Tuesday, 31 July 2012

A funny thing happened on the way to East Midlands

So not the most successful of flying days here at Vesuvius Airways.

This morning I thought I'd fire up the CRJ for a quick practice run to East Midlands Airport.  After the successful run to Belfast I'm feeling a lot more confident about the mysteries of ILS landings and EMA is a very short hop from Manchester, just enough time to get up to speed and altitude, five minutes of cruising then descend and manoeuvre to slot into the landing approach.

Everything was going swimmingly until I left the end of runway 24R.  Then the autopilot wouldn't engage.

I fumbled around with it for a bit, during which time I failed to notice that it wasn't holding my speed either, and the plane shook itself to pieces somewhere over north Manchester.

Restart and back to the terminal.  This time the taxi-ing was made hilarious by one of the ground controllers having some sort of psychotic episode, constantly repeating over and over "606 hold position, Bombardier CRJ700 on taxiway... 606 resume taxi... 606 hold position, Bombardier CRJ700 on taxiway... 606 resume taxi... 606 hold position (etc)"  What made it even more hilarious was the fact that he kept repeating this right the way up to the runway hold position, despite the fact that there was NOBODY BEHIND ME IN THE QUEUE!

So I was frankly grateful to change freq to the Tower for take-off clearance.  But then as soon as I took off the same damn thing happened again.  The auto-pilot wouldn't engage.  As far as I could tell I'd done everything correctly in the start-up sequence (which worked in the past), it just wouldn't turn on or engage HDG HOLD or ALT HOLD.  Luckily the Autothrottle did seem to work so I didn't overspeed like the previous attempt, so I brought the plane onto the correct altitude and heading manually.

(I should add at this point that I didn't have failures enabled in the sim.  This was FSX "enhancing" the experience off its own bat)

And it was only when I was descending for the base leg of the EMA approach that I realised that my heading indicator had frozen up as well.  I thought I'd push on navigating solely by the VC magnetic compass and verbal directions from ATC and go in for a visual landing.  I managed to get within sight of EMA, but missed the runway by about three miles.  Plus the area was subject to heavy cloud cover at 1000ft, which meant that getting a visual fix meant flying very, very low.  Needless to say, I wound up adding another smouldering CRJ wreck to the impressive collection already decorating the area.

The funniest was the third and I think final attempt of the day to make that simple milk run.  This time the AP kicked in fine just after takeoff, and everything was going swimmingly.  ATC put me on a heading of 105, not quite as the crow flies to EMA, but on previous runs they did tend to steer me wide giving plenty of room to get onto the ILS approach.  But after handing me off to a mysterious controller known only as "Approach" (that's all, no airfield designator) I found myself in the middle of what appeared to be some sort of military exercise.  There were at least three or four military callsigns in the air, and I got a visual of a Eurofighter Typhoon and, unusually for British airspace, a MiG-29.

Vectoring these fast movers seemed to tie up all of the ATC's attention because... well they kinda forgot about me and I sat waiting for the instruction to turn right to intersect with the runway ILS heading.  That instruction just never came.  I only started worrying when I saw the ocean (they call it "Midlands" for a damn good reason).  So I tried giving ATC a kickstart by requesting a new approach, which finally came through just as I was about to go feet wet over The Wash.

They brought me round heading in at least roughly the right direction and I thought I was home free... and then FSX crashed out to desktop.

Count to ten... slowly....

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