Friday, August 03, 2007

Now I'm in the big bucks!

A few days ago I had an overnight in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX. The next day we had a very early departure to Newark so myself and the rest of the crew left for the airport around 0500. When we arrived, we went through the typical pre-flight duties that we all have. The captain went to operations to retrieve the paperwork, the flight attendants were pre-flighting their emergency equipment in the cabin, and I got the cockpit ready and then went outside to do a pre-flight walk-around.

I started my walk-around and noticed a police car at the back of the plane with a cop leaning against the hood. I thought this was rather odd, either there was some security concern that I wasn't aware of or our tabs were expired.

I didn't think much of it and noticed a man in dress clothes watching some cargo being loaded. I figured he was probably a manager doing a cargo audit. Then I noticed that he didn't have any sort of ID which is required to be out on the ramp. I asked him about his ID and the police officer said that he was with him.

I started looking at what they were loading into the cargo compartment and couldn't figure out exactly what it was. There were a bunch of briefcase sized packages but they were wrapped in dark packaging and I wasn't able to see what was inside. The man that was counting the packages being loaded said to me, "Here, hold one of these." He handed me one of the packages which was a lot heavier than it looked. I asked, "Well, this is neat but what is it." He said, "You're holding $880,000 in your hands."

I was pretty amazed at how much money I had in my hands but what shocked me more was how many of these cases they were loading. There was literally an entire baggage cart full of these things. I asked him how much money was being loaded he said, "$92 million in $50 bills." My jaw dropped wide open!

What I thought was funny is how he was counting each case of money being loaded. One would think they would have fancy scanners and computers ensuring that each case was accounted for. Instead, this guy had one of those cheap little mechanical counters that you might see a high school kid using at a movie theatre on a busy Friday night.

Before I finished my pre-flight I chatted with the police officer and asked him what the story was with the money. He said it came from the mint in Fort Worth, TX and was on it's way to New York, NY. Apparently New York City was running short on $50's and we were in charge of transporting them in what would be, at least for the next three hours, one of the largest armored vehicles.

When I got back in the cockpit I told the captain about all the money we had on board. We briefly discussed flying to Mexico and never coming back but decided against it. After we pushed back and started taxiing to the runway we noticed that the police car was following us with it's lights on. I felt pretty special to have a police escort to the runway.

After an uneventful flight to Newark we landed and parked at the gate where there were more police officers and guards waiting to take the money. I guess they didn't want to leave the unloading to a ramp guy making $6 an hour. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get some sort of percentage for safely transporting this valuable cargo, even 1% would have been fine with me.

Next time I have an overnight in Dallas/Forth Worth, there's a chance we might transport more money, so if you don't ever hear from me again, you might have to come look for me in Mexico. Drinks are on me!

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