Depart: Ouarzazate Airport, Ouarzazate, Morocco (GMMZ)
Arrive: Saïss Airport, Fes, Morocco (GMFF)
Aircraft: Douglas DC-3 (Leading Edge Simulations / X-Aviation) *
Flight Plan: GMMZ OZT BML FES GMFF
Distance: 206.9 nm
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
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)