Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Miles to go

Here's a valuable life lesson - Don't mix up kilometres with nautical miles.  Espcially when looking up aircraft operational ranges on Wikipedia.

Oh it's not quite as bad as that.  Actually the entry for the CRJ700 on Wikipedia did say it had up to a 2200+ mile range, but on closer inspection it would appear that this would be for a long range variant.  The standard model's range of 1400 miles means that it's not capable of doing the 1800nm run from Manchester to Rhodes, which is a pity because I'm just about getting operating the CRJ down pat.

I found this out the hard way the other day, when on an impulse I thought I'd try it.  At first it looked like things were going smoothly, until somewhere over southern Europe it became clear that the fuel consumption was rapidly outstripping the miles covered.  I decided to abort the planned trip and divert, first to Makedonia airport (the closest airport to the flight path) and then when it became clear that I wasn't going to even make that one, to the nearest field I could find.

Naturally I flamed out within sight of the runway, when I was lined up perfectly and just caught the correct glide slope.  Unfortunately "glide" slope is a bit of a misnomer and I augured in about a mile short, despite trying everything I could to keep the plane aloft.

Fortunately real life pilots have to put a little more planning and forethought into their trips than I did!

Anyway it's clear that I can't do the Manchester-Rhodes run in the CRJ, so it's on to the 737, which incidentally is probably the aircraft that carries out the run in real life (According to FlightAware.com, Jet2 operates that route and their fleet is mostly made up of various 737 variants - it might be fun to see if I can dig out a Jet2 livery for the default 737 model for the next EGCC-LGRP attempt)

I must confess I am not enjoying the FSX "Lessons" in the Learning Center.  The interactive element's AI is very limited and makes progress very difficult.  The problem is that it operates very limited criteria with no "common sense" in relation to the aircraft's status.  For example, the lesson might want you to level off at 5000 for a landing approach.  It will keep telling you to change your altitude to 5000 feet until it's happy, even if in real terms you've moved past the point in the approach where you need to start descending.  OR if the criteria is for a certain speed, pitch and engine throttle, it can insist on three impossibly contradictory actions like "Pull the nose up", "Increase speed" and "Reduce the throttle".  And I swear I've had it tell me to "Increase altitude" and "Decrease altitude" simultaneously.

And while I'm having a jolly good rant - the first lesson in the Commercial Pilot series - "Piloting complex aircraft" puts you into a twin-engined Beechcraft, which requires manifold pressure and RPM to be controlled seperately.  It also requires you to manage the "cowl flaps" that control air intake to the engine.  Only there is no cowl-flap indicator on the default cockpit panel, and the only way to see the switches is to switch to Virtual Cockpit view and pan all the way down to an angle that doesn't let you see either the viewport or the flight instruments.  In a real aircraft it's a matter of half a second to glance down, but with a VC it's just a little too clumsy.

I would like to be methodical and work through the lessons and checkrides properly but frankly I'm finding them particulary unfun, especially when they keep ending the lesson because the instructor AI isn't happy with my turns (or in one instance because I'd only 3/4 closed the cowl flaps instead of fully closed.
I think I'm probably just gonna wimp out, run through the ground school reading for all the rest of the lessons and try each flight lesson once or twice before moving on.

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