So I've been spending the majority of my free time these past few weeks designing scenery rather than flying. Although the satellite scenery I'm using for the NJ/NY/MA/RI area is awesome, it's a bit of a double-edged sword when it comes to airports. See, the default FSX airports are not designed to match the exact real world layout of tarmacs and taxiways - they come close enough to match the airport diagram so you can find your way around properly, but that's about it. For example, here is the default Newark Airport and here is my modified Newark Airport (incomplete - just check the taxiways tho). It's a striking difference. So to that end, I'm embarking on a pretty ambitious project to redo all the airports in the satellite coverage area to match the ground textures. That's well over 100 airports!! So far, in the last week and a half I've done twelve (at the time of this post) - but they've all been small single-strip fields without much infrastructure to deal with. Still, that's pretty good progress. Hopefully I can find some way to turn a small profit from this - still working on that but I have some ideas.
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However I can only design for so long before I miss flying so I finally hopped back in the cockpit for some night time and day time VFR.
I decided I was done with the Osprey for now, I just didn't want to take the time to learn to land it properly although it is a pretty fun craft to fly - however the lack of a true VTOL capability that is present in the real thing just makes it kind of lame. I needed to shuttle it back to McGuire though, since my Cessna was still parked there as no one was willing to ferry it up for me. I decided to fly VFR since conditions were good, so after departing Falmouth I used the coastline of Massachusetts, a very visible landmark, to travel up to Boston, at which point I simply turned west. I aided my navigation with the help of two VORs but by then it was also light enough to see ground features that led me to my main VFR guide - the Hudson River. Once over the Hudson it was a simple matter of following the river all the way down past Manhattan and then sticking to the coast of NJ before picking up the VOR for McGuire to turn inland for the airport.
Along the way I originally planned to fly around 4-5 thousand feet, as that was high enough to easily clear the largest obstacle in my flight path (important when you're flying VFR at night!) but I bumped it up to 10,000 feet because traveling that low at close to 200knots didn't give my PC enough time to load the higher-resolution textures. Flying higher made this better. At that height though I did have to dodge a few clouds scattered about.
Coming in to land at McGuire I was back to the problem of setting this bird on the ground in one piece. The most frustrating thing about landing this thing is I could not find a power setting while the blades were fully up that allowed for a nice, slow descent to the runway. It would start slow, but then all of the sudden I would be dropping at over 500 feet per minute! Not good! So I would pour on a bit of power, stabilize my descent but then before I could decrease power a bit to try and slowly bring her down I would start to climb out! I made it 3/4 of the way down the blasted runway before I finally just said screw it and basically did an air carrier "crash" landing and prayed my gear would stay attached. Somehow I actually almost nosed over - no idea why, but finally settled on all wheels and was able to taxi off the runway and to parking without further incedent.
The Osprey is a pretty cool plane, and maybe one day I'll return to it to try and master its landing, but boy does it irk me. On this flight down from MA I finally had to engage the autopilot because it's pretty impossible to trim it out stable. The Navigation screen only allows you to set a intercept course for Nav1 - Nav2 simply acts as an ADF. Anyways it's good riddance for now, as I gratefully climbed back behind the yoke of my trusty old Cessna 172.
Using the Cessna I took myself west to the coast of NJ and followed that north up to Long Island. I had to request clearance to transition the JFK Class B airspace but this early in the morning it wasn't a problem. I skirted the coast and called into KFRG for landing instructions - they told me to make right base for Runway 14... while I was still 17 miles out!! Lesson learned: don't radio into airports via the default FSX AI until you're more like 5 miles out in a slow pokey Cessna. I was still 7 miles away and only going like 80 knots since visibility had dropped to 9SM and I was still trying to find the airport, when ATC held some poor sucker in a Beechcraft short of the runway while I completed my base to final. Boy he was in for a bit of a wait! Then a King Air on GPS approach to Runway 14 had to go around while I still trundled slowly along. Finally I picked up the runway lights and completed my base turn to final - right on the glide slope. Then things went a bit screwy as I realized - hey I don't have vertical-shifting rotor blades to slow me down almost instantly to my landing speed! Here I am on short final still pushing around 80 knots! So I was all scrambly to lower speed, then lower flaps, and kind of drunkenly slammed her down onto the asphalt. It was a horrid landing. Thanks, Osprey. Although I could have called a go-around too I suppose. That's one bad thing about the sim, you're more willing to just say "screw it, I'll get her down!" where in real life you would have instantly thought "uhhh... I'd better pull out and give this another shot."
Anyways I taxied to my assigned parking and then hopped into the Jet Ranger for the final leg of my day's flight. I took off from KFRG and followed routes that took me past JFK and lined me up perfectly for an approach across the Hudson to East 34th St Heliport (6N5). I swear I was mere inches from slamming into the elevated highway (again) so I kind of dropped her hard onto the landing pad. Turns out I was still several feet away and safe - still need to get used to the perspective of how close things appear from the cockpit. I didn't stay long, immediately lifting back off (after catching my breath) and flying down the East River to downtown and the Wall St Heliport (KJRB) where I made a much, much smoother landing on the pad. After that it was a hop up the Hudson to Midtown Heliport (KJRA). However I got fed up trying to land while my PC was stuttering along at like 5FPS (need 10-11 at least) and pulled out to just continue my flight.
Side note about KJRA though - I was up in NYC at the Javits Center for New York Comic Con this past weekend and it was so nice out I spent a good 3 hours outside taking a break from the convention hall - most of that time was spent sitting next to the Midtown Heliport in real life watching some helicopters land and depart to get a better idea for how its really done. Unfortunately the majority of the traffic goes in and out of Downtown/Wall St and only 2 helicopters took off and 1 landed. You can stand literally 50 feet from a chopper though in their parking lot - I arrived just in time to witness the take off of a twin-turbined Sikorsky - wow! I had to lean into the wind that sucker pushed out when it lifted off. Then a smaller 4-person heli approached and landed, idled on the pad until finally a guy showed up with three small dogs, loaded them all up into the chopper and away they went!
Anyways, that little sojourn was mildly educational, now back to the flight. I left the city behind as I flew north along the Hudson. My destination was actually an airport I added to the simulator called Haverstraw Heliport (H43). It's one of the few public heliports in the region (the other I've found so far being 87N out on Long Island) and really does offer up a great excuse to fly along the Hudson, which is very scenic. Still VFR, I found the airport no problem with no navaids needed and as per instructions I descended over the grass field before hover taxiing over to land on the tarmac. Once again the perspective from withing the cockpit had me thinking I was flying into some of the trees that ring the very tiny field. I never really noticed this before but it becomes readily apparent in tight spaces.
After landing I did a manual systems shut down and remembered to save the flight so I will restart at the same airport and need to run through all the manual start up tasks.
I've also finally dabbled with overclocking my system to try and eek out some more performance since I cannot afford an i7 chip/mobo upgrade until at least early next year. Right now I'm running my 2.4GHz E6600 at 3.11GHz and I've completely maxed out my graphics card to 900MHz clock/1300MHz memory. Normal operations have the system running stable, and I've done some stress testing as well - no crashes yet! Hopefully soon I'll be able to hop back into the cockpit and see how my game performance is affected.