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Floundering Around Part 16: "Floundering Around Nevada"



Floundering Around Part 16: "Floundering Around Nevada"

By Ron Blehm (25 September 2007)



What's in a name? Every pilot needs a nick-name and after founding a "Flight of the Month Club" at www.toomuchfs.com a dyslexic twist had me known as the "Cub Flounder" or just "Flounder" for short.


In this feature I "Flounder Around" the world looking for new or fun or challenging sim adventures for you all to try out on your own time. Sure, there are plenty of other sim-adventure-sites out there on the web but our aim here is to give more of you just a sampling of what it's like to fly something a little different, maybe someplace you don't visit every day. (Please do note that the photos shown in this report are compiled from several of us in the Flight Club so they don't all match - Dick was in the Bonanza.)






Our feature flight this time around was presented by Dick Graham of Ohio and first appeared on our web site in October 2005 (picture, right). What follows is the text from Dick's submission - now your job is to try this on your own and see how you and that new sim (FSX) fare. There are also some downloads, enhancements and AI for FS2004 available here.


Anticipating this FOTM (Flight of the Month), I recently answered a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Request for Proposal to deliver the October Base Realignment and Closure (B.R.A.C.) Commission reports individually to each of the bases in a designated state. The package of reports will be delivered to the courier at a designated airport at 1800 local time on Saturday, 1 October. The courier will travel to each of the military airports in the state, completing the deliveries before midnight.


Soon after my RFP response, I was informed that the Too Much FS Flight Club had been awarded the contract for the state of Nevada. The details state that the reports will be delivered to you at Reno/Tahoe Int'l airport at 1800 local time on 1 October. You will take the reports, departing immediately, and travel to each of the six military airports in the state, parking at the designated location, delivering the specific report, and leaving quickly for the next airport on the list. After the last delivery at Nellis AFB, you will fly over to McCarran Int'l, park at the western edge of the airport and cross the street to your berth for the evening, the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the south end of the strip. An Executive Suite has been reserved for you (and your companion, if present) along with a thousand dollars of casino chips. If you are not interested in gambling, just cash in the chips, tour Fremont Street for a few hours, and buy yourself a big breakfast before departing in the morning - checkout time is noon.


Night flying in recent FSs is not as much fun as it was back in FS98 where the lights were brighter and big cities actually had a glow in the sky. For night flying, these flights are not difficult and four of the airports have ILS to help. Although the state is mountainous, minimum altitudes are given in the instructions to ease the flying. However, descents can be hazardous if you don't know the terrain. For those of you who fly by the book rather than the seat of your pants as I do, AirNav does have instrument approach and departure procedures for download for KNFL, KLSV, and KLAS. In either case, to avoid any potential altitude problems, the GPS in terrain mode can keep you out of trouble. If you don't want to do night flights, change the 1800 start time to 0700 - then you can enjoy the scenery, which the night flyers won't be able to do. Departing at the designated date and time will allow this narrative to match what you see (except for the pix which were taken during the day.)


There is a scenery download which includes an airport not in FS (Area 51), enhancements to the military airports including parking locations and buildings, and a traffic BGL to provide some in-air activity at the normally AI barren military airports. Unfortunately, the traffic BGL only includes default planes because downloading all the military AI I use would take way too long. If you know how and have planes to use as military AI in your hangar, a change of your Flightplans.txt file for the Traffic_MIL-NV.bgl file using Lee Swordy's TrafficTools 2 will make your flights even more interesting. These enhancements are for FS2004/FS9. The traffic and airport parking BGLs will only work in FS2004. The scenery only BGLs should work in FS2002 (except for Area 51.) If you don't want to use my simple approach to Area 51, there are several versions available at FlightSim.Com for both FS2004 and FS2002 - search for Area 51.


Your first flight involves getting to Reno. I flew from our U.S. base at Lackey Ranch KTRR in Bend, OR, a 285 nm, high-country flight. The easiest approach is an airliner; most cities in the world have connections to Reno. The plane you pick for your deliveries needs to accommodate a variety of runways from the 14000' asphalt runway at Fallon Naval Air Station to the 3700x60' dirt runway at Sweetwater USMC airport. Airport elevations also cover a wide range from 1900' at Nellis AFB to 6900' at Sweetwater USMC. For the flight, I chose a favorite Beechcraft Bonanza, my vote for the classic private plane of all time with both looks and performance.


All airports have a tower frequency (a couple provided by the parking BGL mentioned above.) At each airport, request taxi directions to the specified parking area (no gates) where you will deliver your package. Don't dawdle once you've made your delivery, and get on your way quickly, since you must make the last delivery before midnight (1300 if you chose the daytime option). The total distance you'll cover is about 375 nm. In my Bonanza, I made the entire trip from Reno/Tahoe to McCarran Int'l by 2240 - an hour and 20 minutes to spare, which may rule out a Cessna 172 or anything similar for the flight.


Details of each of the airports you'll visit appears with the downloads. If you have trouble finding an airport, these details give a locating VOR with heading and distance from the VOR to each airport. All the airports are located in valleys or dry lake beds with surrounding mountains. To avoid close encounters with the unseen rock, fly to the airports, then descend as you enter a close by pattern for your assigned runway. In the dark, it's dangerous to make long ILS or straight-in approaches. To be really safe, you could also fly all the legs IFR and let ATC keep you from kissing a rock.


For the final 3/4 of the flight, you'll be flying in highly restricted airspaces (0'-100000') which are part of the Nellis Complex - 3 million acres, the largest area for weapons testing in the world (including the Nevada Test Site nuclear test range.) If you are interested in learning about a secret, disappearing, military airstrip at the northernmost end of the Nellis Complex checkout The Cheshire Airstrip. If you have any interest at all in Area 51, be sure to read A Grand Aerial Circumnavigation of Area 51, a funny trip report of a flight by three college students on their spring break around and through the entire Nellis Complex. It also includes a marked-up chart and some aerial pictures of the area and airports which could be helpful for your flight.


Even though you have been cleared in advance for this flight, you may be challenged along the way by an F-16, F-18, F-117, or even an RQ-1 Predator UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.) Pay them no mind. As soon as they recognize who you are, they will disappear as quickly as they arrived (hopefully.) Just in case, make no threatening moves.


Leg 1: KRNO Reno/Tahoe Int'l - KNFL Fallon Naval Air Station

If you're flying at night, be sure to turn down the lights in your cockpit (bedroom, den, basement, or wherever) to make the flying easier and a bit more realistic.






The Reno-Tahoe area is called America's Adventure Place. Ski, golf, mountain bike, hike, bowl, gamble, go to a show, get married, or divorced! The airport is a busy place with 90 commercial airline departures daily.


Start from Parking 2 at KRNO. An officer will bring you your B.R.A.C. packages just before your scheduled departure at 1800 (or 0700 for the day flyers) on 1 October.


KNFL is on a 080° course from Reno, 50 nm away. Climb to 8500' minimum to avoid the ground. Finding the airport and approach shouldn't be too difficult since your landing should come before nightfall. There is an on-field DME on 113.50 (NFL) to tell you how far you have to go (picture, right).


At KNFL, taxi to South Parking to deliver your package. Wait no more than a few minutes before departing at each stop.


Fallon NAS is the home to the Fighting Saints of VFC-13 [Fighter Squadron Composite 13 (V F C-13)], the Desert Outlaws of Strike Fighter Weapons Detachment both flying F/A-18 Hornets, and the Naval Strike Air Warfare Center, which flies and maintains F/A-18 Hornets, F-14 Tomcats, and SH-60F Seahawk helicopters. NAS Fallon serves as the Navy's premier tactical air warfare training center. The 14,000-foot runway is the longest in the Navy.


Leg 2: KNFL Fallon Naval Air Station - NV72 Sweetwater (USMC)





The owner of Sweetwater is listed as the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center. Little activity is ever seen there. An interesting, though unproven story about its inception, is that the unused field was built and used to train for the ill-fated Iranian hostage rescue attempt on April 24-25, 1980. C-130s and helos were landed there for the original planning. A little known fact is that a second rescue attempt was prepared using C-130 Hercules aircraft highly modified with rocket motors for an extremely short landing and take-off in a soccer stadium, but it was abandoned after the November election when the hostages were released. The use for the Iranian training is well known by the locals but unconfirmed by the DoD (picture, left).






If you're using FS2002 or didn't download the FS2004 scenery, NV72 is only a runway. NV72 is back near the California border at 188° from KNFL 59 nm away. Climb to 10000' minimum. Landing at NV72 will be your first test since darkness should be nearly pervasive by then. This airport, located in a deep, narrow valley, is the most difficult of all to locate. Lights and PAPI have been installed, especially for your flight tonight. Don't start your descent until you see the airport (at about 52 nm from NFL VOR 113.50.) The valley runs about the same direction as the runway, North/South. If you're flying VFR, because of the high mountains close by to the south, land on runway 18 no matter what direction the wind is blowing or that other traffic is using. There is a lit road that goes down the valley and by the airport and runway 18 - follow it, it's safer. Remember, this airport is at 6837' with only a 3700' runway (picture, right).


Taxi to parking per the tower's direction.


If VFR, depart on runway 36 to avoid the south mountains.


Leg 3: NV72 Sweetwater (USMC) - TNX Tonopah Test Range

The range (picture below, left) was established in 1957 by Sandia Corp. to provide an isolated place for the Atomic Energy Commission to test ballistics and non-nuclear features of atomic weapons. In 1975, it became the electronics warfare training center for the Air Force. The first time the base received attention was 11/88 when the Air Force opened its hangar doors and rolled out the Stealth F-117 fighter planes that neighbors had seen in the nearby sky for years.










When leaving NV72, climb out on the runway heading (down the valley-follow the road) a ways before turning right because of the high (9900') terrain. TNX is 123 nm distant from Sweetwater. Head first for the Coaldale VOR OAL 117.70, which is at 099° and 75 nm away. At OAL, follow the 090° radial for 48 nm to TNX (picture above, right). Climb to 11500' minimum to avoid the mountains. Careful descending too soon - there are hills west of the airport.


At TNX, taxi to South Parking to deliver your package here.


Leg 4: TNX Tonopah Test Range - KA51 Area 51 (Dreamland) at Groom Lake

Built by the DoD in the 1950's to test numerous new plane designs produced for the CIA by Kelly Johnson and the Lockheed Skunk Works. Planes included the U-2 spy plane, SR71 Blackbird, up to and including the F-117 Stealth fighter (picture below, left).










Dreamland is on a 110° heading from TNX, 58 nm away. Climb to 9500' minimum. Use the airports runways 15 or 33 ILSs for approach. Both have 2.50 military glideslopes. Although the airport is on a dry lake bed, it is surrounded by 8000'+ mountains - be careful descending (picture above, right). Since the lake bed extends off the runway ends for miles, a long, straight-in approach from altitude, in this case, is acceptable. If you didn't download scenery, no airport will be present. In this case, just overfly its coordinates - N370 14' 35''/W115 0 47' 15.7'' and continue on.


Taxi to parking per the tower's direction for the package delivery.


Leg 5: KA51 Area 51 (Dreamland) - KINS Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary





Now named Creech Air Force Base (20 June 2005), the 11th and 15th reconnaissance squadrons currently operate and test the RQ-1A/B Predator UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) here (picture, right).


KINS is on a 157° heading from Area 51, 40 nm away. Climb to 9500' approach, fly to the Mercury MCY NDB at 326.0, then turn to intercept the ILS. Again, both have a 2.5° military glideslope. Beware of the high mountains northwest of the airport.


Taxi to parking per the tower's direction for the package delivery.


Leg 6: KINS Indian Springs AF Aux - KLSV Nellis Air Force Base

Nellis AFB is not only the home of the USAF's Thunderbirds (F-16C Fighting Falcons), but is also home of the USAF Air Warfare Center, the USAF Weapons School, USAF Ground Operations School, Red Flag (414th Combat Training Squadron), the 11th, 15th and 17th Reconnaissance Squadron (UAVs), and the Nellis Threat Training Facility with a MiG-29/Fulcrum, MiG-23/Flogger, an Iraqi Mi-24/Hind D helicopter, an actual SA-8/Gecko and an SA-6/Gainful missile as the top attractions (picture below, left).










Nellis is 37 nm from Indian Springs on a 110° heading. Climb again to 9500' minimum. Careful of high mountains west (9300') and north (7200') of the airport, particularly on approach (picture above, right). Runway 21L has an ILS with a 2.5° military glideslope but, from your approach direction, you'll probably be assigned 21R - ask for 21L if you want to use the ILS. If the wind is from the east, you should get a 03 approach taking you over the Strip and by KLAS. If so, look for the Bellagio fountains as you pass overhead.


Because of the number of landings made here, all the taxiways from the runways to the ramps have chain-link fence gates to keep out people that don't belong (not depicted in FS.) Taxi to North Parking to deliver the last package.


Leg 7: KLSV Nellis AFB - KLAS McCarran International

McCarran International Airport is part of the Clark County Airport System, which owns and operates six airports, including five general aviation facilities: North Las Vegas Airport, Henderson Executive Airport, Jean Sport Aviation Center, Overton/Perkins Field, and Searchlight. McCarran consists of 96 aircraft gates at two separate terminal buildings. There are more than 50 retail shops and nearly 30 restaurants, lounges, and snack bars. They average 1468 aircraft operations per day with 62% being commercial.


KLAS is only 11 nm from Nellis and 198° as the crow flies. Prevailing winds and your originating point means you will most probably be assigned runway 25R. If not, you'll get a much better view of the Strip (Fremont St.) on your approach. In any case, contact Las Vegas tower immediately after take-off for runway assignment as you climb to 4000'.


Land long if heading to the west. Taxi to West Parking off taxiway H at the western edge of the airport to park for the evening. You don't even have to lock it up or tie it down - the local FBO is expecting you and will take care of those details.


After parking in its light, walk across the street to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino to check-in for the night and to get your stake. Remember, checkout time is noon. And by the way, tomorrow being Sunday, there are over 600 churches here in Sin City.


Okay, there you have it! Now go fly it and then, please let us know what happened. Drop me an e-mail and we can share your story with others as well...then we'll be building up the connections within our FS-community.


Ron Blehm

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