A Flight Simulator Odyssey

by Charles Gulick

Doll of a Valley

Chart: San Francisco
Ground Coordinates:
   Aircraft: N17245 (17245.148), E5272 (5271.8619)
   Tower: N17245.253, E5271.9477
   Aircraft: 0
   Tower: 14
Heading: 137
Time: Daylight

This beautiful setting for a personal flying field is along-side the water in California's Lake Del Valle State Recreation Area, about 37 miles from San Francisco.

When you feel like flying for the sheer pleasure of it, mountainous areas are a good choice. They provide challenge when you want it, scenic vistas to enjoy, and lazy trails to wind in and out of when you just want to tool around.

There aren't that many really ideal mountainous areas in the simulator, and too many of those are beset with bugs in at least some versions. Here you have Lake Del Valle for contrast, four mountains in the immediate area, and two more be-hind you. The lake is nestled in a valley. One of the best air-ports in the Bay area--Livermore Municipal--is within easy reach.

Before you fly, study the location on your map. You're in position for takeoff. The smaller body of water to the west is San Antonio Reservoir. When you zoom out, you can see two highways, 1-205 and I-580, merging. They continue as one highway, I-580, leading to Livermore. Zoom in and note that your landing area is along the knife-like edge of the south-eastern tip of the lake. You can land here, of course, from either direction.

Now go ahead and take off, and let's look around a bit.

Fly straight up the valley while you climb to 1000 feet. (I regret very much that, in the Amiga version, there is another of those sky bugs--even in this beautiful place. The ground regularly flickers and disappears, and sky intermittently takes its place, disembodying the mountains. This altogether unwelcome phenomenon can be defeated by taking a Spot Plane view, or views out the side, but that destroys the mood. The bug seems to wear itself out after some minutes of flight, only to return again as you maneuver.)

When you can see out the left side that you'll clear the mountain if you make a left turn, make one, taking up a heading of about 050 degrees. Hold that heading until you're beyond the end of the mountain, then turn left again to a heading of about 320, or whatever points you up this second valley (thankfully the Amiga sky bug quits for this pass).

Add power to climb to and maintain 2500 feet. Take some left side views as you go. Presently a highway will appear on your windshield, and soon after you'll see the beginnings of a metropolitan area to the left of your course. The highway is I-580 and the city is Livermore. As the mountain on your left disappears off the windshield, a left front view will show you the beginnings of Lake Del Valle. You'll see only the northern end of the lake; your landing area is hidden by the mountain.

Just before you reach I-580, take a left side view. You should be able to see the whole of the Livermore metropolitan area, and the runway of Livermore Municipal just beyond it. Turn left to a heading of about 250 degrees and begin a de-scent. Then start improving your alignment for an eventual landing on Livermore's Runway 25. When you are closer, the airport layout will become more distinct. The runway is on the leftmost edge of the airport complex--the rest being ramp and taxiways. Knowing this should help guide you in if you've never landed at Livermore. Airport elevation is 405 feet.

You may want to pause a moment when the runway centerline and other details materialize. This is one of the finest airports the simulator offers. It's the only airport to date that features an actual tower structure. The ramp and taxiways are well defined. There's also a pilot shop with an accompanying fuel station. And finally, there's an ILS on the airport. You've probably been hearing and seeing its Outer and Middle Markers during your descent, though you're likely not tuned to the ILS frequency (110.5).

When you've landed, continue down the runway, then turn right and follow the outline of the taxiway around and onto the ramp area. Taxi behind the pilot shop and then come to a stop, parking between the shop and the tower.

If you're flying a version that offers a Tower view, here are parameters for the unique tower view in all the simulator world: Put the aircraft at N17303.893, E5250.4563, heading 162. Put the tower at N17303.978, E5249.9789, altitude 481 feet. This will give you a view of your aircraft through the tower windows. You can taxi to either runway, 07 or 25, in view of the tower all the way.

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