

Despite the noise and seating conditions on the C-17, Cheney's staff eventually was able to nod off after days of exhaustive travel. Cheney emerged from his more spacious quarters at one point to pose for a picture standing in front of several rows of his dozing aides.


The hundreds of troops gathered at Al Asad Air Base Sunday had no idea who was going to appear before them when they were called to an airplane hangar.

Vice President Dick Cheney was to be their mystery guest, but his visit to the war-torn country was kept secret for security reasons.

Cheney was introduced and took the podium to applause, albeit not overwhelming, from the crowd. Perhaps they were wishing for someone prettier.

"Well, I'm not Jessica Simpson," the vice president deadpanned when he took the podium. The bombshell singer has been a performer on USO tours.


The vice president is an iPod fan, and keeping it charged is a priority for his staff.

Normally that isn't an issue, even when he's flying around the world. Air Force II is equipped with outlets in each row of seats.

But when Dick Cheney was traveling home overnight Wednesday from his diplomatic mission, most of the outlets went on the fritz.

Working passengers began lining up their laptops to share the power from a couple of working outlets — particularly the reporters who urgently needed to prepare their articles to transmit during a quick refueling stop in England.

But when Cheney said his iPod needed to be recharged, it took precedent above all else and dominated one precious outlet for several hours. The vice president's press staff intervened so a reporter could use the outlet for 15 minutes to charge a dead laptop, but then the digital music device was plugged back in.

That way, Cheney got his press coverage and his music, too.