Flying Flight Simulator

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

Chapter 7

Your next flight will begin at a scenic airport in the San Francisco Bay Area. To move to it with your realism factors intact, recall RAMP IKK 22 /C. Click on NAV and then POSITION SET, and make the following changes:

Set AIRCRAFT NORTH to 17219.448, EAST to 5135.1521, and ALT to 0.0.

Set TOWER NORTH to 17218.000, EAST to 5136.0000, and ALT to 40.0000.

Press RETURN and then close the window.

The simulator transports you to Moffett Field NAS (Naval Air Station) in Mountain View, California, northwest of San Jose at the south end of San Francisco Bay.

Take the control tower view (C key) and see how the hangar dwarfs your Cessna. (If the tower view doesn't look right, recheck the tower altitude.) Set the zoom factor to 0.50, and you'll see three such giant structures on Moffett Field. I have it from a correspondent friend and fellow simulator pilot, Lt. Comdr. Robert Irving, USN (Ret.) of North-ridge, California, that these are actually old blimp hangars, which explains their mammoth dimensions.

Switch to the spot plane view again, and open the ENVIRO menu. Highlight and click on SUMMER. Reopen ENVIRO, click on WINDS, and set the SURFACE WINDS to 150 degrees at 4 knots. Leave the depth at 3000 feet. Press RETURN and close the window.

Set your panel clock to 6:00 a.m. (we're no slouches), and then press Q and save this tiedown situation as PRKD MOF NAS /C. PRKD, of course, is an abbreviation for “PARKED.” This is your own private tiedown at Moffett. Anytime you fly to or from this airport, you'll park or find your Cessna here.

Unpause now and run through your panel preflight check: True the altimeter and DG, and check op neutral, carb heat OFF, zoom 1.00, and panel lights OFF.

Taxi through the blimp hangar for the fun of it. Runway 14L is to your left. Access your map temporarily to see the exact lie of the runway.

Use your rudder (nosewheel) to steer. And alternate between spot plane and out-front views as you taxi. The hangar is high enough that the roof won't obscure your spot plane's view.

As you emerge from the hangar, veer slightly to your left and parallel the runway until you're past it; then, turn the aircraft around, cut your throttle, apply your brakes, and hold short of the threshold.

You probably have a nice scene on your screen from the spot plane viewpoint, with the runway ahead of you, the three blimp hangars in the distance, and Monte Bello Ridge to your right. Taxi around, if necessary, to get in an aesthetically pleasing position with the spot plane view enabled. Then save the situation so that you can make a quick takeoff from Moffett NAS whenever the wind is from the south quadrant. Save it as POSIT MOF 14L/C, because you're in position for takeoff.

Prepare for takeoff as usual, trimming your elevator and extending your flaps 10 degrees. If your flight plan called for tracking one or more VOR radials to a particular destination, you would also need to tune your NAV and select your OBI course. But this morning you're going to fly “contact,” or fly by reference to visual landmarks, topographical features, and bodies of water—anything that tells you where you are and keeps you headed in the right direction. In the early days of aviation, no VORs, ADFs (Automatic Direction Finders), or other navigational aids existed—only magnetic compasses. Pilots—even early airmail pilots—used road maps to determine their routes. You'll still see some barns, water towers, and other buildings in the U.S. countryside with the names of towns painted on them. Such signs helped pilots figure out where they were. Even today, they are very useful because many light planes are not as handsomely equipped as the one you're flying. Indeed, student pilots learn to fly contact first, although they use regularly updated Sectional Aeronautical Charts (similar to the charts provided with your Flight Simulator documentation, though much more detailed) rather than road maps. Students learning to fly “cross-country” (or anywhere other than around a local airport area) spend most of their time trying to either identify “checkpoints” on the ground or figure out which highway is which.

This morning you'll get a taste of contact flying.

Be sure you've switched to the out-the-windshield view and go ahead with your takeoff, remembering all you've learned: Rotate at 70 knots, retract your gear when you're airborne, cancel the rotation pressure, zero the flaps—always in that order.

Move it.

When you're climbing, power back to 2100 rpm (Amiga/Atari) or 1750 rpm (Mac), and start trimming down gradually to op neutral, maintaining a 500-fpm climb as closely as possible.

You'll know you're trimming well if you're at op neutral by the time your altimeter registers 1000 to 1300 feet. Occasionally, though not often, the simulator “slips” a few notches below op neutral when you're almost there. Unless you caused it by trimming too fast, this isn't your fault; it's a simulator phenomenon. Trim back up to the correct position.

Continue climbing toward cruising altitude, which this morning is 2500 feet.

As you climb, get familiar with your view keys—the R, T, Y, F, G, H, V, B, and N keys. These keys form a square on your keyboard. If you put the first three fingers of your left hand on F, G, and H (the “basic view position”) you have quick access to all out-the-cockpit views. T gives you the forward, or out-the-windshield, view; G, the straight down, or “ground,” view; and B, the view 180 degrees back—all pressed with your middle finger. Pivot your first finger to press Y, H, and N, which give you, respectively, 45-, 90-, and 135-degree views to the right. Your third finger provides the same views out the left side of the aircraft.

We'll take some views as we fly, including some fairly critical ones, shortly.

The highways that intersect slightly left of your course (out-the-windshield view) are Bayshore Freeway, sweeping in from your right, and Sinclair Freeway. The highways meet in Sunnyvale, California. Nimitz Freeway is left of the intersection.

Behind you (direct rear view), you can still probably make out the runways at Moffett, at the southern end of San Francisco Bay.

When the intersection disappears off the bottom left edge of your windshield, make a standard-rate left turn as you climb to a heading of about 65 degrees or until you see buildings directly ahead. That's downtown San Jose, California. The hills in the background are Mt. Hamilton and—beyond—Copernicus. Mt. Hamilton boasts the Lick Observatory on its highest peak at the southern end. Directly out the left side of the plane (90-degree view) you can probably spot San Jose International Airport. It's the only airport in the Bay Area with three parallel runways. You'll see more of it as you progress through this book.

The highways that divide your windshield horizontally are Nimitz Freeway, the closer of the two, and Interstate 680. Nimitz Freeway skirts the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay.

When you have a chance, take a straight-down view and watch the buildings of San Jose pass under you.

You're most likely at cruising altitude (2500 feet) by now, or you will be shortly. Remember, all you need to level off is a power reduction. For altitudes between 2500 and 4500 feet, set your power initially to 2000 rpm in the Amiga and Atari, and in the Mac, set the throttle position indicator even with the bottom of the N on NAV 2.

When all the highways have disappeared under you, use a notch of back pressure to hold your altitude and then turn right to a heading of about 127 degrees. You should be pointed a little to the right of the foot of Mt. Hamilton. The Lick Observatory is on the last peak at 4213 feet. All your left side views show different aspects of Mt. Hamilton and Copernicus as you fly past.

When the last peak of Mt. Hamilton is off your left wing tip (90-degree view), pause and save your situation (the last one the buffer can hold) as VALLEY GAMBIT/C. You're going to do some tricky flying in the next few minutes, and if you crash, you can try again.

Now, save RAM to disk so that all 12 situations you've created so far will be preserved intact.

Unpause, keep your 90-degree view, and use your turn-and-bank indicator to enter a gentle turn to the left, using an approximate 10-degree bank (halfway between the wings-level and standard 20-degree dots on the turn indicator). You are going to fly carefully around the slopes of Mt. Hamilton, using your views to tell you where you are and how you're doing. As you turn, use the 45-degree and straight-ahead views. Don't hit the mountain! You can use your map view, too, to orient yourself.

Once you're clear of Mt. Hamilton, fly between it and Copernicus. Zoom your map view to check your exact position; otherwise, you may fly right into Copernicus. The final turn up the valley is critical; note that the mountains are quite close together at the midpoint, where Copernicus juts out. Vary your degree of bank and rate of turn as needed. You do have enough room to turn and fly up the valley if you exercise judgment and fly carefully. But you may have to practice this situation a few times to get it right. Sometimes, you'll be sure you have it made, but the simulator will disagree. Remember that the mountains are massive, and parts of the slopes are at your altitude all the way through the valley. Your safest course is to stay in the center of the valley, as defined by the mountains, to the greatest extent possible. (The map is not a reliable guide to the exact relationship of your wings to the mountain slopes because the plus sign representing your aircraft doesn't vary in size to match the zoom factor. Indeed, this flight is tricky in more ways than one.)

If you need to practice again, drag the map to a corner of the screen so that it doesn't obstruct your forward view. Position the mouse cursor at the top center of the map, hold the button down, and move the map to where you want it.

When you're safely through the gorge, the body of water ahead of you is Calaveras Reservoir. As you pass over it, you'll leave Santa Clara County and enter Alameda County. The metropolitan area northwest of the reservoir is Fremont, California, which also encompasses the city of Newark. Point your aircraft to fly over the approximate center of these cities. If you are flying the Amiga or Atari, I'll show you a neat little viewing trick to use as you fly.

Part of a pilot's job while flying is to scan the sky and the ground in all directions—in between scanning the instrument panel. “Keep your head on a swivel,” as instructors say. And Amigans and Atarians can use the four arrow keys to pan. Press any one of them a few times and watch what happens.

The top arrow “swivels your head” downward, the bottom arrow swivels it upward, and the left and right arrows swivel it in those respective directions. You can use the left or right arrow to “turn your head completely around” until you're looking toward the front again. With the up and down arrows you can actually “loop” through 360 degrees, beginning with either an up or down direction. These panning keys are great devices for looking a little to the left, right, up, or down. But they would be confusing if you couldn't resume your normal view again. And you can. One press of the DEL key in the Amiga or the Ctrl-Home key in the Atari undoes whatever panning you've done and restores your original perspective. The panning keys let you search a landscape with great precision. Remember to reset the pan when you're finished, or you may be looking in an irrelevant, not to mention disastrous, direction as you fly.

Your regular zoom also can be finely adjusted (on the Amiga and Atari only), by using the + and - keys. And you can always restore the basic zoom factor of 1.00 by pressing the Backspace key. This is true no matter which window you're in. As you know, you should always have the zoom factor set to 1.00 for critical maneuvers such as takeoffs and landings. It's a good idea in any flight configuration to standardize on zoom 1.00 and use other factors only as and when you need them. Then press the Backspace key to restore the standard zoom factor.

Another feature you can play with while you fly is the HELP key on the Amiga or Atari and the Command-? keys on the Mac. When you press these keys, a curious little triangle replaces the mouse cursor. Position the triangle over any instrument about which you have a question (including the sky itself), and click the mouse button. A message appears on the screen, which you can turn off by clicking on the box in the message window. When you close a HELP message window, the regular mouse cursor is restored. (While you're experimenting, don't miss the HELP message for the instrument named XPANDR on the Amiga and Atari or TRNSP on the Mac, on the extreme right of your panel.)

Have you been scanning your instruments as you fly? How's your altitude—is it where it ought to be? When did you last true the altimeter? And the DG? When anything is wrong, such as your altitude or your trim, take immediate action to correct it. Your cruise altitude this morning is 2500 feet.

Almost straight ahead is what looks like a runway in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Runway 11/29 at Oakland International Airport is a good landmark because it seems to sit out in the middle of the water. Actually, it is out in the bay, but you can reach it by a strip of land southwest of the city of Oakland. When you're closer, you'll see that strip of land as well as the runway because both will take on real dimensions. Until this happens, point straight for the runway. You're not going to land at Oakland on this flight. But use the moment that the airport becomes three-dimensional as a signal to begin your next maneuver.

At the signal, enjoy the three-dimensional view for a second, and then turn left, the long way around, to a heading of 140 degrees. Did you remember to hold your altitude with back pressure while you turned?

You should be level soon enough to see a bridge pass under your nose. The San Mateo-Hayward Bridge links towns of the same names across the bay. Hayward is on the east shore.

Returning for a moment to the question of applying back pressure during a turn: If you forget to apply that notch of pressure, the aircraft usually starts a descent. It's not too late to add the back pressure to counteract the descent. The DOWN indication on your VSI thus serves as a mild rebuke as well as a reminder.

As you may have guessed, you're now heading back to Moffett NAS at the southern tip of San Francisco Bay.

Pause for a moment and let me discuss something.

All this time you've been flying “contact,” as described earlier. If you had to do it all again—take off from Moffett NAS, climb to 2500 feet while flying toward Mt. Hamilton, fly toward the mountain peak and Lick Observatory, circle left around Mt. Hamilton, fly the gorge between it and Copernicus, fly toward Calaveras Reservoir and over the center of the Fremont/Newark metropolitan area, and turn left to a heading of 140 when Runway 11/29 at Oakland International becomes three-dimensional—you could do it without me and without any reference to VORs, ADFs, radios, or anything else except what your eyes told you. That's contact flying. All that's required to fly contact is a good sense of direction and a knowledge of the major landmarks of the area you're flying over. Every landmark is a checkpoint along the way. When you learn to think about which direction you're flying and to recognize the landmarks, you'll be able to take off and “pleasure fly” all over an area, always knowing where you are and which way is home.

Unpause now, and continue flying straight ahead. I can't tell you exactly how to line up with Runway 14 at Moffett, but I don't have to. In this particular situation, because you're over the approximate center of the bay and heading 140 degrees (the runway heading), Moffett will be visible when you get close, and that's all you need. Remember the blimp hangars? They're what make Moffett NAS distinctive as seen from the air—exactly as San Jose International's three parallel runways and Oakland International's runway in the middle of the bay mark those airports. Right after the disk access, you'll see two landmarks in the foreground of your flight path: The Dumbarton Bridge, crossing the bay at its narrowest point, and (beyond the bridge) the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct, which runs eastward for miles. All these facts are significant: Dumbarton Bridge, narrowest point of the bay, Hetch Hetchy. The bridge is the southernmost bridge crossing the bay, immediately recognizable because of the narrowness of the crossing and the adjacency of Hetch Hetchy. This is the way I want you to learn to “think” contact flying.

Just below the aqueduct, on the west shore, is Palo Alto Airport. And out your right side you should see San Carlos Airport. Both airports have single-strip runways. Moffett has parallel strips.

But I'm sure you see Moffett already, almost straight ahead where it ought to be. Presently you'll have confirmation, because you'll see the blimp hangars.

Before that happens, however, get into slowflight for your approach to the airport. Do it in the order you learned it: Turn carb heat on…gradually trim to slowflight neutral while reducing power to hold close to a 0 VSI reading…and, when at slow neutral, use power for the descent rate you want. Elevation at Moffett is only 11 feet MSL (although the chart says 34), so start your descent and time it for what you see through your windshield.

When the runway at Palo Alto disappears off the bottom right edge of your windshield, add some throttle and drop your gear, followed by 10 degrees of flaps. Then, trim up to approach neutral—in the Mac, one mark plus one notch above 0 VSI; in Amiga/Atari, two full marks above op neutral; and in either case, trim up in response to the downswings of the VSI needle.

Refine your approach with rudder and throttle. Plan to land on either 14R or 14L, whichever suits your fancy.

Add the rest of your flaps (each 10 degrees preceded, remember, by two quick downs—or by slight forward pressure in the Mac) to suit your approach configuration and your altitude. Admire the blimp hangars on your way down.

If your flaps are fully extended and the runway threshold seems to move up your windshield, add some power to arrest that movement. Then, reduce again when the runway is barely below center at a rate that holds it there.

Remember to flatten your glide along the way and to flare. Sometimes you'll need more than the usual back pressure to flare properly. That's fine. Use what you need to do the job.

At the last, keep the airplane flying as long as possible, a foot or so above the runway.

When you're down, try an instant replay. Set your spot plane off one wing or the other, and watch your landing. You can also take a view from the control tower.

Finally, take off your carb heat, zero your flaps, taxi to your tiedown (on the left side of the field at the south end of the closest blimp hangar), turn around so you're facing toward the runways, and then shut down your engine.

Nice morning for flying, wasn't it?

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