Date flown 24th September 2013
So, this is it. The inaugural flight of my around the world trip. Ahead of me are 63 different flight plans. But today, here are Wales's only international airport, an excited crowd has gathered early to se me off. In reality of course the crowd are her for the food at the Wales Aero club. But I prefer to enjoy my delusion. Things don't get off to a good start though. Fog is covering the airport and it's going to be a few hours until it lifts enough for me to take off. I'm also having aircraft trouble. The Cessna C337 I planned to take has been hit with engine trouble. The rear engine has issues and take off with just the single engine is prohibited. With no mechanic available, I've been left with the Cessna C340 for the trip. The extra GPS and storms scope are more than welcome, plus the plush interior means I can manage more luggage than the C337. I return to the Wales aero club for abit of tea and sympathy.
Weather for EGFF - EGFF 241620z 07007KT 4800 HZ SCT004 BKN006 15/14 Q1013
Weather for EGPC - EGPC 241820z 08013KT 5000 -DZ FEW004 SCT006 BKN010 10/10 Q1018
Weather for EGPE - EGPE 241820Z 00000KT 9999 FEW008 SCT023 13/12 Q1015
Waiting on the GA ramp at Cardiff
It's around five by the time the fog has lifted enough for me to begin my preflight. The C340 is prepared and ready to go, but a new issue has turned up. Time. Today's flight sees me leave Cardiff for the north, heading to the Brecon VOR beacon (not in Brecon by the way) before heading though mid Wales for the Welsh border, then on to Manchester. From Manchester I head up into the Lake District passing Carlisle and the Scottish border not long after. Edinburgh, Perth and Inverness all Beckon before I reach Wick or John o Groates. The problem I have is that Wick closes at 1830z and the time has just pasted 1600z. My flight time with the C340 is expected to be around two hours and a half, and that's in clear air. So I have time to make up.
Still, its time to get going and after taxiing to runway 12, I set the flaps and advance the throttles. I head off into the wild blue yonder, leaving Cardiff behind as I pass over the cliff below and out over the bay below of what affectionately known locally as Barrybados.
With the flaps and gear up, I bring the throttles back, adjust the prop pitch and bring the mixture back. I settle into a climb and turn towards my first waypoint. The clouds thicken around me and I head to 5000 ft to try and clear the worst of it.
Ebbw Vale and the Heads of the Valleys road
Passing over the Welsh town of Ebbw Vale, the view clears and I get a glance of the Brecon Beacons off to my left. So far the aircraft is behaving herself nicely. There's a bit of left wing low as I took off, but as the speed picks up, she balances out and becomes a real softy to fly. Even the autopilot behaves itself despite its simplicity.
Brecon Beacons To the West
Ok so this italics section is where you'll find the details of the add-ons I'm using away from the narrative I'm using to frame the this whole crazy trip. So what's going on With the Cessna C337? I had intended to use this brilliant aircraft from Carenado, but after the the last update to XPX to fix the memory leak with 64 bit Carenado aircraft, the C337 seems to crash in no time at all. The C340 doesn't suffer from this so it made my Aircraft choice easy.
Cardiff airport doesn't have any add on scenery although I did toy with converting some fsx freeware, but the surrounding scenery, all the way to the scots border, is Flight 1's VFR uk. The complete set is made up of 4 volumes and takes up over 300gb on my hard drive. I'm not usually a fan of vfr scenery but this looks good and marks a great start to the trip.
The Carenado C340 is a beautiful looking aircraft. It does have a tendency to roll to the left on take off it seems. But unusually as the aircraft speeds increase I find the trim has to reset to the centre. Its an interesting experience and I'm not sure that the dreaded 'torque' issue is at work here.
With the Welsh countryside disappearing below, I start to worry about the amount of daylight left. The last thing I fancy is a late evening approach to the Wick. For now though I concentrate on flying. Ahead of me, more cloud is bubbling up and as pass over Shrewsbury, I decided to climb to 10'000 ft to clear the worst of it.
The Dee estury in the distance
I needn't have worried, as I pass overhead Manchester Airport the cloud has cleared and I'm looking forward to heading into the lake district. With the British seaside resort of Blackpool off to my left I set y sights on on of the UK's most beautiful spots. With the sun starting to hang low over the Irish sea, I take in the scenery. The view is simply Breathtaking.
Blackpool and the Irish Sea
So Passing into the Lake district really begins to show the Flight 1 Photo scenery off to best effect. The combination of XPX's mesh and the photoscenery is second to none, and its a beautiful sight to behold. Sadly though, As I leave the mountains, I can see where the Photo scenery ends and it's not a pretty transition.
The Lake District
As I cross the border into Scotland, I hear the right engine cough. A quick check of the fuel gauges gives me a bit of panic. The right tank is almost empty and the left, whist being a bit more frugal, is showing next to zero. I switch the Auxiliary tanks and curse. In my rush to leave Cardiff, I forgot to check the fuel for the aircraft. With the Auxiliary tanks now supplying the engines, I realise that Wick is as far from me as ever. If time doesn't beat me, the lack of fuel might. As I push on to Edinburgh I reassess my plans and begin to think of landing elsewhere.
The Weather radar pointing out showers below
The low fuel in the aircraft is a big mistake, but I'm not convinced it's just that. one of the problems of 'jumping in' to the C340 at the last moment is that I Haven't read the manuals, or more importantly I haven't looked at the performance tables. I've probably kept the mixture too high, set the prop pitch incorrectly and in an effort to race the clock, just pushed to hard at the expense of fuel economy.
Leaving Edinburgh airspace, I check the time. It's not looking good. According to my calculations, I have about an hours flight time. But Wick shuts within two minutes of my time. I push on and as I reach Perth I check again. it's 1800z and I've 40 minutes flight time left. My fuel is looking low and I call ahead for the Weather at Wick. The news isn't good. Visibility is around 6000 feet and fog and low cloud cover the airport. I sigh as I realise it's all in vain. I set course for Inverness with the knowledge that this will be my stop for the night. Inverness is clear and offers the reassurance of ILS approaches. So as I begin my descent from 10000ft I'm not to concerned at the cloud cover around the airport. I pass over the mountains below and as the sun bids farewell for the day, I join the circuit for a runway 23 approach. Ahead of me the lights of Inverness blink into view and as I turn onto final I get a quick look at the estuary that feeds into the north sea.
I land at 1830z, confirming I had no hope of getting to Wick tonight. So I taxi in, shut down and secure the C340. For our first flight together things have gone ok. She hasn't really spoken to me yet though. I sure once we get to know each other, I'll be able to give her a name. For now though she's just a C340. As it stands, It's time to head into Inverness in search of a bed, a glass of white wine and a nice meal. Tomorrow I'll reassess my route, making sure I take a stop at Wick before heading out in to the North Atlantic.
And shut down for the night.
So An interesting first flight and most importantly, I learnt a few things about XPX. First I made a mistake with the weather. Having downloaded the RW weather, I switched to 'Set Weather uniformity' to view the actual weather. I forgot however to set is back until I was passing Perth, Meaning the weather I'd seen throughout the trip was not accurate. It was a stupid mistake that won't happen again. With weather in mind, I may checkout the NOAA plugin to provide weather to XPX. IT should improve the reporting of the conditions I'm flying in.
Navigation was fairly easy with most VOR's woking OK. However some were not broadcasting, whist XPX made others unavailable until I left the tile of scenery i was flying in. This should make navigating the North Atlantic tricky to say the least. It's not helped in the least by the poor GPS found in the C340. The Standard Garmin 430 is not great, but it's usable. The biggest problem though is the lack of Flight plan support. XPX is able to use .fms fligthplans, but only with aircraft with FMC's. so the 430 GPS is relegated to just a nice moving display for now. I'll dig into it but I suspect I'll need a replacement for it soon. In the meantime I'm grateful for Tim Arnot's excellent Plan-G flight planner. I planned the whole trip using this and when I'm flying it provides a view of my route, VOR frequencies and a moving map, all displayed on a second PC. For now I'm using this as my defacto GPS.
On other thing I'll touch on is scenery popping. Now many X-plane pilot will tell you that XPX is great because you don't get the 'popping' of autogen like in FSX. They're wrong. As I reached Edinbough, I could clearly see the city Autogen 'pop' as I flew over . This probably has to do with the World Detail level your running.
Finally, you'll have noticed the white clouds as I approached Inverness. These are probably due to user error. Thanks to John, who has kindly included me in the beta for the upcoming 'Skymaxx Pro' clouds add on. I'm looking forward to seeing what weather they'll provide along the way.
VFR UK - flight1 and RC simulations. www.flight1.com
Plan-G flight planner. - www.tasoftware.co.uk
Carenado C340 HD - www.carenado.com
UK OSM Data - www.simheaven.com