Flying Flight Simulator

Sky-High Adventure with the Macintosh, Amiga, & Atari ST
by Charles Gulick

Chapter 14

Maybe you know the MDW and LGA airport codes, and maybe you don't. But soon they'll be graven on your memory forever.

As a starting point, access the situation named OVRCST DXR 35/C on your second situation disk. Go into ENVIRO and set the season to WINTER. Go in again and wipe out the clouds. (Simply click once on LEVEL 1.) Go into ENVIRO a final time, set all wind speeds to 0, and exit the window.

Next, go into FILE and click on JET. Then, open the NAV window and click on POSITION SET, and put the Learjet at NORTH 17156.000, EAST 16628.0000, and ALT 0.0. Forget about the tower this time; simply close the window.

Unpause, and then pause again to right the aircraft.

Now, do your panel preflight check, and then move out and follow the taxiway that is ahead and to your left. Cross the runway, and slow down. Don't hit the building ahead of you. Instead, taxi to the left and rear of it, and then turn your aircraft around and park beyond the lines that denote the edge of the ramp. Turn the aircraft so that your compass reads 061. With the spot plane behind you, you should see the building to your left, together with most of the F denoting the fueling area. Take the cockpit view, and you'll see most, not all, of the building and, at midscreen, the line marking the taxiway. Exact position isn't critical; your position should approximate what I've described and should look good to you. Try not to use SLEW to do this; instead, use your map and other views. With your map at a zoom factor of 4.00, you should be able to see the threshold and some of the centerline of a runway off to your right. If you're a perfectionist, the exact parameters, with a compass heading of 061, are NORTH 17155.744 and EAST 16624.9320.

When you're in position, cancel the map, turn off SLEW if you had it on, and delete all files in the buffer if you've saved them to disk. Now you can start with a clean slate.

Confirm op neutral trim, and then save the situation on your screen as TIEDOWN MDW /L.

You're in your permanent parking position on Chicago's Midway Airport (MDW), which I invite you to consider as your home airport—at least for your Learjet—in the Chicago area. You have many choices for a Cessna home airport in this area, but not that many for the Learjet.

You're about to embark on a rather daring journey, at least for simulator pilots. You're going to fly from Chicago to New York and land at La Guardia Airport (LGA) in time for brunch.

Like you, I'll be making this trip for the first time. I promise that I have not preflown this excursion or any part of it. I've used no special charts to figure out the heading we're going to track. I'm going to make an uneducated guess, based on an unscientific kind of dead reckoning, which I arrived at by glancing at a U.S. map in an ordinary road atlas.

But, enough talk. We'll have plenty of time to talk en route. And I have some other ideas for passing the time (if indeed we will need to pass time as we fly).

The runway to the right of your tiedown is Midway's 4L. Do your panel preflight check now, and prepare for takeoff. Then, taxi into position. (Use your map, as well as the spot plane view, because the first turn off the taxiway is onto Runway 4L, and it's a very sharp turn.) Pause a moment.

Set your panel clock to 7:30 a.m. before takeoff so that you'll know exactly how long this flight takes. If all goes well, we'll use no pauses between here and New York; we'll make the whole flight in real time.

When you're set and your clock is set, take off.

As you pass through 2000 feet, turn right to a heading of 105 degrees (which is the heading I'm gambling on).

As you trim out and all that good stuff, take a look back at Chicago and Lake Michigan. It may be the last glimpse of civilization you'll have for a while. (On climbout, by the way, we crossed almost directly over “famous” Meigs Field, the default home airport for earlier versions of flight simulators. Among other things, Meigs is famous as the site of more windshield-shattering crashes than all other airports in the country put together.)

Remember, no pauses. I'm not even pausing as I write, so my conversation may be quite sparse.

Now, while I have time to tell you, tune your NAV 1 to La Guardia VOR on a frequency of 113.1.

As insurance, tune NAV 2 to Chester VOR on a frequency of 115.1. These stations virtually bracket the east end of the New York/Boston Area Chart.

You'll certainly have time to practice holding stead-fastly to an altitude on this flight. Get to and maintain, as if your life depended on it, an altitude of 7000 feet, plus or minus 100 feet.

I have an idea. (I told you that, like you, I'm flying by the seat of my pants.) Instead of two VORs, let's turn on the ADF and tune to the NDB station closest to La Guardia. We should be in range of that station well before we're in range of the VOR.

Turn on the ADF and set the frequency to Huder NDB, 233. (Pay no attention to the needle right now. We have a bit further to fly.)

Set NAV 1 to the Chester VOR, 115.1.

I'll keep you posted as to where I am by the only mutual reference we have: the time. Right now, the time on my instrument panel clock reads 07:52:30. Later, I won't give you the seconds.

It occurs to me that we may see something other than blue sky and green earth on this flight. You may see sights that I don't because I have to swivel 90 degrees in my flight chair to write. In my other books on earlier flight simulators, I recorded numerous phenomena encountered in the simulator, including strange shapes and even clone airport areas. Thus, an occasional look out one window or the other may provide some unexpected excitement.

At 7:56 I can still see a tiny spot of the Chicago skyline to the right of my tail fin, so we haven't quite left the Illinois simulation.

I can't swear that little dot is Chicago, of course. It may be a piece of chewing gum someone stuck there for good luck.

At 7:58 I'm doing about 375 knots, my power is at 74%, and the ADF needle points to 120 degrees. My altitude is 7100 and holding. When it's that close, I don't mess around.

At 8:00 I look back at my fin. The chewing gum is still there.

Oh-oh! At about 8:01, something is developing on the landscape to the left of my course. It looks like a few little dots and dashes. Do you see them?

I look back. The chewing gum disappeared—probably at the same time the dots appeared. We left the Illinois area and entered somewhere else, but I don't know where.

8:04. The dots and dashes are almost motionless, and they're right on the horizon. Look out all sides of the aircraft to see if you spot anything else.

At 8:07 the dots and dashes have become one fat dash and one fat dot. But the fat dash occasionally splits into two to four fat dots.

Something is out there, but it's starting to disappear off the left of the windshield. I'd like to fly over and see what it is, but I'm more interested in having a cup of coffee soon in the terminal at LGA.

Although I probably don't need to coax you, I urge you not to give up on this flight and not to look at the end of the chapter to see what happens. If I can't know what will happen, why should you? Regard this as an adventure of the spirit…a sort of pioneering challenge. Hang in with me.

At 8:13 the dots and dashes have now disappeared from my windshield but are still visible with a 45-degree view to the left.

Try some different spot plane views as you fly; set the spot plane, by turns, ahead of and above you, as well as off your right and left wing tips. And, experiment with different spot plane altitudes.

Even if we miss Manhattan by quite a few miles, the worst that can happen is that we'll come to the Atlantic Ocean. I know the way to Manhattan from there.

By now, I'm sure you know exactly where the horizon is on your windshield when you're flying straight and level. I'd bet you could draw it in your sleep.

I'll go out on a limb and predict that the first thing that will come alive, inside the airplane or out, is the ADF needle. I may be wrong. But we'll see.

8:21. I took the spot plane view from the right side, and the dots and dashes are still visible and as far away as they were when I first saw them.

How are you doing?

Everything on my panel (as well as on the landscape ahead) is absolutely rigid. I wonder if I'm really flying or merely sitting up here at the whim of the simulator. My airspeed, my altitude, my heading, the ADF—nothing has varied by so much as a dot. Only the time advances, one might say, inexorably.

I wonder if the dots and dashes are actually a clone of the entire Chicago area simulation seen at a distance. Someday, I will fly out here again and find out. That flight would certainly be shorter than the one we're taking this morning.

Tell you what—if I'm hopelessly off a reasonably good heading to New York, I'm going to be very embarrassed. But I promised myself, and I promised you, to be straight with you. If I have to eat crow, I'll eat it—only if I can presoak it in Jack Daniels.

Did you happen to bring Sunday's New York Times with you? No? A pocket encyclopedia, maybe? Want to play 20 questions?

When I was a kid, on a long trip, we passed the time counting station wagons or out-of-state license plates. But—I'm convinced—we're getting there.

8:31. We've been out about an hour now.

At least we can watch ourselves fly from the spot plane. We couldn't do that in early versions of Flight Simulator. But I do wish I could see at least a silhouette of a head in that cockpit. Eerie.

Speaking of crow, how many miles—as the crow flies—is it from Chicago to New York? I have a very poor memory for such trivia. But now I wish I'd checked before we started this trip. You watch out front. I'll see if I can come up with a figure from all the random references I have spread around me.

According to my road atlas, it's about 831 miles by commonly traveled roads, so it has to be less than that as the crow flies. I'll keep looking.


Aha! My trusty almanac lists air distance between Chicago and New York as 713 statute miles. Now, I have to find the conversion formula for statute miles to nautical miles. (But 713 miles isn't very far, is it?)

I included the conversion formula in an earlier chapter, so I'll check my dog-eared manuscript.


I have it! A nautical mile is equivalent to 1.15 statute miles.

But I'm no mathematician. How am I going to convert statute miles back to nautical miles without a formula?

I must have conversion tables somewhere that work in both directions. I'll be back.


Aha! I found the answer in my almanac again: Multiply statute miles by .8684 to get nautical miles. So, Chicago to New York is approximately 619 nautical miles. How did I ever live without an almanac or a calculator?

Now, I'll figure out how long it will take us to fly 619 nautical miles. My time is now 8:50. If I don't hurry, we'll be landing in New York before I have the answer.

Time (minutes) = 60 × Distance/Speed

Do you remember this formula from Chapter 6? If I plug in my airspeed, 375, and the figure for nautical miles, 619, then 60 × 619/375 = 99. This trip should take us about 99 minutes, or roughly an hour and 40 minutes. So, our estimated time of arrival (ETA) is 9:10, give or take five minutes.

My time now is 8:55. Something had better happen pretty soon.

Of course, we weren't doing 375 knots all the way from the business end of Runway 4L. We had to take off, climb out, and trim down before we reached 375. All these maneuvers take time. Let's adjust our ETA to 9:20 to allow a little time for navigational oddities.

8:58. Did my ADF needle just move a hair, or did I imagine it?

I don't think I imagined it. Now, it's definitely pointing a bit shy of 120 degrees, to about 110 degrees.

105 + 110 is 215, so the heading to Huder is 215 degrees (if the ADF really did move). Do I dare chance a turn to 215 now?

First, let's try to tune to a station on the southern edge of the chart. In fact, let's tune in La Guardia at 113.1.

OBI and DME still uninspired.

Try Carmel VOR at 116.6.

Time: 9:04.

I see something out the left front window—dashes and dots again.

We'll probably have a disk access when we arrive on the outskirts of the New York area; that is, we will if we arrive there at all.

Maybe we're quite a ways north. Try tuning in Gardner VOR at 110.6.

Still nothing.

I'd love to hear that disk drive whir about now.


The ADF needle is motionless. If it moved when I thought it did, it would continue to move, changing regularly, unless we got on a bearing to the station.

Back to the La Guardia VOR at 113.1.

Maybe we should try another NDB. Switch to the Waterbury frequency, 257.

No movement.

Try Chup at 388.

I know the problem. We're not going to get any reaction from any navigation aid until we're within the confines of the New York/Boston simulation. If the disk drive never whirs, we'll never see the Atlantic Ocean.

Switch back to Huder NDB at 233, and stay with the La Guardia VOR frequency, 113.1.

Have faith.

It's nearly 9:15. We should be there any minute now. Statue of Liberty…Empire State Building…World Trade Center towers. Those grimy streets in the Big Apple will surely be a welcome sight, won't they? And that beautiful grass in Central Park.

I can see the headline now: “Learjet Chi-NY Flight Overdue, Presumed Lost.” And the lead paragraph, beginning with, “A daring but reckless flight that began this morning in Chicago may have ended in tragedy. The pilot, said to have attempted the cross-country trip in a well-equipped Gates Learjet 25G, but without proper navigational information…”

My time is now 9:24. We're only a few minutes overdue, at the worst. If I remember correctly, an airline trip between Chicago and New York usually takes more than two hours.

I'm changing our ETA to 9:45, in case you're interested.


I have another idea. Keep flying, but open the NAV window, go into POSITION SET, and see what your current NORTH and EAST parameters are.

I'm checking my parameters at 9:29. NORTH reads 15163, and EAST is 24499.

Check the range of NORTH and EAST numbers on your New York/Boston Area Chart. The NORTH parameters are all in the 17000s, while the EAST parameters are mostly in the 21000s.

These parameters tell us that we're both east and south of the New York/Boston area, so we've got to fly northwest.

Turn left to a heading of 325 degrees.

No, I changed my mind. Head straight toward those dots and dashes on the horizon; they must signify something. I'm pointing toward them now, and my heading is 004 degrees. We'll see what develops.

Tune your NAV 1 to Martha's Vineyard VOR on 108.2, and set the ADF frequency to the Block Island NDB, 216. These are the easternmost navaids on the chart.

I have a suspicion that those dots and dashes are the Atlantic Ocean.

It's 9:41, and the dots and dashes are getting fatter…or at least, they were.

Don't be concerned. At this speed, we're covering a lot of ground in a hurry. We have plenty of fuel. I'm not concerned. I'm really not concerned.

But I would like to know why the dots seem to be receding when we're flying toward them. If something encouraging doesn't happen soon, we'll turn northwest.


I checked our position again. Our north parameter is improving, but our east parameter is deteriorating.

The time is 9:49.

Turn left to a heading of 325. I was right the first time: I think the dots represent the eastern extremity of the easternmost clone of the Atlantic Ocean, if they represent anything at all.

I'm now revising our ETA to 10:20. That's Eastern Standard Time, of course.


I checked our position again; we're getting there. NORTH is in the mid-16000s, and EAST is improving. And when NORTH is in the 17000s, we'll fly due west into the EAST 22000s and have it made.

Compared to this junket, the flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco was a piece of cake, wasn't it?

At 10:00 I'm at NORTH 16644 and EAST 24417. I don't even expect a whir from the disk drive at this point, so its silence doesn't discourage me. Nor does the stolid behavior of the ADF needle. I'm absolutely certain that, once we're in the 17000s and turn due west, we'll soar over New York City a few minutes later. And thousands of people will line Long Island Sound and the banks of the East River to cheer us in.

10:06. NORTH is at 16942. We're getting there now.

I must say I'm glad to have your company on this flight. It would be pretty lonesome doing it alone, wouldn't it?

The NORTH parameter for La Guardia is 17091. I'm checking my position; you do the same.

Wow! I'm already at 17097. The time is 10:10. Time to turn due west to 270 degrees.

When you're in the 17000s, do the same.

Don't let your altitude slip away. Maintain 7000 feet.

At 10:16 I'm at NORTH 17106 and EAST 23725. It won't be long now.

You look a little tousled. Why don't you comb your hair?

Now we know that our fuel gauges really work. Both tanks (and the clock) show that we've been flying for a while.

My new, confident ETA is 10:40. It's now 10:21. EAST is in the low 23000s.

I think those east parameters are much wider than the north parameters are thick, don't you?

The easternmost airport in the simulator New York/Boston area, Martha's Vineyard, is at EAST 22043. We should have a disk access before we get that far west.

I predict that our first sight will be the Atlantic Ocean and that it will suddenly open up in front of us to fill the windshield.

At 10:27 I'm in the EAST 22900s. Where are you?

I'm sure you've had your chart in front of you all along, but be sure that it's within easy reach now.

Oh-oh! At 10:29 there's water ahead. It's not yet the whole ocean, but it's more than a dot and a dash. We'll see the whole ocean, I think, as soon as we get a disk access.

I'm glued to the screen now, so don't expect any more words from me until the disk drive whirs.


There it all is! 10:35! The Atlantic Ocean! The shoreline! Even Martha's Vineyard VOR turns on! Less than 80 miles out! I hope you're there!

Wherever you are, now use your chart to tune to a VOR or NDB until something turns on. Then, work your way toward La Guardia using, ultimately, its VOR.

As for me, I'm on the 255 radial, tracking the Hampton VOR on 113.6. I'm turning off the ADF and tuning NAV 2 to Deer Park VOR, which is closer to La Guardia, although I'm still out of range.

At 10:59 I'm inbound on the 274 radial for Deer Park and about 36 miles out. I'm starting my descent. I have NAV 2 tuned to La Guardia so that I'll know when it's in range.

I'm passing over Long Island MacArthur Airport. Doesn't all this water and land look great?


At 11:07:01 I land on Runway 31 at La Guardia International Airport. How did your time compare?

Wasn't that a great experience? Despite a minor navigational miscalculation (I take full responsibility), we flew all the way from Chicago to New York without any intervening navigational aids, without a pause (and I was dying for a cup of coffee), and without a doubt—for even a moment—that we'd eventually make it. (That's all true, isn't it?)

And, we actually made it!

Most important, we used all resources available to us to get the job done despite adversities.

And that's what flying is all about.

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