It was back in the cockpit of military aircraft today, starting with the AgustaWestland AW101 chopper and then moving back to the MV-22 Osprey. Weather at McGuire AFB (KWRI) wasn't the best, extremely low ceiling prevented VFR conditions from being in effect, so ATC denied my request to take off without an IFR plan filed. Well, it's another of those times to exercise my simulator abilities and simply ignore ATC so I can get some practice in.
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I pre-flighted the Agusta and ran through the start-up checklist - which turned out to be pretty bogus. It had me ending by turning off the master ignition and APC, which effectively shut down the helicopter. Uhm? What? So I ran the shut-down checklist and then the start-up again, ignoring the last few steps telling me to turn off systems I actually needed to operate the aircraft. Dunno what that's all about. I started at a parking space because the new airport scenery I installed didn't move the helipad start location - so I would load inside a building and obviously crash instantly. Good one - I'll fix that. Anyways it gave me an excuse to taxi to a better location for takeoff, which is cool since this helicopter has wheels - so give the throttle a little juice, tip the stick forward and... we're rolling! After lifting off and flying around a bit, I came back for a landing on the tarmac, then took off and landed once more - the second time I was only a few hundred feet above the ground before I remembered to lower my gear! The Agusta handles fabulously and performs very similar to the Jet Ranger but definitely feels heavier, since it is. Also, it really whips up some serious ground effect when you reach the last few dozen feet, which makes actually setting it down more of a challenge since you tend to float a lot. Finally, I have a big beef with the instrument panel - the main MFD that shows your airspeed and altitude is barely readable. And I mean barely. I actually can't read the exact speed without zooming way in, and generally just look at where the needle is and estimate. Same with altitude, though the analogue altitude gauge is just to the right of the panel and more readable.
Satisfied with the Agusta, I hopped back into the MV-22 Osprey for another attempt at landing in one piece. I took off and flew a wide pattern, taking time to joyride amongst the clouds for a bit where the weather was much improved. On approach I transitioned to vertical blades and lowered her towards the runway but ended up coming in way, way too fast and "crashing" - once again the sim didn't register a crash but I ended up losing both my engines. My second attempt was finally successful, although I almost overshot the runway trying to get her on the ground. I'm still not entirely sure how to perform approaches in this craft, since when you begin to transition the blades to vertical, going from 0 to 25° tilt (the first setting) can bob you up several hundred feet. I suppose you should descend as if to land short of the runway, and then pick the blades up a notch just before touching down. That should bring you back up to about 500 feet and coasting forwards at around 80 knots. From there you further transition to vertical blades as you lower the craft back down. The part that I need more practice on is feathering the throttle properly to lower you down at a reasonable speed - it feels more sensitive than a helicopter even when you approach the last few dozen feet and have to make very minute throttle changes to maintain a slow descent without starting to climb out again.
But hey, first landing in the MV-22! Next time out I'll be practicing exclusively in this craft to get the landings right. Then maybe I'll hop to another military base somewhere...