Flight Simulator Co-Pilot

by Charles Gulick

Valley Low

Provo, UT to Salt Lake City Int'l, UT

Scenery Disk 5.
North: 17382. East: 8738. Altitude: 4491. Pitch: 0.
Bank: 0. Heading: 245. Airspeed: 0. Throttle: 0.
Rudder: 32767. Ailerons: 32767. Flaps: 0.
Elevators: 32767. Time: 8:00. Season: 1. Clouds: 0.
Surface Wind: 8 kn., 235 deg.

Runway 24 at Provo Airport is the shortest of the three wide strips. It points you for a scenic takeoff over beautiful Utah Lake, which is a sheet of ice this morning. The temperature is in the low 20s. I hope you're wearing your flight jacket.

Before you get set for takeoff, access radar, and zoom to the view that shows you all of the lake and the four mountains to your right. The highway directly off the tail of your airplane is Interstate 15, which goes north through Idaho and Montana to the edge of Alberta, British Columbia, and arcs south about the same distance to southern California. The mountains are part of the extensive Wasatch Range, the nearest one being Mount Timpanogos (Timp for short) which peaks at nearly 12,000 feet. The notch of Utah Lake to your immediate left is called Provo Bay.

When you return to your out-the-windshield view, take a look at Timp out the right rear window. Then look at the other hills directly to your right.

Now we come to something interesting. This is the first Scenery Disk area we have seen that features mountains. Depending on which simulator you're flying, your mountains will be black or green (assuming you are using a composite monitor). In the Cessna, for example, they're green—the same green as the grass.

Now mountains the same color as the usual simulator earth don't seem very much like mountains. With everything else so green, it is hard to tell where they begin and end.

But there is a solution. One of the reasons I find the simulators so fascinating is that they truly reward exploration and experimentation. And this morning, disenchanted with the prospect of having to mow all that green grass, I discovered how to define grassy mountains—at least those at which Cessna pilots are now looking—so you can differentiate them from “ordinary” earth. Try the trick on the next page.

Go into the Editor (do this even if your mountains aren't green) and set Cloud Layer 1 Tops to 15000, Bottoms to 13000. Make no other changes. Just exit the Editor.

Voila! Cessna simulator now has clearly defined mountains. The overcast darkened the earth but not the hills. Much better!

If you had black mountains originally, the effect is not so good. The overcast wiped them out entirely, wrapping the whole environment in a gray sheet. If this happened to you, go back into the Editor and change Cloud Layer 1 back to 0. Some of us will fly in weather this morning, and some of us won't. I don't want to fly this area, weather or not, if I can't see the mountains, because we're going to be flying around and between them. And I have no desire to fly into them.

For you green-mountain folks, the overcast trick is worth remembering whenever you want mountains to stand out from the rest of the landscape or, for that matter, when you just want to add some charisma to the environment. The color gray sometimes sheds a whole new light.

Before you get lined up and take off, read about our climb-out procedure for this flight. It'll be a bit different. We want only 500 feet of altitude, for an altimeter reading of 5000, and we want to slowfly the plane as soon as we have that altitude. Use your regular 10 degrees of flaps and your regular takeoff trim. Rotate as usual (the lift-off will not follow the rotation immediately, due to the field elevation). As soon as you are off the ground, subtract the notch of elevator you used for rotation, then dump your flaps when you're climbing above 500 FPM. Up to this point, your takeoff is normal.

Next, if you were going to make your standard climb-out, you would trim two quick notches down in Cessna, one down in Piper, as soon as you were climbing 1000 FPM. Then, when the VSI indicated better than 500 FPM again, you would cut back to your 500-FPM climb power.

But you'll remember that, if you were going to fly the pattern, you would omit the climb-out trim (the two quick notches down in Cessna, the one down in Piper) to facilitate getting into slowflight as soon as you had the altitude you wanted, because slowflight is distinguished by considerable up elevator and low RPM (1505 in Cessna and 1200 in Piper).

What we'll do in taking off over Utah Lake this morning is to compress all the foregoing as follows:

After your flaps are up, wait as usual until you're climbing better than 1000 FPM, then reduce your power setting for slowflight (1505 RPM in Cessna and 1200 RPM in Piper), and as your VSI starts down, put on your slowflight trim: in Cessna, two quick notches up, then two more; in Piper, three slow notches up with a slight pause between them.

You will wind up in slowflight at or near an altimeter reading of 5000 feet, which you'll need some extra power to maintain.

If you analyze this, what you have done is to add up elevator to your regular takeoff trim to get speedily into your normal slowflight configuration. Had you been straight and level, you would have reduced your power to slow-flight RPM, then trimmed Cessna up six (2, 2, 2) and Piper up four (1, 1, 1, 1).

In any event, fly straight out over Utah Lake until you're at 5000 feet at approximately pattern airspeed (you'll fly a little faster at this altitude than, say, at 2000 feet, and you'll need 100 RPM more power than at lower altitudes, and maybe a notch of up elevator, too, to stay straight and level).

Now turn right to a heading of about 340 degrees (don't forget a notch of up elevator to hold your altitude in the turn). You will be flying along the eastern shore of Utah Lake. The highway is 1–15, as you already know, and it's on its way to Salt Lake City.

Take a look at Timp out the right front and at Provo and the airport you left south of there.

Looking out the front again, we're aiming for the far side of the mountain occupying the rightmost portion of your screen. It's obscuring (unless you are way out over the lake) the two behind it. After you cross 1-15, take a radar view which shows you all four mountains. They are named, in order, Tim-panogos, Alta, Sunset Peak, and Mt. Olympus, the latter pointing at the southeastern tip of Salt Lake City.

Point your aircraft to fly around the corner of Alta. As it looms nearer, you'll need to correct your course to the left. And remember, you're only 500 feet AGL, so don't try cutting that sloping corner too close, unless you want to make the front page of tomorrow's Salt Lake Tribune.

Regularly check your location on radar, zooming in when practical to get a closeup of just the two mountains with which you're presently concerned.

Once you're over the edge, make a right turn into the valley formed by Alta and Sunset Peak, heading about 35 degrees—the point (check radar) where they come close to each other, forming a little slot. You're going to fly along the valley through the slot.

Don't turn too early, but for the maximum scenic effect, get fairly close to Sunset before you turn, so that you point right up the middle of the valley with the mountains equidistant on either side. One turn, rather than a series of them, is the way to go, and your heading through the slot will probably be about 75 degrees.

Enjoy the view on all sides as you make the pass-through. Depending on your relationship to the mountains, one view or the other will probably show you nothing but a mountain wall.

Using radar and direct right side views as guides, fly on the 75-degree heading until you're opposite the easternmost slope of Alta, the mountain on your right. And then turn 90 degrees to the left, heading—well, 90 degrees left of 75.

Once on your new heading, add a few notches of power to climb to 5500. Meanwhile keep a lookout to your left, and make another 90-degree turn to fly through the valley between Sunset Peak and Mt. Olympus. Don't stick blindly to the exact number. Fly up the valley.

This is the valley the airlines fly through when approaching Salt Lake City from the east. I haven't been to even a fraction of the places in person that you and I fly together in the simulator. But I've approached Salt Lake City as an airline passenger this way, and let me tell you, it is breathtaking. The mountains are extremely close and more massive by far than they seem in the simulator. I remember thinking then, when the weather was clear, how hazardous this approach would be on instruments and wondering whether even the airlines ever did it that way.

But when you get beyond Mt. Olympus and see Salt Lake City spreading out across the valley to your right, the sight is worth the effort.

It looked much different—bleak, grim, and inhospitable—when Brigham Young led the persecuted Mormon faithful here in their great western migration (1846-47), looked across the valley from the mouth of the canyon you just flew, and said “This is the place.” He saw what it could become. And it became Salt Lake City.

The mountain out in front of you, by the way, is Deseret Peak, over 11,000 feet high and about 50 miles from here in another section of the Wasatch National Forest, portions of which are all over this area.

Be sure to take a look at Salt Lake City out the right front window as you come out of the valley. Then tune your NAV to the VOR which is just off the end of the runways at Salt Lake City International, and get an inbound bearing, centering your OBI needle. The frequency is on your chart.

You're probably about 17 miles out, but since you're already at pattern airspeed you might as well stay that way.

Now, to get nicely lined up for a straight-in approach to Runway 34 Left, the active, reset your OBS to the 340 radial, and get over there and fly it. If you don't have any trouble, we can declare you a graduate of OMNI school. If, however, you need a refresher course, press the Pause key and go back to study “The Lone OMNI-Ranger” on page 54.

You'll probably see another airport on your screen while you're switching radials. That has the imaginative name Salt Lake City No. 2.

Meanwhile a look out the right side should show you Salt Lake City International Airport, spread out there waiting for you—and a beautiful scene it is. Airport elevation is 4228 feet.

Once you're on the runway heading, attend to the rest of your approach procedure—carburetor heat, flaps, power reductions, trim, etc.—to suit where you want to set the airplane down, which is precisely on the far side of the threshold of Runway 34L. That is the place.

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