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Everything posted by ChuckD

  1. Ha! Yes, to say nothing of customs hassles, aircraft breakdowns, political unrest, vandals stealing airplane parts, finding places to stay, finding fuel, finding oil, finding maintenance services, etc. The logistics of doing this in the game are a lot more fun that doing it in real life. edit: Oh yeah, and costs. Conservatively, I've probably burned $100k in fuel alone.
  2. Welcome back and thanks for joining me. When last we left off, we had just landed in Toliara, a small town on the southwest coast of the island of Madagascar. Due to strong crosswinds, I'd been forced to land on a small dirt strip instead of the main asphalt runway, but had, surprisingly, made a really nice landing. In my general plan to see most of Africa, I wanted to make sure that I hit up some of the smaller island countries off the eastern coast. So the idea for the next couple legs was to first head northeast to traverse the backbone Madagascar, then swing out east to hit Reunion and Mauritius, before turning back towards the continent with an overnight stop in Comoros. This would be multiple legs over the course of several days. A map to help visualize: Note that FMMT was just a waypoint, not an actual landing. We were wheels down at the rest of the locations shown though. We have been more or less blessed with good weather throughout most of these flights and these last few legs have been no exception. The only real challenge I've been handed is the screwy winds. Here the GTN750 shows the winds rifling along perfectly perpendicular to the asphalt runway at 17kts. I do love the Beech 18, but with her relatively small vertical tail surfaces, directional control in the yaw axis is not her strongest suit. As I've mentioned before, the maximum demonstrated crosswind for the Beech 18 is 11kts, so, a takeoff in the 17kt crosswind was out. To the dirt strip we go. Given the long length of this flight, we were fully topped off with 900 extra pounds of fuel, including 600lbs in the fore tank and 300 in the aft. Knowing we were going to be heavy, I opted for a short field takeoff procedure. In the Beech 18, this involves taking off with one notch of flaps (vs. no flaps for normal takeoffs) and a full power climb until obstacles are cleared (vs pulling power slightly immediately after takeoff). Once the obstacles are cleared, accelerate to 90kts, then retract the flaps, reduce power to climb settings, and continue the climb as normal. Sweetpea II performed wonderfully and we were quickly off the deck, climbing away to the north. The first phase of our cruise flight took us northeast over the spine of Madagascar's central ridges. A dusty, red clay coastal plain soon gave way to rolling hills, then mountainous ridges. On the east side of the mountains, the terrain rapidly turned green. You can definitely tell where the rainy areas are. We dodged a few thunderheads as we neared the coast... ...but in all, the weather was very cooperative over Madagascar. Soon we were cruising in glassy air over the ocean on our way to Reunion island. Over the ocean, I transferred fuel from the aux tanks to the main front and rear tanks to top them off. This is something of a creative license, but it is plausible. Most Beech 18s originally came with fuel tanks in the nose compartment, but that's not modeled in the game. So, to simulate that, and to allow me to have longer legs required for over water flights, I add weight to the forward and aft baggage compartments when preparing the weight and balance for the flight. Once the main fuel tanks are down 900lbs of fuel, I use the weight and balance menu to remove the fore and aft baggage and refill the fuel tanks. Again, it's not quite how things would work in the real aircraft, but it's close enough for what we're doing here. A low hanging cloud deck surrounded Reunion island, so we ducked below it to maintain VFR. Tower cleared us to land on runway 14 and we began our final approach. The runway configuration here is weird. Runways 14 and 12 intersect in their first couple hundred feet, so from a distance it's hard to tell which is which. Owing to that, I opted to follow the ILS approach for 14. Final configuration checks done, winds calm and down the runway... here we go. After a quick top off (and a reboot since my PC was, for some reason, on the struggle bus at that moment), we departed late in the day for Mauritius. The sun was low in the sky as we neared out destination. With terrain in the area, some light clouds, and light fading, I opted to do the RNAV (GPS) approach to runway 14. Best to follow procedures than risk finding an unexpected hill blocking the way. Touchdown and rollout were clean as the winds were mercifully cooperative. A few days later, it was time to begin our trek back towards the continent. We'd first pass over Madagascar's northern tip again, then overnight on the island of Comoros before making continental landfall in eastern Zambia. We took off from Mauritius early, into the rising sun, following an Standard Instrument Departure (SID) procedure to keep us well clear of any terrain. We cruised over the ocean on smooth air. As we neared Madagascar, I discovered something ... interesting... about FS2020. It appears that when you cross the border of a time zone, the game doesn't just set the time on the clock - it sets time in the world. So, all of a sudden, what had been late afternoon became near dusk in an instant. I'm not sure the logic there, but that's apparently how the game handles time changes. The end result of that peculiarity being that, in this 7.1hr flight, I got to see sunrise, sunset, and full on darkness. Neat, I guess. At least it made for some pretty visuals. By the time we reached Comoros, it was extremely dark. With no horizon and few stars, it's no wonder why a lot of people have crashed due to becoming disoriented at night. I was very glad I had a good autopilot and instrument flying skills. It would have been very easy to lose situational awareness and succumb to vertigo otherwise. This is all I could see of the island as we made our approach. Given the visual conditions, and the knowledge that there was a gigantic mountain looming out there in the darkness, I opted to fly the ILS approach. See that big red blob? Avoid. Following the prescribed approach, the runway soon came into view. Even with Sweetpea's powerful twin landing lights burning, the darkness was still all consuming. Depth perception for the final flare to touchdown was extremely challenging, but ultimately the landing wasn't too bad. A little bounce, then a recovery to a 3-point attitude and we were soon rolling to the parking area. 7.1hrs in the cockpit made for a long day. A few days later, it was time to leave and head back to the continent, but there was a bit of a wrinkle in the plan. I'd tried to leave a couple times, but the winds would just not cooperate. A gusty, 15kt crosswind seemed to plague this place, so I had two options: use the game's weather controls to kill the wind (lame), or try something new. I found a USAF Beech 18 (technically a C-45H) flight manual from the 1950s that talked about procedures for high crosswinds. Basically, you advance the throttle of the upwind engine more than that of the downwind engine to help compensate for yaw. In this case, the wind was coming from my left. This would hit the tail and fuselage, pushing them to my right and thus - like a weather vane - yawing the nose to left. By bringing up power on the left engine higher than that of the right, I would induce a natural tendency for the nose to swing right, thus helping to counteract the wind-induced yaw. I was hoping that between differential power and the yaw authority of the rudders, I'd be able to maintain directional control. Fortunately, the runway at Comoros was large, both long and wide, giving me plenty of room to maneuver and to recover if things went south. We taxied out and lined up. I went through the procedures in my head a couple times, then slowly increased power with the brakes locked. With the left engine at full power and the right slightly lower, I released the brakes. At 40kts, the tail came off the ground and this is usually where things go hinky in this airplane. A slight yaw to the left, but quick rudder compensation brought it center again. And we were off! All things considered, it really wasn't a bad takeoff. Wild. Once airborne, I quickly set standard climb power configurations and we made our climb over the ocean. The air grew bumpy as we crossed the continental coast and made our way towards Zambia on the inner plains. For the most part, the weather cooperated outside of the turbulence. And we were soon lining up over the Mfuwe International in Zambia. Despite a sloppy approach (I couldn't seem to manage my speed well. Maybe I had turkey on the brain...) the final flare and touchdown were smooth. We taxied to the edge of the tarmac and shut down for the day. 222.0 hours in the Beech as of now. Thanks for following along! Next up, something a little special on the plains of Africa.
  3. It's something of a trade-off really. The general consensus is that FS2020 is much very accessible and has phenomenal visuals, but it does sacrifice some realism even at its highest settings. X-Plane 12 and Prepar3D apparently take it the opposite direction - hyper realism for the loss of graphical fidelity. I'm all for the realism, but I do like eye candy too. So when the visuals are vastly different and the realism is slightly different, it pushed me towards FS2020. If I get back into actual flying and truly want to *practice,* I will probably invest in one of the other sims.
  4. Interesting. That's SOP for me though. Pretty much as soon as I have a stable positive rate of climb, I pull up the gear and reduce power then accelerate to climb speed of around 105-110kts. Those are based on settings published in a C-45H POH that's dated July 1953 as published here: https://www.avialogs.com/aircraft-b/beechcraft/item/55359-an-01-90cdc-1-flight-handbook-c-45h-aircraft before it recently got locked behind a paywall. I've found a few other fragmentary POHs, but the problem is that pretty much every iteration that I've been able to find has vastly different information on prescribed engine management procedures. I'll be the first to admit that I've only got about .5hrs in a real Beech 18 and thus didn't dive into engine management in any depth, but I do have quite a bit of time in high performance complex aircraft, so managing props and power settings are pretty familiar to me.
  5. Thanks, Michael. I'm glad you're enjoying the story. I'm having more fun than I thought I would exploring the world this way. Sure, I could fire up Google Earth and essentially do the same thing in a fraction of the time and effort, but this has proved pretty engaging and enjoyable. I agree that the DC-3 still needs a little more time in the oven and will benefit from a few more updates to get it up to snuff. I'd say the 1500fpm descent happens ~70% of the time I engage the autopilot in alt hold mode. I still haven't figured out what causes it and it does it regardless of whether I use the classic or modern instrument sets. So, hopefully it'll get squared away in another update. I feel like engine modeling, at least in GA aircraft, isn't really this game's strongest suit. I'm pretty sure I could run the Beech 18 wide open in perpetuity without any ill effects, but as I said, I like to keep things in the green. I did try the float Beaver tonight at your suggestion. I was going nuts with the damn rattling in the cockpit for about an hour until I found some obscure reddit post that pointed out the need to tighten down the oil filler cap to get it to stop. What a godsend. So, my first (post-oil-filler-cap-rattle) impression of the Beaver is that it climbs like a rocket. The fact that it uses the same engine as the Beech means I'm pretty familiar with its power settings, so that's a plus. I think when I get the urge to do some bush flying, it's going to be my go-to. I also picked up the L-4 Grasshopper from the marketplace the other day. It's okay, but I can't really recommend it. It flies nicely enough, but it doesn't slow down and has no flaps, so landings are an unexpectedly fast affair.
  6. Welcome back and thanks for joining me. Our last leg saw us landing in stiff winds at Beira, Mozambique (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beira,_Mozambique) on what was to be our last continental stop before winging our way over the Mozambique Channel to visit the island of Madagascar (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madagascar). Today's leg would be about a 4 hour, 537 mile hop over the channel in a flight from Beira to Toliara, a small uncontrolled field on the western coast of Madagascar. Toliara has no weather reporting station, so planning for the winds had to be based on weather reports for Tolagnaro... a mere 203 nautical miles away... on the opposite side of the island. This would prove to be important later. True to its coastal form, winds were strong at Beira for our departure. At least they were again straight down runway 12. Unlike our arrival, they weren't overly gusty, so the takeoff and climb out were fairly routine. Note the two closed intersecting runways. We slipped out over the coast and climbed to our cruise altitude of 9,500 in clear blue skies. Setting the Beech 18 for cruise configuration involves a few steps. (here the pilot's yoke is removed for better visibility) - [Red boxes] Adjust the throttle levers (1) until the manifold pressure gauge (2) reads 25" of manifold absolute pressure (MAP). Throttles, as can be expected, regulate engine power output. - [Dark blue boxes] Adjust the propeller levers (3) until the RPMs (4) come down to 1800 RPM. This changes the pitch of the propeller blades, allowing them to take a larger "bite" out of the air. This is akin to shifting up in a manual transmission vehicle or a bicycle. - [Green boxes] Adjust the mixture levers (5) until the Exhaust Gas Temperature (EGT) gauges (6) reach their peak temperature. This ensures that you're getting the most complete combustion of the fuel/air mixture in the cylinders. Too lean a mixture (a low ratio of fuel to air) and the cylinders will burn hotter and potentially damage the engine. Too rich a mixture (a high ratio of fuel to air) and the spark plugs will foul with lead and fail to fire properly. As you climb from sea level to cruise in this aircraft, you must constantly adjust the mixture leaner and leaner to account for the thinner air at altitude. The opposite is true on descent. - [Yellow boxes] Adjust the oil shutter levers (7) to maintain oil temperatures (8) in the green arc. This is modeled a little poorly in the game. As I understand it, the oil shutter system allows you to bypass the oil coolers and is typically used just after start up to help warm the engine oil more quickly. Once warm, you typically open the shutters again so that the oil flows through the coolers. For whatever reason, in the game, you keep the shutters on/open on the ground and off/closed in the air. I doubt the R-985s in the game really give a damn about the oil temp being slightly out of the green arc, but I prefer things to be green whenever possible. - [Magenta boxes] Turn both fuel selector valves (9) to the rear/aux tanks and adjust the fuel gauge selector switch (10) to display fuel for one of the two rear tanks. This ensures that you're burning fuel from the auxiliary tanks before pulling from the mains. At cruise power settings, the aux tanks provide about 1hr 45 mins of flight time. I use a timer on my phone to keep track of when I need to reselect the mains. - [Teal boxes] Close the cowl flaps (11) and monitor the behavior of the cylinder head temperature gauge (12) to ensure that the cylinder heads in the engines stay in the green temperature range. Cowl flaps sit at the trailing edge of the engine cowls and regulate the amount of cooling air that passes through the cowl and the cooling fins on the cylinder heads. Given that radial engines are air-cooled, this is a very important control. Open cowl flaps allow more cooling air through, but create more drag as they stick out into the slipstream. Closed cowl flaps are the reverse. Similar to the oil shutters, this isn't modeled all that accurately in the game. Real Beech 18s have 3 cowl flap settings - open, closed, and trail, which is kind of a halfway point. Generally, you leave them open on the ground, kick them to trail on takeoff and climb, then close them when established in cruise. In the game, you get open and closed, so there's not much adjusting to be done. As we descended towards Madagascar, the wind began to pick up. And we were met with a conundrum. As it turns out, the wind reports from the station 200nm away were completely inaccurate for my destination field (shockedpikachu.jpg). The wind report from the GTN750 - and verified by a look at the field's windsock - showed about an 18knt direct crosswind (arrow) to the main asphalt runway (box). But then, I saw this... ... what I can only surmise is/was an old dirt strip that happened to be perfectly parallel to the wind. Jackpot. Down we came, and I entered the pattern to the dirt strip. GUMPS check and the first notch of flaps on downwind... 2nd notch of flaps on base leg... Turning final... last notch of flaps out. Lined up on final, the wind was strong, but not gusty, so the ride down was reasonably smooth. Trimmed for 80kts on short final, we were committed to the landing. No happy chirp from the wheels kissing asphalt, just the crunch of gravel under our tires. Shooting for a 3-point landing to get the tailwheel down as quickly as possible, we touched down just above stall speed. Oddly enough, it was probably one of my best landings yet. Go figure... 10,000' of asphalt and I bounce and wobble down the runway. 1500' of single track and I'm in like Flynn. :/ Ah well, I takes what I can gets. We taxied to the pumps and shut down with the setting sun. Thanks for following along! Next up, island adventures in the Indian Ocean.
  7. I still haven't tried out the Beaver yet. I've been flying the Arrow III and the DC-3 quite a bit though. The Arrow is just the bee's knees. I'm still kinda middling on the DC-3 though. Its autopilot is disastrously bad. Maybe I just don't understand it enough yet, but any time I engage it, it kicks me into about a 1500fpm descent which is... problematic to say the least. It's fast for sure, but it still feels incomplete. I'm glad I've got the Beech for my round the world flying.
  8. Welcome back and thanks for joining me. When last we left off, we had landed in Johannesburg, South Africa after dodging rain and errant AI ATC traffic routing. From here, I want to swing east to get over Madagascar and some of the smaller island countries of the continental east coast. To do this, we would first head north then east, allowing us to check the countries of Botswana and Zimbabwe off the list before finally landing on the coast at Beira, Mozambique. Yes, it's circuitous, but again, I'm in this for the journey and adventure, not to rip around the world as fast as I can. When the morning came to board Sweetpea II for the departure, the crack of thunder and a steady, heavy rain drummed the tarmac around us. Pulling up the NEXRAD function of the GTN750 showed yellow, orange, and a few red splotches all around us - scattered, but intense thunderstorms. By using that function, I reasoned that we would be able to dodge the worst of the rain and heavy winds until we cleared the squall line to the north of Johannesburg. Taxi and takeoff were gloomy affairs. We turned to our northly en route heading and began picking our way through the storms. This was probably the heaviest rain I've seen yet, but because the storms were scattered, I still had at least a margin of visibility on the horizon. So, climb out, while still "on instruments," wasn't truly *hard* IFR as it was coming out of Tenerife. Johannesburg was busy this today, despite the weather. We reached our cruising altitude of 14,000' but still had a wall of clouds in front of us, so requested and were granted 16,000 from the center controllers. This put us over the top of most of the weather in the area. As we flew further north, the clouds began to break as predicted. Below us, the African plains stretched for miles, broken only by the occasional lake or river. Nearing the coast, we began our descent and canceled our IFR flight plan. With the weather being so clear, there was no need for it, and it allowed us some flexibility to how we approached the field. Everything here took on a hue of deep, lush green and small villages dotted the landscape. Beira, our destination, sits right on the coast. It was originally built with three runways that intersected roughly at the midpoint of each, but two of them are now closed, so my only option was runway 12/30. Tower cleared us for the approach into runway 12, which was fortunate in that there was a stiff and gusty 15kt wind running straight down the runway. Coming up from the south, we entered the traffic pattern in a right base leg. GUMPS check - Gas (correct tank selected), Undercarriage (down and locked), Mixture (full rich), Props (full forward), Seatbelts (locked and secured) - we were ready for landing. Turning in on final approach, the wind buffeted us and tossed us all over the sky. I kept the speed on final a little higher to account for the wind shear. It's always a good idea to give yourself a little bit extra speed when the wind is gusting heavily, else it could shift unexpectedly and suddenly your wing stalls 100' from the ground. Lots of people have died that way and I'm doing my level best not to become a statistic on this flight. Holding about 90kts, we tossed and bumped our way down the glidepath. Over the numbers, chop the throttles and let physics take care of the rest. Touchdown! The tires squawked happily as we bumped down on the asphalt. Considering the winds and buffeting, it wasn't a bad landing. Holding aileron correction to compensate for the winds, we taxied to parking and shut down at the GA ramp. When taxiing in high winds, you try to keep the ailerons oriented so that the wind can't get under the wing and lift it up unexpectedly. Thanks for following along! Next stop: Madagascar!
  9. Seems straight forward enough. How do you not loosen up other nearby completed solder joints while working on the next join?
  10. Well, at the solid risk of repeating myself... I'm in. Time to rip through my current project to make sure the bench is clear.
  11. It's easy to armchair QB this, so I'll reserve final judgment until the NTSB and FAA release their final findings. In watching several angles of the video, it really looks and feels like the P-63 pilot lost situational awareness and ended up with the B-17 in his blind spot under the nose. He probably never saw the Fortress until his prop was chewing into it. Ugh. Condolences to all involved. What a tragedy.
  12. Wow, looking great! Can't wait to get my hands on this. Anyone have any good recommendations for reference materials and/or profiles?
  13. Hello and welcome back. Trying to keep ahead of updates, so here's another for the weekend. As of yesterday, we had landed at a small gravel strip in the town of Bredasdorp (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bredasdorp), South Africa. Reason being is that it's the southern most airport on the African continent; any further south and you're heading to Antarctica. The desire was to head northeast, overflying the landlocked countries of Lesotho (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesotho) and Estwatini (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eswatini), both of which are entirely surrounded by South Africa, then turn back to the northwest to head into Johannesburg. That would set us up nicely for the next legs into Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. I recently discovered a feature of the GTN750 GPS that's buried at the bottom of a long menu. It allows you to see the local winds in real-time. I really wish I'd had this feature on some of the earlier legs as it's a real godsend when you're trying to figure out the wind situation at a small, uncontrolled airfield. With the Beech 18 having a relatively low tolerance for crosswind on landings and such, this will make my life quite a bit easier. 20 years ago when I was doing my primary and instrument training, technology like this was only a pipedream. My how far we've come... So, as we sat warming the engines on the ramp, I checked the local winds and... Oh my. A 24 knot wind (see the bottom right corner of the display just above the magnifying glass icons) with gusts as high as 32 knots. Fortunately, it was straight down the runway, so there'd be almost no crosswind component to worry about. Lining up on the runway with the nose into the wind, the airspeed indicator was registering about 25kts. It's highly unusual to get a live airspeed reading while sitting still. It was so wild, in fact, I forgot to take a screenshot of it. :/ Takeoff and climb out were more or less uneventful as the sky was completely clear. The biggest issue was - as to be expected - the turbulence. Due to the mountains we were going to fly over, I'd opted to cruise at 14,500'. I was hoping that the air would be fairly clear at that altitude, but as we leveled off, we continued to be buffeted by terrible turbulence. So, I climbed instead to 16,500' where the air was, thankfully, much smoother. https://i.postimg.cc/3wzQmNhx/20221112071833-1.jpg Generally speaking, the cruise phase of the flight was uneventful. I was struck by the beauty of the African scenery as wide, green plains gave way to craggy plateaus and soaring peaks. My wife (Sweetpea I) was wowed by it too. Over Lesotho, the weather started to become spotty with pop up storms from horizon to horizon. Here and there, towering cumulonimbus clouds dotted the sky with lightning and thunder splitting the day. Using the NEXRAD function of the GPS, we picked our way around the worst of the cells, maintaining VFR the whole way. How did I get by without this thing before? Crossing our waypoint at Eswatini, we banked left to head back to Johannesburg. Weather at Johnnesburg International (FAOR) was VFR - hazy, but more or less clear with calm winds. I decided to fly the ILS approach for the assigned runway for no other reason than it gave me a procedure I could plug into the GPS and thus the autopilot, reducing my workload at the end of a 7 hr flight. AI ATC does some ... interesting... stuff. This is some kind of airliner/heavy cargo ship that just departed the opposite runway for which I'd been cleared to land. No ATC operator worth their salt would put two aircraft on a collision course. Least of all in the critical landing and takeoff phases of flight. :| Oh, FS2020 ATC, don't ever change. In any case, it soon banked to its right and I did not have to deviate my approach. Trimming for 80 knots with full flaps and a light wind, the short final and touchdown were, for once, smooth as glass. We taxied to parking and called it a day after 7hrs and 3minutes in the air. With that 7hrs, I finally broke the 200hr mark in the Beech 18! According to the Hobbs meter (the hour meter) in the aircraft, this flight brought me to 200.2 real-time hours in the aircraft. Most of that, obviously, has been these round the world trips, but I often fly it for fun and for practice on non-canon flights around my area. I do love this big dumb airplane and I desperately wish I had the funds to get the real 72Z airborne again. I'd planned on winning the recent ~$2b lottery to get her going again, but alas, all I won was eight bucks. Only another $1,999,992 more to go. :/ Till next time!
  14. I haven't noticed any real difference, honestly. The weather on today's Africa flight was a little more dynamic than what I'm used to, so maybe some of the weather bug fixes have taken effect, but beyond that, it seems pretty similar to me. Just a bigger planeset. Performance-wise, I haven't seen a change. I'm running DX11 though. You? I saw the Beaver in the a/c list last night and considered it, but decided to give the Grumman Goose a go first. Never tried a seaplane before. It was an interesting experience - you seem to need to hit the water fairly flatly, no nose-high flare. At least in the Goose you bounce like crazy then start porpoising, which is bad to say the least. I just wrapped up my Africa flight, so I'm going to spend some time at the model bench then probably give some of the other aircraft a go later today. I've been having a riot with the JustFlight Arrow III lately. It's a high performance/complex version of the Warrior that I flew for most of my primary training 20 years ago, so it's bringing back a lot of good memories. Plus it's pretty quick and has a good avionics package. If you're looking for a good, all-around low-wing, complex single, it's a great investment. I think I've got 25hrs in it in about 10 days.
  15. Gah. Just checked out the modeling news cad and test shot pics. This might be one of those "clear the bench" builds for me. I have an incredible soft spot for Pacific war gunships.
  16. **OP has been updated with current screenshot gallery links** Hello and welcome back. At last, we're finally caught up to current flights. Thanks for bearing with me as I rocketed through the Sparknotes of South America and part of Africa. Now, we can slow down a little bit and enjoy the flights as they happen. If you're like me, your knowledge of African geography is... *lacking*. So, I had a moment when I arrived in Mali where I thought, "what am I going to do in Africa??" As I've mentioned before, I decided that I'd probably never do this type of journey again, so I might as well take the time to see as much of the continent as I could. That's when I came up with this general plan of attack: Starting in Liberia, we'll roughly move through the continent and its coastal island countries in a counter clockwise path. The map here isn't perfect, and don't hold me to it, but it's close enough to give you a rough idea of how we're working our way across Africa before moving to the Iberian Peninsula. The *overall* plan of attack is something (something...) like this. (If you can't tell, I haven't really figured out how I want to bite off Australia.) This is the rough idea anyway and will likely change. As a WWII military history enthusiast, there are a lot of battlefields that I want to see across Europe, Asia, and the Pacific. I'm planning to spend what will likely be an inordinate amount of time poking around the Southwest Pacific as it's where my grandfather served during the war, and it's also a fascinating and vast battlefield. Remember, it's about the journey, not the destination. Anyway, when we last left off, Sweetpea was winging southward along the eastern coast of Africa heading from a small airport in Namibia near the sand sea to Cape Town, South Africa. I was pretty excited about heading into a huge airport like Cape Town for a couple reasons. First, there's bound to be other traffic around, which is always interesting. Second, it's the first big airport we've flown into on this journey. And, lastly, it's a hand-crafted airport in the sim, meaning that instead of generic, generated buildings, there's unique and bespoke structures based on the real-life airport. Neato. We blasted off out of Luderitz, Namibia, a small field in the middle of the desert and climbed to 11,000' on an IFR flight plan. Annoyingly, the tower directed me to use a runway with a tailwind. I've no idea why they do this, but it happens frequently and with the taildragger physics being so weird on the ground, I'm going to start ignoring them. Fortunately, takeoffs aren't as bad as landings, and I was able to get out without too many problems. The Namibian sand sea is beautiful in its own right. Here and there, the cloud masses thickened and threatened rain, but never did. I was watching the weather radar function of the 750 GPS closely, but it showed no precipitation in the vicinity. The skies cleared as we reached the coast and slipped out over the Atlantic, the most direct route to Cape Town. LIFE! This was the first other, live player I'd seen in months of flying this journey. ATC vectored us for the VOR/DME Y approach into runway 01. Despite the clear weather, I decided to remain on the IFR flight plan and shoot the approach anyway. The first step of the approach is to overfly the VOR station, then turn south (outbound), descend to approach height, then turn back north (inbound) for the final approach. I let the AP handle most of this as it was pretty clear weather. We quickly turned inbound and descended. I've mentioned before how VOR approaches are based on old technology and are not considered "precision" approaches. Here you can see just how far off from the runway centerline we are while centered on the approach. (It's the gray blob just to the right of the white buildings) Since it was clear, I disconnected the AP and hand-flew the visual approach once we got within a mile or so. Lining up in visual conditions is super easy. Recall the VOR approach into Marrakesh where buildings were flashing by in the gloom and the runway was 1/8 of a mile off to our right once it finally came into view. Good times. Gimme an ILS any day. Taxiing to parking, we were safe and sound on the ground. In all, the Cape Town airport experience was a little underwhelming. There wasn't as much traffic as I'd hoped/expected, certainly not like a Boston or Chicago. There was only that one lone player out there too, which was a little odd. I will say that as a bespoke airport, it did look and feel more alive than a lot of the other more procedurally-generated fields I'd been used to. With yesterday being Veteran's Day, I had the day off and decided to make a quick hop to the southern most continental airfield I could find. That turned out to be Andrew's Field in Bredasdorp, South Africa. (Ignore the purple line outbound from there for now... that's the leg I'm flying right now.) It was just a short hop over some mountains to a small, 3500' gravel strip just off the coast. Happily, Cape Town was busier this day than it was when I arrived. The AI line crew seems to always have a death wish. ...bruh... After watching a few big boys land, we headed out and began our climb to clear the 6000' ridges between our departure and arrival fields. It was smooth sailing over beautiful, craggy countryside for the entire duration of the ~40 minute flight. Thank you for not smoking. Past the mountains, we descended into Andrews field and made our approach. The winds at the coast were really howling, so I was more focused on making the landing than I was in taking screenshots. Suffice to say, the landing was not super great and the tailwheel physics made it even more... erm, exciting... than it really had any right to be. It's funny, a new update dropped for FS2020 last night that includes the famously docile and forgiving Douglas DC-3/C-47 passenger/cargo airplane. If you're not familiar with it, it's similar to the Beech 18, only larger, heavier, and with a single vertical stabilizer. It has a reputation for being an absolute honey of a plane to fly and something like 15,000 of them were built with many still in use today. I flew it for about 2 hours last night and, in the sim, it's just as bad on the ground as the Beech 18. Directional control, particularly as you slow down after landing is almost impossible until the tailwheel gets on the ground. It feels like the game treats the tailwheel on most of these aircraft like a nosewheel that's just stuck to the back of the plane, and that's really problematic and inaccurate. Anyhoo, I could soapbox that idea for a while, but I'll spare you all the diatribe. Suffice to say, taildragger physics continue to be just bad. As I write this, we have left Andrews and Bredasdorp and are heading northeast towards Johannesburg, which appears to be marginal VFR conditions, so we'll see if I have to hack an instrument approach on this one too. The scenery is pretty though. So, as of this morning's departure, here are how things stand. These are the logs for all the flights in Africa as I couldn't include the preceding routes in one screenshot. We are at 169 total hours of flight time, 155.8 in the day, 13.2 at night and 7.8 on instruments. We've done 54 total takeoffs and landings and shot 8 instrument approaches of some variety. Having started on July 28th, we have been flying 107 days, for an average of 1.46hrs per day. The average flight time for the legs has been 3.76hrs. All flight hours have been done in real time, no slewing or time compression has been used.
  17. Oh lordy, count me in. Any word of a release date?
  18. I'm definitely down for a 1/32 A-20G. Loves me some Havoc.
  19. *Evidentally my picture host is having some technical issues, so some of these pictures may or may not load properly.* In the last update, we closed with a hair-raising instrument landing into Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Weather was down to the minimums with thunderstorms, wind, and rain pounding the area. ... turns out it was the same 24hrs later at our planned departure. I'd wanted to see Tenerife personally, as it is the site of the deadliest airline disaster in history. In 1977, two fully loaded Boeing 747s collided on the runway in poor weather. I'd always wondered how something like that could happen, but after seeing the horrific weather common to the island, it all sort of clicks. For more info on the accident, here's the wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenerife_airport_disaster The plan from here was to return to the African continent in Morocco, then start winging southward towards South Africa. Our first stop back on the continent would be Marrakesh. Due the ridiculous weather at Tenerife and forecast throughout the flight, we would be filing an IFR flight plan and following instrument airways. Maintaining a positive climb rate out of Tenerife would be critical as there are several mountains in the area. The terrain mode of the new 750 GPS was a godsend. It will dynamically display color gradients for nearby terrain that is within 1500' of your altitude. If you see a big red blob, it's terrain that you *will* hit if you maintain your altitude. Yellows and greens are just below you. Black is at least 1500' clear of you. When you're clawing your way through the murk without any visibility, it's an incredibly valuable tool to ensure you don't become a CFIT (controlled flight into terrain) statistic. We copied our IFR clearance, and with rain pelting the aircraft, we taxied to the runway. Sweetpea's twin R-985s roared at full power, and we blasted into the all-encompassing gloom. Notice the colored blobs on the GPS display; the south end of Tenerife is a huge mountain. Having cleared the terrain, I switched the GPS mode to NEXRAD to keep tabs on nearby precipitation. Finally, we cleared the worst of the thunderstorms, and the weather began to break a little. But bad weather continued to plague us through the entire flight to Marrakesh. We popped in and out of a low, hazy cloud deck as we descended towards Marrakesh. Tower cleared us for the VOR/DME Y approach into runway 28. These types of instrument approaches have been in use for ages and are based on old, non-precision technology. Unfortunately, there's not a great mechanism in the game to request alternate approaches or runways from ATC, so we took what we got. Descending to the approach altitudes prescribed by the published charts, skyscrapers loomed out of the darkness. Finally, the runway lights popped out of the gloom, and we banked hard for the final, visual portion of the approach. The 1940's called; they want their instrument approaches back. Safe on the ground at Marrakesh, we planned the next leg of our flight. Leaving Marrakesh a week later, we headed south across Algeria and into Niger. At least, that was the plan. Marrakesh itself was hazy, but the rest of the route proved to be clear and relatively calm. We climbed quickly to clear a line of ridges south of the city. Unexpectedly, we popped into a line of clouds parked over the mountain peaks and started picking up a little ice. While the Beech 18 is certified for flight into known icing conditions, it's still not a place I'd prefer to be. I kicked on the deicer boots and prop deicing system, and requested a lower cruising altitude to clear the clouds, as by the point we were well south of the line of mountains. We droned on southward into the passing day, the auburn sands of Algeria sliding slowly by beneath us. After a quick refueling stop at a field in the middle of the Algerian desert, we were on our way again. This was most likely a military base and I doubt we would have been warmly received there in real life. :/ Again, we droned southward, dodging the occasional pop-up thunderstorm. About 10 miles north of our waypoint of Aguenar, Algeria, dusk began to settle, and a low haze crept up. Cruising along peacefully at 11,000', something strange happened. All of a sudden, both engines started to lose power. Running through the emergency procedures, I established best glide speed and began trying to troubleshoot the problem. Somehow, the ignition switches for both engines had been switched off (god knows what microsoft bug caused this...) and they were windmilling in the slipstream. Switching them back on did not produce immediate resumption of power as I had expected. I tried going through the restart procedures, but to no avail. Fuel selectors and manifold heat did nothing either and with the engines now producing a few hundred RPM of power, I began to look for a place to land. I'm not sure why, but as we descended through about 6,000' the engines slowly started to come back online of their own volition. With that little bit of power, we were able to limp into Aguenar. To say I was confused and angry would be an understatement. I still have no idea what caused the mags to get turned off, but it hasn't happened before or since. Forgive me, as I didn't take any pictures of the ordeal. When leaving the next week, we were very cautious to do a full runup of the engines before departing. They performed without issue and soon we were headed south again to the previous week's destination of Tahoua. Out of Tahoua, we flew southwest to see some of the smaller countries on the Ivory Coast: Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Burkina Faso. For the most part, the terrain was dry desert, and the weather was severe clear. From Ouaga, we turned east towards Tamale, Ghana, where the terrain was predominantly scrubby desert. While the greenery was limited, it was a welcome sight after weeks of endless desert sand. Winging southeast from there, we headed towards the southern coast of Nigeria. During this flight was where the terrain really gave way from desert to jungle. In clear weather, we made our approach into Owerri, Nigeria. After a week there, we continued south along the western coast of Africa, passing over Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, The Republic of Congo, and The Democratic Republic of Congo, before finally landing in Luanda, Angola. This turned out to be the longest leg of the flight so far, clocking in at 7.9 hours from startup to shut down. For the most part, the weather was clear, but we did pass over the tops of a few localized thunderstorms. The sun began to set as we made our descent into Luanda, treating us to another beautiful dusk. Out of Luanda, we headed south to Namibia. I was looking forward to seeing the red sand sea, and the game didn't disappoint. Light rain pattered around us as we departed Luanda. But it quickly cleared. After several hours (and a game crash...), we were over the Namibian sand sea. Due to the time zone difference between where I'm physically located and where I'm virtually flying, most of my African flights tend to end at dusk. Today was no exception. When the game crashed (don't unplug the receiver for your wireless mouse mid-flight, folks), I had to restart the flight airborne. Whenever I do that, strange things manifest themselves that don't seem to happen when I do my typical cold start. In this case, the electrical system was unhappy... a fact I didn't discover until I was on final and wanted to do something silly like... extend my flaps. Interestingly, one of the Beech 18 manuals I read made a big deal about not overloading the relatively weak generators of the electrical system. That manual was published circa 1950, so I assume that in the years hence, people have figured out better ways to provide electrical power to this aircraft. Whatever the case was, when I made my approach, it was fast and without flaps. Stupidly, the AI ATC tried to vector me in for a landing with a 16kt quartering tailwind. So, I promptly ignored them and landed on a runway with an almost direct headwind. They then admonished me for not being cleared to land. *sigh* Not that I'm at almost 100kts on final. Typical approach speed is 80 knots. Surprisingly, the landing was pretty smooth, and as I had a good length of runway ahead of me, the only downside was that I had an extended ground run before braking to a stop. In all, I can't complain. With that, we are up to date. The next update should come next week and will have us flying from Namibia to Cape Town, South Africa. That one should be interesting as it's the first Class B airport (read: big) that we'll have visited on this journey!
  20. Thank you! They're all Alclad II. From memory, I think I used the following shades. Aluminum Duraluminum Airframe Aluminum Polished Aluminum Dull aluminum If I had it to do again, I'd put a medium coat of aluminum across the whole thing, then pick out the desired panels with other colors.
  21. Thank you, gents. I really appreciate the compliments. The more I look at it on the shelf, the more I like the end result. Or maybe it's just that the pain of doing an NMF is healing.
  22. Thanks, gentlemen. This was the first shot at a full natural metal finish, though I've done small bits in the past. I have nothing but respect for the guys who do NMF all the time as I think this will be a "few and far between" type of finish for me. Getting the surface prepped to the level needed for NMF is just too much for me.
  23. Hi, all. After much labor and strife, I present my take on what a demonstration P-40B might look like. There's no real historical reference for this, but it sounded like something fun and out of the ordinary for this aircraft. I'm also a sucker for natural metal finishes with pre-war/early-war national markings. This is the GWH kit, naturally. It's a really nice kit, but not for the beginner. A couple oddities I found were that the instructions weren't clear in a few spots (be careful of the orientation of the flap actuating rods) and the PE in this kit is some crazy alloy that resists all attempts to heat treat it. The metal still had a lot of memory even after annealing like I normally do. Also, the fuselage to the wing fit was pretty tight and required a lot of superglue and hope to get it to stay together. That said, the kit is otherwise very nice. I used the Quinta Studio interior and the Eduard wheel set, though neither were really required. The kit includes a rig to allow you to place an engine bay with or without the cowling. The engine included with the kit is probably the most detailed Allison V-1710 ever produced in plastic. So, if you want to display it, this kit's the ticket. I did build it, but did not end up doing the gimmicky magnet setup to replace the nose section, so it's just a static display on the shelf next to the aircraft. Through no fault of the kit itself, this was one of those builds that seemed to be plagued with gremlins. Stupid mistakes, lifting paint, small bits snapping off, decal solution attacking base coats... it just went on and on. The Special Hobby P-400 I did a few years ago was the same way. Hopefully I've exhausted my share of bad luck in the model room for another few years. Bleh. Anyway, pics. Full gallery here: https://postimg.cc/gallery/phBhdYt
  24. Last week's update ended with us coming into Ascension Island in the middle of the night. My intent with this update was to get us to the landing of my most recent leg, and from there out, keep relatively current with flights as I progress. However, this has gotten fairly long, so it looks like it'll take one more to get us caught up. So, where is Ascension Island you might ask? It's here, a little postage stamp in the middle of the Atlantic. I can't imagine how challenging it would have been to try to find it in the era before radio or GPS navigation. Fortunately, in this day and age, you can set your GPS and select the NAV mode on your autopilot and pretty much not touch the controls till it's time to land. The plan from Ascension was to head north to the Ivory Coast of Africa as it represented the shortest over water flight to the continent. Wanting to keep that time to a minimum, I selected a small airport in a village called Tabou as our first African destination. We departed the barren and sparsely modeled island early on the morning of September 10th into broken, puffy clouds. And cruised for several hours through a deep azure sky. At last, the deep green of the Ivory Coast slowly emerged from the haze and clouds. And we began our descent. The long, dirt strip was situated on the north end of the village and paralleled one of the major roadways. It wasn't hard to pick out from the cockpit. Without any weather reports, we overflew the field to see if we could pick out a windsock but found none. Nonetheless, we prepared for landing and began our approach. Africa! (see also: I bless the rains down in...) Without aviation fuel services (100LL, which the Beech 18 requires, is not common everywhere) so our next stop had to be to a larger airport to refuel. I'm trying to simulate fuel availability to at least some degree too, so this was the first of several African stops that will see us leaving with half tanks. Our route took us first to the international airport of Abidjan, just east along the Ivory Coast. Using soft field/short field takeoff procedures, we left out of Tabou the next day. Approaching Abidjan, the clouds began to close in, leaving the airport with marginal VFR (visual flight rules) conditions and allowing us to do a visual approach. We taxied to the fuel stand, topped off the mains, aux, nose, and aft ferry tanks and were off again soon. It was also here that I decided to start simulating the carrying of spare parts by adding an extra 250lbs to the aircraft's weight and balance. This aircraft rolled off the assembly line in 1943, so something is bound to break every time we fly. Fortunately, I'm a licensed aircraft mechanic, so I can do the work myself. Legally even. This time, we would turn north to Mopti in the heart of Mali. We climbed through the clouds into clear air above. The lush greens of the Ivory Coast gave way to barren, desert landscapes as we made our way inland. Mopti hove into view, and we touched down and tied the aircraft down. While in Mopti, I spent quite a bit of time looking at a map of Africa, trying to determine how I wanted to tackle the continent. This trip is about the journey, not the speed or duration. So, I want to see as much of Africa as possible. To do that, I decided I would fly first west to Liberia, then to the Canary Islands, then loop back around and head south through the main body of the continent. Effectively, we will be traveling around Africa in a more or less counterclockwise path, ending in Morocco before crossing the straits of Gibraltar to the Iberian Peninsula. From Mopti, we turned southwest, working our way towards Freetown in Liberia, but as the sun set, we decided to divert to Senou, a small town in Mali. The sun sank lower to the horizon and the sky turned to gold. We landed just as dusk settled over the desert. Still working our way southwest towards Freetown, our next leg was cut short as thunderstorms swept through the area. We diverted to a small dirt strip in a town called Kankan in Guinea. As we made our turn to enter the traffic pattern, the wisdom of our choice to divert and call it day was confirmed as a bolt of lightning split the sky in front of us. After spending the night in Kankan, we departed again, this time determined to make our destination of Freetown. The skies were clear for most of the flight, but as we neared the coast, deep clouds started to gather, and visibility dropped. Through deepening gloom, we made our way into Freetown. Incidentally, this was the only flight I made on this trip between a major update to the sim and a major update for the Beech 18. There was about a 48hr gap between the two updates and the Beech 18 was damn near uncontrollable on the ground and at low speeds until the update for it was released. Thus, my landing here at Freetown was abysmal. We hit hard and bounced, but I was able to salvage it and ultimately, we didn't break the game's damage threshold. Any landing you walk away from is a good one, I guess. From Freetown, we turned north to head up the coast. Clouds were light, but heavy winds buffeted us the entire time. We made a few intermediate stops because, hey, I'll never come back here and landing at dirt strips is fun. That road right there? That's the town's airport. And main drag. Takeoff was... interesting. But we made it out okay. And landed in Banjul, the capital of Gambia. Oops, sorry. *The* Gambia. From there we headed west, back out over the ocean to Cape Verde, a series of islands about 400 miles off the coast of Africa. The weather was marvelous, and it was on this leg that I discovered and started using the miracle tool that is Little Navmap. If you fly cross country in any of the major flight sims, Little Navmap is an awesome flight planning tool. Everyone probably knows about it, but it was new to me. The approach and landing at Cape Verde were routine. We left Cape Verde late in driving rain, landing next in Nouakchott, Mauritania after sunset and were once again greeted with an incredible tapestry of dusk. This was my first flight after buying the GTN750 GPS mod from PMS50. It replaces the functionality (though not the physical bezel) of the stock Garmin 530 GPS. The GTN750 is lightyears ahead of the 530 with full color topographical maps, live weather updates, terrain indications... I wish I'd had this thing in the Andes. ... or maybe ignorance is bliss... But, in any case, if you fly a lot with a 530, the 750 is a massive and awesome upgrade. Our next destination was Dakhla, Mauritania. Fuel was unavailable in Nouakchott, so we decided to top our tanks in Dakhla before heading to Tenerife in the Canary Islands. It's here in Mauritania that the depth of the African desert first really hit me. It is barren and utterly featureless for miles in any direction. The approach into Dakhla was routine, though visibility was somewhat restricted. North of us, parked directly over the Canary Islands, was a long band of thunderstorms and heavy rain. As we topped the tanks, the weather reports from Tenerife were not encouraging. A band of storms, rain, and heavy clouds had nestled itself directly over the islands and seemed to be there to stay. Visibility was just above the minimum legal requirements for an instrument landing, and several of the other islands in the chain were reporting relatively clear weather, so we decided to go. We would hope for Tenerife proper but had enough fuel to reach any number of alternate airports should the weather dictate. Little did I realize that this would be the most challenging flight yet. Departure from Dakhla was uneventful, but as we rode north over the ocean, the skies began to darken ominously. Turning on the NEXRAD function of the new GTN750 revealed a *sub-optimal* weather picture. Heavy rains and thunderstorms were just west of Tenerife, but the weather at the airport itself remained just above minimums. As we neared the islands, thunderheads rose all around us. The thickening gloom soon enveloped us entirely and rain pelted Sweetpea's aluminum skin. We passed over Tenerife on the outbound leg of the ILS approach. Unfortunately, that leg too us right into the heart of the thunderstorms. Rain, heavy winds, and turbulence assaulted us, and the autopilot struggled to maintain proper inputs as we slogged our way down through the approach. By modern standards, the Beech 18's autopilot is very very primitive, but by using it to hold altitude and headings, I was able to focus on preparing for the approach. With hearts racing, we groped our way down through the murk on the ILS glideslope. Gear down, lights on, GUMPS check. With this turbulence, the autopilot was all but useless, so disengaged it and hand flew the approach down. Just as we reached decision height, the runway lights emerged from the gray wall, and we settled gratefully on the runway. Sweetpea brought us home again. In the next update, we'll head back to the mainland and begin our trek south along the coast as we wing our way towards Cape Town, South Africa. That should get us caught up to where I'm at presently. Thanks for joining me!
  25. Thanks for the comments. The honeycomb setup is awesome, but man does it take up some real estate on the desk. I thought the Warthog HOTAS was big, but these are orders of magnitude larger. I didn't anticipate the issue of mounting them on my pullout keyboard drawer (my only real option) that the drawer would move every time I pushed or pulled the yoke. So, that took some creativity to fix and I think I've gotten it more or less squared now. Bummer about your technical issues, bud. It's a shame as it really is a fun game.
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