Flight Simulator Co-Pilot

by Charles Gulick

An Eerie Eyrie of Eagles

Eagle Field (Local)

North: 17417. East: 7447. Altitude: 410
Pitch: 0. Bank: 0. Heading: 40. Airspeed: 0. Throttle: 0.
Rudder: 32767. Ailerons: 32767. Flaps: 0. Elevators: 32767.
Time: 12:00. Season: 2. Clouds: 0. Wind: 0.

Somebody parked the plane on the wrong side of the hangar! OK, I did it just to give you some extra taxi practice now that you're no longer a beginner.

I told you earlier that we would come back some day and explore those mystery airports that look just like Eagle Field and seem to be scattered all around the fringes of this particular simulator geography.

I have a feeling that if we took off from any runway in Red Quiver Valley and flew a beeline, we would pass five Red Quiver Valleys and then come to a sixth, which would be this one. That would be a total of seven of them in existence. But on the other hand, seven is an odd number which belies the possibility of mirror images, which these Valleys seem to suggest.

Also, if the phenomena occur regardless of the direction in which we take off, then maybe there are three Valleys in each of four directions, which means there are 12 altogether. But still, there's the so-called “home” valley, which would be a thirteenth.

I think a first reasonable step would be to fly to a relatively nearby clone Red Quiver Valley and land there, whether there's a runway or not. Then we could look around a bit.

What we'll do is take off from Runway 27, the one we flew from when we practiced pattern flying, and fly straight on the runway heading, 270 degrees, until we come to something.

So get ready for takeoff, and taxi ahead around to the far side of the hangar. Use your radar to show you the lie of the taxiway and runway. Come back to the text when you're lined up and ready for the takeoff run. You must be lined up on a heading of exactly 270, so taxi around and try again if you don't nail that heading the first time.

Before takeoff, I want to call your attention to a few things. I've selected a crystal-clear day, so there are no clouds for anything to hide behind. I've selected the most unmysterious hour: high noon. There isn't even a wind. If someone tries to play a trick on us (like, perhaps, Bruce Artwick), he will have to be pretty swift. This will be an entirely scientific expedition, so I trust you will take notes along the way.

Go ahead with a normal takeoff, except don't trim down at all after you rotate, and keep all your power on (but do dump your flaps as soon as you're climbing 500 FPM). You'll leap right over that mountain at a rate of climb you haven't seen for a while. (Piper, you may want some up elevator near the summit. It isn't necessary, but if you want it, use it.)

Right after you dump your flaps, go into radar and adjust until the whole eastern (lower) portion of the grid is displayed and you see the river ahead, then your plane, and then the airport behind you. Then press the Pause key.

Now this is important, so write it down:

You're flying due west. The river starts in the third gridbox from the eastern border and flows approximately north and south across the grid. Note that the airport, Eagle Field, is situated one mile west of the eastern border and four miles south of the northern border of the grid. Draw a picture or something, because if we find no runway and no hangar when we get where we are going, we are going to land in the box where the runway is supposed to be. So put an X there. The second north/south gridline will act as a runway threshold for us.

Now resume your flight over the mountain. And leave your ailerons completely alone. You're already supposed to be on a heading of exactly 270. For a thrill, watch the mountain go by off your left wingtip. See the white peak down there?

Once you clear the mountain, get straight and level at an altitude of 6500 feet. This requires, in Cessna, two quick notches of down elevator, plus one additional notch down to cancel your rotation back pressure; and in Piper, two slow notches down (plus whatever you may have used to clear the mountain). Both aircraft will now be at operational neutral. Then use power to get to, and hold, your cruise altitude.

Before you fly too far, look back at the stage setting we are leaving (but keep flying, don't pause). Note that the arrow on the hillside appears on this side as well as the other; it could be an important landmark. And observe that the area is bounded on the north and west by mountains, but is open on the east and south sides.

I know from experience, and perhaps you do also, that a clone of Red Quiver Valley always seems to appear simultaneously with the disappearance of the original, or of another clone. So once you're straight and level, I recommend that you fly with a permanent rear view until the area you have just left disappears. There's nothing to see out front anyway, and I assure you that out here in no-man's-land the chances of a midair collision are vanishingly low.

When Red Quiver Valley immaterializes, look to all sides until you see Clone 1. Then, again, return for the next segment of text.

That happened pretty fast, didn't it?

OK, Clone 1 is straight ahead! I really didn't expect this, did you? Flying in other directions we see two clones, to the left and right, before we see one straight ahead. We're in luck!

Furthermore, it looks as though we're on a perfect heading for Runway 27—and maybe there is a runway down there.

You had better start your descent right away, and on the way down slow the airplane so you have some time to take stock of the whole situation. Just set up a descent at about twice the usual rate and then keep trimming up and reducing power until you're descending 500 FPM at your slowflight airspeed.

Though you know where the runway is supposed to lie (X marks the spot), I suggest that you not be too hasty about changing your direction until you're close enough to be sure you have to.

Remember your carburetor heat, and put on some flaps when you think it's time for them.

I certainly don't see a runway down there—or a hangar, either. Do you? But everything else is right where it's supposed to be. What's going on here?

Keep a tight control on your aircraft. Use all your flaps if you think you need them. Change power and elevator settings as needed. Fly the thing. Make it do what you want it to do, which is land right where Runway 27 is supposed to be.

Remember the field elevation of 410 feet—at least that's what it was at Eagle. And I wouldn't mess with aileron here. Because there's obviously no runway there, if you're off a hair, just land straight ahead as close to the projected spot as possible. Whatever you do, short of landing in the river, get the airplane down on the ground.

And whatever you do, don't crash, or you'll have to fly the whole thing over again.

Now, on the ground, look out all sides. Everything is where it's supposed to be: the mountains, that is, and the gridlines. But there's no runway, and no hangar.

Look on your radar. You see the same grid, the same river, the same airplane—everything but the runway.

Now exactly what is happening here? Why has Bruce Artwick included this clone of the real stage setting we left a while ago? (And there are other, similar clones, I guarantee you.)

These are, of course, World War I zones, even though we used Eagle Field as a training field and got in there with our full panel of instruments (which you don't have when you play war).

Another question has to be asked: If the simulator has a clone or clones for this particular scene, does it have similar clones for everything in the simulator world? Are there two or seven or eleven Manhattans, Meigs Fields, and Marina del Reys?

And if the answer to that is yes, then there must be a similar number of clones for the entire U.S. on the Scenery Disks. That is impossible; there isn't room in my computer for eleven Texases.

No, the cloning must be unique to the World War I zone. And again the nagging question—why?

There is something we can do that may reveal part of the answer. That's go into the Editor and see what the North and East parameters are, right here where we're sitting (don't do it yet). Our altimeter tells us that the altitude is the same as at the original Eagle Field. But if the Editor reveals that we're actually on Eagle Field now, in the same spot, with just the runways and hangar somehow magically erased, we'll have a new aspect of the mystery to ponder.

My proposal is this: Go into the Editor and compare the North and East parameters of where we're sitting with those at the start of this chapter. Remember, we taxied from the original location, which was at the west end of the hangar, so there will be a slight change in numbers, but it shouldn't be all that great.

Before you go into the Editor, restore your forward view if you haven't already, and note the position of the arrow on the hillside. Now go into the Editor and find out exactly where we are.

My North position reads 17421; my East position, 7193. Your numbers will probably vary by a few digits from these. Now, the original North parameter was 17417, and East was 7447. The difference between Norths is only four digits, not even the length of a typical runway. But the difference between Easts is 254.

Two hundred fifty four is many, many runways. We are definitely not anywhere near the original Eagle Field. The slight difference in Norths is perfectly logical, because we flew due west. Except for the effects of compensation for the orthogonal coordinate grid overlaid on the Lambert Conformal Conic Projection, plus slight deviations due to the computer being shaken by engine noise, our North position might not have varied all the way.

Well sometime in the near future I'm going to do some further exploration, trying to find a third and perhaps fourth or seventh clone using the same present scientific method. I'll invite you along when I do.

Meanwhile, I have a neat idea: Let's exit the Editor now and taxi straight ahead along the ground to and across the river, to see whether it's really a river, or whether we can taxi through it as if it weren't there.

So go ahead. Exit the Editor now, and taxi forward and across the river. Get your flaps up and carb heat off, use full down elevator, and you can push the throttle to the wall without taking off.

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