We went south today on a charter, into the heart of the southern US. The city I'm in is plastered with billboards for bail bondsmen and pawn shops, but the rest of the place is remarkably nice. Waaay back when, the city here was originally planned for 20,000 but only 3,000 people showed up, so the planners did some quick thinking and made every third block a park. The city is a lot nicer for it; Kitsch and I did a quick tour of downtown this afternoon, marveling at the huge mansions and the omnipresent creepy trees with the long stringy moss that hangs off them like Fu Manchu's beard. Lots of nice shops and things to see, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow afternoon, once I'm done some paperwork and can venture forth to explore further.
On the way here, we got to fly in this:
1 sm FU SKC
That's not a curse, it's pilot geek weather-speak for "sky clear, visibility 1 mile in smoke". There are some humungous forest fires going on now, with the smoke stretching for hundreds of miles all around. I realize how ignorant I am of our neighbors to the south when I saw that and was amazed that the US has enough forest left in the south to be able to catch fire.
But don't take my word for it, take a look at what we saw on approach, and keep in mind that they were reporting clear skies in this area.
Our destination airport had an Instrument Landing System, so the relatively low visibility wasn't a big deal, but I still thought it was interesting.
Once we landed, things got a little sticky. Customs met us and for only the third time since I got this job, they made us unload all our bags, then searched them all while they ran a dog through the interior of the plane, and around all of us. I was wondering what they thought we might smuggle from Toronto, but talking to the officers, it honestly seemed like they gave us the full-meal-deal search because they didn't have a lot to do today and they were bored. Unloading all the bags and searching them and the pax took about an hour, in +28c (82F)temperatures with 100% humidity. I was a mess; I had sweat through my undershirt and my company golf shirt, the backs of my pant legs and my shoes were soupy by the time they let us go. Yeah, flying is glamorous :)
Once we were cut loose by Customs, we loaded up (sweat, sweat, sweating) and flew our pax about 20 miles away to the small airport they wanted. We dropped them off, put the plane to bed and rented a car to return to the big city, as hotels were all sold out in the small town our pax are staying in. The car is pretty cool, a Mazda 6. Kitsch wanted to drive it, and I was okay with that until he disabled passenger access to the windows, then rolled them down and started blasting The Backstreet Boys on the car stereo, laughing maniacally while pedestrian heads turned and I shrunk down into my seat, trying to become invisible.
Anyway, tonight we are going to head downtown (I'll drive) and check out the scene, perhaps having a mojito or a mint julep out on the deck of a nice cafe. Okay, maybe flying is kind of glamorous after all.