I landed in Kiev at 1:05 pm local time. The flights were fine and, unsurprisingly, I slept most of the way. I made my way through to the customs line and waited. And waited. It is always confusing because the lines are titled "UA - EU Residents." In all my trips to the Ukraine, there has never been a queue for "Other Residents."
Seamlessly through customs with a "spasibo" and on to baggage claim... My 3 bright yellow LL Bean duffle bags that I have used for all my trips to Chernobyl were noticeably making their rounds on the carousel. Excellent sign.
Missing-in-action was my Go Professional case with the drones. (Insert nervousness here.) I pulled-out the baggage claim tag for the drone box from the front pocket of my 511 Tactical carry on bag and made my way to another line at the lost baggage desk while Elizabeth guarded our 7 other bags.
The lost baggage lady checked her computer and told me the drone box didn't even make it out of Atlanta onto my very first flight even though I got to the airport 3 hours early, I had a business class ticket, so all my checked baggage got a special tag, I have gold medallion status, and finally I brought the case to the Over-Sized Luggage desk and personally handed it to the TSA agent who said he'd make sure to take care of it. (Righhhht....)
I was asked to complete several forms all resembling elementary school type paperwork. On one of them, I had to list the items in the case and their value, which totaled well over $6,000 USD. She then pointed me to the customs agent desk to get that form stamped, and then said to return it to her. Umm, ok.
As we walked to the customs area, I flagged down one of the agents and showed him the form. He looked puzzled and asked me if "it new" (meaning the drones). I said, "Yes" and he told me to go to the Red Zone (a Red Zone can never be good). He looked over the form, talked to a few other agents, and again asked me what was in the case. I showed them a picture of the DJI Inspire 1 I took during a test flight a few days ago and they all said, "Ahh, helicopter."
He asked me to redo the same form, but to not list anything in the case. Ok, sure. I didn't ask any questions. He stamped the form and walked me back over to the lost baggage lady. She then said they would not be able to deliver my bag until tomorrow evening.
Panic set in, as we are departing for the Chernobyl Zone first thing in the morning and can't come back down to Kiev in the evening to pick up the drones. She said the case would actually be in Kiev by 8 pm tonight, so Elizabeth suggested I get my ass back to Boryspil to pick it up.
As we finally strolled through the Green Zone, one of the customs agents involved in this debacle came up to me and explained that when I return tonight, don't tell the person on duty that the stuff in the case is worth more then 1,000 Euros total. He detailed in broken English and gestures that there would be lots of paperwork and I would have to pay taxes, so just tell them it's worth less then 1,000 Euros and all would be fine. "Spasibo!!"
Next, our driver, Sergei, with white woven huaraches and amber vision sunglasses, met us outside the Green Zone and guided us to his van. Without the big drone box, the van seemed like overkill, but we loaded in and sat back for the a 30 minute drive from Boryspil to the Holiday Inn in Kiev. After 10 min, Sergei pulled over to the side of the interstate and popped the hood. I looked at Elizabeth and said "that can't be good." Her response, "Uhh, yeah. Ya think?!" Sergei rattled around in the hood, grabbed a dirty rag from behind the seat, and then, came around to the open van door and showed me the broken fan belt. He called another taxi and we waited for 20 mins for van #2 to arrive in the 80 degree, fresh Ukranian interstate air.
After emailing Delta and having the hotel call the airport to confirm 24 hour baggage pick up availability, I am falling asleep again in our hotel room while Elizabeth is watching the equivalent of "America's Funniest Home Videos," but in Ukranian. We're both hoping Delta is true to its word and gets my drone case to Kiev by 8 pm tonight.