ABOARD AIR FORCE TWO — Vice President Dick Cheney didn't suffer
for lack of 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 plane's belly. The accommodations
included sleeping and working quarters that protected Cheney 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 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, Cheney's staff eventually was able
to nod off after days of exhausting travel. Cheney emerged at one point to pose
for a picture standing in front of several rows of his dozing aides.