River Cruises - The Nile Part 3
By Derek Swanson (18 May 2009)
Luxor to The Mediterranean Sea
The Nile is 4,132 miles long and has two major tributaries, the White Nile and Blue Nile. The previous two flights covered the route from Luxor to Khartoum and the course of the Blue and White Niles from Khartoum to their respective sources in Ethiopia and Uganda. This flight completes the series, following the Nile north from Luxor to its delta at the Mediterranean Sea. The distance covered in this flight is much less than the previous two, being only around 430 nautical miles.
Since the default FS2004 scenery in this area is rather bland, I strongly recommend the installation of two freeware files - Egypt scenery, and Egypt mesh. I also used FScene Europe, and an FS2002 river width enhancement NEWRIVER.ZIP.
Luxor airport (HELX) sits in a wide green plain flanked on either side by mountains and desert. As you leave Luxor to the north, FS2004 has a defect that shows a gap in the river's flow. A little further on there is a bridge which offers a challenge to fly under. The river here deviates from its northerly direction via semi-circular curve, similar to what we have seen several times in the previous flights.
After you pass two non-flyable bridges you encounter an unexpected "lump" of high ground to the east. Although it includes a few small valleys, it's not as entertaining as would first appear. The very flat terrain with few trees and other high objects is however good for fast low level flight across the populated areas.
The river narrows slightly nearing the town Asyut and has several Islands linked by bridges to the river banks. Asyut International airport (HEAT) is 13 nm west of the river valley and is rather sparse, but is visited by FS2004 AI airliners.
En route to our next stop - Beni Suef (HEBF), large populated areas become much more common than in our previous flights and the land class shows a significant amount of farmland around the towns. About half way to Beni Suef we pass the dual runway airport of El Minya (HEOQ). This an FS2004 "special" - two long parallel runways set within the middle of a populated area with no taxiways, apron or airport buildings! Flying on at a medium altitude you can see Red Sea in the distance to the west, sitting between the Suez Canal in the north and the Gulf of Aqaba in the south
The FS2004 airport at Beni Suef is even more bizarre than that at El Minya - two totally disconnected runways (nice & long though) with only a tower. To the north west of Beni Suef there is the unusual sight of three lakes, the largest being about 20 nm in length.
Continuing north, just west of Hulwan (HEOF) you will see some sets of pyramids to the east, but these are not the Pyramids by the Sphinx, which are further north. Unless you're in a helicopter or a plane with a very robust undercarriage, there's nowhere to land here, but you can do a slow fly-past to view the sights.
After the pyramids the large metropolis of greater Cairo looms on the horizon and this view is starkly different to the rural landscape seen so far. FS2004 lists a large number of airports in this area, many of which seem to be small strips. The most interesting airports are Cairo International (HECA) and Cairo Almaza (HEAZ) which are only 3 nm apart. Almaza is a military base with a single runway whereas the International has three runways in the shape of a letter "H" with the terminal buildings between the left and right 05 runways. FS2004 portrays the International as being on a raised platform with Almaza at a lower level.
Since FS2004 has the Sphinx with its associated pyramids, this is a sight we should not miss. The nearest airport is Embaba (HEEM), on the west bank of the Nile and you can change here for a helicopter or other suitable vehicle to get you the 6.5 nm across town to Giza. Being a fan of WWII film Ice Cold in Alex, I chose an Austin K2 ambulance. Head 220 degrees from Embaba and you will see a trio of two large pyramids and one small one. The Sphinx is in front of the pyramids.
Having landed on runway 05L at Cairo International (HECA), taxiing to the allocated gate took me 2 miles across the airport to the other side of the terminal and near runway 05R! This did however mean a much shorter trip to runway 34 for departure.
Leaving Cairo to the north the river splits into a massive, crazed delta with three large lakes near the sea and streams feeding into the Suez Canal via the "Bitter Lakes". FS2004 really only depicts the river proper travelling north west through flat farmland to a rather uninteresting outlet into the Mediterranean Sea.
To finish your flight with a landing you have few options; backtrack to Al Rahmaniyah (HEOP); return to Cairo; turn left to Alexandria International (HEAX) or my choice - turn right to Port Said (HEPS), which offers a harbor with a number of ships on which to practice low level attacks.
This completes our Nile odyssey but if you've enjoyed these three "cruises" on the Nile then look out for some other airborne "river cruises" to follow.