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Airport Impressions

Civilian Commercial:

Seoul Incheon: not actually very remarkable. It’s a big modern airport very much like many other big modern airports. It’s not ideally designed: it requires walking maybe 1500 meters from one end to the other, for military arrivals at least. Still, its linear design means it is at least simple. Also, free internet and occasional power ports make things nice.

Beijing: ridiculously, monumentally enormous. The extra open architecture is very pretty and enhances the impression of spaciousness. It’s got a modest selection of duty free shops and restaurants. For all its size, it’s strangely empty: the restroom has queueing lines and handy symbols built in to speed traffic through its 20 stalls and 40 urinals, but I had it to myself. Perhaps the decision not to heat it had something to do with that. There are occasional power ports, but they are of the wrong shape and voltage. Internet is available if you pay cash yuan at the business center. There is no easy way to get cash yuan. Important: do not attempt to connect there using military id and orders in lieu of passport; you’ll be turned back by Customs.

Newark Liberty: relentlessly commercial. Like many US airports, there is pretty obviously more security in place than the architecture was designed for. My overriding impression of the airport comes from one flight where I connected there from Japan: my bag took 90 minutes to emerge from the baggage claim, and then the line to re-check it ate another 150. Needless to say, I missed my connection from all of this. It wasn’t nearly so bad this time, at least. Internet and power are available at business kiosks.

Manchester Boston: a small feeder airport with aspirations to eventually grow into a hub. Its current compact size and low traffic makes it feel very comfortable. Power and wireless internet are both easy to find and free.

Tokyo Narita: efficient, artistic, elegant. Probably the most comfortable airport for its size I’ve ever been in. It’s also one of the more complex, but there is plenty of clear signage to help find the way around. Power and wireless internet are ubiquitous, but the “you’ve successfully joined our wireless page” is actually a multilingual set of links to various ways to pay for the connection to get it to stop redirecting all traffic to the links page.

Military:

RKSM (Seoul Airbase): as my home airbase, it’s the place I’m most familiar with. It’s unique in my experience of military airfields in not having a greasy spoon type diner attached to the flight ops building somewhere. The airbase is actually run by the Koreans, with K-16 being a plot leased to the US military.

RKSO (Osan Airbase): this place is run by the Air Force, so I don’t often go there. Still, if you want to see an F-16, an A-10, or a U-2 on the ramp, this is the place to (occasionally) find them.

RKSG (Camp Humphreys): this is where we actually do most training, as it’s the nearest airbase actually run by the US Army. Here’s where the rest of 2CAB, meaning the Apaches, Chinooks, and another battalion of Black Hawks, are based.

RKSY (Yongsan Garrison): a tiny heliport barely large enough to fit two Black Hawks simultaneously, it’s still a common destination because Yongsan is where a lot of the command structure for Korea is located.

RKJK (Kunsan Airbase): another Air Force base, this one only gets mentioned because it has the nicest Flight Ops building and pilot lounge I’ve ever been in. I believe it homes F-16s.

RKTG (Camp Walker): this place apparently used to have a fairly large air contingent; you can still see the remains of a runway suitable for fixed wings, and there’s plenty of parking and refuel space. However, at some point buildings were constructed over both ends of the runway, leaving only a single helicopter pad. It does have an exceptionally nice USO building.

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