• Going Places - Across The Pond To South America

    Going Places - Across The Pond To South America

    By Rodolfo Astrada

    It is 3 o'clock in the morning when we start our imaginary taxi for an early departure across the Atlantic expecting to make landfall at dawn over Brazil. Make that 3 o'clock virtual too.

    Going Places

    Our mount, D-ALCM, flies regularly this Dakar - Campinhas leg for real under the Lufthansa Cargo livery. Dependable with 16 years under the wings, she earns her keep day in and day out no matter where - Hong Kong, Memphis, Johannesburg, Mumbai, Tel Aviv, Mexico, Novosibirsk, Buenos Aires, Chicago, whatever it takes.

    A few figures to get some perspective, this exercise never fails to amaze me, no matter how much taken for granted the result may be in the end. Assume conservatively 15 daily hours flying to allow for turnarounds and a conservative 400 kt mean speed. Also assume 25 days a month to allow for scheduled maintenance spread throughout a year. This translates to a ballpark of 1,800,000 nm or 3,240,000 km depending on how about the mark my assumptions fall. Now, the mean Earth - Moon distance is about 385,000 km, then any given year our MD11 makes the equivalent of over four round trips to our natural satellite. This may sound naive or we have grown so used that it does not make a point, yet I never fail to be impressed. Getting to this is the result not only of technology matured over decades, but also of a business operation engineered in a way that makes this flying self sustaining and profitable, which is doubly remarkable in the end.

    But we have the Atlantic to cross now, and it will take about 3000 km to reach South America. Which is almost exactly what Alcock and Brown had to fly in their modified Vickers Vimy WWI bomber on June 14-15, 1919. While we effortlessly cruise in shirtsleeves leaving to automation the task of flying, Alcock and Brown fought for 15 hours the whole gamut from snowstorm to freezing, to rain, to mechanical failures, only getting some help from coffee and reportedly some "volatile" additive smuggled in ... No matter the flight was cut short when what looked like a nice grassy filed to land on ended up being a swamp, they were the first to jump the pond in a single go, airwise.

    Going Places

    Talking about Atlantic crossings, several years ago I was particularly attached to that legendary workhorse, the Lockheed C-130 Hercules and was looking for a good photoreal, functional panel for FS98. What this has to do with the Atlantic you will see shortly. Not satisfied with what was available at least as freeware, I took to build my own C-130 panel. By then - early 1998 - I was developing some serious software for a customer in C and had acquired Microsoft C/C++ Visual Studio. This, and the publicly available FS98 SDK, made for a nice chance to experiment. Armed with a demo but functional version of Photofinish that shipped with a handheld scanner, some looking around and experimenting with actual cockpit shots plus lots of patience, I built my own version. For that I borrowed a hodgepodge of gauges more or less good looking no matter how close to the real thing, but what I could not find at least to satisfaction was the center stack of engine gauges, so those were the ones I designed and built from scratch, from dial templates to needles to dynamic library modules. That panel I uploaded to FlightSim.Com, in May 1998 (rac130p0.zip), making briefly into the top 10 downloads, got a little over 8000 by now, and had then some nice feedback from users all over the world.

    Whatever, the idea was to have a reasonably functional panel for the Herk and go places with it which I did with enthusiasm. Crisscrossed America and went down to Antartica, found and installed a base in my scenery and built another in King George Island with the tools available for FS98 featured here in FlightSim.Com. King George Island is where the Uruguay Antartic Base is located adjacent to the Chilean base which operates the runaway. When the Uruguay base was first deployed in December 1984, supplies and personnel were flown in with a tired Fokker F27 specially fitted with internal auxiliary bladder tank to extend range. There were two F27s and two identical Farichilds in our Air Force, one of the Fairchilds fell in the Andes, you know the story of the rugby team of whom a score of survivors were eventually rescued after two young players walked their way out of the mountain to find help. It will be permanently etched in my retina the diamond formation of the four planes I once saw, well before that tragedy. None is flying any more now.


    2 Comments
    1. CRJ_simpilot's Avatar
      CRJ_simpilot -
      Interesting. I too am now in South America for the first time since playing FS 10 years ago. My trip started from KDEN to DFW, New Orleans, Miami and all throughout the Caribbean finally to Grenada and to Georgetown, Guyana. I plan on going to Brazil, Argentina Stanley Falkland islands and then for the first time in my Sim life, try to land somewhere in the antarctic. I may have to research airstrips there or build one myself.
    1. capt hgb's Avatar
      capt hgb -
      Thank you for sharing such an interesting flight and story
      I have done the Amsterdam - Rio via Dakar twice in my KLM DC8-63
      That was a learning curve alright!
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