Flight Simulator Co-Pilot

by Charles Gulick

Night Must Fall

Greater Kankakee, IL to Merrill C. Meigs, IL

North: 16846. East: 16596. Altitude: 624. Pitch: 0. Bank: 0.
Heading: 127. Airspeed: 0. Throttle: 0. Rudder: 32767.
Ailerons: 32767. Flaps: 32767. Elevators: 32767.
Time: 19:15. Season: 4. Clouds: 0.
Surface Wind: 4 kn., 335 deg.

Welcome to Greater Kankakee Airport.

If you're flying Cessna you're lucky, because this is one of the most beautiful settings in your simulator's repertoire, featuring a 3-D FBO (Fixed Base Operations) office and some dazzling colors.

Let's get rolling right away, because this dusk turns into night at 7:30, and I want you to see the transition in the air.

Prepare for your takeoff, which will be from Runway 34. You're parked just to the right of the taxiway. Taxi ahead and a little to your left, so your heading reads about 93 degrees; then turn right until your heading reads about 116 degrees and left again following the lights to the narrow taxiway.

When you get to 34, turn directly left, get lined up, and go ahead with your takeoff roll. Take a look behind you as you climb.

Plan to level off and cruise at 3000 feet. Meanwhile, tune your NAV1-to Chicago Heights VOR on a frequency of 114.2. Then, using the techniques you've learned, get on the 350 radial of that OMNI. Set up NAV2 to monitor your progress if you like. If you do things right, you'll be on a somewhat easterly heading as you cross the spokes toward the 350. And as you get ready to turn to intercept the radial, think about your position on the wheel, remembering that you're in the north quadrant.

When night comes down, it comes down hard, doesn't it? Aren't you glad you have learned so much about instrument flight?

Keep up your instrument scan. Everything steady. If you're on the 350 TO radial to Chicago Heights, straight and level at 3000, OBI needle centered, heading in agreement with the numbers, airspeed where it ought to be, you should feel quite confident.

And there's something real smooth and comforting about the black world ahead—isn't there? As if you were a child with your head deep down in a security blanket.

See if you can raise the Meigs tower on 121.3. If not, try the Chicago Midway tower on 128.05. If you can't reach either of them, you can always sing to yourself.

About 12 miles from Chicago Heights the world starts to turn on. There are three rotating beacons ahead. Check your chart, and see if you can identify them. If you have the Piper chart or an FAA sectional, you'll be able to name all three airports. But the Cessna chart provides little information, so I'll have to tell Cessna pilots that the rightmost beacon is Lansing Municipal Airport. Anyway, you'll shortly see its runway lights, and more beacons will spring up on the horizon.

If you're confident that you're on the 350 radial, ignore the swings of the OBI needle as you approach and then pass over the station. Then you can ignore the OBI altogether. From here on, you're flying contact. The beacon at Meigs should be right out in front of you. Fly the beacon.

However, use your DME readout from the OMNI. Meigs is about 21 nautical miles from the station, so you can track your progress from here to touchdown.

Call the tower for landing instructions. They will approve a straight-in approach, I'm sure. Check your chart for field elevation. You'll want to be at pattern altitude and airspeed about three miles out.

The highway on your left, which you're following approximately, is Interstate 57, which meets I-90 and I-94 just south of Chicago. The highway farther off is Interstate 55, which connects with 90/94 just west of Meigs.

About 15 miles from touchdown you'll be able to see I-290, which becomes Eisenhower Expressway and then West Congress Parkway in midtown Chicago a few blocks south of the Sears Tower.

When the DME (behind you, remember) reads about 12 you'll be approximately nine nautical miles from Meigs. Time to put on carb heat and back off your throttle to slowflight—1505 RPM in Cessna and 1200 RPM in Piper. Trim gradually but as frequently as you need to hold as close as possible to a 500-FPM descent.

As the aircraft slows up, put on 10 degrees of flaps and continue to trim as necessary.

From here on, your inbound flight and approach is standard. Don't forget to trim down two notches to steepen your final descent, followed by an application of full flaps. Then use back pressure to reduce your angle of descent, and again to flare, followed by feeling the yoke back gradually until the moment of touchdown.

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