• Get Real #1

    Get Real

    By Ron Blehm

    Welcome to a new feature on FlightSim.Com, "Get Real". Flight simulators are great fun for a variety of reasons but one thing that anyone can do is to try and recreate or fly some flight that you have done in the past. Whether you are a pilot or a passenger I'm sure that we all have memories of some flight that sticks in our heads. My wife took a rough flight on a Dash-8 once, lots of windshear, and to this day she gets nauseated whenever we even talk about the aircraft type! Several years ago I received a video from a simmer in Texas - I guess back in the 1970's he and some friends had a stag party in Mexico. The video was a flightsim recreation of that flight in the appropriate 727 repaint and all. This feature gives you (the simmer) the chance to share some of your most profound REAL WORLD flight experiences through the sim. Maybe it was your first-ever flight, or your most recent one. Maybe you remember your first time on a BAC1-11 or the last time you were on a DC-3. Whatever it is, you've had the real-life experiences, now you'll recreate that experience in the sim and submit the story to us; we'll share your story here in the GET REAL feature. I guess since this is a new feature I'll start us off.

    In 1973 I was lucky to be able to accompany my parents on a several months-long mission trip to Central Africa. One of our first major stops was in Ethiopia and one of the missions we had to fulfill was to fly up north (about 90 minutes each way) to a medical clinic. After some overnight showers in Addis the little 4-place Cessna arrived in the morning to pick up three of us; one of the local church leaders, my father, and me. I was not really excited about general aviation and so I really couldn't tell you what kind of Cessna we were in - maybe a 182 turbo? I was big into commercial aviation and I remember waiting at the hold short point while an Ethiopian Airlines 707 landed!

    One problem with our plan was that no one had bothered communicating that there was a dentist (and supplies) also coming along which made us five in the four-place Cessna. So, the supplies were carefully packed and repacked into the little cargo area behind the seats and I (being the smallest of the group) climbed up on top of the luggage - then the others loaded up. Hey, it was the 70s in Central Africa, who was going to stop us? I do remember the pilot asking us each how much we weighed and writing on a piece of paper ... I assume we were just under the MTOW?

    At any rate, we taxied out, waited for the 707 and departed to the east. We made a right hand turn and came back downwind of the airport seen in the picture below/left (which is above 7,000 feet ASL by the way) before finally heading off to the north. In the years since 1973 I have tried to find out more information about this clinic and its exact location, but have always come up blank. We are going on vague memories here but it was about 90 minutes out, north or northwest of Addis, north of Debra Marcos, a place called N'Ma Tabor (I think "Tabor" means mountain?), below/right.


    I can tell you that there was no airport there! There was a field, with grazing cows and a couple of herdsmen.

    I couldn't feel my legs at this point and just wanted to land! We buzzed low over the area three or four times to ensure that there were no obstacles in our way and then ... one of the bumpiest landings of all time!


    I remember thinking that the wheels must surely get torn off at this point (below/left).


    We bumped over to the little tin shack and shut down (above/right).

    It must have looked like clowns climbing out of a little car as we piled out onto the short brown grass. By the time I could feel my legs again we heard the horn of the World War 2-era jeep that bounded down out of the trees with happy smiling faces peering out to greet us. That's right, the medical clinic was another 15-20 minutes up into the hills! (Sometimes it's an odd situation or setting that makes a flight memorable.)

    We loaded us and our stuff into the jeep and headed off. The plane left. We tried desperately to not get thrown from the back of the jeep while the local Ethiopians joyously ran alongside or helped to push the jeep over the biggest roots and rocks along the path. By the time we arrived at the clinic it was lunchtime - I really had no appetite at that point. Then, the afternoon rain showers started. It was phenomenal to watch the villagers, some walking miles to come through the clinic. We were told that it was odd for the showers to last through the day but the rain continued. At dusk the clinic closed but the rain continued. The grounds and offices were cleaned and readied for the next day. It grew cold. We sat around the table at the director's home eating Ingira and Wat and drinking hot tea. The rain continued through the evening and all night. (pretty loud on those tin roofs!) By morning the clinic grounds had been turned into intertwining muddy trails but there were more patients coming to see the dentist and doctors running clinic that day.

    We had a 2 PM date back at the cow field with the Cessna so after lunch we piled back into the jeep and headed down the slippery, muddy hill. This time the dentist stayed and the doctor came along as he needed supplies from the mission headquarters in Addis. 14:00 came and went. I talked with the cows. 15:00 came and went. I walked around, overlooking this amazing land (below/left).


    15:45, we heard something. Yes? Yes! Our little plane had returned to fetch us (above/right).

    As soon as he landed I knew this was going to be difficult. The mud reached up, grabbed the little wheels and simply sucked the plane to the ground! Fewer bags meant two things:

    1. We were lighter
    2. I'd have more room in the back

    We said our good-byes, had prayer and loaded up again. The motor started with a lurch and then we taxied over to the edge of the trees. I distinctly remember that when we landed the bumps were vertical (hit your head on the roof kind) and now the bumping was horizontal (whiplash kind) as the wheels alternately stuck and then broke free of the muddy, hoof-printed holes.

    The pilot revved the engine and we were off. Jerking, lurching and bumping across the field (below/left).


    Then ... we left the field (above/right)!

    Now we were plummeting down the hillside, dodging trees and boulders! (Sometimes fear makes a flight memorable!) The downhill run gave us more speed which allowed us to just clear the grove of trees looming ahead. (notice the vertical speed in the screen shot below/left?)


    We turned to the right and followed the canyon down ... down ... and out of the highland area (above/right).

    Darkness came over us before we reached the international airport but the sight of the flashing lights (below/left) and the silky smooth feel of the runway were glorious at that moment (below/center). Sometimes it's a visceral feeling that makes a flight memorable! Truly, one of the most amazing 36 hours of my life - and not one I'd be anxious to EVER do over (below/right)!


    Along with the FSX screen shots here, (I found an open patch near N13-18.74, E38-10.86, about 12,200 feet ASL) you should know that I've tried to reproduce this flight in every sim I've ever owned - some more successfully than others. It was our Flight Club's Feature flight in May 2009 and FS2004 was my first attempt at making a video of the N'Ma Tabor experience.

    So, what's your aviation story? Don't you have some memorable real world flight experience that you could submit? If you'll send your stories and FS screen shots here, we'll see if we can't get them published on the next issue of ... GET REAL!

    Ron Blehm
    [email protected]?Subject=Get%20Real">[email protected]

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