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Thread: There's still snow in the MSFS Rockies

  1. #1
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    Default There's still snow in the MSFS Rockies

    Flew from Montrose, Colo. Regional Airport (KMTJ) to Telluride (KTEX) this afternoon in the Beech Bonanza. On the World map, I chose a VOR-to-VOR flight plan from Montrose to RWY 9 at KTEX. I was gonna fly the whole way "by hand," cruising at 12,000 ft., but the Bonanza was getting bumped around pretty fiercely by updrafts and such in live weather over the mountains, so I gave in and engaged the autopilot for a while and just enjoyed the cyber-view. There was still a fair amount of snow cover on the ground--which I think was pretty accurate, because it correlated with what I actually saw flying over the Rockies from Chicago a couple of weeks ago. I took back the controls from the autopilot sooner than I'd anticipated when the Bonanza began to stray from the course programmed for it in the Garmin. When I had the runway in distant sight, and per the approach plate that I'd downloaded in advance of the flight, I began my descent from 12,000 ft. to RWY 9 at 9,078 ft. KTEX sits on a mesa west of the town of Telluride, which is about 350 feet lower than the airport, at end of a box canyon. I chose to land on RWY 9 because it offers a straight-in approach from the west, as opposed to landing from the opposite direction, which would've required some potentially steep banking and maneuvering in the face of the surrounding mountain peaks. Approaching from the west has its own challenges, as the mesa drops off abruptly before the beginning of the runway (that being the nature of these beasts), and there's no ground below you to provide some needed contextual perspective on final approach. Inevitably, I was high enough on final to trigger a warning from MSFS to go around. Instead, I said "nuts" to that. Retracting my flaps momentarily, I quickly shed enough altitude to make a landing plausible. I put in flaps again to slow down, and throttling back (and up again as needed to stay above stall speed), set the Bonanza down pretty nicely--for me, anyway--with a lot of runway to spare. Interesting runway by the way. It's concave.
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    Yes, there is still snow in the Rockies. In fact, they're predicting more snow in the next few days. It's often mid June or later before most of the snow is gone from the mountains, and some may remain into July or early August. We sometimes even have snow in may here in the Denver area. When I lived in Albuquerque, one year we got 8 inches of snow on May 8th, so out here that's considered normal, though it's not frequent this time of year.

    and there's no ground below you to provide some needed contextual perspective on final approach.
    Actually, it is quite possible to judge final very accurately there. As you are on final at a steady airspeed, note what spot in the windshield is not moving either up or down in the windshield. That is the spot that, if you take no further action, you will plow into the ground. So if you adjust your descent rate to make that spot become the numbers on the runway, and if your approach speed is proper, then as you flare (including pulling power back to idle) you'll go a little past that spot and land a bit down the runway.

    The above works for anywhere that you can see the runway and you are in a steady state, that is, a constant airspeed and descent rate in landing configuration.
    Last edited by lnuss; 05-07-2021 at 09:34 PM.

    Larry N.

    As Skylab would say:
    Remember: Aviation is NOT an exact Science!

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    Quote Originally Posted by lnuss View Post
    Yes, there is still snow in the Rockies. In fact, they're predicting more snow in the next few days. It's often mid June or later before most of the snow is gone from the mountains, and some may remain into July or early August. We sometimes even have snow in may here in the Denver area. When I lived in Albuquerque, one year we got 8 inches of snow on May 8th, so out here that's considered normal, though it's not frequent this time of year.


    Actually, it is quite possible to judge final very accurately there. As you are on final at a steady airspeed, note what spot in the windshield is not moving either up or down in the windshield. That is the spot that, if you take no further action, you will plow into the ground. So if you adjust your descent rate to make that spot become the numbers on the runway, and if your approach speed is proper, then as you flare (including pulling power back to idle) you'll go a little past that spot and land a bit down the runway.

    The above works for anywhere that you can see the runway and you are in a steady state, that is, a constant airspeed and descent rate in landing configuration.
    Interesting. I take it from the photo that you are an actual pilot. When I'm "landing," I focus on the numbers first, and then as I get closer, raise the nose to aim at points progressively farther down the runway so that as I'm leveling out as I descend, until I flare. I don't know about finding a spot that isn't moving in the "windshield," since it's hard to discern a windshield in the sim. But maybe we're talking about the same thing? Anyway, find it easier to judge my descent in relation to the end of the runway when there's some intervening ground the same level as the runway. Anyway, I've come to the conclusion that where landing in MSFS is concerned, it's more of an art form than a science.

    As for late snow in mountains, I'm very familiar with that, having skied for many years throughout California and points north and west. I skied at Telluride once. Great place; and I loved the run down into the town.
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    I don't know about finding a spot that isn't moving in the "windshield," since it's hard to discern a windshield in the sim.
    Perhaps I need to state it differently. You can see the ground, and you can see where the windshield is, whether you can see the actual glass, but somewhere on the ground ahead of you is a spot on the ground that stays in the same relationship of its windshield position, that is, not moving up towards the ceiling of the aircraft nor down towards the panel. Perhaps think of it as the spot that stays the same distance above the panel.

    If you can't find that spot, perhaps you're not holding a steady glide angle and airspeed, in which case it would be beneficial to practice getting the aircraft stabilized. Landings are definitely easier from a stabilized approach, whether real life or sim.

    Of course it's easier in person to show this, but I've never had a student who had trouble finding that spot once the approach was stabilized.

    Larry N.

    As Skylab would say:
    Remember: Aviation is NOT an exact Science!

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    Quote Originally Posted by lnuss View Post
    Perhaps I need to state it differently. You can see the ground, and you can see where the windshield is, whether you can see the actual glass, but somewhere on the ground ahead of you is a spot on the ground that stays in the same relationship of its windshield position, that is, not moving up towards the ceiling of the aircraft nor down towards the panel. Perhaps think of it as the spot that stays the same distance above the panel.

    If you can't find that spot, perhaps you're not holding a steady glide angle and airspeed, in which case it would be beneficial to practice getting the aircraft stabilized. Landings are definitely easier from a stabilized approach, whether real life or sim.

    Of course it's easier in person to show this, but I've never had a student who had trouble finding that spot once the approach was stabilized.
    I’ve definitely not been holding a steady angle and airspeed, except when I’ve “cheated” with mostly auto-pilot-controlled ILS approaches. Figuring out how to establish both without that crutch has eluded me to date. I’m hoping that maybe I’ll have a eureka! moment when I get to the part about gliding in “Stick and Rudder.” (I just got to the chapter on level flight yesterday. But I figured that out a while ago.) In the meantime, I bumble along to mostly successful, if less than elegant, landings with continuous adjustments, while flying lots of landing patterns at KWVI, our local airport at Watsonville, Calif. and short flights to nearby Monterey. In MSFS only, of course.


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    One summer I was fishing out west of Laramie, Wyoming, in the middle of July. I was on a small glacial lake in The Snowy Range. About 10:00 that morning it began to snow heavily. It only lasted about 15 minutes. I have been in a 5-6 inch snowfall in Estes Park, Colorado, in the first week of June.
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    I’ve definitely not been holding a steady angle and airspeed, except when I’ve “cheated” with mostly auto-pilot-controlled ILS approaches. Figuring out how to establish both without that crutch has eluded me to date. I’m hoping that maybe I’ll have a eureka! moment when I get to the part about gliding in “Stick and Rudder.”
    Stick and rudder is an excellent resource, though a few things in it are better understood if you are flying a real aircraft at least occasionally, things such as "buoyancy."

    But you'll definitely find your flying, especially landings, improve quite a bit once you can hold the aircraft in a steady state. That's among the first things we do with student pilots. So let me suggest some exercises, preferably in a Cessna or Piper single, to help you with the four fundamentals of flight, starting with a low cruise power setting, perhaps 2300 RPM or so:

    1. Learn to fly straight and level, mostly hands off, holding altitude within 100 ft and heading within 10º (preferably even tighter tolerances, and those variations that far should be rare), using trim to take pressure off of the stick/yoke after establishing the aircraft attitude. Hopefully you have trim assigned to an axis, or to a pair of buttons next to each other than are set to repeat. Keep looking out the window except for an occasional brief glance at one gauge or another -- one at a time, and only a glance. Learn what a desired attitude looks like out the window, learning reference points for aircraft parts/markings against the horizon. Keep wings level, also, visually.

    2. Learn to turn left and right, keeping coordinated (ball centered, really awkward in the sim), starting with medium bank angles, 20º or so. While looking out the window, apply aileron and rudder together, also adding some back pressure to keep the nose from dropping, learning to vary the amount of rudder with the amount of aileron, learning the "sight picture" out the windshield and what part of the panel slices through the horizon in the left turn. Assuming you're in a side-by-side aircraft, the picture will look a lot different in a right turn, but the same principal applies. Turn left 90º, go straight for a little bit, then turn right 90º and go straight for a little bit, the repeat until you are fairly comfortable (doesn't quite have to be perfect).

    3. Learn climbs and descents, perhaps at 500 fpm or so, depending on the aircraft. Go to full power and add back pressure (looking out the windshield) until the nose is a bit above the horizon, then add nose-up trim until the pressure is removed from your stick/yoke. Continue making small adjustments and adjust the pitch attitude (still looking out the window) to get best climb speed (perhaps 70-80 kts, depending on the aircraft), then continue to make very small adjustments to hold that pitch attitude. Continue the climb until you are stabilized, but climb for at least 500 ft, more if needed.

    Level off by adding forward pressure (when about 50 ft or so from the desired altitude) to the stick/yoke 'til getting the nose back down to the level pitch attitude you learned in 1) above, reducing the power to your previous setting as your airspeed returns to that you had in 1) above. Fly straight for a short time.

    Then reduce power by a few hundred RPM, perhaps 1900-2000 RPM, and establish a constant rate descent of about 500 fpm while holding your cruise speed established in 1) above. Make small corrections (perhaps small power changes, if needed) to establish your descent rate and maintain the desired airspeed.

    Level off by adding back pressure (when about 50 ft or so from the desired altitude) to the stick/yoke 'til getting the nose back up to the level pitch attitude you learned in 1) above, increasing the power to your previous setting as your airspeed returns to that you had in 1) above. Fly straight for a short time.

    4. Once you're comfortable with the above, it's time to combine climbs and descents with left and right turns. So you'd start a left turn and start climbing at the same time, then after 500 ft of climb and 90º or so of turn level off while stopping the turn. Do the same for left and right turns with descents.

    Once you have the above, slow to your normal approach speed (maybe 70 kts, depending on the aircraft) and go through the above 4 pieces again. Maybe try it again at 60 kts. Notice how much less responsive the controls are at slower airspeeds? These maneuvers can be a bit more difficult at slower speeds.

    And speaking of speeds, you'll need to learn to do all the above while changing airspeeds, say from 70 kts to 100 kts, then do it again while changing from 100 kts to 70 kts. Then you'll want to learn to hold a constant airspeed and altitude while adding flaps, and again while retracting the flaps (one notch at a time to start), being sure that your airspeed is in the white arc (flap operating range).

    Some of the above we do in a bit more combination after some practice, so it's not quite as much time as it sounds. Generally A student can do all this within the first 2-5 hours, depending on the student (perhaps not perfectly, but certainly with the tolerances that I list above).

    Note that most any maneuver an aircraft can make uses some combination of the above 4 fundamentals.

    Now it's time to go to ground reference maneuvers (S-turns across a road, turns about a point, etc.), but for that I'll refer you to the FAA's Airplane Flying Handbook found on this page: https://www.faa.gov/regulations_poli...uals/aviation/

    After ground reference maneuvers is when we start practicing traffic patterns and takeoffs and landings. See the FAA book on some of that, too.

    Luck...

    Larry N.

    As Skylab would say:
    Remember: Aviation is NOT an exact Science!

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    Quote Originally Posted by lnuss View Post
    Stick and rudder is an excellent resource, though a few things in it are better understood if you are flying a real aircraft at least occasionally, things such as "buoyancy."
    Wow! Thanks for devoting so much time to me. I've printed your tips for reference. I will go back to the Cessna 152 and spend more time on those "basics." I did another couple of practice landings in the Beech G36 at KWVI (Watsonville) this morning. The first time, I landed long. The second time, I focused my attention on a runway marker short of the first exit and, keeping that visual cue just above the instrument console as I descended (while cutting the throttle and so forth), managed a smoother, shorter touchdown.

    I used to think about taking flying lessons in my younger, less risk-averse days (I'm 76 this month). But I backed off of that thought when I realized there's nowhere to easily pull over if/when you get in trouble. I've been a skier and a diver over the years, both risky pastimes. But piloting a real plane involves a higher level of risk (pun intended) than I'd trust myself with. That said, I may at some point drive the eight miles to our real airport at Watsonville and sign up for an "introductory" flight lesson, just to get a real feel for what it's really like to fly and land a small plane.

    I fooled around with earlier versions of MSFS decades ago--mostly taking off from Chicago's Meigs Field (now gone; it was fun to see planes land there when I was a kid) and flying the Cessna 152 to RWY 31 L or R at O'Hare, but I never got serious about it. I think the last version I messed around with was MSFS '95. I'm more serous about it this time around, indulging my Mittyesque fantasies about flying, while actually learning something about general aviation. At a minimum, if I ever find myself in the co-pilot's seat of a small plane (unlikely) with an unconscious pilot, I might know how to land the damned thing and walk away from it.
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    But I backed off of that thought when I realized there's nowhere to easily pull over if/when you get in trouble.
    Interestingly enough, forced landings and other emergency procedures are part of the training for a Private Pilot certificate. Such problems are rare, and usually (not quite always) the fault of the pilot making bad judgements, such as taking off into weather he's not trained for and/or with equipment inadequate for the job.

    However I'd strongly encourage you to get that introductory flight, which may improve your ability to immerse yourself in the sim realistically, and certainly will give you a better idea of what Wolfgang is talking about in Stick and Rudder.

    Enjoy...

    Larry N.

    As Skylab would say:
    Remember: Aviation is NOT an exact Science!

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    Quote Originally Posted by lnuss View Post
    Interestingly enough, forced landings and other emergency procedures are part of the training for a Private Pilot certificate. Such problems are rare, and usually (not quite always) the fault of the pilot making bad judgements, such as taking off into weather he's not trained for and/or with equipment inadequate for the job.

    However I'd strongly encourage you to get that introductory flight, which may improve your ability to immerse yourself in the sim realistically, and certainly will give you a better idea of what Wolfgang is talking about in Stick and Rudder.

    Enjoy...
    Thanks much. I just took the C 152 "up" for pattern practice at KWVI. I noticed that the ball doesn't move when I turn without rudder, though I can certainly make it move if I use the rudder. There doesn't seem to be any of the yaw that Wolfgang talks about in MSFS. I double-checked my assistance settings, and the only auto rudder setting is for taxiing. I'd long ago turned that off. In any case, I'm confused about how to use the rudder to counteract yaw if I ever experience it in the sim. Am I correct that if I turn left for example, I should put in some right rudder (top rudder?) to keep the plane from yawing, and vice versa? Or is it left turn/left rudder? It seems the latter would put me into a spin.

    I did notice a lot more drifting in the slower C 152 than I've noticed (i.e, none) in the faster Beech G36.

    I'm working on assimilating Wolfgang's teaching about gliding. As for landing, I think I get what you were saying. On my final final, I focused on keeping the first runway marker after the numbers in the center of my windscreen, which worked out really well; nice smooth, satisfying touchdown.

    As for taking off into the wrong weather, we had a terrible incident at Watsonville some years ago. A guy I knew--the owner of a local dive shop where I'd enrolled for a couple of advanced dive courses--took off with his wife and two little boys on board. He flew into a low-hanging cloud or fog bank, became disoriented and crashed, just missing a nearby hospital. Everyone on the plane was killed. I think they were headed for some airfield in California's "Gold Country." I don't know now long he'd been flying, but he most certainly wasn't instrument rated. I think he and his family got off to a later start than he'd intended. It was one of those situations where the pilot was trying to force a schedule despite local weather conditions.
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