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Intro: A simple idea


Most of us will know that in vanilla FSX, the opener for the airport list (if sorted by city) is a place called "108 Mile Ranch" and is located somewhere in British Clumbia, Canada. Maybe not so many have scrolled down to the very end of that list just for sake what is at the end - at least it took me several years of flightsimming before I bothered doing so. It turned out to be an airport named Ammons in Zwolle, on the Lousiana-Texas border.


So the other day I thought, that would actually be a nice idea for doing something completely different in FSX than usual: Flying from one end of the world, pardon, the list, and coincidentally North American mainland, to the other. What I typically fly are commercial airliners - Boeings, Airbuses, McDonnells or Embraer jets, the occasional turboprop. Given the size of those two airfields, those kinds of airworthy contraptions are not the right means to doing this. So, what to fly? The choice fell on the gift from CLS in my hangar - the ex-payware Piper Arrow they released for free some time ago.


With that being said, I quickly created a VFR flightplan and the navlog calculated some 17 hours flying time. Well, I didn't reckon with a non-stop flight anyway...


1st leg: I'm not flying. I meditate!


So there we go. Leaving behind 108 Mile Ranch and slowly climbing for the 14000 feet I chose as cruise altitude. 500 feet a minute is about the best the plane, fully loaded with three passengers, can do. The way I plan doing this is simple: Loosely following the GPS route until fuel runs low and then searching for a place to land. Each leg will start out with about 50 to 60 percent of fuel - for once in regard to the rather limited amount of horsepowers in that engine, and for having a good reason to do some more t/o-landing cycles.



Kamloops, British Columbia. The first greater town I spotted since take-off, and at this point the plane has been in the air for some 80 miles, southbound. Those distances in certain parts of the Americas are and remain simply mindblowing to us Europeans (or is it just me?), no matter what we do about it.






Half-way through the first leg. From Kamloops, the route leads dead east, parallel to and about 35 miles North of the Canadian-American border. The single-engined marathon started out with the most perfect weather one could have asked for.



Flying a Boeing or such and all that comes with it - convincing ATC to actually let you land at a big international airport, watching out for bazillions of other jetliners, all of them being out to land on your runway and then just park there, is first of all work - this flight doesn't feel that way. It's more like meditating.



As fuel runs low, the search for an airfield begins where we can get our wheels back on the ground. In a wide green valley near Kimberley, BC, lie the hot springs of Fairmont on the norhtern shore of Lake Columbia. And along with it, a runway just long enough to land, and more importantly, also to get back in the air again.


So far.

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Awesome post all-round, good job. Good luck for your journey, I look forward to your next post. :cool:


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Thank you! Glad to hear you enjoy it.


2nd leg: As weather turns bad



Part two of the journey began with a little misunderstanding at the avgas pump in Fairmont, when the guy working there with neither question nor hesitation stuffed as much fuel in the Piper's wings as was possible without the use of violence - and left it to me figuring out how on earth all that excess propellant could be removed from them here, in the middle of nowhere. Let's just say I knew a trick that did the job. I tried to explain to gas pump guy how it worked to make half a tank worth of gasoline vanish without a trace, but it came clear soon that any effort of that kind would be futile.




Anyway, ground is proven to be where the trouble lies – and hence, a few minutes later, we had taxied back to the other end of the runway so we could depart southishly and were now over Lake Columbia, once again struggling for every hundred feet of altitude. I just hope gas pump guy can see us now, maybe he realizes why we didn't want that fuel.


With the autopilot taking care of keeping us at 13000 feet above whatever sea it was referring to from now on, the next part of the journey began like the previous one ended - with a firework of green and blue. More of those rivers in canyons that look more like Norwegian fjords down below, more mountaintops in the sun of noon as far the eye can see, some of them with snow on their top. More of those miles upon miles of wilderness where there have been maybe a few hundred people walking in all of human history.


Been flying 30+ thousand feet over it however, have been millions probably in just the last 50 years. Mostly on Westjet and Air Canada planes from the looks of it. And still, with according to GPS, not ten planes in a 100 by 100 nm square, now and then they still managed to get so close to each other that Vancouver Control saw itself forced to issue traffic alerts.


And, speaking of alerts, it did not take long until something else occupying my route caught my attention: Clouds. Lots of them. They were everywhere ahead, at least anywhere that was at least approximating the direction we wanted to go. A thick white ribbon from one end of the horizon to the other. I decided climbing 1000 more feet, that should be enough to fly just over them. At that time the Rocky Mountains had been passed and lay not far away on our right. The little bit of ground that revealed itself right underneath through a gap in the clouds showed to be fields and farmland, with a patch of forest here and there. However, visual contact to the ground remained scarce apart from one hole in the cloud cover, just a few miles in diameter.




But once we crossed that cloud hole, the rest of the trip was just good for logging IFR hours, permanently in the clouds or just above them. Always having headed roughly southeast from Fairmont, some 70 minutes into the flight we were about to cross the border to the US, Montana more precisely.

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2nd leg (cont.)

We were welcomed to a country we could barely see by a traffic controller calling in from Salt Lake City. Right at the border we were to turn another 30 degrees toward the south. Roughly at the same time, the fuel gauges were telling me it was about time to look out for a place to land. The map showed several cropduster airstrips and such to be nearby, but nothing that resembled what I was actually looking for. I was almost at the point of breaking the “only purple dot airports” rule I put up, and put the bird on the ground at Great Falls Intl which lay right ahead. Then, a little west of that, I discovered the airport of Choteau, Montana, on the map – a suburb of Great Falls as it seemed. This was just the kind of place I hoped for.


Ditching below the clouds, we were greeted the endless plains of the prairie – soaked by heavy rain. It came to me that it might have been smarter to do this kind of flight in summer. It would also have been less stormy, I guess. Another difference from flying a jetliner – in the Piper you note every little gust blowing you off track.


About another ten minutes later, the little of Choteau emerged out of the mist, featuring one long runway heading 140 degrees, almost the direction we were going anyway. It's surface was rundown, weathered asphalt, it did not bear any markings aside from the numbers. Another track cut across; it seemed newer and in better shape, but at least 1000 feet shorter. To the right, the west, still the outskirts of the Rockies rose against the haze, otherwise this place in Montana's north was just one endless plain of fields as far as we could see – which on the other hand, was not very far in fact.


Keeping the plane lined up with Rwy 14 was a bit of a struggle due to the wind. After all the first attempt to land was successful, but just so.


I didn't even bother using the gas pump. One of the passengers told me during the flight that he remembered having heard that guy from Fairmont operated every fuel pump on every airport in the world. Valuable advice...

A bit later, the with the engine off and the parking brakes, the Piper was parked and the doors open, allowing the passengers could have a walk, some snacks and drinks, or find relief for other needs that could not be dealt with on this type of aircraft.


So far.

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