Where To, Mister?
By Mike McCarthy (26 June 2009)
Mike McCarthy is the author of an upcoming FS utility, AirBoss, which you can read about at his http://airbossproject.com forum web site. There you additionally will find articles on a variety of FS and aviation matters. Mike also writes on more general subjects for his http://www.mikewritestuff.com forum web site. Interested readers are invited to join these web sites to contribute writing and posts of their own.
I'm gettin' bugged drivin' up and down this same old
I gotta find a new place where the kids are hip.
Brian Wilson and Mike Love of the Beach Boys, "I Get Around"
I do a lot of test flying, not only because of AirBoss but also to assess the results of my hobby, which is tinkering with the FDE and panels of various freeware and payware aircraft. Accordingly I have three standard test flights - short, medium and long, all originating at my home airport, Denver International (KDEN). And you know what? I'm bored.
How bored are you, Mike?
I'm so bored that at the suggestion of webmaster Nels Anderson I've even started playing with Microsoft Train Simulator and Kuju's Rail Simulator. (See http://www.trainsim.com). But I digress. Railroading stuff notwithstanding, my main interest is and always will be FS. Trouble is,
I'm getting' bugged flyin' tests, fly-in' these same
I need some pleasure flyin' routes 'cause pleasure flyin' is hip.
So the question is the taxidriver's proverbial Where To, Mister? That is, how can I spice up my flying life by coming up with some interesting trips?
One answer is to go to http://www.fourflights.com and let them do the work for you.
But I'm a nerd. My answer instead is, get a small road atlas that covers a large area (like North America) and use its highway distance table to generate city pairs, selecting the pairs via an easy-to-use random number generator you will find at http://www.random.org.
Let's try it ...
My 50-page Hammond road atlas lists 55 city pairs. I'll tell the web site to generate a random number in the range 1 to 55. It gives me 53. This will be my city of origin, Wichita in the USA state of Kansas. Using the same method for the destination I get 25, which is Quebec City in the Canadian province of Quebec. For the time of day I'll use 1-4 giving me 3, a dusk departure. (Dawn, day, dusk, night.) The season also comes up as 3, which is summer (winter, spring, summer, fall). For weather I'll do a static FS real world download from the Jeppesen web site.
Of course to make my flying life truly realistic I'll want airport diagrams, departure and arrival charts, and an ILS approach chart for a runway at the destination airport. For these I'll use the SimPlates X utility, which covers the entire world with roughly 30,000 high quality charts that can be printed for convenience.
What if I wanted to confine my flying to, say, the Intermountain West region of the USA? Answer, I would simply discard generated city pairs that don't meet this regional specification. Let's try that method too ...
Origin 47, Spokane in the state of Washington. This is a keeper.
Destination 13, New Orleans in the state of Louisiana. It's in "Flatland" so I reject it.
Destination 19, Phoenix in the state of Arizona, also a keeper.
So that's my trip in the western USA, Spokane to Phoenix. I google "ICAO Spokane" to get the International Civil Aviation Organization's identifier for the Spokane International airport, which is KGEG. Google also gives me KPHX as the identifier for the destination, Sky Harbor International.
Since I like VOR-to-VOR flying I simply enter KGEG and KPHX into the FS flight planner, printing the resulting route, which will give me VOR identifiers and frequencies. along the chosen route. I then ignore the beginning and end of the printed route, using instead a departure and an arrival that I choose based on printing out the alternatives via SimPlates X.