40 Great Flight Simulator Adventures

by Charles Gulick

Santa Catalina

Have a Nuys

North Position: 15503 Rudder: 32767
East Position: 5813 Ailerons: 32767
Altitude: 799 Flaps: 0
Pitch: 0 Elevators: 32767
Bank: 0 Time: 9:15
Heading: 161 Season: 3-Summer
Airspeed: 0 Wind: 4 Kts, 170
Throttle: 0

Add for this mode:
Reliability Factor, 50

If you're like me, you wondered about that "reliability factor" thing for a while before you decided to try it. You were busy enough just learning how to taxi the airplane reasonably, and then fly and land it well.
    Then, there was finding out what clouds were like in the simulator, and next (as earlier in this book) exploring turbulence.
    Reliability, on the other hand, is a biggie.
    What happens when reliability is cut to, say, 50 percent, as in this present mode?
    I don't really know. So let's find out together. I'll tell you what happens to me on this nice morning-cloudless, light wind, no special problems other than reliability. And you see what happens to you.
    Let's assume we're just going to fly contact in a relatively familiar area (familiar, that is, if you've flown several other Los Angeles area modes in this book). We're nicely positioned for runway 16 at Van Nuys Airport in California. So let's plan to take off and fly toward the coast, then down it, at about 2500 feet, just sightseeing (and reliability watching).


First of all, if ever you checked controls this is the time for it. See if you have right and left aileron, and elevator and flaps, and that they operate in the right direction.
    I have right and left aileron, and elevator and flaps, and they operate in the right direction (according, at least, to my instrument panel).
    I'm also checking carburetor heat on/off-okay. Altimeter-reasonable reading. Directional gyro-agrees with compass. Fuel-okay. Oil temp-okay. Oil pressure-okay.
    Next, with brakes held on, I run the engine up to maximum rpm, even though the brakes won't quite hold the airplane. Looks okay.
    Tune Santa Monica VOR 110.8, just to check the set. Shows 13-odd miles. Looks okay.


So there's nothing left to do but get this turkey into the air and see what happens. Come on and take off and fly with me.

At a thousand feet I turn right ten degrees to point toward the ocean. Everything seems normal. Maybe a 50 percent reliability factor means a 50 percent dependability factor, muse I. There's as much chance that everything will function okay as that something will go ape?
    Now I sit here and start reasoning with myself. I figure whatever is in store for this airplane, it won't have to do with the mechanical controls, ailerons, elevator, flaps. The controls won't suddenly reverse if they weren't reversed on the ground. And unless there's a giant fuel leak, I'm not suddenly going to run out of gas. My throttle's functioning normally. Oil gauges still look good.
    So the most likely failure will be some kind of engine failure.
    And if I stay near the coast, there are plenty of airports should I have to make a forced landing-seven of them, in fact.
    This may turn out to be a dull morning (from a reliability standpoint, I mean). I begin wondering what 20 percent reliability would be like. Or maybe zero reliability.
    Fifty-fifty odds are, after all, pretty good odds. Say, you had a fifty-fifty chance to win a million dollars.
    I do my instrument scan far more religiously than usual. I even look out at my wing tips to see if maybe one's tearing loose.
    Since I'm flying Cessna, in a fit of bravado I raise my gear, though I usually fly with it down. (I fantasize a Cessna 150 when I fly the Microsoft simulator, since that's the airplane I learned in. And it certainly didn't have retractable gear.) I figure maybe the gear won't lower. But I toggle the G key, and sure enough the gear is operating fine.
    I try to remember, should my engine quit, what keys switch magnetos. It's somewhere in the manual, but I can't remember thing one about them. So I just keep flying, fat, dumb, and happy.


When I reach the coast I turn left to head 145. And keep flying. Looking frequently out the left side to check out the various airports along the way.
    At 9:39:05 even the clock's working.
    But I'm fresh out of airports for awhile, at least right on the coast. As I go by LA International, Torrance is the next good possibility. I'm more or less on a heading for that airport, I figure.
    I begin wondering whether the reliability is randomized. Whether 50 percent on one flight gives you X possible failures and on another flight, Y possibles. Along with Z probabilities of their happening or not happening, based purely on a roll of the dice.
    My estimate that I was on an approximate heading for Torrance was wrong. A chance look out the left side shows me Torrance farther inland than I thought.
    I start toying with the idea of hopping over to Catalina, feeling more secure with this 50 percent airplane all the time.


So I tune Santa Catalina VOR on 111.4 and look at the DME. About 27 miles.
    Are you game? (Or did you land with an engine out somewhere behind me? Or did you never get off the Van Nuys runway?)
    If you're with me, get an OBI course and fly it. We'll see what's happenin' on Catalina Island.
    The course I read out is 164. Yours may be different.
    I'm on my way.
    Everything seems to be A-OK-airspeed, altimeter, fuel, oil, straight-and-level at 2500.
    I begin to think maybe I'll go into edit mode for a second, and check to make sure the reliability factor is still 50 and didn't sneak back to 100. And at the same moment I'm thinking that, I get a disk access. So I decide to wait a few minutes and see if the new overlay has any problems in it.
    At the moment, the clock reads 9:45:23, and I'm 21 miles from Santa Catalina OMNI. All the gauges look right and the engine's still humming. The sky's still blue.
    At 9:48:50, I go into edit mode and check the reliability factor. Just before I do, Catalina runway gets visible ahead.
    Reliability factor reads 50.
    I resume the flight.

At 10.5 miles out of Catalina, I decide to turn left to a heading of 130, as a base leg for Catalina's runway 22, and then get on a long final-really long-just for kicks.
    I remind myself that the elevation of the airport on the island is way up there, 1602 feet. So I decide I'm already at an acceptable pattern altitude.
    I make my right turn and see by the DME I'm on a 4.5 mile final. And my altitude is 2200.
    I wonder whether you're still with me.
    I see-saw around a bit trying to get lined up well, and I make a pretty hard landing. But I'm on the ground.
    This compromised airplane got me into the air, took me down the coast over Santa Monica Bay, then flew me all the way across the Gulf of Santa Catalina.
    I call her "Ol' Reliable."

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