Sign in to follow this  
MM

The Highlands of Central America

Recommended Posts

The Highlands of Central America

This week's routing takes us through the Highlands of Central America to gather organically grown coffee, mangoes, strawberries, and apples for a retired Silicon Valley executive who has a new idea for a startup. We begin in Guatemala City and fly through the mountain country of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to reach Tegucigalpa. At first we fly the Sierra Madre, the chain of mountains that includes most of the Central America Volcanic Arc, and then we enter the rugged Honduran Highlands that dominate the country's geography.  Given the rich soil and cool air, the uplands are relatively densely settled compared to the hot and humid coastal regions. By Western standards, these are poor countries with long histories of authoritarian rule. For the individuals themselves, of course, life in the highlands is laced with rich vibrant traditions.

We begin at Guatemala City's international airport La Aurora (MGGT). A population of more than two million make Guate (as it is known locally) the largest city in Central America. It is surrounded by volcanos and mountains. Heading northwest into the Sierra Madre, we pass over Antigua (TP1), the historic colonial capital that continues to attract visitors from around the world. And we pass Santa María Volcano (TP2), the devastating "Decade Volcano" that produced the 20th century's third largest eruption in 1902. We land at Quetzaltenango Los Altos (MGQZ). Until 2006, the airfield consisted of a grass/gravel runway with no buildings. Today the runway is asphalt and the new terminal makes possible regular airline service.  (Note the airport's elevation is 7,779 ft.) Widely know by its Mayan name Xela, this is Guatemala's second city with a population of a half million.

On a northeast course, we fly over the mountains to Cobán (MGCB) which is a gateway to the low forested plains of the Guatemalan north. The fast growing city is in the heart of the wildly successful coffee-growing area of Vera Paz. (Cobán was known for its unusually large German population that arrived in the late nineteenth century and developed the coffee business. While many German Guatemalans were expelled during WWII,  many remain in the area and are now assimilated into the local culture.) The airport is due for improvements as it is now known as a safety risk.

We take off over the mountains to cross the border into Honduras. (TP3) marks Copán Ruinas, the site of the great ancient Mayan city that was known for its remarkable science and arts.  We proceed to Cucuyagua (MHUY), a dirt field that serves this small rural regional center. Then to La Esperanza, the highest "city" in Honduras. Incorporating a Mestizo and an Amerindian Lenca community, the large town (21,000) lies in a relatively flat mountain valley bordered by two chains of mountains. La Esperanza's airstrip (MHLE) runs along the valley one mile south of the city. (You might best approach from the north, over the town itself.) After picking up local apples, we turn around and climb over the hills and descend into the Comayagua Valley for Soto Cano Air Base (MHSC). Commonly known as Palmerola, the base houses the Honduran Air Force Academy and a number of Honduran Air Force units as well as an American Joint Force contingent that conducts drug interdiction and humanitarian missions.

Finally, we transit over to Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital. The airport Toncontín (MHTG) is one of the "most dangerous airports" of the world because approaching passenger jets require special pilot techniques to turn through the mountains and land on the short runway. Eight years ago, after an accident, the government announced an intent to shut down Toncontín and divert traffic to faraway Soto Cano Air Base. This has not happened. Instead, the runway was lengthened and the nearby hills bulldozed: Toncontín remains the capital city airport. If it is at all possible, we should land on the notorious NORTH RNAV approach to Rwy 02. (This approach is justifiably tricky for jet pilots, as you can see here and here, but is no real challenge for our slower smaller aircraft. Nevertheless, flying the approach will give a feel for the real deal.) We shall deliver our payload at the cargo ramp at the southwest corner of the airport.

The flightplans for Plan-G and FSX can be found here.

 

CS_MGGT.jpg

Aircraft. The route is 353nm so anything that cruises in the 170-180 range will do the job. Given the mission, the venerable C-47 would be an excellent choice. I'll fly the superb Manfred Jahn/Jan Visser model in the Allas livery painted by our own Ron Attwood.
 

Scenery.

Required.
First, please install Felix Romero's version of La Esperanza (MHLE) airstrip. Romero's two bgl files are included in the zip file along with the flight plan: simply copy the two bgl files into the "[FSX]\Addon Scenery\scenery" folder. (FTX Global Vector users will want to disable the AEC feature for MHLE by running "Auto-Configuration" after the new installation.) The default FSX version is misplaced a mile to the east – in the middle of a mountain – and it needs replacing. The correctly-placed airport is marked in the flightplan as MHLE1.

 

Optional (Highly Recommended).
Orbx Global and Orbx OpenLC North America.
Tegucigalpa Toncontín (MHTG). You will enhance your experience with the approach to Toncontín Rwy 02 by installing Rhett Browning's light rendition of the airport and environs. It is available at AVSIM here. If you are going to play with this approach, I would strongly recommend Browning's modest scenery files to show how the airport is situated in the city.

Optional (Recommended).
Quetzaltenango Los Altos (MGQZ). Fernando Angel Gonzalez updates the bare dirt runway to the current asphalt runway with a small terminal building that resembles contemporary real life photos and films. Good freeware. It is available at FlightSim.com here.

 

Date and time: November 19, 2016, 1900 UTC
Where: AVSIM RTWR Teamspeak - Casual Flights Channel
Teamspeak Server Address: ts.teamavsim.com
Multiplayer: FSX Multiplayer (IP will be provided on Teamspeak)

If you want to help others enjoy the multiplayer experience, don't forget to enter your aircraft details on the multiplayer spreadsheet! (linked here)

Note to Ron. Please set server time to 14:00 Local on August 19, 2016. [The selected date keeps the trees green for realism.]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Help AVSIM continue to serve you!
Please donate today!

With the exception of MGQZ (7,700 ft), the airports lie at something between 2,000-5,000 ft. And there is no need to climb over huge mountains. You won't need a pressurized cabin or oxygen equipment. Neither are the runways especially short for our sorts of aircraft. However, the terrain near three or four of the fields asks that you think about how to set up the final approach. In all, this is an easy flight over a part of the world that we rarely see.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice challenge!.

Cheers, Ed

Ed, does that mean we'll see you online with us? Hope so. :smile:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SkyVector for MEA's, preflight WX & pretty colors of the mountains one doesn't want to hit. :LMAO:

WOW - there are a lot (~16) small mountain strips, shown in SkyVector, in the area between MHUY & MHLE (and elsewhere), not in FS!! Reminds me of the Kokoda Trail and Papua New Guinea.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ed, does that mean we'll see you online with us? Hope so. :smile:

 

Hi, Ron. Looks difficult to me, because of the time and this busy saturday, anyway will do my best to have all authorizations from my dear wife.

By the way, downloaded your last repaint for the C-47 (Reeve Aleutian), really good!.

Cheers, Ed

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With regard to seeing each others paints with the C-47. I believe it's to do with the texture.cfg which calls for EATS as a backup. If you want a black cockpit I have isolated the relevant files  HERE

Check whether any paints have the EATS entry in the texture.cfg and replace with the bog standard one. Best I can come up with.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mike, Thanks for the flight, another one for the books! A shame about the power failure, specially for the author/planner.

 

RE: C-47

Needs some more testing, either it's the pilot running out of trim on approach, or it's an animation quirk similar to the chocks always displaying after a crash / other. On approach within a certain height AGL until touchdown the elevator shows (snaps) full up. Not sure if this is only a MP thing - again needs more testing which I am happy to do! Luv this bird!

 

Sounds through headphones... There is a command for the Doug Dawson sound gauge to force the sound through your headphones but it requires (most likely) a complete recode of the logic that controls the sounds which is not practical and is forbidden via XML comments in the code. Alternative? Doug made a specific program that forces any sound produced by his gauge to be forced through the headphones or other sound device. All I can recommend is to try it. At his site ( http://dl.douglassdawson.ca/ ), download "dsd_sound_configuration"

( http://dl.douglassdawson.ca/files/DSD_SoundConfiguration.zip ) and give it a go. I believe this will do it :-)

 

Gunter, still working on the PIREP for Germany III. A lot of media was taken and well, needs mods. ( pilot comms need muting Shame%20On%20You.gif  )

 

Ron "tucking up" with Jeff. In the soup just outside Guatemala City and our initial departure at La Aurora Intl (MGGT).

 

SS_19Nov16_132008_N14.61282_W90.95113.jp

 

Bert shadowing Gunter at a distance. At the moment they are over "Lago de Atitlan" ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Atitlán ). Look at those vortex generators on the horizontal stab! Sharp!

 

SS_19Nov16_132507_N14.66947_W91.19458.jp

 

Over the top of Santa Maria Volcano ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_María_(volcano) ) at 13,000+ feet after making the turn for Quetzaltenango (MGQZ). Looking at the SW corner where the 1902 eruption tore away the previous cone. I need to descend..... Rapidly! Ended up doing a left circle to land over the outskirts of the city in order to make it.

 

SS_19Nov16_133446_N14.77403_W91.56317.jp

 

Near San Andres Sajcabaja PIREPS starting coming in about declining weather... "Towering cumulonimbi" I replied.. Seems about right, perfect time of the day & temps were very close to dewpoints.

 

SS_19Nov16_135806_N15.16799_W90.99935.jp

 

Ron, Jeff & I over the mountain ranges near Tucuru, just Southeast (14nm) of our departure point of Coban (MGCB). Both Josh & I commented on "Hanging on to a stall" while climbing over the near 8000 ft peaks in IFR conditions. Others deviated or circled to make it over.

 

SS_19Nov16_142426_N15.29248_W90.15177.jp

 

Descending out of the soup to see if the Mayan ruins at Copan Ruinas (TP3) show up. Fairly well I would imagine.

 

SS_19Nov16_144506_N14.84801_W89.1776.jpg

 

SS_19Nov16_144518_N14.84581_W89.17167.jp

 

A "gaggle" of Gooney Birds departing Cucuyagua Airport (MH14 / MHUY).

 

SS_19Nov16_150103_N14.6213_W88.87207.jpg

 

Both Josh & Ron had elevation issues at La Esperanza Airport (MHLE/MHLE1). What was strange is that they could see the runway flat on the ground but an invisible "glass like" surface prevented them from getting there! Here's Josh in the infamous "That's All - Brother" (excellent alias!) overcoming gravity with a nice landing...?

 

SS_19Nov16_152230_N14.28253_W88.18189.jp

 

Ron making his first try at MHLE. A "Woah! What was that?" came over the radio.

 

SS_19Nov16_152428_N14.28253_W88.18189.jp

 

His second try was good, until, unlike Josh, gravity won as he went towards the end of the "glass like" runway. He fall down, go boom.. LOL!

 

SS_19Nov16_152709_N14.28253_W88.18189.jp

 

Gunter getting in some formation time with Jeff near Soroguara on the way to our final destination, the infamous Toncontin Intl - Tegucigalpa (MHTG) . Purdy!

 

SS_19Nov16_155614_N14.30866_W87.36253.jp

 

From Gunter's perspective..

 

SS_19Nov16_155630_N14.30573_W87.34893.jp

 

We made it! Looking back at the ground away hill of the rwy02 approach end.

 

SS_19Nov16_161018_N14.06131_W87.21834.jp

 

Fore to Aft - Bert, Jeff, Ron, Gunter & myself. Debrief time!

 

SS_19Nov16_161030_N14.06131_W87.21834.jp

 

Here are two "snapshot" videos, made from still shots taken 1 second apart.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That dog of yours must be starvin'. You surely don't have time to feed him! Great work Roman.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

great photos & video, really miss the Saturday night flights, hope to re-join you when circumstances improve.

regards,

  roger.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great pics Roman, thanks for the work!

 

Great pictures indeed - and nice to see a different part of the world  :smile:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A bit off topic, I admit, but maybe of interest:

 

I went through some of the countless slides my father had made, and I found one box that will get further attention. But as we were using the C-47 quite a bit, I thought I could share theses pics right now. They were takenin  February 1959 in Eglinton (Northern Ireland, I believe):

 

c-47-1.jpg

 

c-47-2.jpg

 

c-47-3.jpg

 

c-47-4.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Those images surely capture the spirit of the moment. A tip of my hat to the memory of your father's photography.

Thanks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very nice Gunter! Closing the eyes in an "airplane haze :p0504: " one can almost hear and smell them..  :good:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this