Flying Flight Simulator

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

Chapter 6

If you shut down after the last chapter, then boot Flight Simulator, pause, load your situation disk, and recall R281 SFO 28L /L. Remember that you were in slowflight, so be sure your carb heat is ON. The aircraft should be descending at about 500 fpm. Be sure that NAV 1 is tuned to San Francisco VOR, frequency 115.8, and that radial 281 is selected on your OBI. If you're continuing from the last chapter, these parameters should be already in place.

Remembering that your slowflight airspeed in the Learjet is about 200 knots, check your DME before you un-pause. You'll be on final for Runway 28L at SFO before you know it. A simple formula for determining the approximate time to fly a given distance at a given speed is:

Time (Minutes) = 60 × Distance/Speed

My DME currently reads 19.4 nautical miles, which is my distance from SFO. That distance, divided by my airspeed, 200 knots, is 0.097. If I multiply that total by 60, the result is 5.82, so I'll be on my final approach in about six minutes.

My altitude, saved with this situation, is 3640 feet, and I'm in a 500 fpm descent. In order to be at pattern altitude (about 1000 AGL) as I approach the airport, I have to lose 2640 feet of altitude, because SFO's elevation is only 10 feet. At my present descent rate of 500 fpm, I'll be near pattern altitude in about five minutes, so I'll continue that descent.

Check your own parameters, decide what descent rate you want to set up for the next stage of your flight, and then unpause and go ahead with the approach.

Keep the OBI needle centered. If it wiggles to the right, correct with a little right rudder. When it centers, correct back with about the same amount of rudder. If it drifts left, respond accordingly.

When you are approximately 10 miles from touchdown, you will note a disk access and then see two little white lines sticking out from the far shoreline. They represent San Francisco's 28L and 28R.

When you see the lines, pause a moment.

Gear and flap procedures in the Learjet are similar to those in the Cessna, except that you perform them much earlier when flying the Lear because you're traveling at a much higher speed. You'll start when your DME reads 6 nm.

Before you drop your gear, increase throttle for a reading of about 48% power in the Mac or 58% in Amiga/Atari to offset the drag. Then extend your flaps 10 degrees (] key). Judge your distance from the runway visually and, keeping an eye on your altimeter, trim up to approach neutral exactly as you did in the Cessna.

Then, again using your best judgment (don't start too early), add the rest of your flaps 10 degrees at a time. Precede each of the three additional extensions with forward pressure on the yoke. Thereafter, use whatever pressures and power changes the situation calls for, and fine-tune your final approach until you are on the ground.

Unpause now, and when your DME reads 6 nm drop your gear and put on 10 degrees of flaps. Then, continue with your approach as described above. Use the visual lie of Runway 28L instead of the OBI needle as your directional reference, and use rudder to line up with it.

On the final approach, as in the Cessna, reduce power at a rate that keeps the runway centered in your windshield. If it moves up, either apply a little power or wait until it's centered again, depending on the rate at which it moves. When the runway is about at windshield center, wait. When it starts to move down, reduce power at whatever rate matches its movement. Keep the threshold as motionless as possible, barely below center.

Flatten your descent, when appropriate, with back pressure, and increase or decrease power to suit your relationship to the runway. Use back pressure to flare. Then, apply slow and regular back pressure to keep the airplane flying until the wheels touch.

In the landing roll, cut your throttle and let the aircraft slow down. Use your brakes if necessary. When you're at a safe speed to do so, turn left off the runway (there is no specific taxiway) to clear it for aircraft operating behind you.


The present situation, R281 SFO 28L /L, is a beauty for practicing landing approaches in your Learjet. You begin in slowflight with the rest of the operation still to come. You can practice hewing to the OBI needle, performing the gear and flap procedure, aligning yourself with the runway, trimming to approach neutral, and controlling the aircraft's descent to touchdown. I doubt that any arcade game in the world is as challenging—and at the last, literally thrilling—as this landing approach in the Lear.

Use INSTANT REPLAY to see how you looked, and analyze your final approach and touchdown. For the best view, set the spot plane 200 feet off your right or left wingtip at 0 altitude.

Don't let failures discourage you. Real-life pilots practice landings again and again to get them right. And every landing is different. You'll get sharper each time you execute one. Old-time instructors used to tell students, “Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing.”

But really good landings—particularly at the Learjet's high speeds—are far from easy. As I've said before, simulator landings are tougher, in many ways, than those in the prototype aircraft. I think you can see now—with the precision and nearly simultaneous control of throttle, elevator, and rudder required—you want all the exacting techniques you can muster. No satisfaction in the whole simulator world tops that of putting the Learjet down over the runway threshold, “on the numbers,” and under absolute control all the way.

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