Ahhh my first flight of 2012! Also my first flight since the start of November, yikes. Reminded me why the FAA mandates check rides every few months for proficiency, especially considering some of the mistakes I made on this flight. Thankfully I was able to run my computer at 4.5GHz again after accidentally wiping out my overclocking settings a few weeks ago. I didn't remember I had included details as to how I set up my overclocking in a previous Flight Log entry until I looked back and so getting it setup and running again was easy. Phew! Those extra megahertz do indeed make a difference in performance!
So the objective of this flight was two-fold. One: to get in some night time flying, of which I don't have many hours logged. Two: to visit some of the airports I've designed and released over the last three months.
Leg 1: KFWN to N73
This was originally supposed to be two legs, from KFWN to KMMU and then on to N73. However I decided that KMMU was way to close to fly to, even for a touch and go – too much too fast for me to handle after just hopping back into the cockpit after a while on the ground. The longer flight from KFWN direct to N73 gave me more time to get back into the groove from takeoff to landing, especially considering I was flying the quicker Bonanza V35B.
The first attempt at this leg is where I made my first mistake by failing to visually inspect my aircraft for properly operating navigation lights. Granted it’s not something that’s on any of my checklists, but it is now! After departing and climbing to cruise altitude I stepped outside to capture some photos and noticed I was running without any lights – strobe, navigation and beacon were all not showing up. Realizing I couldn’t continue into growing darkness without navigation lights, I immediately considered landing at a nearby airport but I was at 5ooo feet and didn’t want to descend to anything right beneath me. I decided instead I still had enough light to turn around and head back to Sussex – bonus would be the sun would be behind me illuminating my instruments as I found my panel lighting also to be malfunctioning. So I backtracked my VOR radial and entered the pattern, cutting my downwind leg a bit short to beat in an aircraft on direct approach – I tried to clear the runway in time for him to land but he waved off just as I pulled onto the taxiway. Sorry dude, but my situation was bordering on emergency with coming darkness and I had to get to ground fast. After pulling up to the repair hangar I shut down and troubleshot the problem – turns out the new updated aircraft.cfg file released with the optional patch had the light positions all wrong for some reason. I replaced them with the light positions from the original .cfg file and all was right again.
So a bit later I was back in the cockpit and once again leaving Sussex behind and climbing for FL05. There was a crapton of traffic still in the air so I called into NY Approach for flight following and I tracked towards my VOR. As I was just hitting the VOR and getting ready to turn east I ran into a small bank of clouds at around 4700 feet, luckily there was a gap between them that allowed me to circle around and resume course without breaking VFR or changing altitude. As I approached the NJ Turnpike I switched off instruments to visual navigation, tracking the Turnpike southwest and trying not to lose it as it snaked past several other major highways. I personally find it a lot harder to identify roadways at night. After intercepting the Turnpike I also began a nice slow descent while NY Approach handed me off to McGuire Approach. I used flight following until I dropped to around 2500 feet and was closer to N73 when I switched to McGuire for a weather report. However it seems ATIS at KWRI is non-existent in FSX so I simply fell back on my weather planning I had done prior to flight and overflying the field to check the sock. My weather plan was spot on and I made my planned approach to Runway 23, coming in a bit high on final causing a little dive towards the runway but still had plenty of roll out and managed to give the Cessna behind me enough time to land afterwards. Once parked and shut down, reviewing my flight made me realize I had forgotten to do an ident on the VOR to ensure it was properly operating and that I was in fact tuned to the right station. Luckily (this time) it wasn’t an issue.
Leg 2: N73 to KBLM
The next morning it was up early and into the Tailwind W10 tri-gear, which was designed by Lionheart Creations. It’s a nifty little plane and I hadn’t really flown it more than once or twice since I got it during a sale so I figured I might as well take it out again. I got into the cockpit and went through a modified preflight – it doesn’t come with its own checklist they just ripped the Cessna 182S one from FS9 – but had trouble getting the engine to turn over. I think this is from the V35B having only left/right fuel tank selection, so when I reloaded the flight from last night and switched aircraft, the Tailwind effectively had no fuel flow since it only has a single tank (or two with one feed, dunno for sure). Eventually I just reset the flight with the aircraft already running. My first impression is that the volume for everything in this aircraft is a lot louder than the other aircraft I fly. The fuel pump, for example, is a loud as the engine itself. Also when toggling the panel lights with a keystroke it doesn’t toggle the dash switch. So if you toggle the lights on with a key then click the switch on, the panel lights will go off.
After fiddling around a bit more and getting used to the instrument layout I taxied towards the runway but after the heavier V35B I wasn’t ready for how quickly this aircraft accelerates and ended up crashing into a hangar. Whoops. Luckily damage was minor and I was able to get back to taxiing in short order, keeping a lighter hand on the throttle as I did so! Once departed from Red Lion it was a quick climb to 1500 feet cruise – this sucker is indeed fast! But once you get it leveled and trim it’s very stable and well behaved. Switching to spot view for some pictures I didn’t stay long because the outside engine noise is on a blatantly obvious loop lasting only about 3 seconds – it was pretty annoying. As I approached the coast and throttled back to slow down and drop lower for a buzz past Barnegat Light I also noticed no real discernible change in engine pitch until I had throttled down to near 50%. Oh at this point too I realized I had forgotten to continue my checklists after takeoff and upon returning to them I realized I still had flaps down from takeoff. And the VOR I used to track out to the coast? Didn’t ident. GAH!!
After following the coast north I made a direct approach for Runway 32 at KBLM after calling in and checking the weather matched the report in my plan. However on final another aircraft decided to ignore the fact that I had been announcing my approach for the last 10 minutes and taxied onto the runway for takeoff. I tried to slow down to let him go ahead of me but ended up having to call a go around. My second time around there was more traffic departing but thankfully they were kind enough to wait for me to land. However I then went and flipped the aircraft as I tried to rush and exit at the nearest taxiway. Although I will say I thought for sure I had slowed down enough to make the turn, apparently I hadn’t – no doubt my inexperience with the aircraft led to this disaster. I should probably have handled it with more care not having flown it much huh?
Leg 3: KBLM to KVAY
So technically I made it to KBLM and was totally not in the mood to try that entire leg again so I just hopped into the ol’ 172S which I had left stashed in one of the long-term hangars north of the airport. Before that though I reset the time to bring the sun up a bit more. I realized a bit later that since FSX was designed prior to the recent Daylight Savings Time changes, when I set the clock to real-world time it would put it an hour behind and not expect dawn to arrive until 8:21 instead of 7:21.
After the disaster of Leg 2 this leg was. thankfully, much nicer. I had no troubles departing KBLM and after reaching cruise I even remembered to finish off my checklists and ident the VOR I was tracking towards. Then it was just time to sit back and enjoy the sunrise and watch the traffic moving about the sky around me. Once I hit the VOR I began a gentle descent that put me near pattern altitude as I approached KVAY, which is bunched up with Flying W N14 and Red Lion N73. I threaded over both runways which set me up nicely for a pattern entry to Runway 08, although I was a bit off on the altitude I otherwise flew the pattern without issue, ending up on slope and centered as I turned final. I made sure to stay on slope to clear the power lines in front of Runway 08 and came down to a slightly bumpy landing.
Since KMMU was the only recently-developed airport I didn’t get to visit, that will be the target of my next flight, though I’m also working on a small grass field a little ways south as well that I might take a small plane to and back, and then cruise up past NYC to get to KMMU and then take a helicopter into the city? We’ll see.
Cross-posted on my personal blog