So, without making too fine a point here, another fun flight, a few more thoughts about playing around “up there” in X-Plane
I made a longer flight in XP this weekend, and I find myself returning to the program when writing proves too painfully introspective or I just need a break from doctors – and all their endless BS.
Well, I picked up a bunch of European airport files late last week, and the airport imaged above is EDDS Stuttgart. I decided to “fly” from here to LFMN Nice, on the French Mediterranean, and it was fun, if challenging. At about 400 miles, such a flight takes a little more than an hour and involves flying over two sets of mountain ranges (the Swiss Alps and the so-called Mediterranean Alps that form the backdrop to Cannes, Nice, and Monte Carlo.
So, with the 733 gassed up and ready to go, off we went. I wanted to fly the entire flight under autopilot this time – simply to see if I understood how the system works when handling SIDS (Standard Instrument Departures) and STARS (Standard Instrument Approaches), as well as (potentially) holding patterns.
Leaving Germany under clear skies (above, and that’s EDDS almost under the left engine), this route took the 733 over Zurich…
(and that’s LSZH Zurich Kloten, above, under the left wing) along the way to the western half of the Swiss Alps. The 733 is at 20,000 feet here. Next stop, Milan:
Milan, Italy (above) after crossing the Swiss Alps, and now approaching the Mediterranean Alps.
Approaching the Med, the weather was deteriorating, and here’s where things get interesting in XP. You can set the program to download the weather in real-time, and XP will then adjust the conditions inside the SIM on the fly. Want to fly inside hurricane Harvey? XP can make that happen for you. A weather front full of tornados? Yup, XP can do that, too. If you have a large 4K monitor, you might keep a barf-bag handy. Don’t believe it? Turn out the lights and fly into a bad storm in a Baron or King Air. XP will shake the plane to pieces and it’s amazing how immersive the sensation can become.
So, XP was doing its thing, making the weather turn real crappy, real fast.
Flying instruments is a tough concept to deal with for people new to flying, and it takes hundreds of hours of flight time to become comfortable with all the details, yet in the end, it’s not really all that difficult, especially with modern autopilots. Below, out over the Med now, getting lined up for the final approach.
And, popping out of the clouds, with runway 4R in the center of the left windscreen.
By the by, here are a couple of examples of charts used for this type of approach. This first shows details on the instrument approach chart for runway 4R:
This next is a STAR chart, detailing a Standard Approach to LFMN from the north, east, and southeast sectors:
If you do everything right, you end up with a view like this out the cockpit glass:
Note the position looks a little to the right? Well, that’s because there are two closely spaced parallel runways at this airport, and 4Right’s approach actually forms a shallow V-shape with 4Ls, giving more room if two aircraft happen to be shooting approaches at the same time.
And this is what you’re likely to see from the highway on the way to the airport…just another uneventful landing. Which is the result of hundreds of hours of training and thousands of hours as a journeyman apprentice in the right seat. Endless study – and now – lower pay.
And in all human history, there’s never been anything quite like it. If you think about it, two hundred years ago moving from Stuttgart to Nice would have entailed a journey of months along roads that were anything but paved. Now the trip takes a few minutes.
Here’s a thought to ponder: Isn’t that the definition of a time machine?
More in the next Musings.