A Flight Simulator Odyssey

by Charles Gulick

Operation Overlord

Chart: Northern France
En Route Coordinates:
   Aircraft: N18036, E13347
   Tower: N17674.893, E13495.066
   Aircraft: 5000
   Tower: 260
Heading: 184
Time: Daylight

If it's possible for airspace to be historic (and why not?) then you are in historic airspace now. For in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, there were 10,000 airplanes in the skies you are in at this moment, all pointed toward the beaches ahead of you. Below you in the English Channel and on the Bay of the Seine--stretching from here to Le Havre, about 100 miles to the east--there were 4000 invasion ships and 600 warships, manned with 176,000 Allied troops. And two U.S. airborne divisions had already landed a few hours earlier.

For this was the scene of D-Day, the day of the invasion of France, code-named Operation Overlord.

Technically, Operation Overlord began five days earlier, when the BBC transmitted a coded warning to the French Resistance that an invasion was imminent. The planned invasion was postponed two days because of bad flying weather.

Utah Beach, directly ahead of you, and Omaha Beach (which you'll fly over presently) are two of a series of beaches along the coast of Normandy, and the sites of the major landings. By the end of the day, 150,000 troops, thousands of vehicles, and tons of supplies had been moved ashore in the largest invasion in history. On June 10 the troops from Utah and Omaha beaches joined forces to form a solid line against the Germans, whose six infantry divisions had failed to stop the first assault.

Unpause and add some power to hold your altitude, then begin to transition to your maximum cruise configuration.

The land visible to your right and out the right front is the Cotentin peninsula, at the tip of which is Cherbourg. A major transatlantic port, Cherbourg represents the western extremity of the Normandy invasion. On nearby Roule Mountain (Mont Roule) is the Museum of the War and Liberation, which depicts the invasion and the war in photographs, weapons, and equipment displays, and samples of propaganda.

As you near shore, you'll see a little notch in the geography straight ahead. There may be a lighthouse visible in the water this side of it (sometimes, in the simulation, a light-house will be "caught" with the light on, even in the day-time). On this side of the notch is the aforementioned Utah Beach. The highway is Highway 13, which goes from Cherbourg to the outskirts of Paris and, via other names, on into the city.

When all of the shoreline except the notch has disappeared under you, turn left to a heading of about 112 degrees so you're approximately paralleling the coast. You'll see an arrowhead of land. A very long stretch of shoreline from the arrowhead east has the G.I. name Omaha Beach. On Omaha Beach on D-Day a thousand American soldiers gave their lives. I relate that sorrowfully. If by any chance a soldier or airman or sailor or anyone who experienced Operation Over-lord is also experiencing this Odyssey, I salute your heroism and your guts. (Happier to report is that of the 10,000 aircraft involved over the beaches of Normandy; only one was shot down--maybe one of World War II's most amazing statistics, if not the most amazing.)

Now, if your chart were accurate, you could tune the Caen VOR on a frequency of 114.50, center the OBI, and fly the indicated radial for a landing on Caen 's Carpiquet Airport. As an alternative (and for a more precise approach since we'll sit the airplane down on Runway 13), you could (if you took your chart's accuracy for granted) set Radial 130 on the OBS, turn left heading about 100 degrees until intercept (the needle centered), then turn right to head 130, tracking the needle for a straight-in approach. Unfortunately, however, while the chart depicts the Caen VOR as being directly on the airport, it isn't; it is instead about 9 miles distant. The VOR technique will get you within sight of Caen, but to make things easy on yourself, simply follow the highway. Stay on the right side of it and you can't miss.

Elevation at Caen is 263 feet. Don't forget your landing checklist.

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