When not simming, I have been known to appreciate things of the slightly steampunky persuasion. So I guess this was inevitable...
The Longest Flight In The World.... EVER!!!
Having tore things up in Kitty Hawk in 1903, I jumped into my time machine and skipped forward a half dozen years to 1909. Louis Bleriot was all set to complete his record breaking crossing of the English Channel. Outrageous, I say! Can't let a bally Frenchie have that glory now, can we? Once one of 'em figures out he can fly across the channel, they'll all be at it! We'll be over-run... over-run, I say!
So I did the only decent, British thing to do. I conked sim-Bleriot on the noggin and pinched his flying machine. England Expects, and all that, donchya know.
More seriously, I had so much fun in the Wright Flyer that I started looking around for other freeware aircraft from the dawn of aviation. There's not much in the way of pre-WWI aircraft out there, but there are a few, including a half decent Bleriot XI.
Instrumentation was non-existent. Controls were basic but thankfully the primary flight functions of roll, pitch and yaw were all covered. Rather than mess about trying to slew the plane to a suitable farmer's field, I took off from Calais airfield, adding a couple of miles to the journey.
Planes of this era really, really did not want to fly. The Bleriot XI took constant control input to keep it on course and level, lacking any modern niceties like trim controls or autopilot. The "cockpit" seat, little more than a bucket really, had terrible visibility - the view forward partially obscured by the engine and the view to either side totally obscured by the wings. There was however an unobstructed view looking straight down, something I didn't want to do too often. Cruising speed was between 40-45kn. In real life, Bleriot flew at 250ft, I varied between 500ft and so-low-isn't-the-sea-spray-refreshing heights.
Bleriot flew without a compass but was able to set his course by following the route of a friendly French Navy destroyer (which carried his undoubtedly nervous wife aboard). Not having a spare warship handy, I settled for tracking the flight using Plan-G open on a second monitor.
The crossing was uneventful, apart from a couple of lapses in concentration that nearly led to some wet toes. When I finally reached the English coast, and the Not The Least Bit White Cliffs Of Dover (heres hoping FTX England remedies that!) I ran into the same problem Bleriot historically did - neither of us had scouted a landing site properly, and both were faced with a sheer cliff face that we'd struggle to climb over. We both turned west and followed the coastline, looking for a way inland.
Bleriot fortunately had a compatriot waving a French tricolore to show him a safe place to head inland. I gained enough altitude to at least peek further inland, only to see modern urban development had rendered a safe landing inland problematic at best. Instead I angled for a strip of green land right on the Dover seafront, open but sloping slightly upwards.
The landing itself was in fact quite anticlimactic.
Bleriot made it another 700 yards just over that hill to an open and gently sloping meadow. A quick check both on Google Maps and in FSX confirmed there was no way I could have landed there, due to a century or more of changes. My actual landing site, between Townwall St (pictured) and Marine Drive, is today in fact a Premier Inn. The flying machine came to rest in what looks like the hotel bar's beer garden.
I don't think I could have planned it any better if I'd tried.