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A Ridiculously Ambitious Trip Around the World

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(Originally posted 11/24/13)




Taking off from Paris, we first have to reach the Gates of Africa, our first continent to visit : the Strait of Gibraltar. As a warm-up before the real stuff begins, we are heading to southern France and Spain. Though short, the prologue already features places to be seen : the Pyrenees and the Rock of Gibraltar.


Some statistics :

  • Number of legs : 10
  • Total distance : 1,121.7 NM
  • Shortest leg : Córdoba to Sevilla – 55.8 NM
  • Longest leg : Madrid to Córdoba – 170.0 NM





Leg 1

Depart: Paris-Le Bourget (LFPB)

Arrive: Bourges (LFLD)

Aircraft: Beechcraft Baron B58 (Carenado) *


Flight Plan: LFPB PTV LFLD

Distance: 115.2 nm



The first leg of the Tour is a short jaunt from Paris-Le Bourget to Bourges, a town some hundred miles to the south. I've added in the VOR at Pithiviers as a handy navigation aid--nothing too complicated to begin my long journey.


(Remember: you can always right-click on an image and select "View Image" to see it in greater detail.)




It's bright and early* at Le Bourget: I begin preparations as the sun is beginning to peek over Musée de l'air et de l'espace in the background.


* I accidentally forgot to sync the date, which defaults to June, for this flight; sunrise was about 8:15 am in Paris today, so my 6 am flight should have been in the dark!




Since it's a cold morning (about 7 C), I give the engines plenty of time to warm up before we get going. There's a 4-6 kt wind blowing out of the north and I'm instructed to take-off from runway 030.




And we're away! So begins The Big Tour! The northern wind picks up as we climb and we're blown slightly off course.




I turn south as we continue to climb to 10,000 ft, trying to get above the cloud cover. The trip south takes us right over Paris, making for some great views of the historic districts and landmarks.




After tuning the nav radio to PTV, we intercept our radial to Pithiviers and begin to leave lovely Paris beneath the clouds.




I'd forgotten that the Baron can really book it in cruise! It's not long before we have to begin our descent into Bourges. As we slip beneath the cloud cover again, we're treated to a nice view of the French countryside.




We enter the circuit around Bourges and approach from the south-west for runway 060 on account of that brisk northern wind. It's a bit gusty now, but nothing that can't be managed.




And touchdown! The first leg of The Big Tour is complete! All-in-all, a simple, enjoyable flight and a great start to our quest. Feels good to be simming again!





Next Leg: Bourges (LFLD) to Clermont-Ferrand/Auvergne (LFLC)


Leg 21

Depart: Houari Boumediene Airport, Algiers, Algeria (DAAG)

Arrive: Mostépha Ben Boulaid Airport, Batna, Algeria (DABT)

Aircraft: Douglas DC-3 (Leading Edge Simulations / X-Aviation)



Distance: 163.0 nm



I've been keeping myself on the ground for a few days, waiting to see whether the winds coming off the Mediterranean would calm and hopefully make things a little easier for me. It seems, however, that I'll have no such luck. And as great a city as Algiers is, I'm getting antsy being stuck on one place. Adventure awaits!


Time to press on to Batna, a city to the southeast which lies roughly on the geological border between the Tell Atlas and Aurès mountain ranges. We should be in for some more stunning views of the landscape as we pass over head.




After my engine troubles at Oujda, I've been eager to get the DC-3 back in the air, so we'll be making the one-hundred-sixty-odd mile trip in this lovely plane. The DC-3 is quickly becoming one of my favorite payware planes available for X-Plane: it's a lot of fun to fly and very hands-on, beautifully modeled and textured inside and out, tough, fast, and just exudes that classy, old-school vibe. I highly recommend it to anyone who happens to be a fan of vintage aircraft.


The big radial engines roar to life on the apron. No more problems there, it seems, but I carefully double check all the gauges and levers lest we lose an engine on takeoff this time. I taxi her out to runway 27 and steadily open the throttles. There's a crosswind incoming from the northwest that gives me heck on the takeoff roll (though X-Plane's exaggerated weathervane effect isn't doing me any favors), but I manage to keep the plane on the runway and lift off into the air.


After retracting the gear and picking up some speed, I climb toward the northwest and begin to turn back around toward the airfield. Beneath us pass the city of Algiers, the old citadel, the Bay of Algiers, and the airport again. The engines chug along as we leave Algiers the White beneath the clouds.




We settle into a cruise of 11,000 ft and I take especial care to treat the engines kindly by adjusting the throttle, prop, and mixture handles for an economical flight. Once I've finished squinting at gauges I can sit back and take in the sights. Below us is the stunning Djurdjura Range of the Tell Atlas. Seems like a nice place to do some hiking; evidently there's also skiing in the winter. Snow skiing in Africa--those are two things I'd never put together in my mind before!




From time to time the cloud cover obscures my view of the world below, but wherever there's a break in clouds there's a sweeping panorama of the Tell Atlas to be had.


(The eagle-eyed among you may notice a difference in the clouds and atmospheric effects in these screenshots compared to my previous flights. A few weeks ago, the developers of EFASS introduced UltraWX implementation into their program. UltraWX is a highly configurable real-world weather injector and so in a lot of way a big "first" for X-Plane. Since I mainly use EFASS for planning and monitoring my progress on airline flights, I haven't really touched it in a while, but decided to give it a go to test drive UltraWX.)




Batna sits at about 2,700 feet above sea level so we've got a significantly shorter way to descend than we had to climb. Looks like the airfield is reporting-- wait a minute, that can't be right! 41 kt winds?! (Let's just chalk this up to a bug in UltraWX, shall we?) I consider diverting or even returning to Algiers; however, I notice that the wind doesn't seem to be gusting and that it's coming out of the southwest. Against my better judgement, I decide to attempt a landing on runway 23.




Matters are made worse by the clouds near the ground. Let's play "Spot the Runway"--it's there somewhere!




The runway becomes clear as I get closer. Even though the winds are strong they seem steady, so I decide to go for it. I pass over the threshold in what feels like slow motion and touchdown daintily with the two fore gear. The aircraft rolls forward a short distance, the tailwheel comes down, and we slow to a stop. Success! Welcome to Batna!




(Here's a close up of the main instrument panel just after the aircraft came to a stop on the runway; just under 40 kts IAS. Wow!)




Next leg: Mostépha Ben Boulaid Airport, Batna, Algeria (DABT) to Cheikh Larbi Tébessa Airport, Tébessa, Algeria (DABS)


The Big Tour




A Ridiculously Ambitious Trip Around the World

Flight Plan by Lew Doh at X-Plane.org

Welcome one and all to my AVSIM blog, The Big Tour! I've been on a months' long hiatus from flight simming owing to some recent professional and educational changes that have kept me from the hobby. However, what with my schedule settling down and the recent release of updated versions of X-Plane, now's a great time to get back into flying!


Rather than fly about aimlessly, I've chosen to follow Lew Doh's "The Big Tour," a massive, meandering flight plan that circumnavigates the globe in over 700 individual legs and over 100,000 nautical miles. The reasons for this decision are as follows. First, it's absolutely insane. With a distance nearly five times the circumference of the earth to be covered, I would have to be crazy to even attempt it. For some reason, this appeals to me. Perhaps that makes me crazy? Second, the individual legs are bite-sized bits of the whole, colossal pie; Lew Doh has done his best to make sure each leg falls within the 1-2 hour range, meaning that I won't have to dedicate 6-plus hours at a time to fly a North Atlantic track. The brevity of the individual flights is definitely an advantage considering my hectic schedule these days. Third, the flight plan is very well structured and organized, allowing me to set aside the project should I need to and then easily return to it later. Fourth, in keeping with the intended spirit, the Tour will provide me the opportunity to fly a variety of different aircraft and use a variety of techniques to navigate unfamiliar terrain. Practice makes perfect! Lastly, I've always been interested in geography, so this will be a great chance to learn and share what I can about the places I'm flying over.


I originally shared the first eleven legs of this blog elsewhere, but I have since decided that my journey would perhaps better suit the AVSIM community, and that the new blog system here would make organizing content much easier than a simple message board thread. There may be very little "action" in the bomb-dropping, missile-launching, SAM-dodging sense; however, I do have a mission--to circumnavigate the earth--that I'd like to document and share with the fine simmers here. But that's not to say that this journey will be dull! Following the flight plan will take us to some of the most scenic and dangerous airports on the planet; hopefully I can keep things interesting and return home in one piece too!








"The Big Tour" comes with a number of .PDFs providing all the basic airport and navigation information necessary for the voyage. Among the files is an introductory document by the author, outlining the Tour's scope and historical context. I have included his remarks below for those interested.



Introduction to the Tour



There are so many ways to take advantage of the capabilities of a flight simulator like X-Plane that everybody has his or her own 'philosophy' about it : leisurely flying with some general aviation aircraft above one's own favourite region or a beautiful landscape, carefully planning and carrying out a commercial flight from a busy international airport to another one, enjoying an adrenaline-rich jet fighter mission (perhaps including a flight deck and some arrestor cables), mastering those rotorcrafts, tuning the piston engines of an old WW II bomber while dead reckoning, flying together with others over the network… whatever floats your boat.

Here's still another (it's one of mine, as you rightfully guessed) :


1. X-Plane comes with gigabytes and gigabytes of terrain data for the whole Earth to be flown over, and thousands of airports to go to. It would be such a pity not to try to make the most of it !


2. Also, X-Plane comes with lots of planes, and the community that has grown around X-Plane has produced many other great aircrafts and add-ons of all kinds : again, not to put them to use would be a shame...


3. Piloting a wide variety of birds in lots of places would better fit into a common framework or some long-term, wider purpose.


Obviously, a world tour comes to mind.


Such a world tour is by no means incompatible with the 'philosophies' as stated above : spectacular landscapes abound, careful flight planning and following procedures add to the challenge, the right choice of the right aircraft with the right conditions provides the right level of adrenaline, giving up some modern navigation technologies makes it even better and cruising with one or more partners takes it to the nth power. It's all yours !


Thus, this world tour has only one purpose : to suggest you to go from point A to point B, then to point C, etc..., until you're back to point A – you decide before each leg what to make of it. Take your time : there are 704 of them..., yes : seven hundred and four... and 100,000 NM to fly..., yes : one hundred thousand nautical miles. Admittedly, there was another purpose : to design one of the most ambitious tour ever for X-Plane !



Such a tour could, of course, be devised from scratch – with the risk of some personal bias. Some preliminary canvas was to be preferred.


Oddly, that canvas I found in an old collection of french books (published around 1930) titled “L'Oiseau de France – Voyage d'une famille française autour du globe”, by R.A. Hédoin (“The Bird of France – Travel of a french family around the globe”). As the title implies, a french family (presumably wealthy !) hires a plane to make a year-long travel around the five continents. These books, today deliciously outdated, were clearly written as a pedagogic tool for the young boys and girls of France of that time, to teach them geography and give them an idea of the place of their country (and its colonies) in the world – with some self-esteem, but no arrogance... . These books remain a pleasure to read.


This choice as a canvas was factually motivated by the incredible coverage of the world the itinerary of the Oiseau de France provided from the outset, and was technically exciting – and challenging – from a 'translation' point of view into basic flight plans for flight simulation. More subjectively, the reenactement of these 'flight plans' of the thirties, for a simulation tool that was not even dreamt of by that time, added to the charm. Each of the five books of this collection covers a continent : Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Americas and Europe. Per the book, the travel begins at Le Bourget, the historical airport of Paris...

So, as you can see, this is a massive undertaking. I'm not sure when--or even if--I'll finish, but let no one say that I didn't try! Time to spool up the engines and embark on The Big Tour!








Standing Add-ons:

Payware add-ons are marked with an asterisk ("*"); unmarked add-ons are freeware.


(Originally posted 11/23/13)


Leg 2

Depart: Bourges (LFLD)

Arrive: Clermont-Ferrand/Auvergne (LFLC)

Aircraft: Beechcraft Baron B58 (Carenado) *


Flight Plan: LFLD CFA LFLC

Distance: 85 nm


Scenery: Default


Our second leg is even shorter than the first, but we can't let our guard down: our destination, Clermont-Ferrand, lies in a valley to the east of the Chaîne des Puys, a chain of steep volcanic hills that dominates the landscape. Since the winds are coming out of the north-east, we'll have to negotiate an approach from the west, directly over the hills, and descend into the valley.




Undaunted, we take off into the cold wind in our trusty Baron.




Clouds and rain are the forecast for the day; our view of the countryside will be, for the most part, obscured during our flight south.




Every now and again we catch sight of the Auvergne region below.




As we begin our descent, the ground comes up to meet us. Hopefully there aren't any sudden rises lurking in the low-lying clouds!




The clouds part just in time and I turn on to final approach with the runway unobscured. A gentle touchdown and we've safely arrived in Clermont-Ferrand. Leg two in the books!




Next leg: Clermont-Ferrand/Auvergne (LFLC) to Toulouse-Blagnac (LFBO)


(Originally posted 11/25/13)


Leg 3

Depart: Clermont-Ferrand/Auvergne (LFLC)

Arrive: Toulouse-Blagnac (LFBO)

Aircraft: Beechcraft Baron B58 (Carenado) *



Distance: 168 nm


Scenery: Toulouse Overlay 2.1


One final leg for tonight, and the last one for now with the good ol' Baron. This particular flight caused me some trouble not because of the actual flying, but some hiccups with a couple of add-ons. Nevertheless, we made it down without a scratch.


After departing Clermont-Ferrand, I thought it would be a good idea to head due south to see if we could get a scenic view of the Chaîne des Puys by flying down their length. From Mende we'd turn south-west for Gaillac before landing in Toulouse.




It's still very cloudy over Clermont-Ferrand, but we take-off without a hitch. I'm certainly going to miss the Baron's climb rate when I fly in less powerful aircraft.




Once I had finished leaning and configuring the aircraft for cruise, I looked out the window to find that the clouds had thinned as we flew south.




As we pressed on toward Mende, the landscape became steadily more rugged and dramatic.




Just taking a load off in the back seat. Don't worry: the co-pilot can handle things up front for now. (I should really come up with a name for that guy.)




Things are pretty uneventful between Mende and Gaillac and it's not long before we descend into Toulouse. The clouds are back and there's a pretty big system blowing in; still, we're able to catch a glimpse of the city's historic center.




The landing is a bit bumpy, but no major problems and we've beaten the rain. Since Toulouse-Blagnac is home to Airbus' assembly plant, it's only fitting that we get a good look at the ungainly Beluga.




Next leg: Toulouse-Blagnac (LFBO) to Pamplona (LEPP)


(Originally posted 11/25/13)


Leg 4

Depart: Toulouse-Blagnac (LFBO)

Arrive: Pamplona (LEPP)

Aircraft: Cessna 208B Grand Caravan (Carenado) *



Distance: 206.9 nm



Following Beach's suggestion, I gorged myself on copious amounts of free cookies and popcorn, but the resulting food-coma delayed my start until about 3:30 pm the next day. I suppose it's good that I planned my general route the night before.


After departing LFBO via runway 32R, we'll turn south-west toward Tarbes and gradually climb to 12,000 ft. From there, rather than take a direct route to Pamplona, we'll turn further south and overfly the higher peaks of the Pyrenees, a detour which will hopefully make for some dramatic panoramas. Once we're over the foothills on the Spanish side, we'll intercept our radial from Huesca and head north-east to our destination, Pamplona.




The aircraft of choice for today is the C208B. It's big, ugly, and slow, but, boy, is it rugged. Hopefully the Grand Caravan can take whatever we throw at it. Apropos our first international flight, I've opted for a French-registered livery which boasts: "Aviation Sans Frontières." These are the colors of an actual, Paris-based NGO that provides air services for humanitarian missions the world over. Hats off to them!




Before long, our turbine has spooled up and we're holding short of runway 32R as we make our final preparations for departure.




Give it a little juice and we're off! With 10 degrees of flaps, the C208B shows off its STOL capabilities, requiring only a few hundred feet of runway before it flies itself off the ground.




As I predicted, I'm already missing the Baron's climbing capabilities. The Cessna houses a capable turbine engine, but its got to pull a heavy load. The climb to 12,000 ft. is a gradual one and as the air becomes thinner I need to decrease the vertical speed to stay aloft.




As we overfly Tarbes and turn south, the mighty Pyrenees loom out of the mist.




As corsaire had advised, much of the mountains are wrapped in a thick layer of cloud, making it difficult to observe the geography. Passing peak after peak, we finally cross the alpine border and enter Spanish airspace.




Adieu, France!




The Spanish side of the Pyrenees are even foggier. Not much to see but clouds and sky as we make our way toward Pamplona.




Once again, we've got to negotiate a tricky approach. There's a stiff wind blowing out of the north so we must approach LEPP from the hills that lie south-east of the city. The descent is rather steep.




As I fly into the valley on final approach, the wind picks up and buffets the plane violently back and forth. I immediately think to myself that I should have paid closer attention to the weather reports. Each boreal blast shifts the plane off course and creates a sudden increase in lift under the Cessna's billboard-like wings; it's impossible to establish a proper glide-slope, let alone even keep the plane pointed in the direction of the runway! Up and down, back and forth--we're at the mercy of the icy, northern wind. Any moment now a massive gust is going to send us into a stall and we'll end up a smoking crater in the foothills of Spain.




We cross the runway threshold, still struggling against the wind. It relents for a moment and the plane veers to the right. But just as suddenly it's back with another powerful, northern gust that takes us over the left edge of the runway. As I bring us back on course and hope for a gentle crash into the asphalt, another gust hits us head on and lifts the plane back into the air. I ease off the power and decide to ride it out, hoping for the best...


Touchdown! It's a bumpy landing, sure, but we've survived. Just look at that flight path!




I wheel the plane around and head for the terminal. Even on the ground the wind is trying to have its way with us. I've got to fight the plane's tendency to fishtail the entire way to the parking area.




Parking brakes set and power down. I think I'll definitely wait for the winds to calm before heading back out again. Such a harrowing experience so early on can't bode well for the remainder of the Tour; but we're safe for now and we can enjoy a beautiful afternoon in Pamplona.




After the fact I review the weather at LEPP. Turns out there is a wind advisory for the area, with gusts as powerful as 30 kts from the north. Lesson learned: pay attention to those weather reports!




Next leg: Pamplona (LEPP) to Zaragoza Air Base (LEZG)


(Originally posted 11/26/13)


Leg 5

Depart: Pamplona (LEPP)

Arrive: Zaragoza Air Base (LEZG)

Aircraft: Stampe et Vertongen SV.4C (XPFR)


Flight Plan: LEPP LEZG

Distance: 71.5 nm



The gusting has abated at Pamplona so now's as good a time as any to take to the skies and make our way further south! It'll be a short flight today and we'll be going direct from Pamplona to Zaragoza. That's the plan anyway.




Since we don't have to cover too much distance, I'm trading in all the bells and whistles of the Baron and the Grand Caravan for something a bit more old school. Today's aircraft is the Stampe et Vertongen SV.4C, a Belgian two-seater that served as a military trainer during the 1930s and -40s. A number of SV.4Cs still ply the skies of Europe today. My SV.4C is fitted with only a simple compass for navigation--that and my own two eyeballs.


(Note: I've tweaked the .acf file to the real plane's published specifications; as-is, the aircraft is far too heavy to even get off the ground, let alone cruise with a full tank of gas and two pilots on board.)




My co-pilot didn't want to get up for an early morning flight, so looks like he'll be driving to Zaragoza. I fire up the engine and head to the runway. The north winds are still pretty brisk so keeping that free-castoring tailwheel in check is even more challenging; however, once we line up and give her some gas we're in the air in no time!




I turn due east and climb to about 4,000 ft., hoping to take in the last sights of the Pyrenees while I can. Before long I spot my first landmark below: a small general aviation airfield at Lumbier. This is my indication that it's time to start turning south.




On the ridge a few miles south of Lumbier stands a row of wind turbines. The friendly giants wave as I pass overhead.




Further south I spot another rustic airfield, this one at the small town of Sangüesa.




Such a sleepy village. Seems like they could use a little excitement! Ignoring that niggling, cautionary voice in my head, I decide to buzz the tower.








With that, I pass out of Navarra and into the fields of Aragón. I cruise south-east at the SV.C4's top speed of about 190 km/h (just over 100 kts), enjoying the sunny skies. As I pass over the Gállego, I turn due south; following the river will take me directly to Zaragoza.




Sure enough: there's Zaragoza, situated at the confluence of the Gállego and the mighty Erbo. As I draw nearer I descend and skirt the city's south-eastern perimeter.




Zaragoza Air Base lies due west of the city. I line up for landing on runway 30R and take full advantage of the headwind--the plane practically flies itself onto the runway!




Leg 5 is in the books and the Stampe has proven itself to be a capable little aircraft; I expect I'll be taking it up again soon! Now to wait for my lazy co-pilot to show up by car.


Next leg: Zaragoza Air Base (LEZG) to Madrid Barajas (LEMD)


(Originally posted 11/27/13)


Leg 6

Depart: Zaragoza Air Base (LEZG)

Arrive: Madrid Barajas (LEMD)

Aircraft: Beechcraft King Air C90B (Carenado) *


Flight Plan: LEZG BAN LEMD

Distance: 140.8 nm


Scenery: Default (Aerosoft LEMD)


Once my sleepyhead co-pilot has decided to rejoin me in Zaragoza, I make our preparations for the next leg of the Tour. Leg 6 will take us over the Meseta Central and into the heart of Spain. Departing from Zaragoza, we'll fly east-south-east toward the VOR/DME at Barahona before turning further south toward Madrid, the capital of Spain and her largest city.




The Spanish Air Force operates four C90s for utility and transport purposes, so it is fitting that we fly one out of Zaragoza Air Base. Looks like we'll be taking some SPAF bigwigs down to a meeting in the capital.


Also, I'm a sucker for twin-turboprops.




With two powerful 550 shp turbine engines mounted on the wings, the King Air makes short work of the climb to 10,000 ft. I configure the aircraft for cruising at about 200 kts. It's going to be a quick trip!


Below us the rugged terrain of the Meseta Central zips by.




Since LEMD is a big international airport, we need to follow the published patterns for a smooth arrival. I select a VOR/DME approach for runway 18L and begin the preparations for landing after passing BAN. I've never actually flown a VOR/DME approach before, so this is all a bit new to me: there's a lot that has to happen in a short amount of time and my co-pilot is too busy picking his nose to tune the radios or dial in altitude constraints. Despite his ineptitude, I get the aircraft established on the glide-slope and configured for landing.




Welcome to Madrid!





Next leg: Madrid Barajas (LEMD) to Córdoba (LEBA)


(Originally posted 12/05/13)


Leg 7

Depart: Madrid Barajas (LEMD)

Arrive: Córdoba (LEBA)

Aircraft: Beechcraft King Air C90B (Carenado) *


Flight Plan: LEMD LEBA

Distance: 168.9 nm


Scenery: Default (Aerosoft LEMD)


For the longest leg of the Prologue of the Big Tour, I've chosen to fly the King Air again since we'll make good time at a cruise of 200 kts. Also, I just can't get enough of it; the plane is a real pleasure to fly! Even though this is a slightly longer route, I'm keeping it simple and flying direct, using the airfield VORs at Madrid and Córdoba for navigation (BRA and CDB respectively).




We leave Madrid in the evening, heading south past the city.




The flight is pretty uneventful and there's not much to see in the dying light. However, as we descend into Córdoba, we catch a nice view of the city at twilight, dark clouds hanging overhead. You can see the lights of the airfield just to the north west of the city.




It's a completely manual landing but, as I've said before, the King Air is very nice to fly. We touch down just as the sun sinks beneath the horizon.





Next leg: Córdoba (LEBA) to Sevilla (LEZL)


(Originally posted 12/05/13)


Leg 8

Depart: Córdoba (LEBA)

Arrive: Sevilla (LEZL)

Aircraft: Douglas DC-3 (Leading Edge Simulations / X-Aviation) *


Flight Plan: LEBA SVL LEZL

Distance: 56.7 nm



Today's flight is a short jaunt to the south-west from Córdoba to Sevilla. At only 56 nm, Leg 8 will be the shortest individual flight during this introductory chapter to The Big Tour. After departing Córdoba, we'll fly toward the Sevilla VOR/DME (SVL) and line up for a landing on runway 27.




The aircraft I've selected for this leg is the legendary Douglas DC-3. I recently acquired this bird during a Cyber Monday sale over at X-Aviation so this will be the first time I've gotten to take it up. Even though I've read the manuals, I know that this flight will definitely be a learning experience. Apropos our continued adventures in Spain, I've picked the Iberia colors for this flight.




Because the DC-3's great, big, 1,200 HP Pratt & Whitney radial engines can be temperamental if treated unkindly, initial checks and start-up are a painstaking affair. But, after following the check-lists to the letter, I line us up for departure. The Twin Wasps have a lot of get-up-and-go and before long we're in the air.




After a short initial climb, I circle around and overfly the airfield on the way to SVL. The scenery that I'm using at LEBA is just something that I threw together while trying to get a handle on OverlayEditor, so don't judge it too harshly!




I cruise at a mere 6,000 feet so that I can spend some time fiddling with the Sperry Autopilot, one of the first autopilot systems ever produced. Even with the system enabled, constant adjustments are required to keep the plane on course; the DC-3 is by no means a hands-off plane! Our flight takes us over the valley of the Guadalquivir, one of the largest rivers in the Iberian peninsula. The surrounding countryside, which you can see out the windows, is pretty flat and featureless. It's a big change from the hills and mountain peaks just a few flights previous.




The DME ticks town the last remaining miles to SVL and, as the airport comes into view, I turn on course with runway 27. I drop the flaps and ride the glide slope in for a safe--if somewhat bumpy--landing. The DC-3 is by far the largest tail-dragger I've ever flown, so I misjudge my height off the ground and bunny hop before I can flare properly. Like I said, this flight would surely be a learning experience!




After taxiing off the runway, I pick a parking spot off to the side and cool the engines down. Leg 8 and my first successful flight in the DC-3 is in the books. Expect to see lots of flights in this bird!





Next leg: Sevilla (LEZL) to Granada (LEGR)


(Originally posted 12/05/13)


Leg 9

Depart: Seville (LEZL)

Arrive: Granada (LEGR)

Aircraft: Cessna 208B Grand Caravan (Carenado) *


Flight Plan: LEZL SVL LEGR

Distance: 102.6 nm


Scenery: LEZL Sevilla


Eager to get to Gibraltar and conclude this first chapter of the Tour, I decide to make a late afternoon flight, hoping to beat the sunset into Granada. After departing runway 09, we'll fly the 100 degree radial out of SVL until we reach Granada, where we'll circle around to land on runway 27. Since Granada lies at the foot of Spain's Sierra Nevada mountains, I'm a little apprehensive about making this flight so late in the day.




As planned, we depart Sevilla heading east.




It's not long into the flight that I realize we'll never make it before it's completely dark. It's nearing winter and the days are getting much, much shorter. However, we are treated to a nice sunset.




We descend toward Granada through an eerie layer of cloud and fog.




Fortunately, we break out of the clouds as we turn onto the base leg. Still, pretty spooky looking!




I put the plane on the ground just before a thick layer of fog rolls over the airfield. I'm suddenly in the mood for a warm drink.





Next leg: Granada (LEGR) to Gibraltar (LXGB)


(Originally posted 12/07/13)


Leg 10

Depart: Granada (LEGR)

Arrive: Gibraltar (LXGB)

Aircraft: Beechcraft Baron B58 (Carenado) *


Flight Plan: LEGR MLG LXGB

Distance: 98.2 nm


Scenery: LXGB RAF Gibraltar


The last flight of the Prologue to the Big Tour takes us from Granada to Gibraltar, a small British territory near the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula. I've been looking forward to this flight since I began the Tour: Gibraltar is often considered one of the most scenic and daunting airports in the world, but I haven't before made the attempt in X-Plane.


We'll be departing Granada from runway 27 and climbing over the layer of low-lying cloud that's still blanketing the area. After overflying MLG, we'll adjust our course for Gibraltar where visibility might be limited this morning.




As planned, we take off from Granada heading west, just after dawn.




It's a short flight to the south-west to the coastal city of Málaga, Spain. Here we catch our first glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea.




Nice morning for flying:




About 30 miles from our destination, we begin the descent. As expected, the visibility begins to taper off and landmarks become scarce while we pass over this corner of the Mediterranean. Before long, however, the Rock looms out of the mist.




The wind is blowing stiffly out of the east so we'll need to circle around the southern tip of Gibraltar and approach runway 09 from the harbor. The downwind leg offers us a good view of the Pillars of Herakles, the ancient boundary into the Atlantic Ocean.




Something in the waters below catches my eye as I begin the turn north. A submarine! Looks like he's steaming west toward the Atlantic. I can't help but recall a

; it's a good thing everyone is currently on friendly terms!




It's a sharp right turn onto final followed by a steep 5 degree glideslope down to the runway. There's a lot of activity going on in the harbor--the scenery author has done a good job of making Gibraltar look like the busy crossroads that it is.




Despite the 20 kt wind and turbulence around the Rock, we land without a hitch. Given LXGB's reputation as a "scary airport," I feel like I must have gotten lucky somehow. But, as we taxi toward the terminal, I realize that maybe the airport is more frightening for motorists than it is for pilots: after all, Winston Churchill Avenue intersects the runway! Just imagine an A320 barreling past you at a traffic signal--pretty spooky!




I power down the engines under the Rock of Gibraltar, bringing Leg 10 and the Prologue portion of The Big Tour to a close. Next stop: Africa!





Next leg: Gibraltar (LXGB) to Tangier (GMTT)


Prologue - Recap

(Originally posted 12/07/13)


Prologue - Recap

Begin: Paris Le Bourget (LFPB)

End: Gibraltar (LXGB)

Distance Traveled: 1122+ nm




Although this introductory chapter to The Big Tour is, in the grand scheme of things, quite short, I feel as if I have already made significant progress. I'm choosing to think--optimistically--of the Prologue as a kind of initial hurdle. By completing these ten flights, I've shown to myself that I'm more than capable of flying in some less than ideal conditions and navigating unfamiliar terrain completely without the aid of GPS systems. The rest of this grand journey, then, will be a matter of fortitude and incremental steps.


It is fitting that the Prologue should take us from Paris, the starting point of L'Oiseau du France, the 1930s inspiration for the present Tour (see the introduction for more on this), to Gibraltar, a historically significant crossroads and boundary point. I am particularly entertained by the Prologue's conclusion in Gibraltar: the Rock and the adjacent North African coast were in antiquity known as the Pillars of Herakles and traditionally demarcated the limits of the known world. It is beyond these Pillars that Odysseus wandered for ten years, encountering all manner of monsters and strange lands. When I pass through the Straight of Gibraltar on my way to Tangier, I too will be entering the unknown: I've never flown in Africa, Asia, Oceania, or South America and It won't be until I return to North America that I begin to enter familiar territory again. Quite the odyssey indeed!


Below I've included some selected screenshots that represent a kind of visual summary of the trip thus far. I'll try to do this at the end of each chapter so that those who don't have the time to read through everything can still get the gist of what's happened.


Thanks for joining me on the journey thus far! Onward and upward!


















(Originally posted 12/14/13)




We will circumnavigate Africa counterclockwise. After the Maghreb, we go full south across the Sahara, then back to the atlantic coast at Dakar. Western Africa follows, all the way down to Cape Town. Northbound then eastbound, we reach Madagascar before coming back to the continent in Tanzania. The East African Rift, Ethiopia and the Nile conclude this first part at Cairo.


Particularly worth seeing are the Atlas Mountains, the Sahara and the Ahaggar, the Sierra da Leba in Angola, the Comoros, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Nasser.


Some statistics :

  • Number of legs : 110
  • Total distance : 17,600.2 NM
  • Shortest leg : Gibraltar to Tangier – 37.5 NM
  • Longest leg : Beira to Toliara – 537.3 NM




Leg 11

Depart: Gibraltar (LXGB)

Arrive: Ibn Batouta Airport, Tangier, Morocco (GMTT)

Aircraft: Hawker Hurricane Mk IIC Trop. (ND Art and Technology) *


Flight Plan: LXGB GMTT

Distance: 37.5 nm


Scenery: LXGB RAF Gibraltar


Welcome back to the first major chapter of The Big Tour! Today we'll be leaving Europe behind and beginning our journey across and around Africa. As I mentioned in the previous recap, I've never once flown in the skies above the African continent so all of this will be a new experience for me. I'm excited to begin, so let's cut the chatter and get right to it!


Today's flight is a very short jaunt across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier, a deceptively brief introduction to flying over the expansive continent of Africa. Our ETE is under 20 minutes, but the trip will probably be even quicker thanks to my choice of aircraft.




I'll be flying the Hawker Hurricane Mk IIC in a tropicalized variant created for combat over North Africa and the Mediterranean. This version is equipped with a robust, 1,480 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engine that will get us going pretty fast over the Strait. I start this bad-boy up on the military apron and taxi to runway 09.




For having such a powerful engine, the Hurricane is pretty forgiving on the take-off roll. I retract the undercarriage and begin to climb up and around the Rock.




As I pass the southern tip of Gibraltar, I turn south for Africa. Get one good, last look at Europe now because it will be quite sometime before we see her again!




It's a mere minute or two before the northern coast of Africa comes into view. The peninsula to the left is home to Ceuta, an autonomous city of Spain, and dead ahead is the peak of Jebel Musa, generally thought to be the southern Pillar of Herakles.




As I approach the Moroccan coast, I turn west and fly along the length of the Strait of Gibraltar. Cruising at around 220 mph (just under 200 knots), I make short work of the bulk of the trip; a few minutes later, I spy the city of Tangier off to the left.




Ibn Batouta Airport lies to the south-west of the city; I fly west, passing over the waters of the Atlantic Ocean for the first time during the Tour, before beginning a large, banking approach toward runway 10. I drop the gear and flaps to prepare the Hurricane for landing.




I come in a touch too fast and bunny hop slightly before putting all the wheels on the tarmac. Welcome to Morocco; welcome to Africa!





Next leg: Tangier, Morocco (GMTT) to Rabat, Morocca (GMME)


Leg 12

Depart: Ibn Batouta Airport, Tangier, Morocco (GMTT)

Arrive: Rabat-Salé Airport, Rabat, Morocco (GMME)

Aircraft: Stampe et Vertongen SV.4C (XPFR)


Flight Plan: GMMT GMME

Distance: 108.7 nm



Well, things got busy again and, to be perfectly honest, I was also growing frustrated with the sometimes-glacial pace of X-Plane development: too few promised bug-fixes and improvements, too many limitations of the SDK, which resulted in too little progress with add-ons, so on and so forth. However, after hearing some good things I decided to update to 10.30b6 and give it a whirl. I was very pleased to find that my framerate had doubled from about 30 fps to a solid 60 fps! I went out for a few brief test flights and decided that I can overlook, or at least cope with, some of the other remaining bugs and limitations of X-Plane now that it runs so well. Seriously, the smoothness and responsiveness of flight at 60 fps makes the whole sim feel so much more alive--it's a game changer for me! This was the kick in the pants that I needed to continue The Big Tour!


Please note that some things may look different for the time being. I've uninstalled SkyMaxx Pro since it doesn't seem to represent real-world weather conditions very well; since I prefer to use real-world weather, I'll be using the default clouds, which have undergone considerable improvements both in their appearance and performance thanks to the recent beta builds.


Today's flight will be straightforward enough. We'll be departing Tangier at around 1100 Zulu and from there simply follow the north-western coast of Morocco all the way down to Rabat to the south-west. The landscape here isn't the most interesting, but there are a few landmarks along the way that I'll point out.




I've chosen today to revisit the SV.4C. Since it's been a while since I've taken to the skies, I wanted to fly something unencumbered by complex equipment. Just a humble, single-engine biplane to get things started! Ibn Battouta Airport in Tangier has gotten a facelift while I was away, thanks to the efforts of tdg at the.ORG. This guy has been a prolific scenery author over the past few months and has populated many airports in the Mediterranean basin while also pushing the limits of what's possible with the Lego Brick system. Definitely keep an eye on this member of the community.




There's a gentle breeze out of the north-west and I'm reminded of the tendency for planes to weather-vane harshly in X-Plane and the issue is exacerbated by the Stampe's free-castoring tailwheel. Perhaps I overlooked this important caveat when selecting my "simple" plane; alternatively, I'm just garbage at taxiing tail-draggers! After a few minutes, I swerve my way onto the runway and open the throttle for takeoff. Away we go!


If taxiing the Stampe was a bit janky, flying her is as smooth as can be. I climb steadily and begin the turn south-west as I pass over the Moroccan coast. As we leave Ibn Battouta Airport behind, it's worth mentioning that the airport's namesake was one of the most widely traveled individuals of history. It seems most fitting that we begin the first real chapter of this world tour and our first proper flight in Africa from the airport which bears his name. We can also catch a final view of Tangier itself, which lies on the cove off the plane's 7-o'clock.




The first major landmark is the River Loukos and the town of Larache, whose appearance off our left wing indicates that we're about one third of the way to Rabat. It's worth noting that Larache is home to the Roman ruins of Lixus, which stand on the isthmus created by the river immediately north of the city; it's a shame such details aren't represented in X-Plane!




At about the half-way point of this leg, we fly past Merja Zerga, a tidal lagoon and nature reserve. Further off in the distance to the south-east you can see what appears to be the boundary between the relatively green coastal areas of Morocco and its more arid inland regions. I expect we'll be seeing a lot of desert before too long.




The rest of the trip to Rabat is, unfortunately, undocumented. After landing in Rabat, I completely forgot to bring up the replay and exited X-Plane without taking any final screenshots. Chalk it up to that long hiatus! The final minutes of the flight weren't too eventful, though: I approached the airport by flying along the coast and banking around onto final for runway 03. As I'm a little out of practice, I came in a touch too fast and bounced down the runway before being able to exit safely. All in all, it was a beautiful day for flying and the recent performance improvements to X-Plane introduced by the 10.30 beta versions have made me eager for more!


Next leg: Rabat-Salé Airport, Rabat, Morocco (GMME) to Mohammad V International Airport, Casablanca, Morocco (GMMN)


Leg 13

Depart: Rabat-Salé Airport, Rabat, Morocco (GMME)

Arrive: Mohammed V International Airport, Casablanca, Morocco (GMMN)

Aircraft: Caudron C.635 Simoun (XPFR, X-Plane.org)


Flight Plan: GMME GMMN

Distance: 58.5 nm



Leg 13 is just a short jaunt down the Moroccan coast to fair Casablanca. For today's trip I'll be flying the Caudron C.635 Simoun, a French-built aircraft used variously throughout the 1930s as a mail plane, liaison aircraft, and long-distance tourer. Because of it's historical associations with long-range, exploratory flights, I expect I'll be flying the Simoun a fair bit throughout this tour.


The X-Plane version on the C.635 comes as a freeware package (see above) with the C.630, a number of liveries, and some fantastic documentation of the aircraft's technical specifications, flight manual, history, and even some vintage photographs and newspaper articles about the Simoun's participation in long-distance raids and races. The modeling inside and out is beautifully done and the plane flies like a dream. Clearly the Simoun is a labor of love and I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in old-school aircraft.




We depart Rabat just after 1400 zulu. There's a 10 kt crosswind blowing out of the northwest which makes taxi and takeoff in a tail-dragger a little tricky. Nevertheless, we get into the air after a few moments and I begin a large, banking 180 degree turn to the southwest.




We settle into cruise at about 1200 m (approx. 4000 ft). Even though the C.635 is relatively low-powered (with its 220 hp engine), it can still get moving pretty quickly in cruise. We zip over the Moroccan coast at around 250 km/h (135 kts). Below us is our first landmark: the small canyon of the Oued Cherrat.




A few moments later and we can spot the port of Mohammedia and its seawall that stretches out into the Atlantic. Off on the horizon we can just make out Casablanca.




As we overfly Casablanca, I begin the turn south to the airport, which lies outside the city. Although Casablanca is the most populous city of Morocco with over 4 million inhabitants, you wouldn't know it by looking at it in X-Plane. One of the shortcomings of the OSM (Open Street Map) data that X-Plane uses to generate its plausible world is that the results are only as good as the base data and that anywhere that's not North America or Europe is notoriously incomplete in this respect. I thought of using World2Xplane to generate scenery of Casablanca using the most current data, but there's not much to go off of here. You can actually improve X-Plane by adding to OSM; if you're interested, take a stab at it!




We fly south to the airfield and line up with 35R. The scenery I'm using for GMMN was actually created for X-Plane 8, but it was so well built at the time that I think it still holds up today. All that's missing is HDR lighting, really.




As we pass over the runway threshold I cut the 'gaz' and begin the flare, looking for a nice three-point landing.




Close, but no cigar! Welcome to Casablanca!




Next Leg: Mohammad V International Airport, Casablanca, Morocco (GMMN) to Menara Airport, Marrakesh, Morocco (GMMX)


Leg 14

Depart: Mohammad V International Airport, Casablanca, Morocco (GMMN)

Arrive: Menara Airport, Marrakesh, Morocco (GMMX)

Aircraft: Douglas DC-3 (Leading Edge Simulations / X-Aviation) *



Distance: 112 nm



Since this evening's flight will take us away from Casablanca, I immediately thought of

from 1942's Casablanca. Why not have some fun and recreate it?


Well, turns out there's no decent Lockheed Electra available for X-Plane. It also turns out that, owing to the Axis occupation of North Africa in 1942 (and the Allies' impending invasion thereof), the movie's departure scene was not filmed in Casablanca, Morocco, but Van Nuys, California. Furthermore, in the movie, Ilsa Lund and Victor Laszlo are headed for Portugal in order to secure passage to the US. The best I can manage is an evening departure from Casablanca in good weather to Marrakesh, flying a DC-3 with a Portuguese livery. Oh, well.


We'll be departing to the north before turning southwest for Marrakesh. I've included the VORs BRC and MAK as navaids to and from our airports; with night coming on, these will help us to not lose our way in the dark.




As the sun nears the horizon, I start up the DC-3's big, radial engines. It may not be the bare metal Model 18 I had wanted for this flight, but the DC-3 in its TAP colors does look rather handsome in the dying light.




We taxi down to the end of the runway. A thin layer of low-hanging clouds covers the airfield.




I gradually open the throttles and the tail comes off the ground as we pick up speed.




Here we go! I retract the landing gear as we leave Casablanca beneath us.




Once we've gained a little speed and altitude, I begin our turn south. We'll fly south toward BRC until we pass it, then make for Marrakesh to the southwest. As we continue to climb, we slip above the scant cloud layer. The recent betas have really improved the visual behavior when passing through clouds: the white screen of death is no more! Instead, the wispy clouds seem to pass around and envelop the cockpit as we ascend. I find it to be a very immersive and realistic sensation.




As we pass near our VOR, the needle on the radio magnetic indicator begins to spin around; that's my signal to begin turning to the south-southwest. Casablanca begins to disappear into the evening haze and we're treated to a beautiful sunset.




Yeah, I know: I took a lot of screenshots of this trip. I do enjoy dusk and night flying in X-Plane!




Even though the ground becomes harder to see in the twilight, we're able to easily make out the A7 below due to the favorable atmospheric conditions. We can easily follow the lights and our radio signal all the way to Marrakesh.




After miles and miles of inky darkness, the brilliant lights of Marrakesh appear on the horizon (and as the fourth largest city in Morocco, there are a fair few of them to illuminate the landscape below). I fly out to the west of the city to line up with the runway. You can make out Menara Airport as the brighter spot on the south side of the city. The Atlas Mountains lie to the south, but we'll have to wait until morning to get a good look at them.




This is only the second time I've flown the DC-3 so I'm still trying to get the hang of landing this bird. Touchdown is a bit bouncy, but we arrive safely in Marrakesh nevertheless!





Next leg: Menara Airport, Marrakesh, Morocco (GMMX) to Ouarzazate Airport, Ouarzazate, Morocco (GMMZ)


Leg 15

Depart: Menara Airport, Marrakesh, Morocco (GMMX)

Arrive: Ouarzazate Airport, Ouarzazate, Morocco (GMMZ)

Aircraft: Caudron C.635 Simoun (XPFR, X-Plane.org)


Flight Plan: GMMX GMMZ

Distance: 70.9 nm



It's a beautiful morning in Marrakech! Morocco continues to bless us with excellent flying weather and now is as good a time as any to make the short hop across the mountains to Ouarzazate. We'll be departing Menara Airport at 0900 zulu, turn southeast, overfly the Atlas Mountains, and land at Ouarzazate Airport before 1000.




I'll be taking the Caudron C.635 again, this time in the bright red livery of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. This particular plane acquired fame during Saint-Exupéry's 1937 exploratory raid of northern and western Africa, undertaken on behalf of Air France. The plane was lost in 1938 during Saint-Exupéry's travels down the American continents, but it can now fly on in X-Plane!




As soon as we're in the air, we can finally catch a glimpse of the High Atlas Mountains to the south of Marrakesh. That's what we'll be flying over in a few minutes--I hope our Simoun is up for the climb, otherwise we may end up in the ground like the real thing!




We draw nearer to the mountains and I realize that we're not climbing quickly enough to make it over some of the peaks ahead. The High Atlas Mountains, as the name implies, are the loftiest of the entire Atlas Mountain range. I'm not completely sure, but I believe that one of those peaks in the upper-right corner of the image below is Jebel Toubkal, the highest of the Atlas Mountains (4,167 m / 13,671 ft). I push the Simoun's engine harder to try and reach a comfortable altitude.




By looking out the window as we enter the High Atlas range, you can get a sense for how sudden and dramatic the landscape is here. It's worth mentioning that I've tweaked the visual appearance of the aircraft to include normal maps. I found a lone livery for the C.635 on X-Plane.org by the talented Leen de Jager which includes normal maps. Some quick file swapping and object file editing and now the C.635 has a little more visual pop no matter which livery I decide to use.




I feel a bit safer at 3,500 m (~11,000 ft) and have a good look at the view below. A picturesque stream winds its way through the rugged mountain terrain and off in the distance the peaks give way to a vast expanse of desert. This is a beautiful part of the world!




As we fly out of the mountains and toward the desert, I catch sight of a lake on the horizon. This lake (formed in 1972 after the River Drâa, Morocco's longest river, was dammed to prevent flooding downstream) marks the location of Ouarzazate, which lies at the water's western end.




My plan was to descend along the north of Ouarzazate, overfly the lake, and land on runway 30, but a shift in the wind means that I need to make a steep descent straight in to runway 12.


As dumb luck would have it, after I took the following screenshot I was reading more about Ouarzazate and learned that it is home to numerous major movie studios. Many Hollywood productions have had filming at Ouarzazate, including The Mummy, Gladiator, and HBO's Game of Thrones, and Lawrence of Arabia, to which the screen below bears at least a





Finally stuck a three-point landing!




Next leg: Ouarzazate Airport, Ouarzazate, Morocco (GMMZ) to Saïss Airport, Fes, Morocco (GMFF)


Leg 16

Depart: Ouarzazate Airport, Ouarzazate, Morocco (GMMZ)

Arrive: Saïss Airport, Fes, Morocco (GMFF)

Aircraft: Douglas DC-3 (Leading Edge Simulations / X-Aviation) *



Distance: 206.9 nm



  • Default

Though I'd love to stay in Ouarzazate and further explore the world's largest movie studio, adventure calls! Rather than continue down the west coast, we're going to turn back north and make our way across part of North Africa. The great city of Fes is our next port of call.


Here's the plan for today's flight: we'll depart Ouarzazate bright and early at 0530 zulu, fly north-northeast from OZT to BML on the other side of the High Atlas Mountains. From there, we'll follow the 037 radial to FES and land at Saïss Airport. As far as weather goes, well, it turns out that I spoke too soon. Instead of the near perfect flying conditions that we've had since entering Morocco, we'll have to deal with gusting winds of up to 25 kts in Ouarzazate, mountain clouds, and low visibility over the western foothills of the Middle Atlas range. Hopefully things will clear up by the time we reach Fes.




Since this is a little bit of a longer flight and we'll be tracking radio signals, I've selected the DC-3 for this leg. In her Air France colors she's quite the looker too. Once the engines are warmed up and dawn has broken, I steadily open up the throttles and fight against the gusts all the way down the runway.




The take off and ascent is a bit bumpy due to the gusts, but the DC-3 chugs along undaunted on the way to our cruising altitude of about 15,000 ft. The sun peeks over the horizon and out of the morning mist.


(After some fiddling around with the sim, I realized that accidentally overwrote the sky-colors that I had been using before when I updated to one of the recent 10.30 beta releases. The default sky-colors have what I find to be a very off-putting, buttery yellow glow during the early morning and evening hours. I have since replaced them with Abdullah Almuntassir's Realistic Skycolors and the results seem much more natural to me. Let me know what you think!)




By the time we reach 15,000 ft. the gusting has abated, but the skies are a little turbulent over the mountains. We bob up and down as the clouds grow thicker and we pass over the peaks of the High Atlas Mountains below. Out of the my co-pilot's window I notice the morning sun glinting off a large body of water. That's the artificial lake of Bin el Ouidane, which means we've been blow off course by the winds at altitude. I turn east toward the lake.




After passing the lake, I turn back toward the north-north east. It's at this point that I realize either SkyVector or X-Plane's navdata is out of date because I'm not picking up BML's signal at all. I double check that I've got my radio tuned correctly, but still nothing. No matter; I tune the radio to FES instead and fly our course from OZT until we reach the intersection with FES where BML should have been. We turn northeast and fly toward Fes.


As forecast, visibility tapers off sharply above the foothills of the Middle Atlas, but at least we're out of the turbulent patch of sky that we encountered over the mountains. Since the visibility is low and the skies are smooth, I switch on the Sperry autopilot. Looks like we'll be

for the rest of the trip.




At about 35 miles from Fes, I initiate our descent. The closer we get to our destination the more the visibility improves. Saïss Airport is reporting CAVOK, so we'll hopefully be out of the haze soon.




Sure enough, with the Atlas' foothills behind us the skies clear. It'll be smooth sailing into Fes. I turn east to make the approach on runway 27 and gradually drop the flaps.




The modern city of Fes is built around the old, medieval medina and nestled between the hills along the north, leaving little room for an airport. Saïss Airport is therefore placed well outside the the urban area of the city in the fields to the south. We can just make out some of the buildings while on final approach.




While it's tempting to call it a day and wander the old quarters of Fes, there's still a lot of daylight left and plenty of progress to be made. Algeria is only a couple of short hops away, after all! For now, however, welcome to Fes!




Next leg: Saïss Airport, Fes, Morocco (GMFF) to Angads Airport, Oujda, Morocco (GMFO)


Leg 17

Depart: Saïss Airport, Fes, Morocco (GMFF)

Arrive: Angads Airport, Oujda, Morocco (GMFO)

Aircraft: Douglas DC-3 (Leading Edge Simulations / X-Aviation)


Flight Plan: GMFF OJD GMFO

Distance: 160.1 nm



  • Default

Before we get back into the air, here's a fun fact that I forgot to point out in the previous post: by traveling to Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakesh, and Fes

we've visited the four most populous cities in Morocco (in that order). We're well on our way to becoming Trivial Pursuit masters!


Eager to continue the push on toward Algeria, I plan to leave Fes at 0930 and arrive in Oujda before 1100. The weather is good along our planned route, so it should be smooth sailing for our final flight in Morocco. We'll be flying our trusty Air France DC-3 again.




We depart runway 27, turn ourselves around toward the northeast, and take a last look out the windows at the great medinas of Fes.




A few miles outside the city is another artificial lake created by the Idriss I dam. I suppose such reservoirs are important for irrigating Morocco's farms, especially those located in the country's more arid interior.




Next up on the horizon is the city of Taza. Located in a narrow river plain appropriately known as the Taza Gap, Taza is flanked by the Rif mountains to the north and the Middle Atlas to the south. You can see the foothills of both on either side of the image below. I don't think I ever realized just how mountainous Morocco is; this tour is proving quite educational so far!




We continue pressing toward the northeast where the landscape opens up into a large desert basin. The occasional town punctuates the rivers below as we make our way toward Oujda. Pictured here is, I believe, the town Guercif, roughly the half-way point of the current leg.




Guess what? Another artificial lake! They do make useful landmarks, though, especially in the midst of so much dry rock and sand. Lake Mohamed V isn't far from Oujda, so we'll be at our destination before we know it.




Angads Airport, once used as an airbase by American forces during the Second World War, is a few miles to the north of Oujda, which itself is only a few miles from Morocco's border with Algeria to the east. This will be our last flight in Morocco for the rest of the tour!




On final we have a north-northeasterly crosswind to contend with. At 14 kts and nearly perpendicular to the runway, it's causing me some concern (especially since runway 13/31 is conspicuously missing from X-Plane's apt.dat...); however, the picture out the window looks good and I decide to commit to the landing.




I cross the runway threshold and begin to retard the throttles, and... uh-oh... What's that sputtering sound? The plane begins to veer to the left and I can't correct enough with the rudder. Off the runway we go!




Once we've come to a stop, I'm better able to take stock of the situation. Yup. Left engine's died. There's yer problem! I'm not completely sure what happened; judging by the image, the blade pitch looks a little high, so maybe I accidentally nudged the left prop handle at an inopportune moment. At least we're all in one piece! After that harrowing landing, welcome to Oujda!


Next leg: Angads Airport, Oujda, Morocco (GMFO) to Es Senia Airport, Oran, Algeria (DAOO)


Leg 18

Depart: Angads Airport, Oujda, Morocco (GMFO)

Arrive: Es Senia Airport, Oran, Algeria (DAOO)

Aircraft: Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk IB (ND Art & Technology) *


Flight Plan: GMFO DAOO

Distance: 81.9 nm



  • Default

I've had a great time flying around Morocco and taking in its varied and beautiful landscape, but today's leg will take us over the border into Algeria. Once again, this will be brand new territory for me and I'm looking forward to exploring it!


The flight will be pretty straight forward: I'll be departing Angads Airport from runway 06 and fly in pretty much a straight line to the northeast until we reach Oran in Algeria.




The plane I've chosen for today is the Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk IB, but it has been painted to resemble the Mk XIIB JS327, which participated in Operation Torch. The actual aircraft was forced to crash land on a beach to the northeast of Oran; given our troubled landing in Oujda, I'm hoping that by selecting this livery I'm not dooming myself to an involuntary littoral landing.




I decide to cruise at 7,000 ft and the Hurricane's powerful engine propels the craft to altitude in no time. Within moments I've passed over the Moroccan-Algerian border and can spy the Tell Atlas Mountains below.




It's not long into the flight that I begin to notice a problem. I'm flying to the northeast but I keep seeing the coast line on the horizon where I know there should only be more mountains. I double check the compass (which is very small and difficult to see in the Hurricane's cramped cockpit) to make sure I'm heading in the right direction.


Turns out this is a bug with the aircraft's implementation of the reflective gunsight. The reticule itself (which I have turned off--no gunnery today!) seems to be projected onto a transparent plane in front of the cockpit, but the transparency of this plane doesn't play nicely with X-Plane 10's atmospheric scattering and reveals part the terrain through the haze, thus creating the 'mirage' of an ever-shifting coastline. Also, strangely enough the gunsight plane casts a shadow, which places the cockpit in constant darkness. You can hopefully get an idea of what I'm talking about in the image below.




The weird visual effects caused by the gunsight prove to be very disorienting and make it difficult to enjoy the flight. At this point I'm ready to be back on the ground. I open the throttle and push the engine toward its redline, hoping to make it to Oran as quickly as possible. Finally, I see the Sebkha d'Oran ahead, a long salt lake just southwest of the city. (You can also see another visual artifact caused by looking through the arc of the prop, beyond which the atmospheric effects are not rendered.)




I overfly the lake and fly along its north shore, which leads straight to Es Senia Airport. I drop the gear and flaps and gently descend toward the runway. While this aircraft has been giving me some trouble, I'm pleased to see that Oran, the second largest city in Algeria with a population of about three-quarters of a million inhabitants, is well represented with plenty of dense autogen.




Phew! Not a bad landing, despite the constant crosswind coming off of the Mediterranean. As I rollout down the runway, I can just make out Mount Murdjadjo looming out of the haze, upon which is the old Spanish fort of Santa Cruz. That seems like a neat place to visit to get a commanding view of the city and the port below. Welcome to Oran!




I had had grand visions of flying across this part of North Africa in the Hurricane (especially the tropicalized variant), but owing to the graphical glitches that I'm getting, I'm afraid I'll have to confine it to the hangar until I can figure out a fix. Bear in mind that this aircraft was originally designed for X-Plane 9, so perhaps I was overly optimistic in expecting it to work flawlessly in X-Plane 10. It's a real shame since there aren't very many high-fidelity warbirds available for the platform. Ah, well... caveat emptor!


Next leg: Es Senia Airport, Oran, Algeria (DAOO) to Chlef International Airport, Chlef, Algeria (DAOI)


Leg 19

Depart: Es Senia Airport, Oran, Algeria (DAOO)

Arrive: Chlef International Airport, Chlef, Algeria (DAOI)

Aircraft: de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk (Khamsin Studio) *


Flight Plan: DAOO DAOI

Distance: 101.4 nm



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Today's flight will take us up the northwestern coast of Algeria to the city of Chlef. The plotted course is a straight line between Oran and Chlef, but in actuality I'm planning on flying over to the Arzew Gulf before turning inland and flying along the river valley to our destination. Visibility this afternoon isn't the greatest and we'll have a 12 kt crosswind from the Mediterranean to deal with during takeoff.




Although I've had to consign the Hurricane to the hanger after the last flight, I've still got an itch to take up another warbird; therefore, today's aircraft is the de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk. Introduced just after the Second World War, the "Chippie" was used extensively as a training aircraft by the RAF and RCAF and many restored examples are flown by pilots today. Khamsin's virtual replica of the Chimpmunk is modeled after the British-built T.10 variant with its 4 cylinder, 145 HP Gipsy Major 8 engine; compared to the speeds attainable with the Hurricane's V12 Merlin, today's flight will be rather leisurely.


As I expected, the crosswind pushes us around a bit on the takeoff roll, but the winds feel less noticeable once we a few thousand feet up.




The hazy weather over the Algerian coast makes identifying landmarks a bit more difficult. After a few minutes of flying, however, the Arzew Gulf comes into view. I fly along the curvature of the gulf before turning inland toward Chlef.




Well, what do you know? Algeria is fond of artificial lakes too! After following the river valley below into the haze for what feels like ages, I'm finally able to make out the lakes Merdja Sidi Abed and Gargar which lie near the town Oued Rhiou. Chlef should come into view any minute now.




I descend between Chlef and the airport to the north. The field is reporting 8 kt crosswinds from over the mountains. Hmm, I'm detecting a trend here.


(Also, just look at that lovely cockpit. Khamsin is, in my opinion, one of, if not the best texture artist working with X-Plane today. If I'm not mistaken, Khamsin is responsible for the textures in the virtual cockpit of Flight Factor's 757 and the reason that many consider that aircraft's interior to be much more beautiful than the earlier 777.)




I circle around and line up with the runway. It very quickly becomes apparent that this landing will be no simple task. In the slight frame of the Chipmunk, those 8 kt crosswinds feel much more like twice that. I hold my speed fairly high to keep from being blown south of the airfield as I crab my way toward the runway. I cross the threshold with a rather large angle of deflection, but I hope I can straighten out just in time.




Kicking left with the rudder, I point the nose of the Chippie down the centerline. Unfortunately, my speed is too high and I float in the ground effect as the wind pushes me over the edge of the runway. Going around!




This time I turn wide of the airfield as I line myself up for final approach, hoping that I can get my speed down as the wind puts the aircraft inline with the runway so that I can crab my in the last few hundred feet.*


* I have since learned that this is not necessarily a "good idea." I've also learned of the wing-down method, which I hope to try at my next opportunity.




It mostly works. As I straighten the craft out, my right wing gets lifted up and I touch down with the left wheel before I can get the rest of the undercarriage on the tarmac. It's a squirrely landing, but at least the Chipmunk is all in one piece!


Welcome to Chlef! Now if you'll excuse me, I need to study up on crosswind takeoffs and landings!




Next leg: Chlef International Airport, Chlef, Algeria (DAOI) to Houari Boumediene Airport, Algiers, Algeria (DAAG)


Leg 20

Depart: Chlef International Airport, Chlef, Algeria (DAOI)

Arrive: Houari Boumediene Airport, Algiers, Algeria (DAAG)

Aircraft: Beechcraft A36 Bonanza (Carenado) *


Flight Plan: DAOI DAAG

Distance: 95.2 nm



This afternoon's flight will take us from the sleepy town of Chlef to Algiers, the largest, most populous city of Algeria. The weather around Chlef has improved somewhat with lower winds and better visibility, but I'm expecting thick cloud cover over the mountains and our destination in addition to diminished visibility on the ground. Between the weather and Houari Boumediene's status as one of the busiest airports on the African continent, I'd be more comfortable taking something with some IFR capabilities, just in case.




To this end, I'll be flying the Beechcraft A36 Bonanza, a thoroughly modernized variant in Beechcraft's venerable Bonanza line of aircraft. Equipped with Aspen EFD1000 avionics, KFC225 autopilot, and Garmin GNS 430 units, the A36 is a massive technological leap ahead of the spartan aircraft we've been flying so far across the skies of northern Africa. The Bonanza's suite of high-tech features should be more than capable of shooting an IFR approach should the need arise.


Oh, and my favorite feature of the Bonanza? Those big windows. Great views from this plane.


But for all the technology crammed into the A36, it's a real pleasure to hand fly. Takeoff is as smooth as can be, as is the standard rate turn toward the northeast, and the climb to altitude.




As expected, the atmospheric conditions begin to deteriorate as we enter the skies over the Tell Atlas mountains. There are some thick clouds ahead, so this view of Lake Ouled Mellouk and the adjacent national forests may be one of the few landmarks we'll be able to discern during this leg.




While cruising above the clouds it's extremely difficult to catch a glimpse of anything down below. I tune the navigation radio to ALR, the VOR nearest to the our destination airfield. Once we've drawn closer to Algiers, I begin the descent.




When we break out of the clouds, visibility is only about five or six miles. I continue flying toward the VOR until the airport comes into sight. There's a 14 kt wind coming from the northeast, so I line up for runway 05, glad that I'll finally be able to perform a landing without having to deal with excessive crosswinds.




The landing is as smooth as silk and, boy, does it feel good to put the plane down without worrying you're going to go careening off the runway. Landing on a tricycle gear is also a nice change of pace from the conventional undercarriage arrangements that we've had since coming to Africa. Relieved, I taxi to the apron and shut the plane down. Welcome to Algiers!




Next leg: Houari Boumediene Airport, Algiers, Algeria (DAAG) to Mostépha Ben Boulaid Airport, Batna, Algeria (DABT)

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