We have 48 minutes down here to unload, reload, refuel, and blast-off for points north... Way north. There is something about this geographic location that renders our Mighty and Expensive airline communication network inoperable, i.e., Mother cannot talk to us or even email us directly. She has to go through operations down here via a land line. I love it! It is like the old days. My cell-phone has no signal either. Mother has been known to call individual pilots on their cellphones if she really needs to talk. So, for a few minutes I can stand out here on the air-stairs and take it all in; the cool ocean breeze and the sound of the wind through the palm trees... Well, the screaming APU is drowning that out, but I can see the palm fronds moving.
This is a little airport with a single runway and no taxiways except to the ramp area. We came over the top of the airport at 8,000 feet (staying clear of terrain) and were cleared for a non-precision approach. Those are exercises in geometry and timing to position the aircraft close to the airport to pick up the runway environment visually. We could look straight down, over the nose and see the runway 8,000 feet beneath us through the broken cloud layer. The Electric Jet has very good vertical capabilities, especially down. I called for the landing gear to be lowered over the airport and raised the wing spoilers to full extension. It is really cool to watch Fi-Fi start shedding altitude.
At 6,000 feet we are underneath the cloud layer and heading toward the beach. The airport is now behind us. The object here is to only use gravity for motive force until rolling out on final approach when chemical energy (kerosene) will be re-injected into the flight profile to stabilize the path for a safe landing. So, if the airport is behind us, I have to bank/turn left 180 degrees to point toward the airport, then another 90 degree left bank/turn to line up with the runway. I can use each turn as a bonus bucket to throw off more energy (altitude). Then, I guesstimate how long my straight legs will be between turns and throw in a pinch or two of crosswind coming off the ocean. Most pilots are very good at mentally compartmentalizing flight tasks, i.e., I am flying the aircraft while the nav section of my brain is subconsciously calculating a turn point. That ought to do it... Time to lower the left wing.
Back on the airstairs, the ocean air smells wonderful. The operations manager handed me my flight plan a few minutes ago. We keep this same aircraft all the way to CYEG (Edmonton) where it is freezing cold and snowing. Yikes!
At 1500 feet, I pull the thrust levers back to climb power and lower the nose to accelerate. We are feet wet over the blue-green waters of the Pacific as we leave the beautiful Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo airport behind. We were only there for 48 minutes but it was excellent. It was one of those little brief moments in time that are so sweet, but hard to quantify.
At 2,000 feet, the Mighty and Expensive airline communications system comes back on line. The mini-printer starts spitting out messages from Mother that were backed up. The email alert light starts flashing... It is my dispatcher. He welcomes us back and wants to know if we know how cold it is in CYEG. That is a good one. I will have to think of a worthy reply as we climb back into the cold blue.
Life on the Line continues...