Runway USA

A pilot's guide to destination cities in Flight Simulator
by Charles Gulick

Snow Job


Did you think it didn't snow in the simulator? Well, surprise, surprise. The whole San Francisco Bay area is blanketed in a couple of feet of white snow. Fortunately, though, it has a good hard crust on which we can readily take off and land.

You are precisely lined up on Hamilton Army's Runway 12, with about 4000 feet of strip down there under the snow. So far everything is official, so make your regular takeoff, and let's see what this white world looks like.


Whole new sensation, isn't it?

Level off at 1500 feet and tune to San Francisco VOR, 115.8. When you set the OBS you'll probably find yourself on or close to the 160-degree radial. Leave the setting at 160 degrees, move to that heading, and fly the needle.

Over to your right you'll see Mt. Tamalpais and the top of the Golden Gate Bridge. The whole bay must be iced over, because it's covered with snow. Imagine that!

Pretty soon the buildings on this side of Market Street will start to pop into view. The snowplows must be very busy down there.

And there's the Bay Bridge, too. Talk about a strange landscape!

Look at Berkeley and Oakland, off to your left. There is at least one patch of green over there. Believe it or not, you can see one of the Nimitz Field runways—already cleared off. Maintenance down there is really on the ball.

Isn't the world beautiful covered with snow! And isn't it funny that San Bruno Mountain has no snow on top, or on its slopes? The wind must have blown it away.

Tell you what. Tune San Jose VOR on 114.1 and get inbound on radial 116. We'll check on the runway condition at our home airport.

This is like flying in the Arctic regions. Mush!

I wonder if San Jose looks just like this. If it does, we'll go back and land at Nimitz Field. No, better yet, let's make an ILS approach. Then, even if we can't see the runway, we'll surely land somewhere near the airport. And with the snow, it really doesn't matter all that much precisely where.

Set NAV2 to the San Jose VOR frequency, 114.1, and NAV1 to the ILS frequency, 111.1. Set the NAV2 OBS to 122 degrees. Then head about 80 degrees for a few minutes and get inbound on the 123 radial as we did on our last ILS approach. As soon as the ILS vertical needle centers, fly to keep it in the center.

Meanwhile, climb to 1800 feet to be ready for the glide slope intercept, and about 10 miles out get into slowflight configuration. Also, extend your flaps 10 degrees.

Remember that the radial number or OMNI bearing appearing on your OBS for NAV1 has no significance when you're tuned to the ILS. It can be any number at all, so pay no attention to it. The bearing on NAV2 can be used as a casual check to see if you're on the correct radial of 123. But, as I've said before, the ILS needles—along with your directional gyro or the heading indicator—take over as your major directional references from here on. The ILS vertical needle is much more significant than the directional gyro reading, because it tells you precisely where the centerline of the runway lies. Notice that the needle will move in tiny increments to the left and right, without any change being indicated on your directional gyro. It's these tiny moves you want to react to, with very brief aileron control—often not enough to change the heading that shows on your directional gyro. These are the moves that make the difference in lining up precisely.

About seven miles out, the glide slope or horizontal needle begins to get active. Again, give it time to settle to the center position before you start reacting. Remember that field elevation at San Jose is 56 feet.

Don't mistake those buildings that appear on your windshield for the runways at San Jose. You know there are buildings out there, but the runways at San Jose have not been cleared, so fly the ILS all the way down.

When the ILS begins to go haywire, make no further directional corrections. Just feel the elevator back gradually, maintaining a descent rate of about 100 to 150 FPM, then gradually reduce your power as your altimeter shows you're close to touchdown. You'll know when touchdown happens even if you don't hear a tire squeal, because your VSI will abruptly go to zero. At that point, cut all your power and apply your brakes.

Now it's time to see how you did. Go into radar mode and check out your position with respect to the runways. The ILS runway is the center one, remember?

How'd you do?

And now I have another question for you: Why do you suppose the Nimitz Field runway was cleared, and none of the others were?

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