A Flight Simulator Odyssey

by Charles Gulick

Le Mans Entrant

Chart: Northern France
En Route Coordinates:
   Aircraft: N17134, E13605
   Tower: NI7126.768, E13608.210
   Aircraft: 1000
   Tower: 194
Heading: 165
Time: Daylight

The Le Mans Circuit-Automobile, where the famous Le Mans auto race is held each June, isn't simulated, but if it were you could see the roadway over there on the other side of Arnage Airport.

Le Mans is known for more than auto racing. Founded by the Romans in the third century, it was seized in turn by William the Conqueror, by Philip Augustus, by John II who ceded it to Queen Berengaria, queen of Richard the Lion-Hearted (she is buried in its Cathedral of St. Julien du Mans), and by various others through the centuries. It was besieged during the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453), and again by the Huguenots in 1562. It was also the scene of France's defeat by Prussia in 1870-71.

But Le Mans survived all that, a civil war, and two world wars to become a modern industrial city and the capital of the Sarthe Department (departments in France are something akin to counties in the U.S.).

In this scenario you are on a special leg of the airport traffic pattern--the downwind entry leg. This is the formal way to enter a pattern on approaching an airport. The down-wind entry heading is calculated by subtracting 45 degrees from the downwind heading if in a left-hand pattern, and adding 45 to the downwind heading if in a right-hand pat-tern. The obvious reason for entering at a 45-degree angle is so you can see, and be seen by, other aircraft that may be in the pattern. In the present situation, your landing will be on Runway 03, the reciprocal of which (the downwind heading) is 210 degrees. Once you join the downwind leg, you'll then proceed to turn base (heading 120 degrees) and then final, heading, of course, 30 degrees.When do you turn downwind from the entry leg? The answer is right now, when your intended landing point (the threshold of the active runway) is at the approximate vertical center of your windshield. If you fly much farther, you'll be too close to the strip when downwind. So unpause and immediately negotiate a right turn to 210 degrees. Then take a 90-degree view to your left, and the runway should be readily visible while you parallel it.

Pattern flying is by no means easy in the simulator, primarily because of your restricted visibility and the lack of three-dimensional references. So don't be surprised if you mess up. It takes lots of practice before you'll develop any kind of consistency. You'll find it much easier if you slow the airplane to about 60 knots (in the present instance, on the downwind leg).

Elevation at Le Mans/Arnage is about 200 feet.

Speaking of vertical references, if I had to choose just one feature I'd like to see added to Flight Simulator, it would be three-dimensional references--vertical and otherwise--on air-ports. Think how great it would be to see a tree or so, a telephone pole or two, a couple of other planes on the taxiways and ramps, and the control tower itself (as at Livermore Municipal in California, the only structure of its kind in all the simulator world), when you're on final. Another plane for ex-ample, holding short of the active runway (which runway could be decided within the program based on wind direction), would alone give us a much-needed visual reference as to our approach altitude, and to the relative width and length of the strip. Some trees or telephone poles near the runways would do the same, in addition to making the landings (and takeoffs) far more realistic.

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