"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Mongolia, A Report from the Field: On the Wings of Flying Horses

Much like the Alaskan flag, the logo of MIAT (Mongolian Civil Air Transport) is stunning and unforgettable in its simplicity.  Aside from once having conquered much of the known world, Mongolia is famous for its horses, both the sturdy Mongolian horse used for centuries by warriors and nomads, and the world's only true, never domesticated, wild horse--the Takhi.

So the choice of a horse as the airline's logo is quite appropriate.  After all, how many things can you really put an image of Genghis Khan on?   (More on our friend Genghis in another report.)

The stylized rendering of a blue horse on a gold background got my attention and I'm very thankful I was sitting on the "down-sun" side of the Boeing 737 so I could get this photo.

Having that good karma, however, came with some payback that folks on the other side of the plane weren't aware of.   I was casually looking out the window at the earth far below when I felt something different with the plane.   At the same time, I saw another jetliner below us, first noticing its white contrails that then turned dark.

It was flying much faster than we were, and on a course to intersect with ours.  I was right in front of the engine and both heard and felt our plane ascending.

And it did indeed cross our course, though sufficiently below us.   I am wondering if, in the parlance of aviation and air traffic control, this would be considered a close call.

I've never been able to get crisp shots through thick plastic airplane windows, but the plane is labeled Star  Alliance, which is an alliance of a number of airlines sharing planes, airports, services, etc.

My friend Cap has written about how good the food is on MIAT, and I must agree.  I opted for chicken*, which turned out to be chicken in marinara sauce over pasta, veggies, a potato sauce with lettuce and a cherry tomato, and a nice dessert.

I observed, in my staring out the window, a field of windmills way out in the middle of nowhere, it seemed.

Then, we flew over an excavation of what appears to be an open pit mine.  I did a little tinkering with the photos to make the excavation more visible.

All of this is to say that when you're flying over Outer Mongolia, there really isn't much to see, unless it's a pretty cloud above the relentless smog of Ulaanbaatar as the sun descends.

Beijing, China, and New Delhi, India, get a lot of negative attention for their horrific air pollution.   I can attest to both!   What you never hear about though, are the really, really bad places.

This is from Wikimedia (bold face type is my addition):

But according to World Health Organization data covering more than 1,000 cities in 91 countries, China’s capital is not the city that consistently endures the world’s worst air pollution. It doesn’t even come close.

One of the crucial measures of dangerous air pollution is the number of parts per million of particles smaller than 10 micrometers (PM10) wafting through the air. Beijing’s residents breathe in air with an average PM10 of 121, but millions of people have it worse.

The rankings, cobbled together using air monitoring data from a variety of sources between 2003 and 2010, suggest that the world’s worst air pollution floats over Ahwaz, a city in southwestern Iran where the average PM10 level hovers around 372. Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, ranks second, enduring a 279 PM10, far higher than the global average of 71.

Unlike Beijing and New Delhi, where the pollution is like being in fog, the pollution in Ulaanbaatar is hard to see when you're in it, but it's ghastly when you are out in the country and driving towards it.

And on we flew into the murk above Ulaanbaatar, landing at (what else) Chinggis Khan (Genghis Khan) airport.

The orange on the engine cowling is the setting sun.

A part of the city of Ulaanbaatar.   In addition to all the vehicles, there are coal-burning electrical generation plants right in the city, visible just left of center.   Again, I tinkered with the photo to make it clearer. 

Patterns of snow on the mountains.

And then.....

There is nothing fancy about this terminal   No duty free shops or endless lines of other shops.   Just a utilitarian building where people get on and off airplanes.   Not even any passport control.

Cap's friend Changer picked us up at the airport and took us into town through horrific evening rush hour traffic.  They dropped me at the Sunshine Hotel where I would stay throughout our time in Mongolia.

This little plant is on a window sill in the lobby.

And, the adventure begins.

*Remember when Continental Airlines was called the "chicken airlines" because that's all they ever served?


  1. I am not sure of what is happening here. Something IS happening here .. What it is ain't exactly clear. I thought I posted a comment here and it disappeared. Then I found my comment for this post on the following post. So I will press publish and see where .. or IF .. this post appears.

    Welcome to Mongolia .. So nice to have you along for the ride .. Patti and Cap ..

    1. You are absolutely right. There's a stamp in my passport to prove it. Talk about spacing something!

  2. Where were Patti and I when that other airliner passed below us. My Oh My. Smiling .. Patti and Cap ..