06-24-2005, 04:54 PM
Here's ours (sorry, formatting is gone...):
Team FlightSim’s preparations started in July – well, at least Ian (TornadoWilkes) was getting people interested well in advance this time. Smitty recognized some major issues, which we tried to resolve:
- We need to plan better. I will be writing a Web application that we can use if desired, which will allow us to do flight planning, coordinate who is flying which legs, keep a log/journal of what's happening, see which multiplayer server is active, and view a real-time flight map. I think this might make things a little easier than trying to coordinate through the forums. Lack of planning is really what killed us this year.
- We need more pilots. Most of the flights were done by a few people. Not only did this limit the number of people involved, but it also led to some exhaustion - I recall someone falling asleep at the yoke and having to refly a leg. Getting more international pilots involved will make it a lot easier.
- We need more publicity and information BEFORE the event begins.
- Flightsim needs to win this year!
Especially that last point was something, we decided to fulfill! Coordination and motivation were two issues we tried to resolve as best possible. So by January, we had one private forum and two private websites running :) . The forum was great to build a quick relationship to the pilots who “signed up”, get to know everyone and to toss some ideas around. Smitty’s website turned into a great baton tracker, with all kinds of information for the pilots flying (from finding good airports, reading airport information, weather, everything!). John’s website had a provision for pilots to sign up and mark up their availability – allowing us to see where we might run into problems. It also had an aircraft-database with all sorts of performance numbers for the various FS-aircraft, that might be eligible for the race, a simpler baton tracker and lots of links to interesting sites for planning. With these websites it was easier to get people involved, keep them motivated and to pass “trade-secrets”; without it all boarding over and looking like an overly professional (not-for-fun) effort.
Getting pilots turned out to be hard work. We posted in all kinds of forums to get the attention of pilots. A month before the race it looked quite tough – though Dave (sandman) and Austin (salt_air) promised that they could do the whole race themselves, if no-one else showed up. Luckily it didn’t come to that, though they were online almost the whole time. Reggie (RFields) from PAI joined up after trying to get a PAI-Team signed up (it was too late) – what a really great help that was – I think he knew each airport along the way!
We even picked a team-leader, Austin (salt_air). Austin organized the backup-crew, people were online 24 hours during the race – great work! During the race itself we didn’t really need a leader, the team was just perfect, everyone working together, keeping each other awake, busy and helping where-ever possible. Important decisions were made on the fly, by whoever was online at the moment. Teamwork at it’s best!
When the final rules came out the day before the race, there was a lot of commotion on the private forum: how the heck can we find an optimal route? With so many new variables in the game, it would be hard to adapt an existing game-plan, or for that matter, even come up with a game plan. In the end, we decided to take the south-pacific route, slightly optimized with room for small changes along the way. The other possible routes were not checked (or at least not fully) – a small gamble - in the worst case we can still modify the route in Australia at the latest. We were missing Concorde-pilots, but we had enough time to look for them. One important part of the planning was to keep it as simple as possible, take the bigger airports whenever available, refrain from taking overly complex aircraft and try to fly the classics during daytime – Keep it as simple as possible, the nerves will make even that hard enough!
At least we now knew which direction to start in!
While there’s a lot of talk of a certain “Mr. Murphy”, we all know that he doesn’t really exist. “Luck” should not be a factor in air-travel. In a race like this, where everyone goes to the limits (be it of the aircraft, models, computer or of their own personal, physical or psychological limits), it’s clear that everyone has a desire to stay at the limits as long as possible – and if possible, to “cheat their luck” by crossing those limits, because maybe, they just look like limits and the real limits are just a bit further away. Small changes are all that’s needed for someone walking the limit; flying the barber-pole, a small gust of wind is all that’s needed to take you and your aircraft across the limit, maybe just a bit too far (and that’s just what’s modeled in the Flight Simulator, what about the phone ringing while you’re on short final?). In real life, we would (should) never, ever get ourselves into such a situation, we would choose a personal limit below the absolute limit and stay on the safe side. In this race, a crash set the team back about 2 hours at the most, in real life it would be a bit more unforgiving! So when we mention Murphy, we really mean our inner pressure to fly at the limit, disregarding real-life; but still: it helps to have someone to take the blame. So Mr. Murphy, when you come and visit us, don’t stay too long, the other teams would get lonely!
Sunday February 20, 2005
Come Sunday we opened up a thread on the forum asking for pilots to sign up for the first leg. Nobody did. Those of us who weren’t on TeamSpeak almost panicked:
Jared (Smitty): SOMEBODY has to take the first leg, so don't be afraid to just take it and run. Flight heading is almost due East. (...) You guys decide, but just don't let the baton sit idle at the beginning. See you in a few hours.
As it turned out, TeamSpeak was *the* important tool of the race this year. Most of the planning was done on the way, in TeamSpeak, all of the flight-bookings, all of the background helping, scouting, etc. This kept the forums clean of idle chatter, but it also kept them almost sterile, so much that “outsiders” almost wouldn’t see the work and excitement behind the scenes.
As for the race itself, TeamSpeak made a massive difference this year as pilots came online, barriers fell as many for the first time got to actually speak with simmers that they'd known for years but never put a voice to. The whole world seemed to shrink as the green LED's on the Teamspeak servers switchboard lit up, 17 people all trying to talk at once!! Some of the #### guys came over and found the discussions going on to be "awesome" a feeling that I reckon most of the FS.com pilots would echo. Much of this was perhaps down to organisation, maybe due to FSNav, or perhaps the part played by our resident "dispatchers" Geno and Reggie.
The baton didn’t idle for long. Geno (gcurtiss) grabbed it with a Conquest 441 right from the start and took the team directly east to Al Jouf (OESK). With a perfectly coordinated handoff, Pascal (Swi_Tzer, a veteran of last years race) took it in a hair-raising flight to Basrah (ORMM) in a King Air 350. Halfway there, Pascal decided to fly a 360 – though not because he really wanted to:
For my first leg I didn’t want to have any problems, so I took the default King Air 350. Not a bad choice, it flys nicely and is easy on the frames. But then: SCHOCK! The fuel dials were at zero half way there... GULP!! What’s up? Since I was connected on TeamSpeak, we first looked for an alternative destination, right behind me – so I turn the aircraft around 180 degrees... Then, after checking the aircraft a bit more, I noticed that the fuel dial can do more than one turn, so it wasn’t empty after all! So no alarm any more, I turn the rest of the 180 degrees, back to the original destination and landed there.
Reggie (RFields) takes the baton with his Avanti to Kerman (OIKK), not without a hitch: As he is kicked from the Multiplayer-Server, his Flight Simulator freezes for a second and the Duenna brings the first red flag of the race. This got everyone involved, even #### came over to our TeamSpeak – we wanted to make sure that the flight was officially recognized. Luckily the normal flight analysis window was ok! Oh the excitement!
FL270 - 256KIAS - 437 GS - Winds 276 @ 57 - Hdg 083
Got kicked off multiplayer 17 min into flight
Screen flashed black for about 1/2 second. Duenna still recording information from start at ORMM, but has two red flags "On-ground" and "GS< 5kts" - after discussing with team decided to continue flight and see if Duenna or Flight Analysis will verify / validate flight.
Edit - check Flight Analysis screen - looks good - flight still appears valid
1 hr into flight - 102nm to go
John pulled out his old P-38L and took the baton – with a really nice tailwind – to Sheikh Zayhed, Pakistan (OPRK):
I don't remember what was the reason, but suddenly I was up for the next leg. I had just a couple of minutes to get prepared... Nervous as crazy! Laughingly, before the race I mentioned that a pilot looses a quarter of their IQ when he flies and another quarter when in a race – I think I only had a quarter left, ouch. I got into my training tested P-38L, filled it up for a bit over 2 hours, used my checklist (too nervous to think for myself), said goodnight to the wife, and waited... I was offline (felt safer + I didn't want everyone to see me crash), we did the baton exchange and off I was!
Easy flight, lots of wind changes, had to do some flight level changes, fast flight, wow.
Enroute we changed destinations (went a bit longer, for a better split of the next legs), the flight was no problem, really good tailwind, good speed. However, as the time limit was approaching, it would get close to 2 hours. So while I was preparing my descent, calmer but still a bit jumpy, Swi-Tzer was being so nice and kept calling out the time left - no, doesn't make me nervous at all... (it sure as heck did!)
Landing at night in the smog/fog, Swiss timing: a minute before 2 hours. Fuel 3% left on landing, perfect match for the distance. Easy landing thanks to the guys scouting ahead!
The plan was to not take a chance in Lukla: we would take the baton as close as possible and then take a helicopter into Lukla for an easy bonus. So Bobby (seahunt) took off for Indira Gandhi (VIDP) – only to crash an hour into the flight – Murphy took turns with the teams this year, I bet he had a fun time.
Summary up to day 1:
Valid distance flown: 2033nm
Time lost in abandoned flights: 44 Minutes
Monday, February 21, 2005
Smitty jumpstarted his old and faithful P-38M and took off for Bhairahawa (VNBW), which he managed in a fast hop. The hop to Rumjatar (VNRT), from where we were going to attack Lukla wasn’t that long, so Tony took a trusty Cessna C177 to Rumjatar.
From there to Lukla (VNLK) was a mere 29nm, which Dan (Twolf) mastered with the AS 365 helicopter (with a swiss callsign, no less):
Lukla, sounds too much like "Luck" for my liking <L> There was a lot of debate about how we should approach this one. Weather was closing in and it looked VFR conditions might deteriorate. Frankly, no one wanted to risk bending a fixed-wing in that canyon or on that little shelf of an airstrip. I happened to be on Teamspeak when talk turned to trying a helicopter run. Right place, right time I guess; the team needed a chopper pilot and I had the time to try. "Wonderful" I thought, "a low vis approach at extreme altitude." Having flown many FS hours in the JetRanger in mountain country I knew it simply wasn't up to the job at this altitude. Luckily I did have an AS365 ready to make the hop. I'm not usually a nervous pilot but the thought of hugging those canyon walls for reference in gusty winds had me on edge. The Dauphin is a capable bird, but like many single rotor machines it gets sluggish in a hover above 10,000 feet.
Departure from VNRT was tricky. It sits on an exposed shelf surrounded by peaks and canyons that create strong crosswinds. Makes the concept of "taking off into wind" a bit of a joke. Borrowing a real world mountain flying trick, I made a translational turn after lifting off and immediately converted that to forward airspeed, critical in the gusty conditions. The climb out was as steep as anything I've ever done in a helicopter. As it turned out, visibility was not the problem. Twice on my descent to Lukla I was caught in strong downdrafts that threatened to push me into a canyon wall then down to the rocks below. High density altitude is dangerous enough, but those unpredictable winds almost cost us a leg. I finally did make a rough landing to score our bonus. With slightly shaky hands I finished my forum post and handed off the baton. Not the kind of flight you soon forget. (Note to self: next year, get a Chinook!)
Reggie, having practiced these nepalese approaches a bit, took the baton from Lukla to Paro (VQPR) in a Pilatus PC-12 (another swiss aircraft) to grab another bonus. No sweat. How this guy from “flat” Texas can fly in those mountains is really amazing.
Smitty starts to bring the baton south, onward in the direction of Australia, with his P-38M to Pjay (VYPY). So far so good, we might have a chance after all? It was too early in the race to really tell, but all three teams looked really close, flying really fast.
It where there that we planned for a first round of classics. Mark (n704fn) takes the Lockhead Vega for a spin to Yangoon (VYYY). From there Dave (sandman), our man from down under, took his trusty Beech Starship to Phuket (VTSP) to score another bonus.
Nothing very remarkable about this flight. Standard takeoff roll and rotation at 120kts IAS. Climbed to 1500ft and flipped on the Autopilot. Just sat back and watched the instruments during the climb to FL270. At cruise level the only thing to watch was the IAS gauge (not a lot to see out the window - blue sea) to avoid any overspeed as it was sitting on the barber pole the whole way. Wind stayed pretty constant and ground speed was quite good. At BOD it was simply a matter of reducing power and establishing the descent profile while monitoring the AIS gauge to keep max speed all the way down without overstressing the a/c. Turned final at approx 1500ft and took manual control of the a/c for the landing phase. On the ground and stopped it was time for the post. It was then that it hit me that I had just completed my first leg and to my relief everything worked without a hitch. Took about five minutes for the nerves to settle down and I could sit back and watch the smooth progression of the baton onwards.
The team was running smooth as silk, while one pilot was flying the others would plan the next steps, help with the flight planning, check the weather on the way and at the destination, check airports for lights and nav-aids, etc. All of this was running “behind the scenes” on TeamSpeak. A really great team with a great team-spirit! Dave (sandman) was online almost 24 hours – from a dial-up-connection no less, as broadband has yet to reach him out there. Except for those times when he took a break to give the horses a carrot, he kept us up and running with his amazing humor.
Nothing very remarkable about this flight. Standard takeoff roll and rotation at 120kts IAS. Climbed to 1500ft and flipped on the Autopilot. Just sat back and watched the instruments during the climb to FL270. At cruise level the only thing to watch was the IAS gauge (not a lot to see out the window - blue sea) to avoid any overspeed as it was sitting on the barber pole the whole way. Wind stayed pretty constant and ground speed was quite good. At BOD it was simply a matter of reducing power and establishing the descent profile while monitoring the AIS gauge to keep max speed all the way down without overstressing the a/c. Turned final at approx 1500ft and took manual control of the a/c for the landing phase. On the ground and stopped it was time for the post. It was then that it hit me that I had just completed my first leg and to my relief everything worked without a hitch. Took about five minutes for the nerves to settle down and I could sit back and watch the smooth progression of the baton onwards.
Once in Phuket, Ed (EdGeneer, N180GS) tuned his DC3 to the local sound and brought it safely to Pattani (VTSK). After a picture-perfect handoff, Tony took his Cheyenne further south to Johor Bahru (WMKJ) from where Mark (n704fn) sped to Jakarta (WIIH / WIHH) in his Avanti.
The Avanti was the plane to beat this year, with #### taking it for so many hops. There were two Avanti allowed, an older freeware model and the new FSD model. Both allowed up to 410 kts TAS, with the freeware one being just a tad less powerful than the FSD model. However, the Avanti came with an expensive price-tag: if you flew it at maximum speed, on the barber pole, just a small wind shift could cause it to overspeed so much, that it disintegrates in the air. In order to use it in a safe manner, it was important that you flew around 5-10% under the barber pole, which leveled the field a bit. Altogether, the Avantis where used for the fastest legs, and possibly accounted for the most crashes – high speed, high risk: maybe a slower aircraft would have been better in the end?
Next up was another fast aircraft, the Beech Starship (which is sadly not made any more, it seems that Beech even bought up most of the remaining ones...) – which Bill (f14flyboy) flew expertly to Denpasar (WRRR/WADD).
In the remaining daylight we wanted to cover another classic aircraft, the Piper J3-Cub. Oblio’s first leg this year, sadly ended in a crash after about 3/4-hour.
Prior to the race, I had spent many enjoyable hours flying the Piper Cub, but I had always flown in the "clear skies" weather theme, so I was unprepared for the breeze that led to my tipping the plane over on landing. Nerves also played a role. I can attest to your statement "Grab that baton and you lose at least 50% of your intelligence". I think the best word to describe how I felt at the moment when I crashed is "aghast".
Ah, no problem Mr. Murphy, we have enough pilots on board, you cannot scare us! Austin (salt_air) grabbed the baton and took his Cub for the same challenge, taking the baton to Mataram (WRRA).
In the Piper Cub for this leg. 1017 in the morning here, but I'm flying in Indonesia and it's pitch black dark and cloudy with a fair amount of wind(around 10kts) but in favorable direction for t/o and landing as well as the flight itself.There are ofcourse no lights on the Cub except for an interior light which under these conditions is better left turned off. Absolutely unable to see even the prop out of either cockpit view so I flew the entire flight from the spot view. That wasn't very good either and coupled with the fact that the sun was shinning into the room were I was sitting and reflecting off of the screen just made it even worse. Gonna need the glass cleaner after this one to get ride of all the nose prints on the monitor screen. The Cub is a nice flying a/c, very stable and easy to trim. After establishing an altitude or 4,500' I was able to set a crab angle that allowed me to stay on(GPS) course for the remainder of the flight. Visiblity worsened during descent, but after a long downwind and final approach(so as not to rush the landing) I was able to set the Cub down safely in a very short distance by toggling between the F11(left) and F12(right) brakes. Very relieved to have that flight completed. Wouldn't recommend flying the Cub on a leg like that one again. A compass, altimeter, and airpseed indicator, with poor visiblity at night. Gonna see about getting a new travel after this.
Murphy was mad – and took out the next flight for revenge: Ed (LJ922) tried to get his Starship out of Mataram, but ended up crashing on departure (it seems one of the mechanics messed with the trim before Ed took the aircraft). It’s a good thing Murphy as was so fast, we lost almost no time and Smitty was airborne 2 minutes later with his trusty P-38M. Smitty smoothed on over to Australia, bringing the Baton to Curtin (YCIN), 3 minutes over the 2 hours aloted, so the team waited a total of 9 minutes there, enjoying a cool drink and the warm air before taking the baton forward.
Dave (sandman) then took the baton in his country, flying his Starship to Alice Springs (YBAS) to score another bonus:
Sitting at the holdshort point of rwy 11 waiting for Smitty to land and ready to go. It was realized that Smitty was going to be a little over time and we would have a short delay before takeoff. The time came for takeoff and away I went. Shortly after becoming airborne it was discovered that the delay calculation was incorrect so it was "turn the a/c around and bring it back to Curtin". A flurry of activity ensued to repost and reset the flight (including Duenna) and after the delay time had elapsed it was off into the wild blue yonder of the skies of the Australian Outback. Well, not actually blue - BLACK as it was night and lights are scarce as "hen’s teeth" in this neck of the woods. I felt quite comfortable as, in real life, this is the area I completed my PPL in a C172. Home base was the nearby Airport of Derby. As expected the winds aloft were from the east and I had a headwind all the way. It was going to be tight, time wise, due to the headwind. All went well and I kept the descent speed at the barber pole to gain as much time as I could. Fairly good landing and made the post with about two minutes to spare.
The idea was to take a jet from Ayers Rock (YAYE) to cover some ground faster. What better way to contrast that than to take the deHavilland Comet from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock? Austin had no problem with that, covering the 180nm in just a bit over 1 hour.
Out on another leg with a vintage a/c the deHavilland Comet. Sunrise across the Northern Territory In Australia was glorious to watch - good thing because there isn't much else to look at, except a few kangaroos maybe. Is this what they call the Outback? Few clouds with slight x-winds for the flight, fairly easy to set up trim at 10,000', but hands on all the way to maintain heading. A foggy/hazy downwind, base, and final that cleared up just before touchdown. Point to note, the landing gear on this a/c won't extend unless your airspeed drops below 150 KIAS, and then they take what seems like forever to extend fully. One hopper had me use a little extra runway but finally brought her to a stop safely on a grassy strip next to the runway. Safe and sound and glad to have finished another leg using one of the required vintage a/c. Making us fly these relics was a real stroke of genius actually. Especially under the conditions set forth by the rules for this years race. Pretty tough thing to do without very (if any) much practice, but gave you a new appreciation for these machines and what it must have taken to actually fly them. Probably wouldn't have done it otherwise, thanks.
The fastest civilian sub-sonic jet we could find was the Citation X, which Pascal (Swi_Tzer) kept in his stable. He took the baton in 1 hour 52 minutes for almost 850 miles to Bourke (YBKE).
But those long stretches are the times when you get to know the characters whom you're flying with. Who can forget the Aussie twang of Sandman doing a few low passes to clear the runway of kangaroos??? Or his now famous joke about the blind man who walked into a bar. He picked up his dog by the tail and started to swing it around over his head. The barman shouts at the blind man, "hey you can't do that in here, what do you think you're doing?" "Just looking around," replied the blind man!!!
There were lots of jokes told – most of them not fit for print! And many tips passed around, such as what to say to your wife when she finds you at the computer at 5AM and you’re due for work at 8.
It was around here that we had to commit for the legs after Sydney – either take it further north to New Zealand or go for the South Pacific directly. After crunching the numbers, it was decided to take the South Pacific directly, while at the same time saving the wildcard for later. But more on that later ...
Tuesday, February 22, 2005 (00:00 UTC)
Ed (N180GS) then proceeded with the Ford Tri-Motor to Walgett (YWLG):
Takeoff was nice for the fact that steering these old taildraggers can be a challenge... (especially with a baton in one hand)... but once off the ground, a nice smooth ride was accompanied by the nostalgic growl of three old piston engines. These planes sure have character!!! Not getting over 105knots, a turn to 080 and its all stick and rudder from here! The weather was nice, some nice fluffy clouds to fly with and soon landing was at hand... after a few spotplane shots of this old bird, it’s time to get her in. These a/c don’t have flaps so its line it up and touch em down... It took a bit to get speed down, approaching at 100 indicated, it was apparent that the airspeed indicator left one to think they needed to account for a tad bit of 'slack' in the readings... a few light touches (brief) on the brakes to get the tail down and it came to a stop in no time...
To cover some distance, Tony took his Cheyenne from there to Richmond (YSRI), where the team caught it’s breath with a nice Curtiss Jenny flight made by Smitty into Sydney (to gather another bonus).
The race is going great! It's still a very close race and we're about half way around the world. Winds, weather, and darkness have taken their toll on a few of us, but the dedication of the pros on all teams are fighting through it and the LONG hours to make the race very competitive. Rumor has it that one pilot relieved himself in an ice cream container left in the 'cockpit' rather than leave the plane to its own devices for a minute. Talk about dedication!
Team Flightsim has seen a nice variety of pilots and planes. With most of the classics out of the way, we're now working flight path strategy and speed - most of which we hope to get when we get behind the yoke of the Concorde. Having so many pilots available to scout ahead, report, and strategize has made a huge difference. Everyone has been able to contribute in their own way. You are all very professional and courteous and it's a pleasure flying with you.
My hop in the Jenny has been the highlight so far for me. Though I've spent a fair amount of time in the 'classics', I've never really got into them. Making the short hop to Sydney was a thrill with a slight headwind giving me a ground speed of about 55 knots. I think I could have driven my car and got there quicker than flying. The landing was white knuckle, but the winds cooperated perfectly and she didn't even bounce when I set her down and drug the tail right down the center line.
Having pilots on hand who really know their way around those south pacific islands really made an impact. Instead of just using the wildcard we had decided to do these hops normally. Ian (TornadoWilkes) sums it up nicely:
One hour behind and two Concordes legs to face, FS flew the Pacific like champions. Pilots familiar with the area knew to stay clear of airports that Microsoft had built erroneously, a mistake met face on by #### as they slid of a runway straight into the sea.
Bobby (seehunt) took over from Sydney to Lord Howe Island (YLHI) in his Beech 1900, from where Reggie (RFields) took over with his fast Avanti to Noumea (NWWW).
The story of this leg started about 12 hours before the leg was flown.
Original plan was to cut south from YSSY-Sydney to YMHB-Hobart and over to NZQN-Queenstown to get the 45 South requirement.
After some discussion, aiming for the 45 South requirement in South America looked better by about 600-800 nm.
A route across the ocean toward NTAA-Papeete had to be adjusted.
The FS team decided on YLHI-Lord Howe Island and on to NWWW-Tontouta, Noumea, New Caledonia.
Though FS2004 has a terrain issue at YLHI - Bobby ran some practice landings as the Tri-Motor and the Jenny flights were underway.
I also started a test run from YHLI-NWWW to check time / winds and range. The FSD Avanti had no trouble with the range. Had perhaps a bit too much fuel but a lot better than too little.
Discussing strategy forget to start my descent from FL370 on the test leg until I was 65 miles from NWWW. Had to turn northwest of the airport and back to get down - but was still almost 240 KIAS at 800 ft crossing the threshold of Rwy 11 - executed missed approach, circled right and make a smooth landing. But it was only practice. Duenna on the practice run was almost two minutes over two hour limit.
I had about 12 minutes to relax, take a rest break and get setup for the real flight.
Had trouble connecting to FS Host but got on line, checked config of the aircraft, and was ready about three minutes before Bobby touched down on Lord Howe. (Good reason to save the flight once you have it configured before takeoff - easy to go back quickly, adjust time and go again)
It was a vindication flight for him. The PDMG B1900D had overstressed last night over Iran, so he stayed away from the barberpole on the role from YSSY-YLHI. Made a picture perfect landing.
I was off the ground for the real flight in just a couple moments and quickly climbed to my test altitude of FL330. Winds aloft were a bit less than the test run two hours and 15 min previously.
I moved up to FL350, gained about 5 kts, moved even higher finally at FL390. It was a smooth fast flight.
Riding the barber pole on the Avanti can be tiring. I have found that setting the aircraft on speed hold can result in an overspeed very easily. I have not had the aircraft crash from overstress - but based on the way FS can suddenly change winds aloft - it's too much risk to take. Keeping the numbers right on .69 mach and adjusting the throttle by as little as 10-15 ft/lb torque requires intense concentration.
The flight appeared to me to take a little longer, so I started my descent at 95nm rather than the planned 110. Still at a ground speed of 430kts when starting the descent.
One additional problem on the Avanti is descents. The plane is a slippery little thing. At times I've had to decrease the descent by several hundred FPM to keep under the barber pole.
This time a 2250FPM descend held well, but I was still above 10,000 ft where one would normally turn to catch the Rwy 11 ILS - turned northeast again and went out to 30nm and did a 180 back toward the runway - speed coming down nicely.
Was established at 15nm out at 2,300ft and 135kts with gear and first notch of flaps down. Went into approach mode on the autopilot and it lined me up perfectly - right on the glide slope.
Weather / visibility was not great - though published as 10 miles - three was more realistic. Dropped the autopilot at 500 ft, and greased her in at 108 kts - not even a bounce. Unfortunately I had been kicked off the multiplayer host about 30 minutes prior - so no one saw a great landing.
Got stopped - clicked baton free on Duenna and hit post on my precomposed forum message (I compose the post in notepad while at cruise and set it up on the board about 5 min from landing when established so it goes up faster). Didn't need to hurry, had about 5 seconds extra time!!!.
After the practice across Russia and Siberia, the night visual landing in Iran, the several practice runs from VNLK-VQPR, and a one hour test Vimy flight (YSSY-YPEC - and a perfect landing)
I wasn't sure I remembered how to do a daytime landing on a long runway with no terrain issues and a working ILS.
My FS flying skills have improved over 100% in the past month preparing for and flying this race - and EVERYONE is fantastic.
From there, Dan (Twolf) flew his Beech Starship to Nadi, Fiji (NFFN), taking 5 minutes longer than the allotted 2 hours (so we waited 15 minutes, no problem).
Night approaches in the South Pacific are beautiful....until the time comes to find the runway <L>
Somewhere around here we realize that we don’t have any real Concorde-Pilots available. John offers to help, digging up an old Concorde Model for FS2002, which apparently seemed easy to fly – the “se-conc.zip” (still available on flightsim.com). This model with a slightly modified panel was passed to 4-5 pilots, who proceeded to install and get used to the strange bird.
Ah, Fiji is nice, so we take the Spirit of St. Louis, the Ryan NYP, for a short hop over the island to Suva (NFNA). Ed takes over once again with the Beech Starship, speeding to Niue (NIUE). From there, John took over with his Avanti top Rarotonga (NCRG), so that he could do the first Concorde hop, only to have the team visited by Murphy once again. Being tough guys, he couldn’t do much: he only got the TeamSpeak-Server, so we had to resort to – oh how old-fashioned – posting status updates in the forum.
While I was out practicing Concorde-Approaches in the worst kind of (user-defined) weather, all of a sudden we needed an additional pilot. Sandman was set and available, but nobody else - and if sandman was to go now then we'd need someone else for the next flight (as I was planed to take the first Concorde-leg). Oh well, flight-time is flight-time, so I jumped into my old freeware Avanti and quickly got set for the next leg, made all the settings, clicked the buttons, quick checks, not really nervous this time.. Too easy to be true.
On takeoff I noticed my mistake: I should have taken the FSD Avanti - it's night time down here and the freeware model doesn't have landing lights : ). Oh well, let's hope for good weather in NCRG and a large lighted airport.
Great landing, no problems at all. Who needs landing lights anyway?
Dave (sandman) took the connecting flight to Tahiti (NTAA) with his Beech Starship.
Another night flight. Never been to Tahiti before and I could already see those grass skirts swaying to the rhythm of the dancers. oops! Back to reality. Take off, fly the plane and land safely. No problems encountered during the leg so I was able to kick back and party on while John took the baton onwards in the Concorde. Hey John, bought you one of those fancy drinks with the umbrella, pineapple and other bits of fruit sticking out the top but you wouldn't be back in time before it got hot so I had to drink it myself.
Here our only big gamble came into play – can we take the Concorde across the south pacific without crashing (too often)? John tries the first leg to Easter Island (SCIP).
I remembered having a Concorde model in the office that was relatively easy to fly, if you follow the check lists by the letter. It was the 2001 model by John Schumacher of the British Airways Concorde for FS2002 (“se-conc.zip” – you can still get it at flightsim.com). I sent the link to a few guys - and started practicing myself. Practice practice! The Concorde we used wasn't compatible with FS9 (at least according to FS9), but it worked flawlessly nonetheless. I added my standard autopilot-panel to the Panel (not really needed, but makes me feel more at home). I tried some other models out before but they were all a bit more complicated. I looked at the PSS model as well, but THAT is one complicated thing - eek! I think that was an important choice: going for the "as simple as possible" model instead of the eye-candy, brain-challenging hard-core models. Smitty even learned to fly it within several hours, I don't think that would have been possible with the more complicated Concordes.
I was hoping to grab the first Concorde leg at lunch time (local time) but it ended up being a bit later. So there I was in the office, joystick out, "playing games" (ehm, it's a SIMULATOR not a game) while the others were working : ). Being the boss has to have some privileges, at least I’m not out playing golf. It’s a good thing we didn’t have any visitors in the office at the time, having the boss at the computer with a headset on speaking in aviation lingo while twisting on a joystick would have given them a strange impression.
I practiced several complete flights at home earlier, lots of starts, and now while Sandman was doing the "final leg", I was practicing bad-weather landings in SCIP, a good thing.
So when my time came, I had a bit of Concorde-feeling in my arms and the checklists printed in a really large font. Fill'er up (not completely), throw most of the passengers out (not much room really). Pull the brake, throw the throttle forwards, kick in the afterburners, go! Really amazing that bird. Kick in the autopilot, follow the checklist up to FL550 or so (don't remember) and cruise!
The whole time I was flying I kept hearing Smitty in TeamSpeak practicing his flight + landings. The statistics didn't sound so reassuring. #### was more or less in the same place, though I think we were a bit ahead with the classics (not sure) and #### had used their wildcard while we still had ours. So I'm giving Smitty some last tips and he's trying to find polite words describing his landing technique. Could be worse : ) - at least we have someone lined up.
I started the descent way too early, so I ended up scooting around at lower flight levels for about 20-30 minutes longer than necessary. Oh well, could be worse. Landing wasn't my best, but good enough. Go Smitty!!
The landing was a bit later than I had planned, so I had to rush from the office to the car and drive "slowly" back home. That was actually the tough part: I was all hyped up from doing a real Concorde-leg in the race, had the fly-fast-feeling in my arms and now had to concentrate, maneuver through the slow evening city traffic. (I made leg "office to home" with high reality-settings as well, I just don't have the Duenna graphic to prove it.)
A jittery John passes the baton to Smitty, who takes the next Concorde to Puerto Montt, Chile (SCTE). Imagine the nervousness, especially after hearing what #### had been doing to their Concordes!
What a rush! About 20 seconds after takeoff, I overspeeded and really had to bump up the climb speed and kill the afterburners to keep her from falling apart. Duenna reported 12 seconds of overspeed and I was a little surprised she held together. Climb and cruise went great at FL530 and Mach 2. I was getting a ground speed of close to 1200 with a nice tailwind.
I began the descent a little early and began to realize that in my attempt to keep it light for landing I had loaded too little fuel. At around 150 miles out, my airspeed inexplicable jumped from around 350 knots to over 420 knots. OVERSPEED! The alarms started wailing and as fast as I could I flipped off the autopilot and slowly pulled back on the stick with one hand while turning off the autothrottle and setting it to idle with the other. The alarm went off after about 5 seconds. Another disaster diverted. My hands were shaking and still haven't stopped.
Because my descent was stopped to slow down I ended up bleeding off more speed than I needed, so I leveled off at about 24000 feet until I was around 70 miles out. This added about 10 minutes to the flight time. The fuel light turned on at this time, but as I resumed my descent I figured that I had enough fuel for at least one go around.
I set up for a very long approach and the ILS became active at around 25 miles. Even though the winds were at my back, I figured a runway 35 landing was safer than the visual approach on 17 in poor visibility. I punched the APR button and the ILS was locked and I worked the speed and altitude manually using the autopilot. I was a little fast so I lowered the gear at around 10 miles out to slow down. The autopilot did most of the work but I was terribly nervous as I flipped of the autopilot at the outer marker and grabbed the controls.
As the middle marker beacon sounded in the cockpit, I took a deep breath and realized that I had landed this bird many times and other planes like it 1000's of times and this landing was really no different (except that my whole team was counting on me not to blow it!). I touched down a little long and the plane bounced, hovered, and then settled down on the runway. I threw on the thrust reversers and settled the nose onto the ground and slowly applied brakes. The end of the runway came and went right as I slowly came to a stop. I was relieved to have made it and added an important leg to the race. The tips from TornadoWilkes and the others was invaluable.
I've got to go for a quick walk and calm my nerves.
So we now have two pilots who easily lost a couple of weeks of their life-expectancy (but with an extreme ego-high). Ah, the rest is just a piece of cake, let’s get it over with. FlightSim had now definitely surpassed arch-rival ####, with 1 hr 45 minutes ahead, one less classic-flight and the wildcard left for wild-flights. All they had to do now was keep Mr. Murphy from coming back.
Ian (TornadoWilkes) looking back:
The news kept coming through as details were fed live over TeamSpeak that #### had overstressed their Concorde. This put FS.com who were behind within striking distance of moving ahead. But FS were the underdogs and its pilots were untrained at such a high speed beast, vis was low and the approach would have to be completed using an ILS approach by a pilot who'd only landed Concorde on 2 of his last 7 attempts. Worse still, #### just crashed on landing making a difficult job sound even harder. With beads of sweat dripping down his eyes, you could hear the strain on Smitty's voice as he was talked in on the glideslope. "Keep her at 170kts (which was a little fast) and hold the VSI needle at 800fpm. If the glideslope goes down, increase the VSI to 1000, if it goes up descend here at 600fpm"
Smitty disengaged the autopilot and flew her in on fumes from the Outer Marker. It was upon hearing his elated and nervous voice boom across the TeamSpeak switchboard, "the baton is down in SCTE" that a cheer went up across the net. FS were ahead and #### still had to complete a flight which had previously cost them, dearly.
With the hard work done, we notice that the next stop isn’t so really much easier: Going into Futaleufu (SCFT) takes a really good pilot who knows his way around small mountain airports. Bill (f14flyboy) handled it perfectly, taking his Twin Otter in for a sweet and well watched landing.
Dan (Twolf) takes it from there to Balmaceda (SCBA) in his Beech Starship to check off our S45° landing, from where John takes the Avanti up north to Neuquen (SAZN).
Wednesday, February 23, 2005, 00:00 UTC
John passes the baton to Bill (f14flyboy) who rushes it to La Rioja (SANL) in a Starship. Here Ed (N180GS) grabs it with his Starship. Only to meet Mr. Murphy on his way through: Computer crash after 9 minutes baton-time. Geno (gcurtiss) quickly takes over heading to Salta (SASA) – only to crash on landing. It’s starting to feel like #### over here : ). No worries, Reggie (RFields) takes over, bringing his Avanti over to Salta.
Landing in rain at 4077 ft elevation with a 14 knot quartering tailwind and very heavy is not fun.
I was off the Teamspeak server when Ed and Geno had their problems -- and just returned a couple minutes after Geno's post that the baton was back at SANL. There wasn't a standby pilot, and since Dan was setup for the high altitude landing at SLLP, I offered to take the flight to SASA.
I quickly loaded the Avanti - added the direct flight plan, ran quickly through my checklist - thank goodness I had some printed up.
Grabbed the baton in Duenna, made the post and started rolling.
At 1400 ft AGL I discovered my first problem - I was headed the wrong way - took off pointed south.
Quickly made an 180, finished configuring the flight, then asked the team for help with the distance and fuel needed - I had my next surprise - the flight was only about 280nm, and I had full fuel.
Geno gave me great help on his cruise altitude, weather, and a very good description of what happened to his Avanti and why it went down short of the landing runway.
Since I was in the same aircraft, his help was very valuable in making sure I kept my approach speed about 20kts high.
I cruised at FL240, and the Avanti ate fuel at almost twice it's normal high altitude cruise race.
Ed advised me of high terrain about 19 miles south of the airport - useful since I had not been able to scout the airport. I stayed about 8000 until 16 miles DME from the VOR, then dropped to the 6150 on the approach plate. Spotting help from Twolf on the ground told me there was rain and about a 15kt tail wind for the Rwy 1 ILS landing.
Went into approach mode, and the bird captured the ILS and Glide Slope perfectly. I was seeing a bit of good lightning in the clouds - there was not a heavy overcast - just thunderstorm type clouds.
Came in great - killed the autopilot at 500 ft, held 130KIAS and touchdown about 700-800 ft down the runway.
Started slowing and got my next surprise - the darn thing would not slow down. My yoke is not setup to engage the reverse pitch. I rolled a little past the end of the runway at about 25 kts, but it stopped on the grass safely.
I landed with 76% fuel onboard and had not dropped the flaps to the final notch.
The worst part was that I had planned a restroom stop when I came on the forum, so it was really good the flight only took an hour.
Again great teamwork - especially since I had almost NO clue what to expect - all I had time to do before taking off was get the aircraft configured correctly for the flight.
Salta was also our starting point to head for the next bonus, La Paz (SLLP), which Dan (Twolf) does with his Beech Starship.
What I learned from this year's race: hanging out on Teamspeak in the wee hours of the morning gives you a better than average chance of being elected to fly some hairy approaches. Especially when the team is crossing South America. I think I was too tired to realize what I was getting into:
A) Night Landing? No problem, just have to be careful.
B) Full ILS Approach at an unfamiliar airport? Starting to get a little wary, but probably do-able.
C) Both, going into one of the highest elevation airports in the world? Now I'm thinking twice. Just to complete things, lightning had been spotted in the vicinity and a major storm was clearly brewing. Naturally, I said "yes." (And nobody else wanted this one - go figure)
This is not a long dramatic story; the approach was well briefed enroute. It's not an especially tough profile because the navaids are well placed (although if you stray outside 10nm turning for the localizer there are some rather tall rocks that could ruin your day.) The main thing I'll remember is the turbulence. I really did not want to leave my perch at FL270. From the time I started my intercept turn over PAZ VOR until touchdown, I was struggling to stabilize the descent. The VSI needle was literally bouncing from top to bottom. After I hit 3000 feet per minute a few times, I decided to stop looking at that particular instrument. The high altitude makes for a very long landing roll, and you have to recompute your approach and landing speed. Still, there's a lot of satisfaction in knowing that you took a measured risk and came through for the team, and this one scored another bonus.
We landed in La Paz at 04:57 UTC, #### came through at 06:03 UTC – what a race! The bonus airports gave us two teams a possible comparison point: going more or less the same route, it would be possible to check on the times. In the second half of the race, when the classics were almost all flown, it seemed easier to check who was ahead. Sim-Outhouse, going the north-pacific route, was impossible to compare, which made it a bit more exciting: were the Concordes an elaborate trap, might flying further distance-wise make sense with additional bonuses? We didn’t know.
Tony took us onward to Rio Branco (SBRB) – these airports were picked by the pilots online in TeamSpeak for good approaches and runways. Reggie was amazing – he know all the airports!
David (xiphanopoulous) took it from there to Iquitos (SPQT) with his Avanti, from where Dave (sandman) took it into Bogota (SKBO) in his trusty Starship.
Yet another night flight. Take off was pretty routine. Flat terrain and the mountain range was a long way to the west. Climb to FL270 was uneventful and had a reasonably good tail wind. As the flight progressed the wind began backing to the left and I was eventually battling a strong headwind. Descended to FL240 to minimise the headwind and maintained that altitude for the rest of the flight. At one stage the wind was changing rapidly from a left crosswind to a headwind and back again. This made flying at the barberpole a tricky operation. Went in to overspeed twice. Caught the first one after a couple of seconds but the second one created a dilemma. As I quickly reduced power my finger caught the mixture control and shut off my fuel to the engines. Panic stations? Nah. Well maybe a little. Managed to complete a mid air engine restart, wiped the sweat from my brow and continued on track. Closer to Bogota the mountains posed a real threat. I worried that I would lose us time if I hit them and this is where David Xiphanopolous stepped in and made a very memorable experience for me. I had planned to come in on rwy 13R but he gave me vectors and altitude clearances to avoid the mountains and make a safe approach to 13L. Fantastic piece of co-operation and assistance. Turned final and on approach profile. Rwy in sight, took manual control and then visibility went to zero. Held my profile and hoped visibility would improve in time for the landing flare. Fortunately it did, closer than I would have liked but I managed to get the a/c safely on the ground. Was very weak in the knees for quite some time after. THANK YOU, David, for your wonderful, calm assistance.
Looking good, feeling like winners already, Pascal (Swi_Tzer) announces his engagement in the forum. Considering he was online almost every night for hours on end, it’s amazing she said “yes” – congratulations come from everyone online and some in the forums. It’s events like these that add to the general atmosphere of the race. Everyone knew it was “just a game”, nonetheless we took it very seriously, and a bit of real-life here and there makes it all the more interesting.
David (xiphanopoulous) then takes the next leg up to Barranquilla (SKBQ) in his Avanti. Ah, the Caribbean is near!
I have the baton
Heading for SKBQ
As onward we go
(a baton post haiku - it's late)
Maybe David should stick to piloting... Tony takes another hop, bringing the Cheyenne to Montego Bay, Jamaica (MKJS) with his last reserves (landing in his local time 04:38, ouch!). We all tried to keep him awake with jokes and stories, all he wanted was to be able to take another leg (to Canada, where he lives). Talk about dedication: Fly till you drop and then ask for another leg!
Dave (sandman) – on Australian time – was online the whole time:
TonyG about to touchdown at MKJS in his Cheyenne. As I don't have the Cheyenne he shows up as a Starship. It was a very nice approach and landing.
Next stop: Miami (KMIA). Oblio bravely takes the hop in his P-38H, after crashing his first race leg. The pressure is immense – it looks so easy from the outside, but when you’re on the runway, getting ready for takeoff and all that you want is to give a good shot for the team, your knees are shaking!
My other leg, from Jamaica to Miami in the P-38, was successful but had a little bit of drama. I was planning to use the Visual Flight Path feature to help with my approach, but the red rectangles never appeared. That taught me something about ILSes: not all of them have a glideslope, and if it doesn't have a glideslope, visual flight path doesn't work.
Reggie dropped by with a Vickers Vimy in Miami, taking us a small step to West Palm Beach (KPBI). Bill (f14flyboy) takes over and brings the baton to Wilmington (KILM) with a Starship. Looking back, Avsims route from Jamaica would have saved us a little bit of time. Oh well, next year..
From Wilmington it was a small hop to La Guardia (KLGA) for another bonus. Bobby (seehunt) was our pilot. From La Guardia we had two hops in Canada – of course for our canadian pilots. Tony took the first one to Saint John (CYSJ) in his Cheyenne.
Shortly after going to sleep after flying the leg into MKJS, I awoke to my alarm for my next leg. Or as I call it, the leg that Maxwell House coffee sponsored. (All the guys on TS at the time recognized a Canadian back on, and selflessly gave up the leg for me to fly. My deepest thanks to anyone that gave a leg up for me!) My leg from KLGA into my home country, also my favourite for obvious reasons was a challenge as the weather was low, and I put it down on the numbers.
Original destination was Halifax, diverted to ST. Johns CYSJ due to winds aloft. St Johns was better to use the jetstream. once I turned to the new heading, my GS picked up to 380-400.
Handflew the ILS into CYSJ for the first landing on Canadian soil, which is home country, so that felt good. Many thanks to those who scouted winds and airport for me!!!
Next up was Dan (Twolf) taking us further north to Stephenville (CYJT), having to divert from Gander because of the terrible winds. This left us with a small hole, as our wildcard flight was planned from Gander (because of the runway-length). Pascal (Swi_Tzer) jumped in and filled it with a speedy PC-12-Flight to Gander (CYQX).
I jumped in because I heard that the earlier pilot had to fly short of Gander and I was just on Teamspeak at the time. I heard everything was ready in Gander, so I did this short flight. No problems.
The weather was terrible, the jetstream was circling further north, so as to create a headwind for most of the routes going east. For best winds, avoid going though here – too late for us, and too late for ####. So we went through, hoping it would be ok.
Smitty raced (if you can call it that, filled up to the brim with fuel) his veteran DC-6B (C-118) down the runway, grabbing the wildcard and the baton at the same time. Our plan was to avoid Greenland because of the terrible weather and the tough approaches. Keep it as simple as possible – no unnecessary risks now! Maybe we can even have some luck by flying just a bit less north than ####?
Update: Currently 1000 miles inbound. Got up to 410 knots GS at FL240, but now I'm starting to pick up a strong crosswind and I'm down to 390 knots GS. ETE 2:30.
Update2: Currently 685 miles from the yet-to-be-named destination. The crosswind turned into a nice tailwind and now is back to a strong tailwind. GS has dropped a lot. Oh, and I'm flying the DC-6B.
Update 3: Winds are moving back to my tail now and I'm picking up speed. Still about 1:30 out. Luckily weather at my destination of LPCR is looking great!
Update 4: I hear Iceland is nice this time of year. Diverting to BIKF. ETE 35 minutes.
The flight took longer than I anticipated but went pretty much flawless. The C-118 is a sweet bird to fly and did almost all the work for me.
Unbelievable – we even “out-groundspeeded” #### on that leg! Nice use of the wildcard, Smitty! It was great to have you on board– and also to have you fly the wildcard again this year.
Thursday, February 24, 2005, 00:00 UTC
We were in Iceland, and left again at 02:08 UTC, #### dropped by at 03:56 UTC; both teams had covered the classic flights, used their wildcards and were – apart from the time difference more or less even. Two hours is a lot of time – but easily lost if we were to crash on arrival somewhere. Pressure? I don’t feel no pressure! Somebody go and fill ####’s tanks with snow instead of gas – Murphy, where are you when we need you?
Vincent (spitfire222), who tried to take the baton away from the well-oiled, sleek racing machine (team) in Gander (before he was informed that Smitty had already taken the baton and that we were all on TeamSpeak), now had his chance to fly the next leg into Vagar (EKVG) with his P-38J.
Being a rookie, I read the rules again to make sure I wouldn’t violate any. Also since I was a rookie, I didn’t realize that there were people online 24/7 during the race, planning routes and strategies on Teamspeak; I had no idea it was this serious! I thought that to fly a leg, you simply left a message on the Multiplayer forum that you had the baton, flew the leg, and then stated where you landed and that the baton was free.
With this ignorance at work, I did just that. On multiplayer, I followed the race until someone had landed, posted a note that I had the baton, decided where I would go and took off. Now is where things got interesting, and I started to become enlightened! I promptly was questioned by the other people online along the lines of "spitfire222, what are you doing!?" They then proceeded to explain that there was a plan as to how to fly the race, and that I was screwing it all up for flightsim.com. I was also introduced to Teamspeak, which I immediately downloaded and connected on. Meanwhile, I had promptly aborted my flight and left a note on the forums explaining what I did and why. After this fiasco, I was completely filled in about race strategy, and how we were having a pilot do the wild card flight from Newfoundland to Iceland in a DC-6. As everyone was very friendly about it all, I felt foolish, but was not deterred from wanting to fly.
As my time came, I fired up the two Allison's and waited patiently, holding short of runway 11 at BIKF. Since the leg before mine was being flown offline, I listened to Teamspeak and monitored the forums to find out what was going on. When the pilot landed, there was a flurry of activity and tense moments as we hurried to get back in the air as soon as possible. The other flyer 's "baton free" post and Duenna was confirmed posted, my post that I had the baton was posted, so I rolled onto the runway and slowly advanced the throttles....
Quickly airborne, I steadily cruise-climbed to about 15,000 ft where I was told the headwind wasn’t too strong. The real world weather was very decent, with scattered clouds and mild turbulence. The flight was relatively uneventful, although I was not used to flying at night and was a little worried about orientation since I don’t fly at night much. During the flight, I constantly reduced my altitude as the winds decreased the lower I got, and the closer I was at my destination, the more I opened the throttles knowing my fuel consumption would still be enough with my fuel load. By the time I knew I had the airport made, I was at W-O-T, just under the P-38's overspeed limit. I was flying this leg online, and was being escorted by the previous pilot who was gracious enough to keep flying with me even though he had just been in the air for 4 hours. Towards the end of my flight, I was disconnected from Multiplayer.
As the baton moved closer to Cairo, the pressure mounted. Any mistakes done now would be almost impossible to correct (unless of course, #### made the same mistakes). By now we had counted Sim-Outhouse out of a possible win, they were just too far behind their possible schedule.
David (xiphanopoulous) did a great flight into Hovden (ENOV) – with the Avanti no less! An inspirational moment; if we can get there, the rest of the route back to Cairo should be no problem at all, just one “city” airport and one “alpine” one, what could go wrong?
Reggie (RFields) was already waiting with his Avanti in Hovden to take us on to London City (EGLC). While London City sounds like a big airport, it’s actually just a relatively small and short runway, water on both sides, more like an aircraft carrier. An approach here is hard work, especially after a long flight from Norway.
I'll post the Duenna info this evening, but the main cause of the crash is that I forgot one rule that my real world pilot friends emphasize:
“When making an approach the pilot's goal must be a successful missed approach / go around - a good landing is a secondary goal”
We discovered something very interesting about FS Real World weather last night - especially about reporting airports which are closed for much of the night.
Crash Sequence of Events
Great flight and great work by Geno scouting 150 miles ahead to find FL for optimal winds. There is a temptation to fly the Avanti at the highest possible level - however the best winds for the first 500 nm were at FL370, then had to drop to FL300. Maintained 400+ kts ground speed from 25 miles out of ENOV until 70 miles from EGLC. Arrived at EGLC and picked up ILS lock 27nm out and 18 min under 2 hour leg time.
I had turned on the visual approach markers for some testing earlier in the day and forgot to turn them off. I was surprised to see them - at first I thought they were a bunch of television / radio transmission towers.
The glide slope into EGLC is steep and it felt like I was in a Stuka diving down.
The real world weather at EGLC had been reporting calm winds and clear for about an hour before the flight when first checked by the team, and throughout the flight. Yet a few miles away at Heathrow and Gatwick there was snow, reduced visibility and northwesterly winds.
A team member check of the real world METAR confirmed several times that the last report was approx 1130 local time.
The time of the flight would put me on the ground between 0630 and 0700 local time.
About 10nm out, the team member reported a new METAR for EGLC had been received with conditions similar to Heathrow. It was about 11 min old. I speculated that the next Real World Weather update would change the conditions at Heathrow. And that the update would occur right about landing time.
Approach to Rwy 28 just fine, though steep. Went through a bit of turbulence and rough weather but the Avanti in Approach mode for the Autopilot handled it perfectly. Rode the ILS on AP down to approx 500 ft AGL - 1/2 to 1/3 mile out from the threshold.
The weather went to clear and calm about 4-5 miles out and about 2300 ft AGL.
I checked and sighted the missed approach path and the location of the two buildings I would have to fly between.
I was also concerned about getting the aircraft stopped because I tend to float a bit on landings to softly touchdown.
Killed the Autopilot, had good control of the aircraft. Was flying with one hand light on the yoke and the other on the throttle. I was able to let the rudder stay centered with no pressure on the pedals.
The aircraft was approx 9800 lbs gross weight with about 45% fuel on board. I wanted to keep the aircraft above 110 kts until I could no anything but runway out the front 2D cockpit view.
I was about 115-118 kts, about 200ft AGL, starting to pull the throttle back and preparing to flare.
Real world weather hit - visibility dropped - not bad but very noticeable, the aircraft tipped hard left when the relatively mild winds out of 343 at about 9 kts hit as a sudden gust.
I hit the rudder and turned the yoke, but I did not hit power and pull-up to execute a missed approach.
It took about 2-3 seconds for the aircraft to drop and pancake in about one aircraft length short of the threshold.
Cause of crash:
1. Pilot distraction on approach
2. Failure to execute missed approach in a timely manner when conditions changed suddenly
1. Pilot fatigue - I had been up for 19 hours, flown approx 8 hours, stood on runways in backup position for 5 hours, and repaired a computer crash caused by a memory DIMM failure.
2. Pilot unfamiliarity with airport and approach - didn't have a chance to shoot a couple approaches because of the way the team made the decision about flying the flight. The one pilot who had successfully completed a test flight in under two hours was concerned about his system reliability. That was a risk we should have taken, rather than putting me accepting the flight.
3. FS Real World Weather - EGLC is apparently closed from approx 2330-0630 local time - FS Real World Weather apparently creates a "bubble" around EGLC of calm weather when the airport is closed and not reporting weather. The team speculated on this, and I should have known better than to land at that time - knowing from the weather reports from other pilots in the area and the real world METAR that a sudden shift in weather conditions was highly probably.
I tried to get in before that happened and did not react properly when it occurred.
Sorry guys, but we've all learned something valuable about the way FS works.
So you could say Murphy visited us, but
06-24-2005, 04:55 PM
And here's Michaels one for AVSlM(or should I say ####? must be a bad word :)):
When the flag dropped at 1700 Zulu (Noon EST) on February 20th, Cairo International saw the immedi-ate departures of three teams on the Round the World Race.
The real setting had begun a year earlier when the avid Warbird & Classic simming community centered around the Sim-Outhouse forums got interested in joining the RTW Race for this year. After some discus-sions, and demonstrating their genuine interest, the forum was invited to participate. And they went into full preparation mode. By the new year, they were flying regular practices, complete with flight planning, baton handoffs, confirmation screenshots, and a thorough immersion in the 2004 Rules and procedures.
At the same time, in January, the Race Committee began to re-examine the basic structure of the race and to add a few corrections and tweaks. As the Race has become more competitive and interest has risen, it has inevitably become necessary to think through the Rules so that everyone was on board with respect to conducting a "fun and fair" event.
As February rolled in, the teams got into a more purposeful mode. Two-time champions #### con-ducted continuous RTW practices with occasionally intense but more often sporadic participation. Flight-Sim began behind-the-scenes work by creating an organizational and communication structure that would enable pilots to coordinate their activities and share their experiences. And Sim-Outhouse intensified their practices. All teams created "private" websites for sotto voce discussions.
On February 13th, a partial version of the 2005 Race Rules were released—creating a bit of commotion as the more restricted "wild card" and "length" restrictions seemed to constrain the Race to a single follow-the-leader march from West to East. Pilots from all teams began to stir in their flight planning and last minute strategizing. A surprise was promised.
The real Race began 24 hours before Race day when the full Rules and in particular the Routing Informa-tion was released. Changes from previous years, including Corridors, Bonuses, Classics, Concordes, and Jump Jets, created something for the teams' tacticians to consider. Some time was dedicated to thinking through the alternatives.
Team ####, relying on prior practice-planning, decided to go for the South Pacific Islands. (It is not clear that the flight planners had fully thought through the risks associated with the twin Concorde flight sequence.) In any case, they decided to plunge directly ahead for the more promising but more risky route.
Sunday February 20, 2005
As darkness fell on Cairo, last year's champions started the race with the team's "iron man" Jeroen (jwenting) in the Lockheed Vega. In this move, the team risked flying the "classic" in darkness to an un-known airfield.:
… a kinda hair raising night flight in the Vega. Minimum visibility out front, not that it would have mattered much in the dark.
Things got back to normal, with Chris (w1tl) taking a professional handoff at Ramon and speeding the Avanti through the night. (The scouting team, with Sven (svenks) and Klasse (DarkCharizma) and Steve (stainless) each discovered and confirmed that the MS GPS got "hung-up" on Arar's OERR, the initial nighttime destination airfield in the middle of the Arabian desert.) Their efforts saved the team a "com-puter glitch" right out of the box. Chris was able to adjust and proceed to Basrah (ORMM); the strong tailwinds allowed the completion of 671nm flight in 1:43 on the clock. Good luck here—that would not last the full event!
Sven then took his trusty P-38L toward Kerman (OIKK) in eastern Iran. The airport has only one lighted runway and is surrounded by low-lying peaks that make a nighttime approach more interesting. Never-theless, Sven calmly accomplished the task. "I actually think this was my finest landing. A bit high on approach, but a real greaser..."
With the team working smoothly, Jeff (jt_williams) encountered the first small glitch when the tailwinds suddenly ceased. He diverted his Avanti flight away fromOPRK to OPJA, the Pakistani air base. Given the arithmetic, with the team planning on a Katmandu staging for the Lukla flight, this was no real prob-lem.
Joe (Sonar5) then swiftly took the baton to (VILK). The distance was 668nm and was handled in 1:44. The team had settled on this brilliant FSD creation as fast and competent—though it did need some expe-rience to handle in tough situations. The most dangerous threat was overstressing the aircraft at altitude—in practice several pilots had found their craft disintegrating in mid-air while "flying the barber pole". Joe afterwards reflected:
One thing I learned late in the race, was that the bird was capable of being flown at a higher speed than I was using. I had my alarms turned on, and when I heard it I dialed it back a couple knots. I have now torn out that alarm in my bird. One risk in this race for pilots using Duenna, is that if you overstress your aircraft, MS will reset your flight, your Duenna will not be valid, and some-one else will have to fly the leg over again. For this reason, I chose not to overstress my aircraft at all during the race, as the risk was just too high, IMHO.
Monday, February 21, 2005. (0000Z)
With dawn about to break on the Indian subcontinent, the team decided to sneak in another "Classic", in this case the Ford Trimotor. Jeff picked up the baton and quickly—well steadfastly—carried it to Bhaira-hawa (VNBW) where Mike (MM) moved it on to Katmandu (VNKT).
This set the stage for the first dramatic moment of the event. Chris took the Porter to handle the chal-lenging landing at Lukla's 2800 ft runway. Of course, the length of the runway is not the challenge... In Chris's words:
I should have been nervous when the team was looking for a "volunteer" to do the Lukla leg! Only after a practice run did I fully understand what I was getting into. I took the Porter, which proved to be a wise decision based on the near vertical descent required. For those that have not seen the airport, it's in the Himalayas in Nepal at 9000'. It's literally on the side of a mountain, about half way up, in a half-bowl shaped indentation. There are mountains on all sides to at least 16,000' and a narrow valley that runs perpendicular to the runway that's about a mile wide. The challenging part was the winds. When I got close, the winds were blowing from the west at about 20kts, which in this case was a direct tailwind blowing me IN towards the vertical cliff the end of Lulka's short runway. The best strategy was the approach from the north, down the narrow valley, to make the winds more of a crosswind (instead of a tailwind) as much as pos-sible. With sweating palms, I dropped into the valley in the Porter over a 17,000' peak. With sev-eral #### team members watching on the ground at Lukla there was a little pressure to get this right! Full flaps in the Porter, and slowed to around 50KIAS. The wind was relentless, blowing me in towards the cliff. With the winds such a high percentage of my overall speed, a huge crab angle was needed. Closing on the airport, I swung the Porter towards the runway and pulled on just a bit of reverse (yes this can be done in the real Porter). All that was pushing me at that point was the wind! Touched down, full reverse and eased on the brakes and the thing stopped in about 200ft. And stayed in one piece, much to the delight of the waiting crowd. I taxied out of the way and Jeroen picked up the baton and blasted off for Paro in the Cheyenne, along with a few wing-men. No sooner had everyone left than the weather and Lukla quickly deteriorated. Visibility dropped to around a mile. Had I arrived 5 minutes later, the whole thing would not have been possible! What a flight!
Lukla was, of course, an "Airmanship" challenge. The very next airport, Paro (VQPR) in Bhutan, proved difficult in its own terms. (This is, after all, the Summer capital of Bhutan and is serviced by regular air-lines. It even has a golf course. So no sweat, right?) Jeroen took the Cheyenne:
The most crazy thing ever shown on Bushnet must have been me taking that Cheyenne 400LS out of Lukla and to Paro. Leaving the ground a few hundred feet from the cliff face, then turning sharply left to avoid slamming into the mountain on the other side of the valley. Sounds so easy and in a Twin Otter you have time to work with but the Cheyenne is twice as fast so that moun-tain came on at a frightening speed. Climbing turn to the left to clear the mountains and fly as straight as possible towards Paro. There circle down through the valleys searching for the right one to get a good approach to the airport. Lucky the weather was decent, could actually see where I was going. Prior practice helped a lot, on the first try I had to go around and approach from the other end when I came in too low and nearly crashed into the hills on approach.
The Flight Analysis map tells the story.
With the fireworks over, Jim (Rogue1) took off in his Cheyenne heading toward Phuket. After some cal-culations, he picked Bangladesh's Chittagong (VGEG) to be sure to handle the time limit. On a beautiful day, the flight proved essentially uneventful. A good time was had by all.
Things were going swimmingly for the defending champs. While the pursuers were hot on their tails, it looked as though the event would be a solid, professional, "three-peat".
Not so. With the bright sunshine, the team decided to put in time on the classics while flying down the Malaysian peninsula. First up was the DH.88 Comet. Jeroen took off and suddenly encountered stiff headwinds. He had to divert to Sittwe (VYSW). This was not a real problem, so Marc (Marc_Sykes) and Mike went to the new destination, a field alongside the beach. Waiting as Jeroen battled the headwinds, the team encountered some sightseers on BushNet. Everything went smoothly—as Jeroen softly brought down the Black Magic Comet onto the tarmac. As he was stopping…poof! The aircraft suddenly crashed. (Did the same fate befall #### as did the Mollisons—with landing gear failure? No sign of it from ei-ther the pilot or the observers on the field. We shall never know.)
Then flying the Comet over Thailand. Magnificent aircraft to fly, strangely FS reported a crash when already on the ground and nearly at taxi speed. Nothing to indicate why, the external view showed the aircraft sitting perfectly on the runway. First unexplainable disaster of the race and good indication of Murphy's everlasting presence in our company.
Immediately, the three-year veteran Marc took his Cheyenne back to VGEG and took off southward. Happily, the winds aloft switched and Marc was able to hustle the Piper at over 400kts to Dawei (VYDW), in Myanmar and now descending the peninsula.
Back to the Comet Jeroen returned. Again diverting due to headwinds, he settled down at Myeik (VYME)—safely to the relief of all. Given the winds, he managed only a little more than 100nm in the hour's flight time. Chris then took the Ryan NYP for Chumpon (VTSE) and covered another 100nm in another hour, this time with tailwinds. And then Dave (StoneC0ld) proceeded to check off another classic (the DC-3) and to capture the Bonus Hours at Phuket. Back on track.
Persisting with the classics strategy, next Jeroen took the Cub for a leg…but immediately encountered headwinds again. After twenty minutes, he had to abandon the flight. "Hit headwinds so severe I was do-ing only about 20 knots groundspeed, making the nearest airport 3 hours away."
Meanwhile, the team discovered that it needed Concorde pilots. It had one member with experience (Chris), but it was not clear who would be the second. And who would serve as backup. The team started to advertise, both in the Race Forum and on the main FS2004 forum, for Concorde pilots. Several AV-SIM members were kind enough to respond—but were unable to take over during the projected fligth window (that is, during the European/North American workday on Tuesday). It was, of course, worrisome that the team did not have Concorde-experienced pilots for the essential legs. The fretting continued on through Monday and early Tuesday. In the end, however, it was team regulars (Alex and Sven) who added their skills to the mix and who performed admirably.
Leapfrogging forward, Marc took the Cheyenne quickly and uneventfully to Singapore (WSSS). Donny (Shalomar) then took the baton—only to realize that his computer time was set incorrectly. A reboot, with only a few minutes lost. But then he crashed on takeoff. Gosh, bad luck.
The team's active pilots were starting to get tired—having spent much of the day and night without sleep. (This was the "witching" hour—early morning in Europe and very early morning in North America.) Not much help was available, so they persisted.
When Jeroen landed at Tanjung Pandan (WIKD), Chris was off for Selaparang (WRRA). And then Jeroen to Australia's Broome (YBRM). All long flights in Avantis.
Finally, reinforcements arrived in the form of Joe (morning in California) and Sven (evening in Den-mark). First, Joe:
the weather at Balgo Hill was terrible, no ILS, limited visibility, haze, night, and a gravel runway which can be tough on the gear, so as slow an approach as possible is preferred and holding off the nose wheel is a requirement so you don't damage the gear. You name it, I had it on this flight, so I flew a Hand Approach in the Avanti. Just to add to my stress level. I couldn't see the runway until about a half mile out it seemed, dumped final flaps, and somehow ended up on the center-line.
Then Sven in his P-38L moved the baton over the dark empty northwestern Australian Outback to Alice Springs (YBAS). Mike casually checked in and was startled to discover an immediate need for a long haul Avanti to cover the distance to Broken Hill (YBHI)—which he did. (Having misjudged the descent, he had to circle to descend—giving Jeff a few minutes of panic as he followed the race from work on the BushNet server updates. The oddly changing coordinates hardly gave confidence.)
New pilot Eamonn (epwatson) carried the baton from the barren Outback to civilized Sydney (YSSY) in a smooth swift flight of the default King Air 350. Done well.
The team was running just ahead of the competition and had completed 5 classics. Good news so far.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005. (0000Z)
Mr. Murphy decided to visit the team again, this time to make a more lasting acquaintance. Jim took his Cheyenne for Lord Howe Island—a tough small island landing strip made all the more difficult by low visibility this morning. There are no alternatives—the island stands out in the middle of the ocean and the team had to hit it. (Jim did take the opportunity to shoot a few practice approaches and felt confident.) Everything went well until the landing when, suddenly, he lost it. A crash.
Joe, who had been waiting for the next leg, quickly returned to Sydney and reprogrammed his GPS for the more challenging YLHI approach. On the way out, he inserted the necessary waypoints and did a profes-sional "procedures' approach. Very solid bit of airmanship.
This was an interesting flight because ...YLHI had scenery issues where the Runway was partially sunken. And it was a very short runway at 2904 feet, which is ok for an Avanti, but tough. I had practiced a few landings there, and again, NO ILS, so it would be a tough little approach to do. ... I had already had a flight plan saved so I took the leg and we held the baton idle only 3 minutes while I reset my aircraft. I even remembered to start the Duenna, and did the flight of 423.9 nm in 1:13:40. Not a bad recovery. The landing was a bit strenuous as, again, I had haze-limited visibil-ity and a very small island to tend to.
The next flight was unfortunate (for one of the Journal's co-editors). Mike quickly inserted himself in the Avanti to take Joe's slot to Norfolk Island (YSNF).
I had earlier scouted the airport and all looked fine—it is fairly large and has multiple crossing runways. (Hmm. Maybe there's a reason for 3 crossing runways.) Standing by, Jeff did some scouting and the minute-by-minute the reports got a little more worrisome. Fine airport—but MS had put a lagoon in the middle of the island. The visibility was starting to deteriorate and the crosswinds were picking up. Trusty, sturdy, reliable Cheyenne or fast finicky Avanti? This is a race, after all. So off in the Avanti. The flight was uneventful, though the towering clouds over the island did look ominous. And, for some reason, the Avanti could only descend at 1,500 ft/m without overstressing the aircraft—a problem which led to a disconcerting bit of maneuvering to get down to a clean approach. (Not sure about what caused the problem here: is this unusual den-sity altitude for the South Pacific?) But everything was fine—flying a low visibility GPS ap-proach through the soup—when I looked up to discover that I was plunging toward the sea's sur-face. "A good craftsman never blames his tools..." A quick recovery regained altitude and got the approach back on course—this time hand-flying and squinting ahead. The airport appeared out of the mist, a hundred feet in the air on the cliffside plateau. A turbulent cross-wind from the star-board made for a bouncy finals, but crabbed nicely onto the runway. Gosh, turning left and hav-ing no rudder or brakes gave a rush. Cut the throttle and hit the reversers. No response. Scram-bling over the grass and then, splash, into the lagoon. Crash! [Moments later on the web, Ian (TornadoWilkes) graciously commended my efforts to even-out the race. ]
That was 2 hours 55 minutes lost to the two islands. Ouch.
Jeff now had to hustle back to Lord Howe's Island. The team decided to reroute toward New Caledonia's Tontouta (NWWW), a large airport with an ILS. So Jeff quickly loaded up his flight plan and headed northward. The winds aloft were fine, so he made good time. However, during the flight the early evening visibility at Tontouta again started to deteriorate noticeably on the ground.
Very hazy nocturne approach. Hard time distinguishing the horizon. Nav1 was tuned to the ILS and I was flying the flight director. I was 7 miles out and thought I had a good stabilized approach going when realized that I was at an altitude of 300 ft. Struggled back up to 1000 ft and realized that I was also off runway course. Spotted the approach lights is the murk and headed towards them. Was able to set up for visual. Lots of fun. Detail from flight analysis below:
Next up was Jeroen to take the wild card flight from New Caledonia to Niue. He covered the 1350nm in 3:31 and so the team was back on pace. But by now the late afternoon departure meant nighttime landings through the mid-Pacific. This would cost some time as the team had to zig-zag to the larger better-equipped airfields. Happily, the changeable weather proved satisfactory. Dave picked up for Rarotonga (NCRG) in the Avanti and made good time. And finally, Jeroen carried on to Tahiti (NTAA) where the team was setting up for the critical Concorde runs at 4:25 am (local).
By now, the team had three Concorde pilots. (And Jeroen had courageously offered himself as a fourth. He purchased the PSS Concorde and spent part of the day trying to learn its demanding ways. The Con-corde is a difficult aircraft to fly, to climb, to go supersonic, to descend, to balance, and to land. Not something for the faint-hearted.)
This day would prove crucial. So let's hear the full story from the pilots involved.
This narrative sets the mood of the team at that moment. Better, it captures the spirit of taking on the RTWR challenge. If this account doesn't give you goose bumps, well you seriously want to race in the next RTWR!
It was a dark and stormy night...
Well, no - actually it wasn't. But it was dark and it did rain, that night on Tahiti (NTAA).
Yet, were you there, you would have seen a magnificent gathering of aircraft: 3 Concordes and a number of spectator aircraft, all eagerly waiting for Jeroen to bring the Baton.
The leg to be flown was NTAA-SCIP (Easter Island) and then on to SCTE in Chile. Alex (sfoof-ficer) was to be the Ringbearer, sorry, BATONbearer. Chris (wtl1) was backup and designated for the SCIP-SCTE leg, and I (svenks) was backup for both.
Finally, Jeroen was on final and made one of his usual nice landings. Then he turned off the ac-tive to post his “Baton free” message. That done, he reported it on Teamspeak, and after con-firming that, Alex grabbed the baton and started rolling. …
What? Me worry?
It’s been said that half your intelligence goes out the door once the baton is in your hand; that empty space fills up with any lingering doubts that my have been present. At least that was the case for me as I prepped for takeoff out of Tahiti for the 1st half of the South Pacific Corridor run in the PSS Concorde.
Looking back on it, logically, there shouldn’t have been any cause for worrying. I had plenty of time in this specific add-on, primarily shuttling back and forth on the NY-London/NY-Paris/NY-St.Marteen runs. Maybe four weeks earlier, I took a total of five days trying to match Air France’s time record for a round the world flight. I had every major phase of operations in this plane was down cold (with the exception of fuel management – bless the VFE): takeoffs were cake, climbs and descents were mapped out, and I hadn’t pranged this SST on landing for quite a long time.
Then, out of the rain-soaked night sky, the baton – and ####’s risk of taking the corridor to shave hours off the transpacific journey - dropped squarely in my lap for the first time, ever.
Add one more side-effect of taking an RTW baton to the books – unadulterated paranoia. As I took to the air at 13:40 Zulu, all went well, except that seconds became minutes and minutes be-came hours. The needles on the various gauges became my enemies, and I watched them like a hawk for any hint that they might betray me by shooting past the established limits. The altimeter couldn’t spin upwards fast enough, the fuel gauge seemed to unwind like a clock on speed, and I swear the airspeed indicator mocked me with it’s occasional downward twitch.
Of course, reality was that the first 3/4ths of the flight went without a hitch. G-BOAF, dare I say the first Concorde to publicly take to the air (hey – everyone was watching, right?) thundered over the Pacific like the dream machine it had been for decades. After two prior escorting flights at approx 300kts groundspeed, the figure of 1180kts made me laugh aloud. One nautical mile went by every two and a half seconds, Mach Two in all it’s glory!
And then Murphy, who would plague the team relentlessly for the remainder of the race, came a knocking.
First thing to go was Teamspeak. I heard the server announce some kind of warning as I crunched down a bowl of Raisin Bran, and all the voices of my friendly and supportive team disappeared. As I had left NTAA without multiplayer on, I was suddenly and completely alone.
Now while this is not catastrophic in the slightest, it still bothered me something fierce. #### had graciously given me this opportunity knowing that, while I had good Concorde experience, this was my first leg ever in a race – not having the ability to keep them abreast of my progress was, in my opinion, not a good thing. Also gone was the updated weather at the destination, which was rather important in a bird that likes to do 170 – 180kts on final.
My laptop was close by, and on it was the forums page, so that took quite a bit of the edge off. I had some updates on weather, and even some suggestions to reconnect to Teamspeak. No. I had no idea if it would mess up Duenna! I opted not to and informed everyone of this. It was com-forting to get a reply or two supporting this course of action. After all, a lot was riding on this flight.
But Murphy wasn’t done with me. Approx 600nm out, he delivered his next blow.
Click click click click click…I knew that sound, but still took a moment to recognize the telltale sound of impending death for a Concorde doing traveling twice the speed of sound. The over-speed alarm had sounded, each click part of the countdown to overstress, disaster, and returning the baton to NTAA. The winds had shifted enough to where the tailwinds had become headwinds, and the aircraft was now at Mach 2.08, way too fast for even this SST.
As fast as I could, I pawed off the autothrottle, idled the engines, and prayed! Slowly, the num-bers rolled back… 2.07… 2.06… 2.05. No sudden pause on the screen. No need to bring myself back to NTAA. Hoorah!
That ticked Murphy off! Oh for two thus far. The next attack he delivered, while nowhere near as potentially devastating as the last, would be the one that would finally get under my skin.
330nm out, I attempted to update my progress to the team on the forums. I hit REPLY, then got back a server error. I managed to squeak in the message on a reattempt, then all subsequent ones came back with the previous error. The #### forum boards were down, and with them my abil-ity to keep everyone in the loop!
It was about 7:30a in my neck of the woods when this happened, and I know that I must’ve awoken someone with my cursing! I was completely cut off from the #### world. I saw every team member awake at the time suddenly wondering what the heck was happening up there with me, and I hated the notion! I hated it with a passion! Many times I tried, and many times I would fail. The server was keeping me all to my lonesome.
At 235nm out, I commenced the descent, coming of my supersonic cruise as I went. I divided my attention between flying the plane on autopilot and trying to reconnect to the forum. I even tried emailing Mike on his personal account, advising him of the troubles and keeping him updated. My wife - who was well aware of my participation in the race and up by this hour of the morning - was a huge help in keeping things in perspective. “You haven’t crashed, honey. Just get it down on the ground, get the proof, then worry about informing them .”
At 60nm out, with the Concorde passing 15,000ft and more or less aligned with the runway, Murphy finally relented. The boards finally came alive, and I was able to shoot a quick update on my position and time out. From that point, it was all about just landing safely so that the baton could be passed on to the next Concorde in line.
And 20 minutes later, at 16:15 Zulu, G-BOAF’s mains made contact with the runway at 165kts. In meticulous fashion, I carefully stopped the beast on the asphalt, gently kissed my wife on the cheek, then lit a cigarette. NTAA-SCIP in 2 hrs and 40 mins. Success had never tasted so sweet!
The post went up, freeing the baton, and I slumped down in my chair. I was tired yet giddy! It was virtual in origin, but no less tangible. I had not let #### down on this crucial leg. I had done my part, despite all the hang-ups encountered.
This was a THE leg. The one I had been looking forward to since the rules were issued! A chance to put to good use all the hours I'd spent learning the PSS Concorde since it's release a few months back. As it turned out, we all needed a little more practice...
I spent the morning practicing landings, and got really good at hand flying the bird to touchdown. I determined that the autoland feature was unreliable and would result in a crash about 50% of the time due to excessive descent rate at touchdown. So ditch that idea and just land her manually. No problem. After several hours of practice and waiting at SCIP, the baton finally arrived and I was ready! Full power, reheats on and off we go. In the real Concorde there is an autopilot mode called "MAX CLIMB" which will return the highest climb rate possible with the airspeed pegged at the barber pole. This is used to ensure proper acceleration through Mach 1.0 and up to Mach 1.75 when the reheats are turned off. WELL, silly me. I engaged the MAX CLIMB mode and started to relax a bit. With the autopilot flying, what could go wrong? Passing FL200, I suddenly got an "OVERSPEED" warning from FS2004. What the heck?!! I glanced at the airspeed indi-cator, it was below the barber pole. I glanced at the Mach meter, yup it was below the barber pole too. At that point I kicked off the autopilot and....BOOM! Flight sim went to the Spot view and showed my beautiful Concorde cracking up into a thousand pieces. Needless to say I was not a happy camper. Looks like I should have practiced climbouts a bit more...
...so it came to be that yours truly suddenly found himself resetting the flight and re-prepping his aircraft for the run to Chile…
So up, up and away – NOT. I had forgotten to turn on Duenna, fortunately I discovered that be-fore V1 (I did get a Brake Overtemp). Slew back, once again, full throttle, reheat on – at last air-borne. Gear up, nose up, visor up. INS on GPS set, alt set to FL280. As I reached FL270, I real-ized FL280 would not be enough, you need to fly M.95 or so prior to the supersonic climb, so I let it climb to FL310. Alt set to 58000, press ALT ACQ, press MAX CLIMB, A/T off, firewall the throttles and reheat on. As the climb get serious, press VERT SPD, so you can counter the overspeed thing (MAX CLIMB has a problem here – that’s what killed Chris).
The rest of the flight itself was uneventful. There was time to chat a little bit, and I also got the latest weather for SCTE. Winds 5 kts from the south, cloudy, but not overcast. Now that was a bummer, since SCTE only has ILS on RWY 35. Unknown airport, unknown terrain, rather low clouds…I sure would like to do the ILS approach and even an autoland, which the Concorde is very good at. And 5 knots isn’t all that much…Maybe not, but it was enough as you’ll see.
OK, 400 nm out, A/T on, SPQ ACQ 350 kts. Then descend at 1800 ft/min to FL280. Course set for a nice little waypoint (ISKEN), SSW of the runway and 60nm out. My plan was to go there, then use the GPS to set up the approach.
As planned, so executed. And what a nice approach it was: No clouds, some haze – and the mountains…I only wished I had started FSSCREEN, but I didn’t want to mess with the system while carrying the baton. One concern, though: I calculated a landing weight around 135000 kgs. That would mean a landing speed of no less than 179kts + the tailwind, which was now up to 6 kts. Well, on my last leg, I did a tailwind landing in the P-38 – no worries, mate…
Localizer lock, getting in clouds now at 3000 ft. G/S lock, AP2 engage – all set for a CAT3 auto-land. SPD set, gear down, nose down. Runway in sight. Nice VASI lights, 2 white, 2 red.
But wait – the lights are all turning white – must be the tailwind – airspeed looks OK… Must get this bird down, this is a short runway for a Concorde (and a heavy one at that…).
Disengage A/T, disengage A/P, try to nudge her down, must be floating just above the runway…
And then I see my lovely bird in spot view, with her wheels in the ground, smoke and some stu-pid message saying what I already know: I blew it, and the team has lost at least 2 hours.
I don’t get to look at it long, thank God, because then FS crashes too….
Well, on TeamSpeak I’ve already announced the loss of number 4 Concorde in just a few hours, now I must let the rest of the world know: “Baton back at SCIP – crashed”. I tell you, THAT cost me quite a bit to post!. But already words of comfort are meeting me: Both on TS and in the fo-rum: “Don’t feel bad, you did your best”. That was really nice, but at the same time just more de-pressing: My best was not good enough – sigh!
So while Chris gets back in the saddle for another stab at this, I sign off and pull out the last of my malt whisky, not much but it’ll have to do - I had planned on a drink to celebrate; now I just plan to drink – the race can go on without me!
Later, I change my mind and hook up again to TS.
Fortunately, Sven was standing by as backup and quickly repositioned to SCIP for another go. We had only lost about 10 minutes at that point, not a big deal. Sven was off! His climbout was uneventful, and he was soon cruising accross the South Pacific at Mach 2.00. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief at that point.
I hung out at SCIP as backup and was determined to learn from my mistake. Took the bird up again on a practice flight and figured out that the climbout is smoother when manually controlled via the autopilot datum instead of the MAX CLIMB. After a little practice I was able to keep the climb speed ~20kts below the barber pole and climb safely. I returned and practiced another landing at SCIP, a beauty. I was still pretty bummed that I let the team down, but happy to have learned more about such a complex bird.
Meanwhile, Sven was closing in on SCTE on the west coast of South America. He set up a long approach, and carefully planned the descent. SCTE has an 8000' long runway, with an one ILS approach to the north. Sven elected to use the ILS, despite a pesky 5 knot tailwind, due the the vertical guidance it provides. Vertical guidance is very helpful on landing because the unusual 10 degree nose up attitude (no flaps on this bird) is disorienting. Sven nailed the approach and it look beautiful...and then all the sudden over the teamspeak I heard "you guys are not going to believe this... I crashed" coming from Sven. At first I thought he was kidding, then quickly realized he was telling the truth, and felt as bad as I did on the first crash. Fortunately, I was sitting on the runway at SCIP, engines running and ready to go as a backup...and blasted off as soon as baton free was posted to save time. More on that in a second...
As for Sven's crash, he determined a few days later that it was caused by the tailwind. On final, it picked up to 8 knots, directly off the tail, and caused his groundspeed to pick up ever so slightly. As a result, the descent rate required to stay on the glideslope also increased...apparently just above the threshold for flight sim. This is a tricky bird!
Now I'm in the air over the South Pacific with the baton again, and carefully managing the clim-bout. It goes smoothly this time, just as practice, and soon I'm comfortably cruising at Mach 2.00. Sven and Alex (the Concorde pilot from leg #1 NTAA-SCIP) both rode along with me on multi-player and teamspeak, offering valuable tips on the airplane in the hopes that this would be a suc-cessful leg. As a team, we knew that we had to nail this landing. Another crash and we'd fall well behind. Make it, and we're about even. I approached SCTE, again planning for the runway 35 ILS. We determined that the surface winds were the same, and decided as a team that I should in-stead make the landing on runway 17, even though it lacked a glideslope. I was a little nervous, and the pressure was on! Fortunately, the airport has a VOR on the field, so I set up for the VOR 17 approach and hand flew her to touchdown. The pressure actually helped, strengthening my re-solve knowing that this was critical to our success. I ended up making my best Concorde landing ever, finally bringing the team to South America after three strong attempts.
Thanks very much to Alex and Sven who provided invaluable support on this leg with tips, ad-vice, and a positive attitude. This was truly a team effort and the camaraderie was outstanding. Couldn't have done it with out you guys!
Chris is on final, and he executes it beautifully!! Really a nice landing (Alex took a great photo), and he also manages to stop while there’s still runway left. Well done! Within moments, the ba-ton is handed over and the next guy is airborne. Finally, we can move on.
But what a price: 4 Concordes and probably close to 3 hours in all lost. Bummer.
It was now getting dark in Chile, and the next leg Futaleufu (SCFT) would be absolutely essential. FlightSim had passed into the lead and giving up any points or time would be unacceptable. So Joe took the Porter and nicely slipped into the airport in between the mountainsides.
This was an Airmanship flight and a short one distance wise. For this, I used the FSD Porter, a very well designed Bush plane suitable for such an airport. If you have not checked out SCFT, try this flight. I practiced this one about 3 times before finally finding the right approach into the grass strip, which is also only 3198 feet long, but hey, the Porter only needs 200 feet or so, if you're good. For this flight I prepped my altitudes and headings ahead of time, and had a spotter on the ground awaiting my arrival. For the approach, you basically fly the GPS until you get close and drop your altitude to 6800 Feet.
Visibility was again limited, which was my theme for the race. Give me lousy weather and So-nar5 is sure to be flying a leg. You need to dodge some hills drop into a valley, follow a river, go over a hump, and drop in literally 5000 Feet to hit the runway with full flaps, slow speed, and a nice touch on the grass.
Greeting me on the ground, I had Jeff on the left side of Rwy 27, which the winds favored, and someone else was on the right side for me to dodge. Fun Stuff with 6000 Foot hills surrounding you. Piece of cake though for the Porter, as I got close I juiced the power one last time, and then brought her in. A very fun flight, a nice challenge, and another 5 hours subtracted from our time.
The team's apologies go to an unnamed pilot who wanted to try the SCFT flight. Turned down, he simul-taneously flew the same route, in the King Air, and demonstrated his real airmanship skills by doing it all perfectly and in a faster time! Team #### would like to say that you are welcome on the team any time—in the heat of the moment the team decided that the time pressure meant trusting this critical leg to a veteran pilot.
In his speedy P51-H, Jeff quickly bounced to SVAR to "score" the Southern target for the team.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005. 0000Z
There Derald (kickin_chickin) readied his Cheyenne for his first official flight. (He had practiced with the team beforehand.) On taking off, he discovered 70kts headwinds and had to divert to SCTC. All in good order.
And now Francisco (fleitao), the old veteran, got his chance to rejoin the team effort.
It was just around midnight when I received the confirmation that I could prep myself up for the next leg. We were in Chile, just after the Concorde flights and a bit behind flightsim.com, still with more than enough margin to get back from that difference, so everything had to be flawless. As I didn't have the Avanti, I had to fly with my veteran King Air, a participant of the 2003 race and a very stable and trustworthy aircraft. The winds were not in our favor with the predicted weather en route offering 30 kts from north-west, which would force us to fly a little head on with the winds, because we were supposed to head north.
At more or less one hour from departure, the alarm sounded. Derald had to divert to SCTC due to winds, which would put us in the tight spot, should the winds continue to be against us. So I changed my HQ to Maheque (SCTC) and tried to calculate and recalculate the route to see if we could still maintain the plan of going all the way to Santiago. The situation was clear, night was falling down and before Santiago there were not many available runways and I didn't really knew them, so I didn't know if we had lights or any kind of visual aid. Fuel checked, distance checked, weather re-checked, I decided to maintain the plan. We were going to Santiago. Worst case sce-nario if the winds were really really bad we could risk a small penalty (less than 10 minutes was acceptable to me), but we had to cross check all the way.
So I waited for Derald at the holding point and he made a great landing soon after which I took off with the baton. Jeff (jt_williams) was leading the way, scouting for weather conditions on a Learjet. At the point I started to line up with the route I realized that the winds were not that bad...
Straight from the west, 24 Kts at FL240, were the best we could get, but at least I was not losing speed because of it. Still had to go a little sideways, but the Ground Speed was ok on 310 kts which was not a bad value for our leg distance of around 350 NM. At cruise we were perfectly ok, the clouds were down below and the moon was paying us a visit, shedding a dim light on my path. A few miles forward and I knew that I could easily make it to Santiago and all I had to do was enjoy the night scenery. Less than one hour later I was descending to the runway, passing through a few cloud banks, but nothing to be afraid of, because a few miles before crossing the airport I could already see it and then it was easy to line up with the runway with a 180º turn.
A few minutes later we were safely on ground and Jeff was on its way... The handoff went smoothly, despite a couple of minutes delay.
After escorting Francisco through the peaceful Chilean night, Jeff took the baton through the now 30kts headwinds on to Antofagasta (SCFA). Happily, the aircraft's speed allowed the distance as any alternative airports on the desert coast of Chile would have proven a nighttime challenge.
This set the stage for Derald's flight to La Paz (SLLP). At it turns out, Derald had a left-seat view of two of the more memorable flights in this year's event.
Next was...the famous 13,330' airport. My takeoff was uneventful, but as dusk turned to night, re-ports of big thunderstorms at La Paz began filtering over the teamspeak channel. I was prepared for them, as I should have been, but I've never actually flew INTO thunderstorms in Flight Simulator before.
There was a Flightsim.com report that was about 1 hour ahead of us regarding the swirling winds and thunderclouds. I was about 150 nm out, and I heard this low rumble from my speakers. I went to outside view and heard it again, a few times. It was literally, the thunderstorms, up ahead about 100 nm. That was awesome, the fact that I could hear the storms that were being reported. I usu-ally fly with the lights out on my computer desk, and the dark sky and dark clouds gave me chills as I approached the building storms.
Unfortunately, I didn't get too many screenshots off because as I approached SLLP, the winds picked up and started tossing the Cheyenne around pretty good. In the commotion, I literally for-got to take some screenshots! ... At about 18,000', the turbulence really started and I could see the huge clouds up ahead as I approached SLLP. It was at this time I wish I'd spent the $35 on Real-ity-XP Weather Radar! Flight Sim, in this regard, was totally awesome, as the clouds and wind made for a harrowing experience.
About 50 miles out, the plane was getting tossed pretty good, and I did my best to fly around some obvious big clouds. The autopilot was struggling to maintain composure, but the Cheyenne never let me down.
About 15 miles out, I cut the autopilot and decided to fly the plane home. 10 miles out, I made a nice right turn to final and the winds died down enough for me to make a SLLP-at-13000ft land-ing with the scout team as onlookers. The flight was very nice at the beginning but turned rough at the end. I was able to pilot the Cheyenne by hand for the last 20 minutes, into the clouds and onto the runway, and had the feeling of relief when I made my Duenna screenshot posting at SLLP.
Quickly leaving the storms, Joe flew over the mountains into the Brazilian rainforest to Cruizerio Do Sul (SBCZ). It was pitch dark and the airport is far from anywhere—so the baton pass was largely unob-served. Happily Joe had the Avanti "dialed-in" so his nine-minute margin of error was never in doubt(!).
As night wore on, Jeroen and Mike worked through various flight plans taking into account the various aircraft capabilities on the immediate roster as well as the weather and the highly variable facilities of the airports in Ecuador and Columbia. In one of those "aha!" moments, they came up with the same flight plan simultaneously.
Now, in pitch darkness, Sean (DVA2015) made his first official flight. Although he had purchased and practiced the Avanti, as an experienced pilot he (wisely!) decided to stick to something simpler—the Beech Starship. He had flown along with the team through the Pacific, but this was his first official flight—over the Andes and a careful descent in complete darkness and minimal visibility. A tribute to the professionalism and skill of the #### community. Flying into Ecuador's Guayaquil:
Pretty Good Night Flight. Had tail wind of 24 for first 30mins then headwind at 22 for the rest. I had to wait until clearance over mountains even though descended from FL320 to FL200. Zero visibility into RWY 21 until 3 miles out. Good Leg.
Dave then took his Avanti toward Columbia and Cali's SKCL arriving in the pre-dawn glimmer (perhaps worried about occasional gunfire in the hillsides). Safely down and over to Jeroen who uttered one of the better lines as he headed for the Barranquilla and the Columbian coast:
"From the cocaine blues to the blue Caribbean"
Basten (ENZV), another veteran, got the beautiful early morning flight to Kingston's MKJP. His Chey-enne made excellent time despite noticeable headwinds. Joe complemented the high-speed flight with a 30nm excursion in the Piper Cub. The mandatory waiting time gave the pilots a chance to fly about in the Jennys to practice their tail dragger skills. (A proposed flight on to Montego Bay was scrubbed due to headwinds along the coast. Headwinds and Jennys don't mix well.) [Again, confusion in the boards indi-cates that Klasse was ready to take the Cub but somehow the team missed that handoff.]
The next two flights, both in Avantis, carried the baton from Jamaica through the Bahamas (MYAT) and on to North America at Cherry Point (KNKT). Jeroen and Joe did the honors (and Joe was especially pleased to do the landing at the Marine Corps Air Station—recalling his six years in the Corps).
The next flight was set up as the classic Jenny leg. Here the team gave the "honor" to Mike.
Doing the Jenny leg was a highlight of my active flying. It was originally assigned to Jeff but, when he offered I jumped at the chance. (I was still feeling sore about my earlier crash and wanted to do something helpful.) While waiting on the ground we got quite a flock of Jennys to fly around the beautiful coastal area—practicing and just having fun. Especially entertaining were Basten's flops and then flights in the Wright Flyer.
In the event, the flight to New Bern was only 13nm with an average GS of 51kts. (I'll maintain it was the severe 3kts headwinds that slowed us down despite my engaging both rocket boosters and WEP for the full journey...) It was a great pleasure to dawdle along with my teammates Jeff and Basten who took snapshots and generally celebrated the spirit of the event. A great time.
Then, back to racing. Kevin (K_Chapman) was waiting at the end of the runway with his P-38L. On the final skidding stop of the Curtiss classic, Kevin shot out like a thunderbolt for New York's LaGuardia. He made blazing speed, arriving in little more than one hour.
By way of contrast, Jeroen took the Vickers Vimy. He had planned a pessimistic and then an optimistic leg. In the event, the winds and the Vimy's pace meant that Jeroen did well to get to Westchester's KHPN snowy runway. Quite a number of spectators accompanied the aircraft's stately progress, with nice screen-shots from both Sean and Alex. The Vimy's average GS of 45kts made it the slowest of the bunch (except for the frustrated Myanmar Cub flight that could not make any forward progress at all). Jeroen:
Real admiration for the people flying her with full tanks, even nearly empty she's a handful and then some. 45 minutes and 20 miles later I put her down.
Sven, looking on, was terribly worried about the sudden halt of the Vimy as it reached the runway—Jeroen assured that when flying at that speed any contact with the ground would produce a sudden cessation of movement! "[L]anding at about 47 knots groundspeed you tend to stop quickly against 15 knot winds."
In contrast, Eamonn next took the modern King Air to Presque Isle (KPQI) at about six times the speed of the Jenny and Vimy. Ah, modern progress. Jeroen's quick pickup to Goose Bay (CYYR) meant that the team was now only about 40 minutes behind FlightSim. The morning and afternoon had been both fast and profitable. The last of the "classics" had been completed and the team had started to catch the race leaders.
This optimism prevailed when Jeff completed the extraordinarily difficult Goose Bay-Nasarsuaq flight in 1:58! This leg is necessarily long (674nm) and thus posed a threat to the team's making the 2 hour limit. But the northern Gulfstream normally helps here and tonight was no exception. The extra difficulty is landing the Avanti at BGBW which is nestled in a fjord behind hills at each end of the runway. Jeff, who had flown this route at nighttime practice before, mastered the difficulties and smoothly put down at cold and dark Narsarsuaq. (This gave Jeff both the South and North targets—earning him the title Mr. Extrem-ity.) With every flawless flight, the team was gaining ground. Team FlightSim was grinding away toward Iceland and the swift Avanti had a chance to catch them.
But now Mr. Murphy came to visit again—this time to pull up an easy chair and stay a while. The North Atlantic Gulfstream was now flowing in exactly the wrong direction. The unusual weather pattern over Northern Europe had the upper atmosphere now rushing East-to-West, rather than West-to-East, with real ferocity. Having already gotten this far, there was nothing to do but persevere and hope that luck would change. The scouting teams flew ahead looking for breaks in the weather—to no avail. Chris:
Back in the good 'ol Avanti, I took off from Narsarsuaq, Greenland bound for Keflavik, Iceland. Normally this flight would have been easily within the two hour limit, especially with the typical westerly winds aloft in the this part of the world. On this day, luck was not on our side, and the winds steadily worsened during the flight, until they were right off the nose at 56kts. My team-mates acting as spotters could not find any better winds higher or lower, so I stuck it out. Thanks for trying guys! Ended up landing at Keflavik with 2:08 on the baton clock, forcing the team to wait out a 24 minute penalty. None of us were too upset, as we knew there was nothing we could do about it. As it turned out, this was just a preview of the bad luck we would have on the next two legs
Thursday, February 24, 2005. 0000Z
The race was closing with FlightSim's lead just out of immediate reach. Meanwhile, Joe was doing some explorations of the trip to Hovden (ENOV). A direct flight from Keflavik was possible with a bit of a penalty. The team went through the various calculations—trying to account for the time saved by going direct and not having to do a baton handoff against the certainty of incurring a triple time penalty. It was worth considering the risky move if it meant catching the leaders. As it happens, the calculations gave a nod to the BIKF-EKVG-ENOV split. And, given the strong headwinds that night, this might have been the best choice. But Mr. Murphy would step in more than once this evening.
Having chosen the conventional routing, the next leg would necessarily include the famous approach to Vagar. Depending on the winds, a pilot either flies directly over a small mountaintop onto the runway or, less likely, onto an sea-bordered elevated runway with an offset ILS. All this in swirling winds and com-plete darkness. Derald was up in his Cheyenne:
... my practice for the route...was for naught, as a few of us on Team #### know. I routinely plan my fuel calculations based on flight distance, altitude, and overall engine power, plus a few minutes reserve, so as to keep my aircraft's weight as low as possible. This would allow me to gain altitude quickly and make for a speedy flight. The previous legs I've flown, I've never came close to worrying about my loaded fuel. On this trip, however, fuel became a HUGE problem...
Basically, I planned and loaded fuel for a 450nm trip (BIKF-EKVG), plus an extra 50nm reserve, and a fudge factor of 5%. I loaded 1280# of fuel for this flight, figuring on a cruising altitude of FL360 (where my fuel burn rate is 2.15# per nm). For some reason, I felt that this was 'cutting it short', and before I took off at BIKF, I loaded another 100 # of fuel. I should have known then. Like fate was telling me to FILL THE TANKS! I kept the engines off while we waited out a 24 minute penalty. I normally do not wait with the engines off, since I like to have them up and run-ning (and burning fuel), but for this flight, for some reason, I shut them down while I waited. And waited. And waited...
Finally, it was time to go, and of course I forgot the start the Duenna! I took off and made a nice departure and headed for FL360. As I passed 10,000', Sonar and Chris both recommended FL180 since the headwinds were "only" 42kts. So off to FL180 I went. After a minute, FL250 was sug-gested by the wind scouting team of Sonar and Chris. I maintained my groundspeed of 250kts but was using 85% power. Usually, when flying at FL360, I'm at 50% power and 275pph, but at this low altitude, I was using over 450pph! My fuel burn rate (normally 2.15#/nm at FL360) was over 3.55#/nm, nearly a 50% increase. I mulled this fact over for a few minutes. Maybe it was ok, there would be no problem. But then I decided to inform the racing team on TeamSpeak that I might have a fuel problem. I did a few quick calculations and broke the news that I was going to be 50 nm short of the runway and asked if there was someplace closer to land at...
Silence for like 10 seconds...
Then a reply "Umm, No, there is no other airport"...
I then proceeded to inform the TeamSpeak crew of the situation regarding my fuel planning, and how I was going to, basically, run out of fuel before landing at EKVG. Not that there wasn't enough pressure on our racing team, being only [one hour] behind the Flightsim.com leaders... Now we were faced with a possible busted leg that would put us behind another two more hours....
Lo and behold, the genius of Chris, Mike and Sonar (Joe) emerged and they created a plan to get me to Vagar in one piece. With some intense fuel calculations, plus some flight testing by Mike and Chris, the team recommended I throttle back to 250pph and fly at FL250 with a slow ground-speed of 214kts. I sweated for the next hour as the team continued to calculate fuel mileage and wind speeds, making sure I had enough to get home. I didn't get a single screenshot off since I didn't start Duenna (and was fearful of a Flight Analysis screen crash). I didn't want anything else to happen at this point. As I approached EKVG, I broke out of the clouds and didn't see the run-way. The ILS was spot on, but I didn't see any lights. I then remembered that the ILS was 'off-set'! I almost forgot that! I opened the GPS, hit "TERRAIN" and make a 'visual' GPS approach until I saw the runway lights and the scout crew standing by at EKVG. I made a nice, long land-ing with 190# of fuel left in the tanks (yes, the "LOW FUEL" light was on). I breathed a sigh of relief, as we were down and the baton was passed successfully to Joe.
This was a total team effort. And it was AWESOME. Of course, I basically 'caused' the problem by not having enough fuel onboard. But, man, that was some of the most intense, organized teamwork I've ever experienced. Nobody got angry or made "what were you thinking" comments, nothing like that at all. It was more like "ok, low fuel is a problem, let's solve it". And amazingly, it worked out great.
I didn't get to listen or join in on every leg (I wish I could have!), but if the teamwork I experi-enced on this leg is any indication of the professionalism and gentlemanly conduct of Team Av-sim pilots, I can say that I am extremely PROUD and HONORED to have flown among them. I'm sure this was not the only example, but I will remember this for a long, long time. I only wish I had it on tape or video or audio, just so I could replay it from time to time, to show how team-work gets things done.
[These sentiments are shared by everyone involved: Chris, Mike, Joe, Jeff and Alex. A golden moment.]
Happily, the baton was safely down. Unhappily, the team lost time in having to coax the venerable Chey-enne to fly on fumes. At the moment of Derald's clean landing, Joe left for ENOV.
Now everyone who flew the last days understands that ENOV can be quite a challenge. It requires an off-set ILS approach and a last-second 90 degree run onto the runway. (As it happens, the winds that night really called for a circle-to-land but, given the total darkness and the suffocatingly near mountainsides, the team quickly rejected that idea.) Mike and Jeff started flying those approaches during the darkness to judge the landing. The best idea was to use the (superb) Norwegian Airports scenery that has a terrific rendition of Hovden—with excellent approach lighting. Now both Mike and Jeff already had this on their systems—but the designated pilot, Joe, would have to download it and install it in "real time". After some busy consultations, Joe managed to get everything in order in a way not possible except for his computer skills. He continued to practice approaches, mapping out the proper procedures that would have to be handled in complete darkness.
But in the event, the delays at Keflavik and Vagar meant that Joe was flying into Hovden just at dawn. Normally, this would be a boon, but Mr. Murphy was watching carefully, a smirk forming on his hidden face. Joe's modest computer system could handle the new scenery at nighttime. But with daybreak, the scenery started to claw down his framerates. Joe:
So at this point I had done seven approaches, crashed once, and thought I was ready. I had my plan, I had my GPS Fixes, I had my altitudes, speeds, and planning done, and was ready to go. Oh Yeah, all my practice was in dark, visibility was decent, but it was still very dark. So I load up the Duenna, depart for ENOV with my installed scenery, and off I go. Flight is pretty uneventful until you begin your approach.
But I had a another wrench thrown in, someone on TeamSpeak comes in and says that FS.com just crashed at London City, possibly putting us back in the hunt. And Jeroen says, Joe, don't crash.... I reply “I'll try not to”, but I'm thinking don't crash... You don't tell someone going into a tough airport not to crash.... Uggghh......
My descent profile was spot on, and I was at the NDB at the correct altitude, on course and on time. Only one problem, the sun is now up, and it is large and right in my visor. Now on my lowly system, this is not a good thing with installed scenery that eats up frame rates. So I settle in, my altitude is fine, speed is fine, drop flaps, drop gear, turn inbound to land at ENOV. Still at 1600 feet. Speed about 120. Turning Inbound the sun is no longer a problem, but the daylight and scenery installed is harsher in daytime than at night when I practiced this. You see, once you turn inbound for final, the land rises to a hill, and then drops to the runway. Well, I'm viewing the slide show at about 5-7 fps, and what do I do, I hit the top of the stupid hill and crash just short of the runway. Arrgghhhhhh.... I couldn't believe it. I actually crashed on Final, because I was looking at the Runway, and not at the stupid little hill. It is very deceiving up close. Well, suffice to say I was pretty upset with myself at that time... In retrospect, I should not have installed the scenery, and would not have had to fly in a slide show. Lesson Learned I guess.
Immediately, Alex (who had been prepping for later flights) stepped into the breach and took the Avanti to Hovden. Here he nailed the approach to get the team back in the running.
The flight to London's City airport was on tap. In early planning, the long distance (670nm) and the re-quirement for a careful landing suggested breaking up this route into two legs. Moreover, the strange winter storm was now dumping snow on the English countryside. But now, with the race closing, was no time for safe plays. Jeroen took off in the Avanti and made for England and a promised high tea. Deter-mination writ large. Then, in mid-air, the aircraft disintegrated.
First to see someone crash on landing there from Vagar, then I crash due to unwarranted over-stress on the way out there to London City. The aircraft was flying fine, stable winds and no over-speed when suddenly it overstresses. FS bug, FDE bug? We may never find out but it set us back another hour.
Sven pointed out that there were extremely difficult weather conditions over the UK, with very narrow isobars indicating sudden wind and pressure changes. But we do not know...
Suddenly, Dave was "on". He had been planning on the relatively short trip to Switzerland but now had to prepare for the long speed run over the North Sea. And he did the flight magnificently, completing the long distance in 1:52 and then executing a perfect landing. Splendid job here. Good teamwork again, with Jeroen giving critical airport information to make a difficult approach manageable.
On to Sion (LSGS) in the Swiss Alps. In poor weather this can be an interesting airport but today the un-usual winter weather in Europe made things less daunting. Jeroen took the Avanti.
Pretty uneventful flight except I found over Interlaken I was too low to clear the mountains and had to climb steeply over them. Good welcoming committee in Sion and some nice Swiss choco-late. Had great weather, cold and clear with light winds. Wouldn't want to attempt that approach at night or low clouds.
A decision had to be made. By now the team's pilot resources had started to dwindle. It was 1315Z—in the middle of the European and the beginning of the North American day. This was going to be a difficult time to muster a complete roster of pilots—at least for the next few hours.
The contingency plan all along had been to fly over the Sahara to pick up the bonus hours at Tamanrasset. By rough calculations, if such a flight routing were perfectly executed, the team could pick up about one hour on the "clock". FlightSim had chosen to fly directly to Cairo so this option remained on the table.
Accordingly newcomer Jan (Gazer75) took his King Air to Alghero (LIEA) on the Sardinian coast. The weather was extremely foggy and Jan's excellent landing was a tribute to his skills in making his first pressure-packed flight.
By now, however, it was apparent that FlightSim was going to make it into Cairo without further incident. The only hope would be for some unfortunate event which would have made the Desert Gamble worth the risk. As it happened, the best thing was to head for home.
Jeroen turned for the Greek coast and the now familiar Kalamata AB (a staple of previous RTW Races). His approach and landing in the hazy Greek sunset seemed slow—and it turned out in the event that he decided to "for once comply with all airspace restrictions and follow correct approach procedures." Sur-prised everyone...
On deck was Sean. However, computer problems prevented his carrying the baton. So Sven stepped into the breach with his now trusty P-38L. A beautiful takeoff and climb into the gorgeous Greek sky made for a wonderful flight over the Mediterranean toward Egypt's Alexandria (HEAX).
Final arrival on Thursday, February 24 at 1843Z at HECA.
Befitting his continued "ironman" role, Jeroen took the final baton flight to Cairo. The celebratory flight, accompanied by teammates, took only 35 minutes. (Final arrival at 1843Z at HECA.)
After the baton arrived at Alexandria, the final leisurely leg to Cairo. A mere 100nm I was in doubt whether to take a classic aircraft and finish in style or to leave the honors to my trusty Avanti. In the end I chose the Avanti but kept her low to enjoy the Egyptian night and see the pyramids.
Landing at Cairo another 4 days of lack of sleep and lots of fun and frustration both were over. Sadly this time no prize to take home, can't win them all especially when you're out of luck like we were.
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