By Brian Williams, Anchor and managing editor
We flew aboard Pamair, which was an adventure. The bus took us out onto the tarmac, where we first laid eyes on our transportation. Approaching the aircraft, the cables from the fuselage to the tail gave away its vintage: it was clear this was one of the first 737s to roll off the Boeing assembly line in Seattle. The engines appeared to be originals -- the old Pratt and Whitney JT8Ds -- that had been fitted with the "hush kit" extenders that many commercial carriers had to use to meet noise limits at various airports.
Inside, it was more like an aircraft museum -- a lot of the fixtures and furnishings dated back to the LBJ era. I could not find the usual manufacturer's plate on the door or door frame, which would have given me the exact age of the aircraft. Stickers over some of the instruction lights indicated it was once in service in a Portuguese-speaking country, much earlier in its life.
The crew was efficient and friendly, the food was good, and the landing was steep. We made three unexpected-seeming circles while in the landing pattern. It later appeared we were forced to give way to a few C-130 transport aircraft at the mixed-use (military/civilian) airport in Kabul.
Once we landed, it was an aircraft-lover's paradise. The first thing we saw was an array of three choppers hovering while taxiing from one end of the field to the other. All three were Vietnam-era American helicopters, two Hueys and a Chinook bearing fresh Afghanistan military markings on the fuselage. I saw two Soviet-made Ilyushins, a Beechcraft 900, and too many other prop and jet aircrafts to mention. Temporary military radar stands guard over the field, part of a self-contained unit hoisted atop a crane built for just that purpose and staffed by NATO forces.
The heat is withering, the sun blistering, and we're also getting used to the altitude, as Kabul stands at about 6,000 feet above sea level. A modest altitude by the standards of portions of this region, but it takes getting used to nonetheless.
Because of where we are and who we are, security is a big part of a trip like this, and we're well taken care of. Our travel team includes members of the same teams who keep Richard Engel and our Baghdad bureau safe... many of them veterans of the fearsome British SAS. The security situation will, however, prevent me from talking about our travels and upcoming broadcasts from inside this country: except to say that we are here mostly to check in on the U.S. military effort here. This is a tough place to get to, a tough work environment, and a tough place to get around. Our clocks are all screwed up, and it's only going to get worse as our airtime schedule (3 a.m. locally -- Afghanistan is 8 hours 30 minutes off New York time -- don't ask me to explain the 30 minutes) collides with daytime here and the need to do our shooting and reporting in daylight wherever possible.