As the unopposed advance of the Taliban over the country of Afghanistan continues, around 800 fleeing U.S. and foreign citizens were airlifted to safety by a U.S. C-17 cargo jet.
If true, this could set a record for most number of people being carried by the aircraft till date. The evacuation comes at the heels of Kabul being completely taken over by the Taliban with former president Ashraf Ghani transferring power to the Taliban Leader Mulla Abdulla and fleeing the country.
The aircraft in question, a C-17A (RCH Reach 871) from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, took off from Kabul on August 15. This was likely during a time when the airport's civilian ramp areas were being stormed by Afghans seeking salvation from the Taliban's impending rule. The crew packed around 800 people into the jet's main cargo bay and headed for the safety of Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, The Drive reported citing multiple sources and an audio recording.
The audio recording allegedly shows a person talking to the flight, likely via satellite radio communications, stunned when he heard the passenger load number. According to Boeing, a C-17's passenger carrying capacity is officially "80 on 8 pallets, plus 54 passengers on sidewall seats." So, if this 800 number proves true, the aircraft must have been jammed-packed.
A C-17 can move far more people than their official capacity during an emergency. In 2013, when a Typhoon struck the Philippines, the aircraft reportedly carried 670 passengers to safety.
This is unlikely to have been the only super-packed U.S. flight that has or will leave Kabul. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) reportedly packed one of their C-17s with people before this flight in an attempt to get them out before the Taliban sacked Kabul.
A tanker bridge has been created to allow the aircraft to depart Afghanistan with lower fuel loads and without aerial refueling support. The bridge is used to help the aircraft to travel to safer parts of the Middle East.
The U.S. Embassy of Afghanistan has instructed American citizens to take shelter in a safe place as reports of airport taking fire emerge. The citizens have also been informed not to contact the embassy in Kabul requesting information on flight options. They have been asked to fill a Repatriation Assistance Request to avail assistance in departing the country and should register for any option that might be identified to return to the United States.