Realistic Commercial Flying with Flight Simulator

by John Rafferty

Chapter 1
Local VFR Check Ride

For the first check ride, we'll stay pretty much in the local Bridgeport-New Haven area so there's no need to worry about navigation. You'll be working on just the basics this time, so concentrate mainly on flying with smoothness and precision.

Once you have your departure clearance from the Tower, you should taxi out onto the runway and stop in order to complete your pretakeoff checks in a professional manner. Then, execute a normal takeoff and promptly establish a standard rate of climb. As you leave the airport, head on up to the Northeast along the Connecticut shore of Long Island Sound.

I'll then give you a series of instructions involving altitude control, standard-rate and half-standard-rate turns, slow flight, and conventional landing procedures. We'll also throw in a practice landing and takeoff at Tweed-New Haven on our way back.

First, review any of the ground-school briefing topics you need to brush up on. Then, enter the setup values to put us on the ramp at the BFC hangar at Sikorsky and we'll get under way.

(If you can't enter the airplane's heading as a setup value on your version of the program, just ignore the heading until you have the setup onscreen. Then, using a little power, turn the airplane to whatever initial heading is called for.)

Program Setup Values
Heading150 (or taxi to 150)
Set Nav 1 to he New Haven VOR on 109.80


On the Ramp at Sikorsky, Outside the BFC Hangar

When you're ready to go, I'll call Bridgeport Ground Control on Com frequency 121.9 and request clearance to taxi. Time to buckle up.

Bridgeport Ground Control, Cessna Three Zero Four Six Foxtrot.

Four Six Foxtrot Bridgeport Ground.

Ground Four Six Fox on the BFC ramp ready to taxi we'll be VFR to the northeast.

Four Six Foxtrot cleared to taxi for Runway 6.

Four Six Fox taxiing for 6.

First get the program's overhead (radar/map) view on the screen and zoom in or out as required; then, look at your compass to see which way we're pointed. Also, recall that the heading of Runway 6 is 060 degrees.

Now, visualize a giant compass rose as if we're looking directly down at it. Visualize the airplane and runway on it—each pointed in their respective directions—and figure out where Runway 6 should be from there. Until you get the hang of this, it might help to sketch out the situation on a scrap of paper.

Once you've figure it out, add some power and begin to taxi slowly toward the runway threshold.

When Approaching Runway 6

Four Six Foxtrot Tower on one two zero point niner so long.

I'll acknowledge, change to 120.9, and contact the Tower. When the Tower clears us to depart, it will also give us a lot of other useful information, so be ready for it.

Four Six Foxtrot Bridgeport Tower
You're cleared for departure
Runway 6
Altimeter three zero point zero five
Temperature 75
Visibility fifteen
Winds calm.

Acknowledge and taxi to the start of the pavement. Line up with the center line, then stop and complete your pretakeoff checks:

Gradually advance the throttle for full power and depart.

When Airborne

Maintain runway heading; climb and maintain two thousand.

We're now heading northeast with Tweed-New Haven and Long Island Sound to our right and Interstate 95 just over to the left.

Altitude Control

When Level at 2000

Climb and maintain twenty-five hundred.

When Level at 2500

Descend and maintain two thousand.

Half-Standard Turns

When Level at 2000

Make each of the following turns at a half-standard rate and remain within 50 feet of your assigned altitude throughout:

Turn right toward the Connecticut shoreline.

Turn left heading one zero zero degrees. (Left to 100 degrees.)

Turn right heading one niner zero degrees. (Right to 190 degrees.)

Standard-Rate Turns

When Level at 2000, Heading 190 Degrees

Execute a 360-degree standard-rate turn to the right.

Fly a complete circle back to heading 190 degrees.

Turn left heading one zero zero degrees.
Climb and maintain twenty-five hundred.

Make a standard-rate left turn to heading 100 degrees while climbing to 2500 feet.

You can try a few more practice turns now, if you like.

Slow Flight

The following maneuvers are important in that they establish your competence handling the airplane in common landing configurations.

While Level at 2500, Heading 100 Degrees

Reduce airspeed to one zero zero knots
Maintain twenty-five hundred.

When in Level Cruise at 100 Knots

Drop one notch flaps, reduce airspeed.

Raise flaps, restore airspeed to one zero zero knots.

Return to the cruise conditions you had before dropping the flaps.

Establish five hundred fpm descent.

Just gradually ease back on the power, and do nothing else.

Drop one notch flaps.

Drop two notches flaps.

Raise flaps, return to normal cruise at twenty-five hundred.

Turn right heading two three zero degrees
Descend and maintain eighteen hundred.

Approach and Landing at Tweed-New Haven

When Level at 1800, Heading 230 Degrees

At First Movement of Nav 1 Needle

Turn right heading 320 degrees
Contact New Haven Tower on one twenty-four point eight.

New Haven Tower Cessna Three Zero Four Six Foxtrot.

Four Six Foxtrot New Haven.

New Haven Four Six Foxtrot, ten miles southeast at eighteen hundred on R three two zero landing New Haven.

Four Six Foxtrot squawk two zero four zero.

Set the transponder code to 2040, to ensure positive radar contact, and acknowledge.

Cessna Three Zero Four Six Foxtrot New Haven
Radar contact on R three two zero at eighteen hundred
You're cleared for straight-in visual approach
Runway 32
Altimeter three zero point zero four
Temperature 79
Visibility twenty miles
Winds calm
Report runway in sight.

New Haven Four Six Fox that's a straight-in visual to 32 and ah…we have the runway now.

Set the aircraft in standard approach configuration—straight and level at reduced airspeed with one notch flaps, using the procedures for your version of the program. As the runway becomes distinct, use very gentle turns, as required, to keep perfectly aligned with it.

6 Miles DME from New Haven

Establish five hundred fpm descent to Runway 32.

In this configuration, the airplane lands safely by itself. To make it a little easier on the tires, ease back on the stick and reduce the power when you're just about to touch down.

On the Runway at New Haven

Four Six Foxtrot turn right next intersection
Contact Ground on one twenty-one point seven so long.

Four Six Foxtrot Ground
Then right just ahead on the parallel taxi strip
You're cleared to taxi back for Runway 32.

Return Leg to Sikorsky

While Taxiing to Runway 32

Four Six Fox contact Tower on one twenty-four point eight.

Acknowledge and contact the Tower.

Four Six Foxtrot New Haven Tower
Position and hold.

In Position and Holding on Runway 32

Cessna Three Zero Four Six Foxtrot
New Haven Cleared for departure
Runway 32

Altimeter three zero point zero four
Temperature 79
Visibility twenty miles
Winds calm.

Acknowledge, gradually open the throttle, and depart.

When Airborne

Turn left heading 230 degrees climb and maintain one thousand.

Set Nav 1 to 108.80 for Bridgeport so the DME will give us our distance to the airport.

10 Miles DME from Bridgeport

Set up for the approach and contact the Tower on 120.9.

Cessna Three Zero Four Six Foxtrot Bridgeport Tower
You're cleared for visual approach
To Runway 6
Using left-hand turns
Altimeter three zero point zero four
Temperature 82
Visibility eighteen miles
Winds calm
Report downwind.

On the Runway

Hah! Cheated death again!

Four Six Foxtrot left next intersection
Ground on one twenty-one point niner
Good day.

Acknowledge and contact Ground.

Four Six Foxtrot Ground
You're cleared to the BFC ramp.

Okay! Next, we take the VFR cross-country. In the meantime, why don't you take the airplane around the pattern on your own for a while and shoot a few power-off landings. I'll just mosey over to the coffee shop and sit by the window.

Don't forget to enter the flying time in your pilot's logbook.

Briefing 1

Summary of Instruments and Controls

Airspeed Indicator. This indicates speed through the air as measured in knots. A knot is one nautical mile per hour.

Altimeter. Actually a barometer calibrated to read feet above sea level instead of inches of mercury, this instrument measures distance above sea level, not distance above the ground.

Since barometric pressure varies from one place to another at any given time, the airplane's altimeter is not reliable unless it's reset periodically to the local barometric pressure. For this reason, a landing clearance from a control tower always includes the current altimeter setting for that airport.

Vertical Speed Indicator. Also referred to as Rate of Climb indicator, it shows the rate of climb or descent. When the needle points left to 0, it indicates level flight. Pointing up to 5 indicates a climb of 500 fpm, down to 10 indicates a descent of 1000 fpm, and so on. Learn to monitor this instrument routinely.

Turn Indicator. This shows the degree to which the wings are banked and is calibrated for standard-rate and half-standard-rate turns, as discussed later.

Magnetic Compass. This refers to an ordinary compass. It's highly reliable but tends to fluctuate during and after a turn.

Directional Gyro (DG). This is actually a compass that doesn't fluctuate during turns but must be reset periodically to the heading shown by the magnetic compass (when that one is stable). Although easier to read than the magnetic compass, this instument depends on the electrical system.

Artificial Horizon. Like a miniature view of the horizon as seen through the windshield, this shows the nose position (climb/ descent) and angle of bank. This is very helpful when your view of the actual horizon is obscured by weather.

Throttle and Tachometer. The throttle controls engine RPM, as indicated by the digital tachometer. Idle speed is 650 RPM with full power around 2400–2500 RPM, depending on your program version.

Flaps and Flap Indicator. Flaps are airfoils on the inboard trailing edge of each wing. Normally up, they can be lowered several notches to increase lift and reduce stalling tendency at airspeeds below 100 knots. A slide indicator on the panel shows the current flap position.

Carburetor Heat. This is essential on real airplanes to preventicing in the carburetor venturi when the engine is at low RPM.

VFR and IFR Flight

Visual Flight Rules (VFR). Generally, “going VFR” means you can pretty much fly wherever you want, on your own, without radio contact with Air Traffic Control—so long as you have good visibility and stay well away from all clouds. Private pilots without advanced ratings are limited to VFR flight.

Since low ceilings and poor visibility are common conditions in most parts of the country, VFR flight is often impractical and rarely relied upon for commercial aviation purposes.

Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). To “go IFR,” the pilot must hold an instrument rating and the aircraft must carry certain equipment (all of which are provided on the simulator). To conduct an IFR flight, the pilot must first file an IFR flight plan and receive a specific clearance for the flight, before departure, from an ATC facility.

The IFR clearance is essentially a contract in which the pilot agrees to fly a specified route at specified altitudes, and ATC agrees to protect that specified airspace from other traffic so that the pilot can proceed safely through clouds and poor visibility. IFR flights are monitored on ATC radar, and the pilot remains in constant radio contact with a series of ATC controllers on the ground.

Runway Logic and Compass Headings

Runway Direction. Add a zero to the end of an airport runway number to determine that runway's approximate compass heading. Thus, when landing or departing on Runway 6, the airplane's heading will be approximately 060 degrees. On Runway 32 the heading will be about 320 degrees. When Runway 6 is used in the other direction, the same strip of concrete is referred to as Runway 24. That is, 060 + 180 = 240.

Interpreting Compass Headings. To visualize compass headings quickly and correctly, make it a habit to visualize the airplane as if it were sitting at the center of a huge compass rose and you, the pilot, are looking down on it from directly above. At the top is north (either 360 or 000 degrees); east, south, and west are 90, 180, and 270 degrees, respectively.

Locating a Specified Runway. To find a given runway from your current position on the ground or in the air:


Make it a habit to taxi realistically—at slow speed. There's really no reason to rush, because you normally have a lot of useful cockpit duties to take care of while you're taxiing—like setting up your Nav receivers and checking your clearance routing and charts.

It's also helpful to put the overhead view (referred to as the map or radar view on different versions) on the screen, to help you while taxiing.

Takeoff and Climb

Specific trim, airspeed, and engine RPM settings for takeoff and climb differ slightly for the various versions of the program. In the following paragraphs, general procedures are outlined first, and then specific settings are suggested for each version.

General Takeoff and Climb Procedure. When cleared for departure, taxi onto the runway threshold (the very beginning of the pavement), line up with the center line, and stop. Then complete your final pretakeoff checks:

Then, add full power and relax. Don't jerk the airplane into the air; instead, sit back and just let the airplane fly itself off the pavement. When airborne, gradually throttle back and establish a standard rate of climb—monitor the vertical speed indicator and get it steady at 500 fpm.

Amiga, Atari, and Macintosh (68000 Versions). The basic procedure is the same. Add full power. Unless the runway is short, keep the elevator indicator centered. On short runways, wait for about 60 knots and then ease back very slightly on the stick.

Immediately after lift off, raise the landing gear, begin to throttle back, and start easing forward on the stick. There's a tendency for the nose to keep rising, so keep easing forward on the stick to hold it down.

You get a 500 fpm climb at about 2100 RPM with the elevator indicator about one notch below center. Just make the adjustments gradually.

IBM Version. After liftoff, raise the landing gear at once and then begin gradually reducing RPM and lowering the nose. You get a 500 fpm climb at 100 knots if the elevator indicator is centered and the throttle is set for about 2000 RPM.

Commodore 64/128. At 60 knots, ease back on the stick, raising the elevator position indicator to about two notches above center. After liftoff, throttle back gently. For a 500 fpm climb, try keeping the stick position as indicated for liftoff with the throttle at 2250 RPM.

Leveling Off. Monitor the altimeter, and about 100 feet before reaching your assigned altitude, gradually begin to throttle back to cruising RPM.

For cruise power, try 1900 RPM on 68000 versions, 2000 RPM on IBM (with the elevator indicator just below center), and 1950 RPM on Commodore. Make small adjustments to the RPM and stick positions, if necessary, to establish level flight at about 120 knots.

Controlling the Airplane

Airspeed and Altitude Control. All pilots don't agree, but most instructors stress the use of engine power to control the airplane's altitude and the use of the stick to control airspeed. Of course, both power and stick position work together, so it's mainly a matter of emphasis.

Setting Up for an Approach. Landings are much easier if the airplane is set up properly for the approach well in advance. The conventional approach configuration on Flight Simulator airplanes is an airspeed around 90 or 95 knots with one notch of flaps. If you're set up like that and throttle back for a 500 fpm descent, the airplane lands by itself.

To lower the flaps, airspeed must be 100 knots or less. Throttle back, and as the nose falls off, ease back on the stick to keep it up. As airspeed bleeds off, monitor the vertical speed indicator and use the stick to prevent any climb or descent.

At 100 knots, drop the flaps one notch; then, resume cruise RPM and get the nose under control with the stick. This takes a bit of practice, but we can work on it step by step during the first flight.

Airport Traffic Patterns

The conventional airport traffic pattern for any given runway is like a rectangle with rounded corners. To visualize it, imagine you're looking down at an airport from directly above: An airplane is ready to take off into the wind on Runway 6, and the pilot intends to fly around the pattern and land again.

The Runway. On Runway 6, the airplane's departure heading is 060 degrees. It starts down the runway, climbs into the air, and begins a climbing 90-degree turn to the left.

Crosswind. After the turn, the heading is 330 degrees and the wind is from the pilot's right. Shortly after arriving on that heading, the pilot starts another 90-degree turn to the left.

Downwind Leg. Upon completing the second left turn, the pilot levels off at 800 to 1000 feet. The new heading is 240 degrees and the airplane now flies parallel to runway 6 in the opposite direction. Also, it's now flying with the wind and this segment of the pattern is accordingly referred to as the downwind leg. If you were arriving at the airport, you would normally enter the traffic pattern at an early point along this downwind leg.

Base Leg and Final. As the airplane passes the threshold of Runway 6, which is off to the left, the pilot begins to descend and again turns 90 degrees left. The airplane is now on the base leg, flying across the wind on heading 150 degrees. While continuing the descent, the pilot then turns left again onto the final approach, turning into the wind to line up with the runway and land.

Variations. Some airports use the same kind of pattern but with right-hand turns. When there's an operating control tower, the controllers often give clearances for straight-in landings or other variations on the standard pattern. When you arrive on an instrument approach, for example, you usually land straight in.


General Procedure. Set up the airplane for an approach well in advance of entering the pattern on conventional landings: five to ten miles out on straight-in landings, depending on your altitude, and before starting the published procedure on an instrument approach unless the procedure is unusually long.

Judging the Approach. As you descend directly toward the runway threshold, the point where the runway begins appears to stay in the same spot on the airplane's windshield.

If the touch-down point moves up on the windshield, you're coming in too low and you should increase power to extend the glide. If the spot moves down on the windshield, you're overshooting the touch-down point and you should reduce power and possibly drop another notch of flaps to steepen the glide.

Don't try to extend a glide by simply raising the nose: The airspeed would decline—possibly causing a stall—and in any event, the rate of descent would actually increase, making the glide even steeper.

ATC Communications

Controller Sequence. The sequence of controllers you deal with on a typical flight begins with Ground Control at your departure airport. From there, it progresses through the Tower, Departure Control, the various regional Centers along your route, Arrival Control at the destination (although the Departure Control facility often handles arrivals as well as departures), and the Tower and Ground controls at the destination airport.

Sender/Receiver I.D. In actual pilot-controller communications, the controller typically has a number of pilots on the same frequency at any one time. To prevent possible misunderstandings, therefore, the individual transmitting a message usually begins each transmission by briefly identifying both the party being contacted and the message sender.

For example, a Kennedy Approach controller requesting American Airlines Flight 200 to descend from 5000 to 3000 feet would say something like, “American two hundred Kennedy descend and maintain three thousand.” The pilot would acknowledge with something like, “Kennedy approach American two hundred leaving five for three.”

Interpretation. In practice, ATC transmissions are usually clear and crisp but also quite rapid—just a fast, continuous string of words without any pauses in between. In fact, the controller assumes the pilot knows what's coming, so effective communication really only requires a few key sounds.

For example, right after takeoff the pilot expects the Tower to provide a departure heading, a temporary altitude limit, and the frequency for contacting Departure Control. Thus, when the controller breathlessly fires off

American Two Hundred Kennedy turn left heading zero niner zero degrees climb and maintain three thousand departure on one twentyfour point seven so long,

the pilot really just picks up the key data; jots down L-090, 3000, and 124.7 on the edge of the flight log; and calmly replies

Kennedy American Two Hundred to three on zero niner zero see ya.

With a little experience, one develops an ear for ATC communications. Even on these flights, you'll soon be anticipating most of the routine ATC instructions.

Pilot Communications on Airline Flights. On commercial airline flights providing a stereo-headphone system for passengers, one channel usually allows you to listen to pilot-controller communications. If you have the opportunity to do so, don't pass it up. For example, there are few experiences in life more amazing than monitoring the ceaseless flow of instructions from Ground Control at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport around 6 p.m. It has to be heard to be believed—and even then it seems unreal.

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