Russians don't invest a lot of money in air conditioning. I venture to say many of them have never seen it. But summer has now smitten them with a terrible resolve, and there go I into the furnace.
I found Moscow hot in ways other than the thermometer can measure.
The heat was utterly appalling. A Southerner, I'm used to wet heat, but I loathe dry, sauna-like hotness that, as opposed to steaming you, parches you. As I strolled about Red Square and its environs I sweated torrents and watched many Russians walk about in shorts, tees and sandals, a rare sight.
The smoke added more misery. Russia is literally burning up. Great plumes of smoke are hanging across Moscow and the surrounding prairies. You could see it even inside buildings. You could smell it―Russia aflame. The drought is their worst in decades and now a world-wide wheat shortage looms because of it―or at least that's the wheat futures peddlers say.
My two F/Os, Mike and Andy, wisely napped through the parching afternoon and took their walks after we had dinner―which BTW was unremarkable. After three trips there I've decided to abandon my plans to open a fine Russian cuisine restaurant in Alabama.
But their desserts can be appealing to some. Mike and Andy reported great “eye candy” in Red Square on their walk. Much to their delight the Russian ladies had retrieved tiny thin garments from their closets, things they probably hadn't worn for seasons. Andy, a bachelor, described one girl as so gorgeous he could have died at her feet happy and fulfilled.
We were equally happy to get away from that miserable air. The air conditioning aboard the 767 never felt so good. We got there early to make ready for the dreaded first ten minutes out of Moscow. But no matter how hard you prepare for that Byzantine departure, it's never enough. It goes like this:
You let go the brakes and start the 7,000 foot roll. The sun is hot overhead but you can't see the end of the runway for the smoke. You go solid IMC seconds after liftoff, and the gear is hardly in the wells when the radio erupts with a cacophony of croaking, spit-spewing Russian commands. Your arms and hands poke and stroke the panels changing frequencies, course, speed, and altitude.
“WHAT DID HE SAY?” Andy, the pilot at the controls, shouts.
“I DON'T KNOW!” I shout back.
From the jump seat Mike shouts “I THINK HE SAID GO DIRECT WHISKEY TANGO...I think.”
We're shouting at each other. The radio is shouting.
The Russians give us altitudes in meters. Mike and I must consult charts to convert to feet. They give us a climb to flight level 1500. I convert that to meters. Andy yells, “THAT's NOT RIGHT! HE DIDN'T SAY 'FLIGHT LEVEL.' HE SAID 'ALTITUDE'.” (It can make a big difference.)
“NO,” Mike admonished. “HE SAID FLIGHT LEVEL!”
Two to one, “Flight Level” wins.
The distraction causes us to miss another Russian command. The radio blasts a rebuke. We humbly comply.
The radio is a hotbed of shouting Russians. The controllers' accents are so thick and their English so limited you can hardly tell when they switch their attention from their countrymen to you. You expect Vodka and spit to drip from the speakers and headsets.
God forbid you ask them to repeat a clearance. By the time they realize you need clarification you're past the fix, or through the altitude; they've got other customers to shout at. While you're trying to figure it all out, the 767 is moving like a missile across Moscow. Hell, it is a missile. Our job is to keep it from hitting anything. Things are happening so fast your senses go into maximum buzz. You're so far behind the jet, it's towing you. Then suddenly, it's over.
Just like that, the dreaded first ten minutes are done. You wipe sweat and slump back. You take a long pull from the water bottle. You're out of Moscow. Ten hours of listening to calmer, less frequent, and certainly less demanding voices lay ahead.
“What was that temperature in Washington?” I asked Mike as he started to leave for his break. He tossed the ATIS down. “Ninety-seven degrees. But we've got air conditioning.”
Makes one think there's a new kind of cold war going on.
проклятье, он горячий!
In his "other job" Mike is an F-16 squadron commander.
Greenland crossing video
— Wing Commander H. P. Ruffell Smith, RAF, 1949