A Flight Simulator Odyssey

by Charles Gulick

On the Path of the Bald Eagle

Chart: Detroit
Ground Coordinates:
   Aircraft: N16978, E19767
   Tower: N1697&054, E19766.819
   Aircraft: 0
   Tower: 1953
Heading: 057
Time: Daylight

What a beautiful setting for an airport!

This is Philipsburg Mid-State, Philipsburg, Pennsylvania. And it just happens to represent a perfect opportunity for putting the horizon-sighting technique (from the prior scenario) to the test. Although you're not blessed with information on your chart about mountain altitudes (in fact, mountains don't show up on your chart period), here's an example of how to check those altitudes before you even start your flight:

You're at the foot of the Appalachians. The 057 heading should have you pointed toward the peak of the ridge you'll encounter on your Runway 06 takeoff. Enable SLEW, and use it to increase your altitude until an entire, unbroken line of the horizon is just visible on the other side of the peak; at this point, freeze the SLEWing. Your altimeter now reads the altitude you need to clear the mountain--in my version, about 3040 feet.

At this point, you might as well SLEW to your right and examine the other range, just to be safe . . . and it appears that the same altitude will clear that one too.

But what was that black shape way over there to the southeast? I have a feeling, from studying my atlases, that it may be Bald Eagle Mountain. We'll soon find out.

Now SLEW down to ground level again, and then to a heading of 026. When you're there, pause, disable SLEW, and prepare for your takeoff (save the mode first if you wish).

Climb straight out at full power to about 3100 feet. Then level off and point for the peak of the ridge. As you near it, use more or less throttle, a notch or two at a time, to keep the horizon just visible over the mountain. If you do that, you may skim the treetops, but you'll clear the mountain.

It may be hard to tell when you're over the top, due to the way mountains are textured in the simulator. You'll know you're over them for sure when you see more and more of the horizon. Anyway, when you're approximately at the top, make a long, right turn to a heading of about 174 degrees. This will point you toward the approximate center of that black shape we saw when we were SLEWing earlier. Keep your altitude at or slightly above 3000, and you'll see you can clear whatever it is easily.

You're flying over Black Moshannon State Park (there's skiing here in the winter), and I have to believe the black shape is Bald Eagle Mountain. The only way we can tell for sure is get over the top of it and then look at it via the map facility. So when a straight-down view shows nothing but mountain under you, pause and enable the map view. And--what do you know?--there are two additional mountains down there.

Switch to North Orientation and set the ZOOM factor to 1.00.

No atlas I know of shows mountains really clearly--that is, dimensionally--but according to my best atlas references, those highways are U.S. 220 going northeast, and U.S. 322 going more or less east. And the big mountain is Bald Eagle, and the other two, in order, are Tussey and Jacks.

Return to your cockpit view, unpause, and let's turn to the left and fly up the valley between Bald Eagle and Tussey. In fact, start losing some altitude, point straight up the valley, and let's shoot a landing there. I don't know what the elevation is, but I'll tell you in a minute .. .

A little under 2000 feet.

I like this place! In my version the grass is dark green and the mountains are black with green outlines--quite realistic-looking for simulator mountains. Finding this was worth the trip.

But now, back to Philipsburg. However, to save you time I'll put you in the air . . . on a very interesting, and not easy, landing approach there. See the upcoming scenario.

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