• River Cruises - The Jordan

    River Cruises 1 - The Jordan

    By Derek Swanson (14 April 2009)

    No it's okay, this isn't some promo for a new boatsim product or a way of using a flightsim to go sailing - it's about VFR flying using rivers for navigation.

    It all started after a family holiday to Cyprus. Driving up to the Troodos mountains I spied some nice valleys for fast-jet flying so when I got home I decided to make a virtual return to Cyprus to test them out. Rather than start the flight in Cyprus or simulate the holiday Easyjet flight, I opted to do it the old way - staged flights in classic planes; so it was a de Havilland Comet 4 from Liverpool to Paris; VC10 K2 tanker from Paris to Rome; Avro Vulcan B2 from Rome to Athens and an HP Victor K1 from Athens to Paphos. After jetting around Cyprus in a variety of 1950s and 60s military hardware the question was - where to next? Being reasonably close to the coasts of Lebanon and Israel, a flying boat trip seemed in order so it was in the Sunderland III approaching Haifa that I had the idea. Rather than land in Haifa bay I flew on to the Sea of Galilee and the first river cruise began - down the Jordan. This flight used FS2004, FScene Europe, Israel Mesh scenery, Eilat scenery and an FS2002 river width enhancement NEWRIVER.ZIP.

    The Sea of Galilee is a very big lake, sitting in the shadow of the Golan Heights mountains to the north and easily big enough for landing a Sunderland (picture below, left). The Jordan flows out of the south end of Galilee down a valley with much of it forming the border between the nations of Israel and Jordan. The dearth of airports en-route isn't a problem since the Jordan finishes at the Dead Sea, only 83 miles south.

           

    Following the Jordan is fairly easy as it meanders down the valley with tributaries joining it from the mountains either side. The valley is very wide and FS2004 displays the marked difference between the lush valley center and the surrounding arid hills. When you get within reach of it, a detour over Jerusalem is worthwhile but needs quite a climb to reach the higher ground. Jerusalem airport (LLJR) is quite small compared to Ben Gurion further west but you can choose to land here. As I had no wheels I just did an overfly (picture above, right).

    Heading east back to the valley will take you down over Jericho and to the north shore of the Dead Sea. If you descend low enough you may see the altimeter registering zero feet (or less!) while still airborne and if so, the radio-altimeter should show a comforting gap between you and the valley floor below.

    Landing a flying boat on the Dead Sea (picture below, left) from the northern shore is straightforward and here ends the first phase of the flight. The Dead Sea has no water exit south, but the valley does continue down to the coast at the Gulf of Aquaba and the resort of Eilat. I changed planes to a Catalina amphibian (picture below, right) and left the Dead Sea climbing slowly since the land rises through the mountains. There is no river to follow but there are roads going south to Eilat and as dusk approached in my flight, I used them as a means of navigation.

           

    There are a several airports available in this section compared to the trip down the Jordan, four in the valley itself and about five more in the hills flanking it. You can see these in the FS2004 map and while most of them are small, you can probably do a touch-and-go if you wish.

    Approaching Eilat from the north is not the FS2004 preferred route as there is no ILS and only a PAPI 2 light system but the ATC will let you do it. Note that it's easy to be confused by Aqaba International airport which is a little larger and precedes Eilat by a few miles and to the left. My night-time approach was a challenge as I knew there was higher ground to the west, but all was well as I touched down on the 1,903m runway.

    The Eilat scenery has a good set of night textures but looks even better in the day, having a slight resemblance in style to Las Vegas.

    So that was it, my first FS2004 River Cruise, but as I sat on the apron at Eilat a thought grew. In a fast jet, the river Nile isn't really far away - now there's a river to follow...

    Happy flying!

    Derek Swanson
    [email protected]