I started my around the world (RTW) flight yesterday – September 25, 2012 – and boy is it a doozy. There are 32 legs starting and ending at San Diego, California, USA – KSAN. I’ll cover all 7 continents and land at the “10 Most Extreme” airports (at least according to the History Channel’s TV show.) I’m really doing this flight to win some awards at a virtual airline I fly for – Freight Dogs virtual Air Cargo. Continue reading Around the World Flight→
I think I finally figured out the screen resolution I need in order to fill a youtube video viewing box. I set my screen and FSX to 1280 x 720. It makes everything pinched, but the outcome is widescreen 16:9. I also converted the video from Fraps’ AVI to MPEG4 using widescreen setting for both input and output.
This adventure was huge in comparison to all the others. Flying in a de Havilland Beaver DHC2, I covered more than 1,000 miles from Martins Ferry Seaplane Base (WV43) in West Virginia, to Fish River Seaplane Base (5AL) in Fairhope, Alabama (southeast of Mobile). The planning required for this trip took more than 5 hours; seaplane bases are hard to find. The route is so long that I split it into two parts – with a stop-over in Lake Monroe, Indiana (07I). As usual I used SkyVector to plot the course and find the seaplane bases. I also found a rare Water Runways and Seaports document on the Microsoft web site.
The first leg of the journey follows the Ohio River south from Martins Ferry. I stopped at Ravenswood Seaplane Base (WV39) near Ravenswood, West Virginia, for fuel because the next leg is a long one and passes over Cincinnati then west to Lake Monroe, Indiana (about 250 miles).
Along the river section from Ravenswood to Cincinnati I saw a couple power plants with steam stacks. I did a check on SkyVector VFR sectional and sure enough there are (nuclear) power plants along that route.
Lake Monroe was a little disappointing. In real-world it’s mostly state park land with a few private residents living along the shore. In FSX it has a very few houses and any water runway or seaplane base is nonexistent.
The second leg of the trip turns south with few stops for fuel. I was able to find Tims Ford (0TN1) on FSX which is about 238 miles south of Lake Monroe. After Tims Ford there wasn’t another stop until Fairhope.
The leg from Tims Ford to Fairhope was a nail-bitter. It’s 320 miles and the Beaver has a range of 395 miles (if FSX is telling the truth). So, I plotted the leanest route I could and hoped for the best. There were several lakes and rivers along the way just in case I had to ditch. Luckily I made it – with 1/4 of the front-tank (13 gallons) left.
Overall, it’s fun and easy to fly the Beaver. I just wish FSX would model docks/fuel at seaplane bases.
On this flight I was hauling 1,000 lbs of snow in a Grumman Goose G21A from John H Batten Airport (KRAC) in Racine, Wisconsin, to Warwood – Martins Ferry Seaplane Base (WV43), near Wheeling, West Virginia. That’s right, a half-ton of snow! The challenge was that with that much weight I could only carry 140 gallons of fuel or 41% in each tank.
SkyVector said it was 358 nm straight from Racine to Wheeling. I needed to make a delivery and I needed to make it there quickly so I chose to fly using GPS. I figured with 41% full of fuel I had a range of 375 nm. I was sweating the whole trip, but I made it with 4% fuel to spare.
I flew at 5500 feet in VFR conditions. Flying GPS isn’t a challenge, but watching the fuel burn was nerve racking. I kept adjusting the prop and mixture to get the maximum amount of forward movement for the least amount of fuel burn.
This one is a really short adventure. Without navigation equipment the Piper Cub is like a powered glider. I couldn’t go very far and I needed VFR conditions so I could use dead reckoning to find the airport. I looked at SkyVector just to see that it was a straight shot across Lake Michigan on a heading of 270 from Tulip City Airport, KBIV, in Holland, Michigan, to John H Batten Airport, KRAC, in Racine, Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, real-world weather was not VFR and I took off from KBIV in a cold, light rain. That should have been a sign to put the airplane back in the hanger and try again another day, but I didn’t.
I put the Piper on a heading of 270, adjusted the trim, and set the power to max. Up it went to about 6500 feet where it leveled itself. From there on I hardly touched the controls. I just corrected the heading every so often.
When I got to the west side of the lake the weather was worse than the east side. There was a low ceiling – probably 2000 feet – and I was at 5000 feet and descending. I called the airport radio and announced my position and intention. That gave me my position relative to the field so I could guide the airplane toward the field. A few more position calls later and I had airport in sight.
I didn’t hear any other traffic on the radio so I announced “on final” and pointed the nose at runway 22. I think I landed at about 45 knots, and I tried to keep the plane on the runway. The runway had a thin layer of ice on it so I kept steering to a minimum and didn’t use breaks.
Now I can say I flew the Piper Cub and cross that one off the list. Note to self, don’t every fly this plane again, at least not in MVFR conditions.
There is an interesting story behind this adventure. Somehow I read a Twitter post from @saugatuck that was an ad for the Saugatuck Visitor’s Bureau. I Googled it and it looked like a cool place so why not fly there. There isn’t an airport at Saugatuck, but there is one 10 miles south in Holland, Michigan – Tulip City Airport, KBIV. I used SkyVector.com for my charts to plot a course from KOSH to KBIV.
I chose to fly my favorite airplane, Beech Baron, for this trip. It was a short 150 miles from Oshkosh across Lake Michigan to Holland. Once over the lake the weather wasn’t exactly VFR, but no ATC was online to stop me.
My route was fairly simple. I flew direct to the FAH VOR at Sheboygan, Wisconsin, then via V510 to MKG, near Muskegon, Michigan. Then south along the Michigan shoreline to the Pullman (PMM) VOR.
I planned to do a few approaches into Holland and the first approach was the VOR-A using PMM. I had plenty of time and fuel so I went for the full procedure approach. Over PMM I timed 1 minute out bound on a heading of 180 Then I flew a heading of 135 for 1 minute, followed by a procedure turn to heading 315. Then I turned north to track the 180/360 radial of PMM until I was over GRADS intersection, the missed approach fix. There is a hold at GRADS so I did a couple 1 minute legs on the hold before completing the approach.
At the minimum descent altitude (MDA) of 512 feet I went missed. Pulling up I turned left back to the 360 radial from PMM. Once over GRADS, I executed a teardrop entry to join the holding pattern again. I flew couple circuits in the holding pattern before coming in on my final approach – circle to land runway 26.
Over all the flight was easy. The weather was as expected, kinda muggy. I was able to visually pick out the inlet at Saugatuck so I consider my mission a success.
For this adventure I’m on a mission: I’m headed to Michigan via Oshkosh, WI (KOSH). My problem this time was choosing an aircraft with enough power to make it over the 12,000 foot peaks of the Rocky Mountains and have enough fuel to make it to Oshkosh. For kicks I chose the Douglas DC-3. That’s right, the old gooney bird. It might be old. It might be ugly. But it has a fairly long range, and it’s not afraid of mountain climbing.
My flight plane from SkyVector.com was a follows – this is all I used, honest:
SkyVector estimated this flight to take 5 – 7 hours. Well, let’s just say I made it through about 5 hours before I started getting restless. I kicked it up to 4x a few times between the last few VOR.
The flight was pretty cool. The DC-3 was fun to fly once I got my antique navigation legs back. I flew at 17,500 feet. The weather was fair but I had to keep both hands on the yoke. It tended to drift and rock in 1 kt cross winds; simulators aren’t perfect I guess.
The mountains weren’t really a problem. I went straight north out of Aspen and I crossed the Rockies near their northern end. The fuel was lean and I tried to keep the climb within specs. I think my climb was a little less than 120 kts at about 500 fpm. I say “about” and a “little” because the needles – like the turbulence – were all over the place.
Once we got it leveled off at 17,500 the rest of the trip was smooth. We went from one VOR to the next, using the GPS as “situational awareness” and just to check we were headed in the right direction.
When the main fuel tanks read 20% I switched over to AUX tanks. That happened somewhere over Iowa. The AUX tanks hold about 200 gallons. That took us near Oshkosh. I think the AUX tanks were 20% when I was on final.
I did one missed approach on RWY 36 with a closed traffic (VFR) loop back to 36. At this point in a 6 hour trip I wasn’t much for challenges so I just asked for landing on the second run. I landed safe taxied to the fuel point and promptly shutdown the engines. So much for the beast known as the DC-3. This adventure was in the books and my next trip across Lake Michigan was the one I was looking forward to.
What better way to “celebrate” an one-way-in, one-way-out approach than with an only-one-approach aircraft: DG–808S Competition Sailplane – a.k.a. glider. Half of the reason I wanted to fly the glider here is to see if the AI tow-aircraft (a Maule) could get off the ground at Leadville, Lake County (KLXV). The other reason is what better place to catch thermals than in the mountains. In this adventure I’m flying from Leadville to Aspen, Colorado (KASE), a 26nm “glide.”
For this flight there was no charts; no navigation radio. I used the GPS to find KASE, and I turned on schematic thermals so I could see them.
Flying thermals is hard. Flying thermals in the Rockies at 12-15,000 feet is nearly impossible. I admit I had to cheat and use slew a couple times – the thermals just weren’t cutting it. I read afterwords that the trick to thermals is to fly inside the “donut.” I tried that, but it didn’t seem to help much. I tried flaps, trim, turning-clockwise, turning-counterclockwise, but nothing seemed to get me lift inside the thermal. I also tried riding the “ribbon” of the schematic – that’s where the turbulent air is – that only made things worse. So, I didn’t earn my thermal-riding badge today.
Once I got near KASE there was one more thermal I could shoot on the south side of the valley. That was enough to carry me up a couple hundred feet. Then, I turned toward the airport and made my way down the valley to the north.
When I was about 10 miles away (GPS) I turned back toward KASE and started my descent. If you think climbing in a glider takes a long time, descending takes twice as long. I think my speed was 40 knots and my descent rate was probably about 500 feet per minute. Needless to say it takes patience. So down I went slowly like a kite.
Within about 1 mile I lowered the gear, set the flaps to full, and kept an ear on the variometer; porpoising a little.
If you’ve ever been to Leadville, CO, you know it’s a small town, with a small airport, surrounded by Pike National Forest in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. What you may not know, however, is that the airport is North America’s highest (public) airport. We’re starting at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, KBJC, at 5,673 feet, and flying 70 nm southwest to Leadville’s Lake County Airport (KLXV) at 9,927 ft., in a Maule Orion.
The question isn’t can the Maule power us up almost 5,000 feet in 70 miles. The real question is can it climb over (or around) the 12,000 foot mountains in those 70 miles? This is our next adventure.
I used SkyVector for my chart. This was a simple flight on paper – a straight shot – but navigating around mountains is tricky. I set NAV1 for an outbound course on the 222 radial of the JEFFCO (BJC) VOR. The weather was good so Metro tower gave us 29R for departure.
I wanted to do a power-takeoff, near-zero-length takeoff, but the takeoff roll was longer than I thought – that’s a bad sign. As I rolled on to the 222 radial and headed for the mountains it become clear that this Maule wasn’t going to top the 12,000 foot peaks in front of me. It struggled to climb to 10,000 feet.
I had to make some tough decisions – which mountain passes do I take. The VFR sectional isn’t crystal clear where the box canyons are or how the passes are shaped. Throw in Flight Simulator’s variable terrain generator and it becomes a guessing game.
There were a couple times I got boxed in and had to turn around. Luckily it’s only 70 miles. I drifted from one valley to another until I was almost on top of Leadville. I made a gliding decent while calling position to local traffic. Soon enough I was on the ground in Leadville wondering what’s next and how am I getting out of here.