Yesterday, a day to remember, took us to Mexico City. At one time it was the largest city on the Earth, and it still may be so... 30,000,000 plus folks living in a valley between two 12,000 foot peaks. The airport elevation is 7,600 feet above sea level; only a few hundred feet beneath the maximum take-off and landing altitude for most airliners. As we descended, very carefully, into the Mexico City area, I was struck, once again, about how massive this place really is; think about it... 30,000,000 + people living here, most in poverty. The initial approach fix is crossed at 12,000 feet above sea level at a right angle to the runway! Unreal, and that's putting it mildly. The air pollution is so bad, that you can actually taste it, smell it, and feel it on your skin. The landing visibility usually hangs around four miles, on a clear day. Crossing the runway threshold at 7,800 feet yields a higher groundspeed than, say, landing at Seattle. The air is thinner here, so the aircraft has to move faster to capture the same airspeed requirements. Hence, the runway is a 12,000 foot long piece of rough concrete. The engines and brakes work harder than normal to get the weight slowed to taxi speed. Taxiing to the gate, we were watched by hundreds of people that live on the perimeter of the airport in cardboard (literally) shanty towns, complete with laundry flapping in the yellow breeze.
The employees at the Mexico City station do an outstanding job of turning our aircraft around for the northbound flight. They truly love their jobs, as they are coveted. Hating management is not an option down here. The weight and balance is done long hand with a hand calculator. The numerical entries, via pencil, are always clear, concise and correct. Quite impressive. Fifty minutes later we were punching through the pollution layer into clean sky. Before take-off, I sucked 100% oxygen to clear any potential pollution caused stupid molecules running around in my feeble brain.
A few hours later, Redondo Beach sand was between my toes as we overnighted in LAX.
That was yesterday... Today, it's 25 degrees Fahrenheit in Anchorage with sunny skies. No pollution here, that you can see or smell, anyway. Riding in the crew van enroute to the hotel, a cow moose was blocking our path, until she slowly ambled into the trees.
We crossed the jet stream in the vicinity of Sandspit (YZP) at 32,000 feet. The wind velocity peaked at 203 m.p.h., 70 degrees left of our nose. Maintaining course required upwards of 25 degrees correction into the wind. The wind tunnel was about 30 miles in diameter and no turbulence was associated with it. Truly amazing... Imagine the nights before inertial navigation or global positioning magic; then throw in an undercast. Navigators had their hands full dealing with winds like these.
Finally, after six hours, we descended into Anchorage airspace, turned final approach over Fire Island and made a passable landing, mine. I would rate it about 80% on a scale of 1-100.
Day three of a four day...The adventure continues.