A "super typhoon" slams into the island of Guam with sustained winds of over 180 knots. In the aftermath, there is no electricity or potable water, and few of the structures left standing are undamaged. The storm is so strong no one knows the extent of the devastation until communications are restored some 24 hours after the storm passes.

A C-130 flying from Kadena AB, Japan, to Kunsan AB, Korea, is redirected to fly to Osan AB, Korea, to pick up over 30,00 pounds of emergency relief supplies—medical supplies, electrical generators, tents, and water—for the 50,00 people of Guam. The flight from Osan to Guam will be at night, over water, and through the many thunderstorms spawned by the typhoon. In order to fly the mission, the crew will have to extend to the limits of their peacetime crew duty day (18 hours).

On the way to Osan, the aircraft’s weather avoidance radar fails. This means that the C-130 cannot detect and subsequently avoid severe weather in its path. The manual governing the operation of this type of aircraft states that a C-130 with an inoperable weather avoidance radar will not be flown into areas of known or forecast thunderstorms. Likewise, a C-130 technical order sternly warns aircrews not to attempt to make any internal repairs (because of voltages in excess of 15,000 volts). If repairs are necessary, they must be accomplished by qualified maintenance personnel. Refusal to follow these directives could result in death, injury, and/or damage to the aircraft (not to mention action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice).

The maintenance personnel at Osan have neither the expertise nor the parts to fix the C-130 radar. It will take at least 24 hours for a maintenance team to fly to the base, thus further delaying the delivery of the critically needed disaster relief supplies.

The navigator, however, is certain that he knows what is wrong (probably a faulty antenna), and he is equally confident that he can fix the radar using parts available to him on board the aircraft. As a result, the aircraft commander requests a waiver from headquarters to allow the navigator to proceed with the repairs in the absence of qualified maintenance personnel. However, the aircraft commander receives no response whatsoever to his request.

In 30 minutes the crew will bust its peacetime crew rest limits. If they don’t take off in the next half-hour, they won’t be able to take off today.