From "Outlaws" by Matt Porter: Despite coming from a long line of aviation specialists and having 'seen it all', he laughs as he recounts one wildcat Il-76 team job that left the American military command in southern Afghanistan breathless with admiration, knowing they'd been hoodwinked by a five-man crew of Russians and their shadowy network... (Read on below)

The US military had this huge generator they needed to get to an airfield site they were planning in the south. This was a remote area, and aside from a few pockets of US troops, it was completely under bandit control. There was no fuel available for miles around the landing spot, and none of the outfits we approached would touch it with a bargepole. They all kept saying, "We'll never get out again, how can we take off from an unprepared airfield with no fuel?"

'The job was priced at between sixty thousand and seventy thousand dollars, but one day there's a phone call from these Russian guys. They said, "We'll do it, but it'll cost you two million dollars, in advance." The Americans didn't really have a choice by this stage, so they paid. And sure enough, right on time, this ex-Soviet air force crew flew in, with the generator, in this battered old Il-76, unloaded the generator, then sat down for a leisurely smoke.

'Just as all the Americans were wondering how on earth they were going to fly out again, there's a cloud of dust and up clatters this old minibus driven by some Afghan bloke - and these airmen just get in and drive off. The Yanks were all going, "Hey, how will you get the plane back?" And the crew just said, "We won't. It's an old one - we only bought it for this job, and we're ditching it here." Half a million dollars it cost them, and they held it together with string just long enough to land, then cleared off one and a half million dollars in profit and left it to rust. It's still there.

'Everyone just applauded them - the US guys in command, us, and charterers the world over. Not just for the flying, but for the incredibly sharp business mind that could hatch this. It was truly beautiful.

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Remember this tale the next time your boss asks you to overdeliver underbudget. Preferably if you can park whatever it is you throw away afterwords on his lawn, that's extra points!