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Guest Valkyrie321

Another evening in the Aleutians

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The evening started out typical of a flight in the Aleutians; a night spent in Umnak rather than home station due to bad weather. As I sat in the vintage Grumman G-21 Goose and peered over the the stubby nose towards the runway I thought about how much I enjoyed these bush flights. Base reports suggested that the weather would be rapidly changing and that a storm was rolling in from the west, so I made a personal note to myself that tonight I would make every attempt to make it home quickly but safely.The job was an easy one, take off from Nikolski Air Station on the southern end of Unmak Island and travel northward along the east shores until I reached Unmak Pass and then down into a water landing at Chernofski Harbor to drop off some mail. Once clear of the harbor I was to head north and return to home base in Dutch Harbor and land at Unalaska Airport. I plugged the information as waypoints into my little hand held Garmin GPS to ensure that my visual navigation not on a sunday drive. I had a feeling this little Garmin might come in handy this evening...I throttled the engine forward after locking the tail brake. The engines hummed loudly like two bass speakers pressed against my ears. Twenty, forty miles per hour; push forward the stick and level on the runway. Fifty, sixty, seventy-five; pull back gently and lift the ol' bird into the air. Ensure positive rate of climb and retract landing gear. Decrease throttle to 33in and 2200 RPM. Looking good if I say so myself!I banked the plane in a left turn and leveled the wings off at 090 degrees (directly east) and continued my climb to 4,000 feet then levelled off bringing the power back to 27in and 1900 RPM. Set mixture to lean... check. Engine scan, lookin' good. Alright, now time to turn north and visually follow the coastline.The Goose was an old but reliable aircraft. Chips of paint had been flecked off from the steering wheel after years of use and the tail wheel lock hinge was set in the aircraft backwards at some point; probably during maintenance. When the wheel was locked it actually read "unlocked." I chuckled to myself, but I wouldn't have wanted to be in any other aircraft. It seems that not many aircraft today have character. There are not many aircraft today that could do what this little bird could.... she could get in any little spot and had a ton of lift. A bush pilot couldn't ask for a better aircraft, not mentioning the tons of history behind the ol' gal. This particular aircraft was probably an old Navy cargo airplane during the war, but who knows for sure.... not me, that is to be certain.I continued north along the shores and looked out the window at the little boats that looked like spec down on the water. Several of the craft happened to be heading back inland, which naturally made me again realize that tonight would probably make for a bumpy ride. Sure are a lot of boats down there....I tuned my ADF into Dutch Harbor on frequency 283 for later navigation. I was out of range of the NDB, but it wouldn't hurt to be prepared now for later. For the most part the ride along the coast was uneventful, at least until I reached the pass.... With the sunlight waning at my back it reflected off of the large puffy clouds that were streaking quickly across the sky. Another pilot that I worked with called over the radio to home base detailing that he planned on calling it a night down south of me further down the chain of islands. I can't say I blamed him, especially since I did the same the night before. Base gave him a warm sendoff and I made my turn towards Chernofski Harbor.Reduce throttle, maintain 500 feet per minute descent, increase mixture and prop and turn on carb and pitot heat... Ok, that storm is getting a bit close... Better speed things up a bit and move to 700 feet per minute. Flaps 30 degrees, keep the horizon in sight. I ran the little aircraft down into the harbor and buzzed the water airport checking to ensure that where I intended to land was clear of other boats and the occasional driftwood. Once the visual check was done I turned her around in a wide 180 degree turn and lowered the wing floats and applied full 60 degrees of flaps then applied full throttle and mixture. Approach at 90MPH, righto... now begin flair and check the horizon for visual reference of altitude.The stubby blue bird touched down into the water and bobbled about back and forth against the wing floats. Now, I could bore you with the intricacies of unloading packaged mail, but this is about flying, so lets continue on that topic instead.I pushed forward the throttle then set the flaps at 0 degrees. I pulled back on the stick to keep the water out of my windshield and approached the speed to "step" onto the water. Stepping onto the water is really very simple, you get a sufficient amount of speed then somewhat pop the aircraft up onto the water to reduce drag as you continue your takeoff run. With the step out of the way the sky was the limit. Once again I pulled back the stick and lifted her into the air at around 75 MPH. Right turn, set throttle, prop and mixture for best climb and follow the ADF to base.Just as I leveled the wings out a loud crash of lightning echoed over my left wing, lighting the interior of the aircraft in a nearly blinding way. I sighed to myself and continued to climb to 4,000 feet, and just my luck it would have it that the bumps (turbulence) started in at 3,000. For the next thirty minutes I cursed that I could not chew my fingernails. The wind was easily over 18 knots on my left wing causing me to have to make plenty of adjustments to stay on the ADF bearing. I thought about cheating and using my auto pilot then I remembered the stories of bad weather destroying the trim controls of aircraft when using auto pilot... Ah ####, looks like I am gonna have to ride the lightning tonight.Large clouds loomed between me and Dutch Harbor, so naturally I added elevation to clear the small mountain range and leveled off at 5,500 feet. Constant instrument checks while I chirped and bumped along began to give me a headache and I popped a couple of aspirin and swallowed them dry. Again I checked that the pitot and carb heat was on and flipped on my strobe lights.http://img.villagephotos.com/p/2003-12/542916/Goose.JPG"Hey base, Grumman 782 foxtrot whiskey with you. Got a fun ride on my hands tonight, what are conditions down there?" I called over the radio."Hey, glad to hear from you, winds seem a bit better on the ground here but this storm is rolling in fast. The runway is soaked and most everyone has already called it a night," replied a cheery woman's voice over my headset."Roger that, I will be sharing a cup of coffee down there with you shortly, about to start my descent.""Stay safe, remember the stick goes forward if you want to go down.""Roger that, foxtrot whiskey," I laughed back over the radio.I descended quickly out of the clouds after dropping the throttle to above idle. Full mixture and prop again, time to start looking for that runway.... Just as the thought crossed my mind a large green beacon of light flashed and turned in front of me, then it switched to white..."Ahh, there we go. Lets put ya down and get out of this crap," I said calmly to myself.The rain pounded over the aircraft skin which made it sound like all #### was breaking loose outside my office. Lightning continued to strike down into the harbor and a large cargo ship appeared through my left window."Unalaska traffic, Grumman 782 foxtrot whiskey downwind for full stop landing on runway 30."I turned the aircraft parallel to the runway and peeked out the window to get a good view of the airport. I couldn't wait to get down there but at the same time I couldn't get to anxious... that could lead to pilot error and tonight I want to enjoy my coffee, not suck it through a straw.Ok, here we go, base leg... 30 degrees of flaps, drop gear, recheck engines."Unalaska traffic, Grumman 782 foxtrot whiskey turning base, full stop runway 30."I continued to look out my left window attempting to keep the airport runway lights in sight. It was not easily done as the engine often blocked the view requiring me to dip my wings to the right slightly. 1,000 feet, 90 miles per hour... ok, runway is coming abreast, time to turn."Unalaska traffic, Grumman 782 foxtrot whiskey on final for full stop runway 30."60 degrees of flaps, landing lights on... keep it lined up... The rain poured down onto the surface of the runway and caused it to reflect what little light was left. I probably would have enjoyed the sight more if it wasn't for the fact I was a few dozen feet above the ground. Pull back the stick, flair it a bit... perfect....The wheels chirped as the airplane settled onto the ground with a perfect 3 point landing. I quickly raised the flaps and let the speed settle momentarily before pulling snug back on the stick to keep the tail wheel on the ground. I applied the brakes and released the wheel lock at 20 MPH and put her in a turn to taxi back down the runway."Unalaska traffic, Grumman 782 foxtrot whiskey clear of runway. Nice to be home!""Base, foxtrot whiskey, warm up the coffee for me. Parking her now."I taxied my way to parking and stopped the aircraft then applied the parking brake. I pulled the mixture all the way out draining the engine of remaining fuel and causing it to sputter to a halt. The only sounds now came from the hum of the radio electronics and the rapping of the rain upon the airframe. All switches off, master and magnetos off...I stepped out of the aircraft and peered into the night sky, my hand covering my eyes to shield it from the rain. I lit a smoke and opened a cabin door to grab the wheel chocks, which I quickly placed under the left wheel. I walked back to the FBO and finished my smoke, putting it out in a puddle next to the door. The door swung open and there standing in the doorway was that woman who's voice came over my headset not long ago, a cup of coffee in her hands."Nice night," I sarcastically said with a smile....Author's Notes:The proceeding story was taken from a mission in Flight Simulator 10. Some of the details of the story were embellished naturally, although a good majority of the weather conditions, radio chat among other things actually occurred within the simulator.For more information about FSX, feel free to respond or send me a PM. I would love to take those interested on this journey if they feel so inclined.

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Very nice, I love the way you've told the story. Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm!

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Hello Sir,Just wanted to stop by and say that I enjoyed your story very much. Your screenshot looks just like the aleutians as I have flown around them and over them countless times. Also, I thought you might be interested in the following website. http://www.flyelectra.com/electradvdfeatures.htmlThis video does a very nice job of capturing the magic of flying in the aleutian islands. The video clip on the DVD of the Lockheed Electra landing at Dutch Harbor in terrible weather is a site to behold. Again, I really enjoyed your story. Thanks for sharingfly safe

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