• How To...Land On Top Of The World - Topic Revisited

    How To... Land On Top Of The World - Topic Revisited

    By Ron Blehm (15 November 2006)

    When I first started getting back into FS, back in the early FS2000 days, I discovered www.flightsim.com and started voraciously reading the articles and How To's. I learned a lot from the reading and from the new-found friends on the forums. I thank FlightSim.Com for helping so many of us enjoy our hobby to the fullest! One of the interesting articles I found was "How To Land On Top Of The World" by Peter James. This sounded like a fun challenge and I couldn't wait to try it out! Needless to say, I've been back to La Paz many times over the various sim versions; our virtual airline has three daily flights into La Paz and I even featured it in a recent "Floundering Around" article. Being the somewhat accomplished sim pilot that I am now, I set off to find some new destinations for our little virtual airline. (We already feature the likes of Cuzco in Peru, Skardu in Pakistan and Jomsom in Nepal).


    One can only do so much pre-planning...sometimes you just have to get to an airport to really see what's going on down there. So it was that I set out from our Arequipa, Peru hub (which is some 3,000 feet higher than Denver) just before 9 AM on a calm and clear weekday morning (screen shot above, left). I was flying the Shorts Brothers 360 which for those who may not know is similar in size (about 1/3 larger) to the Twin Otter and powered by twin turboprops; also similar to but larger than, those on the "Twotter." The GPS shows an initial heading of 027° but there is rising terrain, well over 12,000 feet, north and east of Arequipa. So, just like in the real world, we departed runway 27 and flew a good 15 miles DME outbound from the VOR (screen shot above, right). By then I had climbed up through 12,000 feet ASL and was able to turn right to 040° and intercept my route (screen shot below, left). South-central Peru, apparently, is dominated by high plateaus and when I say high I mean something above 14,000 feet (screen shot below, right)!


    La Paz is high at 13,300 feet, which makes it a tough place to land due to density altitude concerns. Our destination today is San Rafeal (SPRF) which has an 8,760-foot dirt runway and no facilities according to MSFS but the kicker is that the airport is some 1,100 feet higher than even La Paz - 14,400 feet and a little change left over. Because I was determining hours for the VA I was cruising a bit slower than the Shorts 360 is capable of, about 130 knots indicated. San Rafeal is listed as 140 miles from Arequipa so plan on about one hour's flight time.


    Descending from FL180 is pretty easy when your airport is less than 4,000 feet below you! There isn't a VOR or NDB within a hundred miles so this really does require GPS and at least 3-5 miles visibility - though it is just a simulator so what would you lose by setting in some tough IMC? I crossed the airport at 15,500 feet and noticed that not only is this a remote runway on the outskirts of the village/town but this is another one of Microsoft's famous little holes (screen shot above, left)! Actually, this one is not too bad if you land on runway 12, so I started dropping in some flap and took a short descending downwind and base over the apparent nearby glacier, lining up easily on a 3-mile final (screen shot above, right). I used 30° of flaps and while the plane likes to land (at sea-level) at around 100 knots I was parked at about 120 for this approach. I'm not intimate with the Shorts and couldn't exactly tell you my RPMs or throttle settings other than my throttles were about half-way up and seemed to be responding pretty sluggishly! If you chop the throttles at this altitude you really will "drop like a rock" regardless of what you are flying! I flew the plane right down onto the..."runway" before pulling back and engaging reverse feathering. The dirt runway ain't smooth either but with some braking I stopped well before plowing into the palm trees at the far end.

    After several minutes on the ground I was ready to depart, heading off to Puerto Maldonado (right), a much more "civilized" place, but I gotta tell you, SPRF ranks right up there with any of the tough, remote strips in Nepal. So, if you are tired of flying into those wide-open spaces or tired of cramming Beavers into Alaskan Lakes, you should give this a try, it's not every day you can land on top of the world! (For video of this flight, look for the "Peru Promo" at: www.putfile.com/pretendpilot.)

    Ron Blehm
    [email protected]

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