All 9 entries tagged Flying

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January 18, 2005

Flying in the wind

About a week ago the following was suggested:

If you get chance (and the Flight Sim allows) you could try setting the weather conditions so that you get a strong crosswind. It should make landing fun

I finally got around to trying it last night, with a 16kt cross-wind pretty much at right angles to the runway (runway 05, wind direction 144). Perhaps I should have tried a more gentle wind first – "fun" is an understatement.

I did just about manage to steer into the wind enough to keep straight on the runway on take-off. Don't think I could have managed it with a stronger wind. Once in the air, I was surprised to find I needed the stick a long way to the right to keep the plane level. I was expecting to have to steer a little into the wind to keep going in a straight line, but not to need a lot of aileron just to keep level. I guess the wind was providing more lift on the windward side, so I needed to force it down? With an airspeed of 100kts, I guess an extra 16 is still significant.

Once I'd got up high enough the wind disappeared and the rest of the circuit was uneventful. Until the landing, that is. I was crabbing much more than I expected. Keeping the plane straight was hard work. In fact I didn't quite manage it and approached the runway a little from the left. I did remember to straighten up before touching down, but didn't get completely straight and ended up running onto the grass. Oops. Perhaps if I'd got the appraoch straight it would have worked better?

I'll try this again next time I'm flying, and try to get a few pictures.

Which reminds me. Flightlevel350.com contains lots of flight videos (of real planes:-). Have a look at the one labelled "Boeing 747–400 Pax" on the home page. That's how a cross-wind landing works when you're in a 747…


January 15, 2005

AI traffic finally works!

Success! It turns out that the aircraft definition I had for the Thomsonfly 737–500 was slightly faulty. The plane had a maximum range of 0 and a maximum altitude of 0. No surprise, then, that they wouldn't take off. After fixing that, I appear to have working Thomsonfly traffic, flying to the real-life schedule, in addition to the smaller aircraft I have doing circuits and hopping between Coventry and Wellesbourne. And to prove it, here's a 737 about to leave the ground, with me in my little Cessna parked on the grass alongside the runway, watching!

There's still some tweaking to do, though. While waiting for a 737 to arrive, so I could get a picture of a landing, I discovered another little problem. The 737 approached the airport at the same time that a Cessna was doing circuits. Rather than making one or other of them wait, the AI engine decided to let the 737 land on runway 6. That's the 300ft long grass strip that I mentioned earlier, now used for helicopters. I guess I'll have to disable that to stop anything landing on it. The AI engine doesn't work for helicopters anyway.

Oh, and in answer to Max's question about jetwash, no it appears there isn't a jetwash effect. I was following behind quite closely, as you can see, and din't feel a thing. This was taken just after the 737 had floored it, so to speak, so the engines were flat out at the time. I'll have to report this to Microsoft as a bug – perhaps they'll do something about it in FS2006:-)


January 12, 2005

AI Traffic at Coventry

Follow-up to Christmas flying, the reality from Steve's blog

At last I've managed to get a Cessna 182 doing circuits with me, so this eveing's flying was a little more entertaining that usual! Due to the unpredictable length of my circuits we'd keep getting in each other's way. Some of the default FS2004 traffic was also around this time, causing trouble. I was told go go around twice. Once was because my approach was awful and would have resulted in a big hole in the runway. The second time there was nothing wrong at all that I could see. The go around instruction came quite late so I carried on with the landing and got seriously told off! Won't do that again:-)

Another slightly ropey approach of mine took longer than the Tower expected and cause the other Cessna, following close behind, to have to go around.

And having all this extra traffic sometimes makes it difficult to get a word in, doesn't it! I've had 4 or 5 other aircraft have conversations with Coventry Tower before I've had a chance to acknowledge a transmission.

I also saw a Thomsonfly 737 do a touch-and-go on runway 6. Yes, runway 6. That's about 300ft long and completely useless for landing anything on, except maybe for a harrier (is it actually used for helicopters?) How the AI traffic came up with that I have no idea. I was on approach to runway 5 at the time and heard the tower giving instructions but didn't quite believe it. Then this thing came whizzing past to my right, touched down, and flew off again. It was almost out of sight before I'd landed. That's something you won't see in real life, thankfully…

Speaking of Thomsonfly, to the right is a picture of me in my Cessna 172, parked next to a 737. I haven't yet managed to get any to taxi and take off, but I can get them parked!

Just to finish on a high, my final landing this evening was almost textbook. Got the approach spot on and just glided down. No fiddling with throttle or elevators. 10 degrees of flap, speed 75kts, descent at 500ft/min, all the way down. I was a little high (PAPI showed three white, one red, until the end), and drifted a little to the right towards the end, and just the tiniest of bounces. By my usual standards, that's brilliant!

I even managed a fairly decent landing at Wellesbourne. All in all, a good evening's flying.

So, what to do next time. Well, I'm being "encouraged" to turn up the wind a little, so I think that might be next. Not to the levels we've been having around here lately, mind you. A nice sedate 10kts will do fine. And I do want to have a fly around Snowdon, to see what VFR Terrain has done do it. Something for the weekend, I think…


January 11, 2005

Christmas flying, the reality

Follow-up to Flying plans for the Christmas break… from Steve's blog

Predictably, I didn't get as much flying done as I had planned. What I did manage was:

  • Clockwise circuits: I only managed this once at Baginton. As it happens, I found the approach easier for some reason, and produced my cleanest landing at Baginton ever. Of course, a sample size of one is not particularly significant – we'll see what happens after a few more. I'll fly clockwise by default now, at least for a while.
  • Landing on runway 05: This was the same circuit as above, and therefore my cleanest landing yet at Baginton. Again, some more circuits needed.

That's it. How disappointing. In my defence, I tried flying with AI traffic turned on and didn't find any planes getting in my way. So I started trying to understand how AI traffic works, resulting in finding a pile of stuff to download, install, and try out, which in theory would give me thomsonfly 737s to dodge, flying to a realistic timetable. In practice, the stuff I found didn't work. I get 737s parked at various places at the airport, but none of them go anywhere, and no new ones arrive. Part of this was a redesigned airport that contained suitable places for the 737s. Unfortunately, this new airport seemed to interact badly with my installation of FS2004 and the runway disappeared! Actually, it was still there but it wasn't grey tarmac – it looked like a grass runway and it was really difficult to use because I couldn't see the edges. So, for now it is turned off.

I have a description of how to add AI traffic at airports, so I'll try adding some local traffic doing circuits, and see if that will produce some planes to get in my way.

I have now got copies of VFR photographic scenry and VFR Terrain to add to FS2004, so that will give me some incentive to do some more flying. It will make visual navigation easier, so I'll do a bit more around here. I also want to visit North Wales and see what Snowdon really looks like from the air. Of course, I'll cheat and start from an airport a bit nearer than here – one of the benefits of a simulator:-)


December 16, 2004

Flying from Coventry to Wellesbourne

Follow-up to Flying plans for the Christmas break… from Steve's blog

The plan was to head pretty much directly south from Baginton until the Fosse Way. Follow that until a little way south of Wellesbourne, and then turn back north to runway 36. That would take me between Radford Semele and Southam, west of Harbury, and east and south of Wellesbourne, nicely avoiding any major, or even minor, settlements. The track on the right pretty much represents that plan. The leg heading south is actually a heading of 190. The leg along the Fosse Way is a heading of 210. Then at some point you turn due west, before turning onto the final approach to runway 36.

In fact, I couldn't make out enough detail to follow this plan exactly, mostly because I was too high (2500' rather than 1500'). So I ended up somewhat further east than planned, almost passing over Southam, before turning onto 210 over Bishop's Itchington, heading over Gaydon and Kineton to Pillerton Priors, where I turned onto 280, and then onto 000 over Ettington, which is pretty much due south of the airport. The track above is, of course, what actually happened, but you can't tell from it that I went wrong because there are no landmarks!

The approach was about right, actually, so if I'd followed my original plan I might not have had enough room to get lined up properly. Ettington is about 2 miles from the airport, and since I was higher than planned, I also needed that distance to lose the height. I probably should have had more. The PAPI was white all the way down.

So, I did end up flying over places I was trying to avoid, but I wasn't that far off. If you head southish (180–190) from Baginton and follow the Fosse Way when you see it, but staying a little east of it, then you'll should eventually be able to see the airport well enough. If you stick to 1500ft then you should be able to turn a liittle north of Ettington, perhaps between it and Walton Hall, and get a decent approach.

I've just noticed I used runway 05 and Christine was asking about 23. If you take off from runway 23 and head south that'll take you over Leamington, probably. You'll want to head east a bit first, 150 ish, to go between Bubbenhall and Cubbington and keep going till you see the Fosse Way, and then turn to follow it, heading 210 or so, still keeping it to your right. Then as above.

It'll be interesting to know if this works in practice!


December 14, 2004

Flying plans for the Christmas break…

Thanks to being inspired by Christine's flying blog I've been building up a list of things I need to practice virtually when time allows. In no particular order these are:

  • Clockwise circuits – I've always flown anti-clockwise for no obvious reason.
  • Approaching Baginton from the other direction – I've always used runway 23, again for no particular reason, and need to give 05 a go
  • More practice at Wellesbourne, which is smaller and more difficult
  • A bit of cross-country flying to get the hang of longer-distance navigation
  • Some practice with other planes in the air around me

As I keep saying, the main thing I can't do is land cleanly so I really need to get that sorted. As far as I can tell, the bit that causes me the most trouble is the final turn, because I'm useless and making sure I'm properly lined up as I come out of it. Maybe I need to practice turning?

The only trouble with planning on doing all this over Christmas is that I'm going to be at my parents for much of it. Maybe I need to put FS2004 on the laptop and take that, and the joystick. If anybody knows of a small but decent USB joystick…


November 10, 2004

Coventry circuits

After rambling in other people's blogs about how bad my virtual landing is, finally here's some evidence to back up my claim! This is a circuit of Baginton:

The circuit itself isn't rectangular, but that's just me not looking carefully enough at the compass. I got the downwind leg nice and parallel. If you could zoom in on the approach, though you'd see a fair bit of wafting about as I try, and fail, to line up properly.

The really bad bit is the altitude profile. First, I think I got too high. 2000' is a bit much for a small circuit, I think, and makes the approach too steep. Which is what happened. Sigh. But notice I actually descend too steep, and have to flatten out and even pull up slightly. And despite that the final approach is still too steep.

I need to descend much more slowly. I just can't judge it right from the virtual cockpit. Not surprising, I suppose, since it is a flat image. You'd have thought I'd have figured it out by now, though.

Think yourself lucky you couldn't actually see the approach from the cockpit. It was not a pretty sight. If I can figure out how to make a recording of it and put it here, I might do that to give everyone a laugh:-)

There are some landing lessons with MSFS2004. I did those years ago, in a previous version, after trying and failing to figure it out for myself. Perhaps I should do them again?


September 28, 2004

Proof…

Follow-up to Those magnificent men from Steve's blog

Now that the image uploading bug has been fixed, I present my certificate. As proof of what I'm not sure. It says they'd have me back, so I can't have been too bad!

September 26, 2004

Those magnificent men

Writing about web page http://www.almat.co.uk/

For my mumbleth birthday I was given a "trial lesson" certificate for Almat Flying Club based at Baginton. That was a while ago, and I finally got around to arranging it last weekend. But there was too much wind and low cloud, so it was postponed to this Saturday. But there was too much low cloud, so it was moved to Sunday morning. And the weather was just about perfect. A little overcast, which apparently means no thermals, and so a smoother ride. The cloud was a bit low, still – I flew through some at 2500ft. Towards the end of the lesson the sun came out, making the view just about perfect.

The flight was booked for a 2-seater Cessna 150, but ended up being in a 4-seater Cessna 172. It lasted for an hour, going East to Northampton, South(ish) over Silverstone and West to Banbury, North to Daventry and Rugby, and West following the M6 for a bit until finally turning South-West back to Baginton. Not bad for just an hour! And apart from the first and last 5 minutes the instructor was completely hands-off (but not feet-off, of which more later).

I have flown MS Flight Simulator for years now, so had a reasonable idea of what the control surfaces were and what they did. Much of that was flying a Cessna 172, too, so it was interesting to compare it to the real thing. In fact, the experiences were very similar. The real plane is smoother and less twitchy. Keeping it straight and level is easier (or would be if only the air would keep still – I tend to fly the simulator with the wind turned off:-). You get a much better view out of the real plane. You can look around in the simulator, but it isn't the same at all. Especially as the scenery around here isn't very realistic. The lack of view in the simulator means I tend to concentrate too much on the intruments. Flying by eye, and by feeling the motion of the plane (not possible with MSFS!) makes for a smoother flight, too.

Turning a plane requires using hands to operate the ailerons and feet to operate the rudder. I've usually flown the simulator with "auto-rudder" turned on, so I just have to roll the plane and the rudder takes care of itself. When flying the real thing, you don't get this option. I sometimes forgot, and the instructor supplied the feet!

Still, I was surpised at how realistic MSFS is. I have heard that pilots studying for their private pilot's licence use it to get in some extra practice cheaply. Now I see how useful that could be. I might be tempted to get some rudder pedals now…:-)

I could get seriously interested in flying. It is very liberating. Flying around this morning there were few other aircraft about (we saw two in total), so there was not a lot to worry about except deciding where to go. And despite the engine and wind noise, it is surprisingly peaceful up there. If only it didn't cost so much. Christine Smith has previously mentioned how much it costs to get a private pilot's licence. Unfortunately, I have other priorities for my money, so I'm not likely to follow her into the air. I may never do it again, and have to stick to simulators in future.

If you ever get the chance, I recommend having at least a go. But be prepared to get hooked!


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