A Flight Simulator Odyssey

by Charles Gulick

Come On Down

Chart: Jacksonville
En Route Coordinates:
   Aircraft: NI1618, E19340
   Tower: N11568.417, E19360.943
   Aircraft: 10000
   Tower: 14
Heading: 130
Time: Daylight
Special Requirements: See text

Study the landscape far below you carefully. The diagonal line visible at the bottom right of your windshield is the Shuttle Landing Facility. You have re-entered the atmosphere in the space shuttle, and are to glide to a landing on that facility, on a compass heading of 150 degrees--on Runway 15.


Birds-eye view of the pads

There are two things you must do before you begin: First, since you have no power in the space shuttle, back your throttle off to idle; and second, for the same reason, disable the simulator sound (check your manual for how to do this in your version).

Now, remembering you have no power, but have considerable altitude to lose, you'll unpause and glide to your landing.

The first thing to do is apply some up elevator because the airplane wants to descend steeply in its present configuration. The nose will come up and your airspeed will drop (try to keep it below 80 knots). Your elevator now controls both your airspeed and your rate of descent, and they are tradeoffs of each other. Your job is to stay in control all the way, turning, circling, flying straight, correcting your rate of descent and your moment-to-moment heading--in other words, doing whatever you have to do to suit your relationship to the run-way. Keep the runway in sight as much as possible--all the time if you can.

When you get to a lower altitude, you'll see that the Shuttle Landing Facility has a centerline. And best of all, this landing strip is 17000--yes 17000--feet long, and 350 feet wide. Talk about margin for error.

You have an additional aid in making this approach: your flaps. Use them if you need them, and when and where they'll do the most good. They'll increase drag, but will lower the aircraft's stalling speed. They'll also permit a steeper de-scent without undue increase in airspeed.

Put the whole thing together to the best of your ability. Just remember that you have no throttle, and suppress the urge to use it. No fair if you do use it.

If you keep your airspeed low, you'll be amazed at how much time you have to "prepare" this approach and landing. Elevation at the threshold of Runway 15 is just shy of 17 feet (I measured it in place).

Good luck.

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