Learning to Fly with Flight Simulator

by John Rafferty

Phase 4: Cruising En Route

We're now climbing toward 1800 feet, at a steady 500fpm on a heading of 310°. The twin-towered World Trade Center is up ahead, at the tip of Manhattan Island.


Leveling Off. As you approach 1800 feet, level off by gradually reducing power—nothing else. Begin to throttle back at 1700 feet, and continue to gradually reduce power to 1950rpm. You'll end up in straight and level flight at 1800 feet with a cruising airspeed of 120 knots. You can get a tad more speed if you wish, but 120 knots works out well.

(On the IBM: Try leaving the power at 2000rpm, but slowly lower the nose to just below center on the vertical indicator.)

(On the 68000: Try 1900rpm with the elevator still one notch below center, for an airspeed of around 130 knots.)

Maintaining Altitude. The airplane will occasionally drift from your assigned altitude. Try correcting this with engine power alone. The less you fiddle with the elevator, the better.

Just increase or decrease rpm slightly, until the assigned altitude is restored. And start now to make it a habit to always remain within 50 feet of an assigned altitude.

Turns to an Assigned Heading. When Air Traffic Control gives you instructions to make a turn, they'll give you a specific new heading to turn to.

Keep your turns very shallow and gradual for now; we'll work on standard turns later on. Bank the wings very gently, then monitor the gyro compass as the airplane comes around toward the new heading.

While turning, nudge the stick to the side again from time to time to maintain the bank, if necessary. In shallow banks the airplane has a built-in tendency to level off again by itself.

Start to roll out about 5° early, so that you don't over-shoot the heading.

From the Right-Hand Seat

Leveling Off. At 1700 feet, reduce power slightly, then reduce it further so as to be at 1950rpm as the airplane levels off at 1800 feet.

(On the IBM: Maintain 2000rpm and just lower the nose slightly.)

(On the 68000: Try 1900rpm for cruise.)

Cruise. The airplane will cruise at 120 knots with 1950rpm when it's trimmed the way you had it at lift-off—two notches of up elevator.

(On the IBM: Position the elevator just below center on the indicator, with around 2000rpm.)

(On the 68000: You want 1900rpm with the elevator one notch below center, for about 130 knots.)

You're approaching the East River now, so you can expect a call from the controller.

ATC: Four Six Foxtrot turn right. Heading zero four five degrees.
Pilot: Four Six Fox.

Turn to 045°. Bank the wings gently to the right with the stick, and let the airplane come around gradually in a shallow right turn. Monitor the gyro compass. At about 040°, use the stick to begin to roll out gently, so as to end up straight and level on a heading of 045°.

If you missed, make very shallow turns until you have 045° precisely.

Turn to 080°. The two crossed runways of La Guardia field have now come into view just to the right of your course, with the upper reaches of the East River crossing in front, where it runs out to the right and up into Long Island Sound.

Now, as you come up alongside La Guardia, you can expect another heading change from the controller.

ATC: Four Six Foxtrot turn right. Heading zero eight zero degrees.
Pilot: Four Six Fox.

Bank again gently to the right, and roll out on 080° on the nose.

This course will take you out over the Whitestone and Throggs Neck Bridges, out of the New York Terminal Control Area (TCA), and up over the North Shore of the Island, with Long Island Sound just below on the left.

Make changes in altitude with engine power alone.

ATC: Four Six Foxtrot climb and maintain two thousand five hundred.

Pilot: Four Six Fox.

For reasons unknown, the controller has given us a new altitude. Simply add some throttle to increase the engine RPM, adjust it gradually for a 500fpm climb, then reduce power again as 2500 feet is reached.

ATC: Four Six Foxtrot descend and maintain eighteen hundred.
Pilot: Four Six Fox.

Sometimes it seems like the controller is just trying to be annoying. Of course, you have a right to ask him the reason for the altitude changes, but he undoubtedly has one, so there's no point in making a fuss.

Reduce power; descend at 500fpm; then at 1900 feet add power again so as to level off at 1800 with a cruising RPM.

ATC: Four Six Foxtrot Contact Westchester Approach Control on one twenty-six point niner-five good day.
Pilot: Four Six Foxtrot, so long.
Pilot: Westchester Approach, Piper Three Zero Four Six Foxtrot.

ATC: Four Six Foxtrot Westchester maintain eighteen hundred heading zero eight zero degrees. Expect straight-in final to Bridgeport.

Pilot: Four Six Foxtrot.

Locating the Airport. You're now passing over the inlets and coves along the North Shore of the Island.

About 18 minutes (flying time) after departure, you'll pass over Glen Cove, and then there will be one last narrow point of land jutting out ahead before you start out over open water.

At 20 minutes out, you should be passing over that last narrow point, and right about then Sikorsky should pop into view, just to the left of your course, over on the Connecticut side of the Sound. It will come into view suddenly, as a short white strip there on far shoreline. At that point, be ready for a left turn toward the airport.

ATC: Four Six Foxtrot turn left heading zero six zero degrees.

Pilot: Four Six Foxtrot.

Turn left gently to 060°, which should put the airport dead ahead.

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