Cross Country

by Alfred Poor


Welcome to Cross Country, a book filled with flights designed to make Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 5.1 more fun for you than ever.

Many Microsoft Flight Simulator fans find themselves sitting in their planes on the ground at the end of the runway at Meigs field wondering, “where will I fly today?” Sure, it’s fun to poke around, but there are times when you want a reason to go from here to there. Cross Country gives you the places to fly, and the reasons to go there.

In each of the 30 flights in this book, I'll provide you with a completely planned cross country flight for Flight Simulator 5.1—including a reason to make the trip. Along the way, you’ll also learn about real world flying. I’ll show you how to read aviation sectional charts, navigate through different classes of airspace, use radio navigation aids, as well as fundamental, seat-of-the-pants pilotage.

These flights are easy enough for novice pilots to enjoy; in many cases, the hardest part is the landing at the end of the trip. There are enough challenges and tricks involved to keep more experienced sim pilots busy. And in case you want to increase the pucker factor, I offer suggestions on some flights for changes that can make it even more challenging.

Why I wrote this book

I’ve been a fan of Bruce Artwick’s flight simulator programs since the early days on the Apple ][ with subLogic’s A2-FS1, which came on a single floppy disk with a thin manual (that had a bright yellow cover), all packed in a plastic bag. I can’t claim that I am a total fanatic; I’ve never bothered logging my flight time, and I have never undertaken any flights of more than a few hundred miles (well, at least not without using time acceleration). And I don’t think that I’ve ever missed a meal in favor of finishing a Flight Simulator session.

On the other hand, I do have copies of just about every PC and Apple version of the program, and I have copies of almost all the commercial add-on products that have ever been sold for it. I’ve also had the good fortune to be able to write about flight simulation in the computer press, first with reviews for PC Magazine, followed by my “Aerodrome” column that ran for two years in Computer Shopper and that now appears on America Online and the World Wide Web as part of Computer Life Online. (You can find the AOL version by using the keyword LIFE, and the Web version can be found by going to:

* Link will take you to the latest issue of the column.

But this book really started nearly three years ago when I got a call from Tim Boone at the Cobb Group. He told me that they were thinking about starting a new magazine, just for the Microsoft Flight Simulator market, and what did I think of the idea? What did I think should be in such a magazine? I gave him a few ideas, and we talked for a while about them, and that was about the last I thought of it... until a couple of months later when he called back. They had decided to go ahead with the project, and asked if I would be interested in writing for it. I was. He asked if I had a preference for any of the suggestions I had made in our original discussion. I did.

I wanted to write the column about places to fly and how to get there. And thus the “Cross Country” column in Full Throttle was born. Editor-in-Chief Gregory Harris soon came onboard the project, and his continued support and encouragement (plus the positive feedback from the readers) has made this column even more fun to write.

But there were limitations in a magazine column format. First, you only get one flight per issue, and I know that there are fans out there who want more. Also, since we can’t count on the readers of the magazine to have anything aside from the Flight Simulator program itself, I only write the magazine flights for the default scenery that comes with the program. And finally, if you haven’t been a charter subscriber to Full Throttle, there are flights from the early issues that you may have missed.

So this book is my attempt to resolve all those problems. It includes all 15 of the first flights that have appeared in Full Throttle, so you get a complete collection of default scenery flights in one handy bundle. It also includes three flights for each of the most popular add-on scenery collections: Hawaii, Las Vegas, New York, the Caribbean, and Japan. If you have one or more of these add-on packages, you’ll find new ways to enjoy them with these Cross Country flights.

As real as I can make it

When I earned my Private Pilot’s License in 1992, I used Flight Simulator to practice many aspects of my training, including cross country navigation. I used FS4 back then, and it was a huge help. Now, we have FS5.1 which is even better than FS4, in terms of providing visual landmarks, realistic weather conditions (such as the reduced visibility feature), and all VOR navigation beacons.

All Cross Country flights are designed to make the experience as realistic as possible. The flights are carefully planned so that you will comply with all the FAA rules and regulations (as much as possible). Each flight uses real navigation charts, and relies on the same navigation techniques that you might use if you were to make the flight in a real airplane.

For example, many airports are surrounded by special use airspace (SUA). Some classes of SUA require that you make radio contact with a specific Air Traffic Control facility before entering the airspace. Since FS5.1 doesn’t yet have interactive voice recognition, we can’t talk to these controllers. As a result, I have planned the flights to avoid such airspace as if your airplane has no communications radio (which is a situation faced by hearing-impaired private pilots on every flight in the real world).

I have planned each flight for the Cessna 182RG aircraft that is included with the standard FS5.1 program. To make it easier for novice pilots, I recommend setting the engine control to Fixed Pitch, which makes it more like a Cessna 172RG. If you prefer to have a variable pitch prop, then don’t choose the Fixed Pitch option. You may also want to fly the flights with a different aircraft—either slower or faster—but remember that you’ll have to adjust the speeds and estimated times in the flight log accordingly.

For each flight, you get a scanned image of the appropriate navigation chart, plus a flight log that lists all your checkpoints, headings, information about your destination and arrival airports, and other details that you will need to complete your flight. The text for each flight describes how the flight plan was developed, and why certain choices were made.

Your next step will be to set up your aircraft for the flight. The steps are detailed for each flight, but you’ll also find Situation files for each flight on the disk that is included in the back of this book. See Appendix A: Situation Files and the Cross Country Disk for the details on how to use these files so you can take off right away. Each flight has its own situation file, and I include its name at the end of each flight. For example, at the end of the first flight in the Chicago area, you’ll find this note:
                   < Situation file: XC-CH1

So what’s in the book?

The book is divided into two main parts. Part I has the flights for the default scenery areas, and Part II has the flights for the add-on areas. Each area has three flights, and the second and third flights start where the first and second ended, so you can fly them in sequence if you want. There is no particular order to the scenery area sections so you can pick your favorite and fly that first—there’s no need to go through the book in sequence.Appendix B has information on how you can set up your flight simulation environment to enhance its realism. Some of the ideas are nearly free, while others can cost you a bundle. All of them can help make flying FS5.1 more fun.

Finally, Appendix C has some information on how to use FS5.1 and its many features. This section is not intended to be a tutorial for the program or teach you how to fly; I assume that you already know how to get the plane off the ground and back down again. (If you don’t, the manual that comes with FS5.1 is pretty good, but “Adventures in Flight Simulator” by Timothy Trimble, published by Microsoft Press, is the best book about the program for beginners that I have seen.) This appendix will explain some of the features such as the mixture control or how to set the navigation radios.

Hey Kids: Try this ONLY at Home!

Please note that the information in this book is only intended for your entertainment, and for use with Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.1 and its various add-on programs.

If you want to learn how to fly a real plane, take lessons from a trained and licensed instructor. Just because you’re able to get from here to there on your computer is not sufficient to make you a skilled or safe pilot in the air. (I do believe, however, that skills learned with FS5.1 do translate into the cockpit, and can make it much easier and faster to learn how to fly.)
Also, note that the charts used in this book are out of date and not legal for use in real flying. Do not rely on the charts or flight plans provided here for use in the real world. They are realistic as I can make them, but they’re not real enough for use a mile up in the air.

I admit to feeling a little silly even having to write this here, but I figure it’s better to be absolutely clear about this so that nobody is tempted to do something foolish.

So Let’s Go Flying!

I have just one last request before you taxi to the active runway; remember to file any PIREPS (Pilot Reports) that may occur to you. If you find any problems with a flight, or have suggestions about new flights or improvements that you’d like to see (maybe you’d like a collection of “heavy iron” flights, designed for airliners), please take the time to let me know. I want this to be as much fun for you as it is for me. There’s a form in the back of the book that you can use to send in a message (or order more copies of this book if you need them; they make great gifts!) to make it even easier.

Okay. Pick your favorite scenery area, grab your RayBans, strap on your David Clark headset, and let’s get ready to rock and roll. You’re cleared for take-off!

Table of Contents
Previous Section: Acknowledgments
Next Section: Part I: Default Scenery Areas