Around the World – Update 6

My position as of this posting is YSBK (Sydney, Australia)
I’ve traveled a total of 19,892 nm
I’ve burned a total of 1,828 gallons of fuel
I’ve flown a total of 113.0 hours
My next destination is Lord Howe Island

As of this blog posting, I’m officially “Down Under” in Australia.  I’m really pleased that I elected to take the long way around the world and head down to Australia prior to heading home.  It would have been easy to just continue my eastward journey from India across to China etc.  But this trip hasn’t been about what is the easiest or the fastest.  If it were, I would have just continued flying east when I hit the Nordics across Russia.  I would have been home by now.  Again, this trip is about fun….it is about learning and it is about my own adventure.

Now, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks looking at the Australian Continent and specifically how I wanted to tackle it.  My journeys over the next several days will take me south across the Australian outback.  If you look at the map.  Find Darwin to the north and draw a semi-straight line somewhat southeast to Melbourne.  I then plan to fly down to Tasmania from Melbourne and then back up towards Sydney.  If doable, I plan to continue up the coastline and then head east to Lord Howe Island then on to New Zealand.  I need to research this further as I’m really starting the doubt whether the Carenado Mooney has the range to make it from Lord Howe Island to New Zealand without having to swim and I know those waters are shark infested.  :-)  But I have an idea and I have plenty of time to put it in place.

My point of entry to Australia was the city of Darwin and YPDN airport.  From Darwin I flew south to Tennant Creek, YTNK then continued on south through the Australian Outback to Alice Springs,YBAS.  Alice Springs is very much the outback oasis and pretty much the largest city since Darwin. 

Flying over Alice Springs, Australia just before landing for fuel at YBAS

From Alice Springs, I continued south to Coober Pedy, YCBP and then on to Port Augusta, YPAG.  I then headed southeast over to Horsham, YHSM which would set me up to fly down to Tasmania and YDPO and Devonport, Tasmania.

Short final to YDPO, Devonport Tasmania.

From Devonport, Tasmania I decided to fly on to Sydney and will use the smaller GA airport of Bankstown, YSBK.  I really love the smaller GA airports compared to their larger international counterparts.  When flying in my Mooney, I find my taxi time to and from the active runway to be much, much shorter and the traffic is somewhat lighter.  Of course this can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing.  I certainly like to have a little traffic both in the air and on the ground. 

Sydney is truly a beautiful city depicted in FSX.  Oh…I did elect to wait on purchasing the Orbx add-on scenery for Australia.  I will certainly return to Australia and spend some time touring more of this beautiful country.  Today’s weather in Sydney was cloudy and raining, but I did manage to spend about 20 minutes flying over the city and checking out all the notable landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge from right side.

Short final for runway 11L at YSBK in Sydney.

I’ll spend a few days in Sydney before departing for Lord Howe Island.  Lord Howe Island airport (YLHI) is approx. 323 nm northeast of Sydney and certainly doable in the Mooney.  However, from YLHI to New Zealand is outside the range.  But I can fly 486 nm northeast to Norfolk Island Airport (YSNF) then fly 460 nm south to Kaitaia, New Zealand (NZKT). 

Once in New Zealand, I plan to fly south to at least Christchurch (and perhaps further south), but at some point I’ll turn and head back north back to Norfolk Island.  Once there I have a couple of different options.  I can proceed back to Australia via Lord Howe Island, or continue island hopping up to Noumea and just continue hopping from island to island on up to Papua New Guinea.  From PNG I’ll continue northwest to the Philippines, Taiwan, mainland China and Japan.

Speaking of island hopping.  I’m researching how I’ll cross from Asia to North America.  I’m looking closely at the Aleutian Islands as a way to cross over.  I will continue to research this option as I’m still a few weeks away.

Until next time,

Jerry

Around the World – Update 5

We’re picking up on our journey today, departing from Jerusalem headed to Cairo, Egypt.  It is in the pre-dawn hours and I’m reviewing today’s weather across the region.  It looks to be a wonderful day.  The cloud cover over this portion of the Mediterranean will burn off after sunrise.

Departing LLJR just as the sun is rising over Israel.

The awesome pyramids just west of Cairo. This was the highlight of today’s trip.

The Sphinx along the Giza Plateau, near Cairo, Egypt

While it was out of the way to travel through Egypt, it was certainly worth it to view the pyramids and Great Sphinx of Giza.  If you’ve never seen these in FSX (or in real life), I would encourage you to depart Cairo in a single engine aircraft and travel west.  You can’t miss them.  I found thiswebsite which shows the locations of the major sites to visit in Egypt. 

After flying around Giza, Cairo and around the Nile I landed at HECW (Cairo West), refueled and departed as quickly as possible.  I had a lot of ground to cover to get across Saudi Arabia to either Qatar or the UAE.  I wanted to best position myself for the next leg of the journey and got on my way.  I knew the flight from Cairo to either Qatar or UAE would require at least one re-fuel stop.  So I planned to go from Cairo to Tabuk, Saudi Arabia.  It would be a short leg of 365 nm and one that I thought would allow me to reach Qatar. 

I departed Cairo and made it to Tabuk without issue.  Once in Tabuk I realized I had possibly made a planning error and it would be very tight to get from Tabuk to Qatar without refueling.  But I had a couple of airports I could stop at for fuel if needed.  Fingers crossed I departed Tabuk hoping for a nice strong tailwind.  In stead of a tailwind, I found a strong headwind and this strong headwind would stay with me most of the trip.  Getting low on fuel and knowing I would not make it to Qatar, I landed at Z26G and took on enough fuel to complete my journey to Qatar.  While perhaps not something to be done in real life, but I landed at OTBH which is home to the US Central Command.  It was great to see the US Airforce Jets and support aircraft depicted in full force.  I parked my Mooney and prepared for the next day of flying fun.

The next day has arrived and it is time to depart Qatar for OPJI, in Jiwani, Pakistan.  I departed Qatar just as the sun was rising.  My days journey will have me flying across Pakistan and India.  When I began this trip I figured I would fly to India, but my route would take me in a southerly direction for Sri Lanka.  I had planned to cross from Sri Lanka to Sumatra.  However, since trading in the default Mooney for the Carenado, my fuel capacity went from 95 gallons to 66 gallons.  This means I will need to modify my route.  No problem.

My route over the next few days will take me in a northeast direction into India.  I will go to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and perhaps head to Kathmandu before dropping down into Myanmar, Thailand etc.  I’m really looking forward to exploring more of this region and also Australia and New Zealand.

I’m enroute to Agra, India to visit the Taj Mahal.  It will be more of a fly over and around then briefly land at VIAG for fuel, lunch and preparation for the next leg of my journey which will take me to Kathmandu, Nepal and VNKT airport.  Unfortunately, VNKT is a far as I’ll venture into Nepal.  I’ll then turn and head southeast toward Bangladesh.

Taj Mahal

The highlight of this recent portion of the trip was flying into Kathmandu and through Nepal.  The terrain reminded me a lot of Colorado and the Rocky Mountains.  I had to do my research for the region as I wasn’t 100% certain of the altitude and just how tall some of the peaks are.  I wouldn’t be coming close to Mt. Everest, but the charts I found online indicated the areas directly around Kathmandu topped out around 9K.

Once leaving Kathmandu, I headed Southeast towards Bangladesh, Burma and Thailand.  I then headed South into Malaysia then to Singapore.  This series of legs were completed over the course of a couple of days.  Upon reaching Singapore (about 10 days ago) I came down with a cold or the flu in real life and spent several days off work and mostly in bed.  I’m am back at work and feeling much, much better.  I plan to depart Singapore and head down into Indonesia landing at Jakarta, then eastward across Indonesia to Darwin, Australia. 

Until next time,

J

The Cost of a Hobby

A hobby….any hobby has a cost factor associated to it.  Each hobby I know of (and certainly those I’m involved with) have a cost which I like to call the introductory cost.  By introductory cost I’m talking about the cost which you must pay to even participate.  Now some people may not think of flight simulation as a hobby.  I’m sure if you went to the streets and asked random individuals how to classify flight simulation using Microsoft Flight Simulator or X-Plane, the results would probably lean towards it being considered just a game.  Perhaps to some of us that is all it is.  But to many others (and probably if you are reading this) it means a lot more.

Please allow me to step away from the topic of flight simulation for a moment.  I’ll get back on track in just a moment.  I have many hobbies in my life.  I’m a licensed amateur radio operator, I love photography and I enjoy the game of golf.  Each of these hobbies include an inductory cost which I talked about just a moment ago.  If you play golf you probably own your clubs and in order to play a round you have costs associated with that (green fees and cart rental).  If you enjoy photography and consider that a hobby, then you probably own a camera, a collection of lenses and other accessories.  Back in the day you had costs to even determine if the photos you had captured on film even looked half-way decent.  Of course today with digital you can view either on camera or on a computer before you decide to print the photo.  If amateur radio is your hobby, then you have costs associated with earning your license and then you have costs associated with the purchase of transceivers, antennas and power supplies. 

Now in each of the three hobbies I mentioned above, excluding the introductory costs, you have varying levels of costs associated.  In golf you can choose to buy your clubs second hand or select a less expensive set.  Of course you can also go for the very best and use the same set of clubs the pros use.  In photography you can also use a second hand camera and lenses or you can purhase any number of brands and models….the sky is the limit.  With regards to amateur radio….the same applies.  Used versus new and also depending on your interests of wanting to talk to people across town, across the state or around the world.  The costs associated with those all range from the low end to $$$$$.  By the way, if you want to learn more about the hobby of amateur radio please visit my blog and/or podcast website.

Now before I come full circle and get back on topic.  Let me just make this one statement.  With ANY hobby, what you get from that hobby is a direct reflection of what you are willing to put into it.  Now….this doesn’t always mean money.   The best golfers in the world can play with just about any club and make it work.  Some pretty darn good photographs have been made with a pin hole camera and I’ve talked around the world on my ham radio with a very small and inexpensive antenna.  But in each of these examples, it takes time….it takes patience and it takes a commitment.  I believe the commitment actually comes from accepting something (anything) as a hobby. 

OK….let’s get back on track.  I hope you  are still with me.  Now you might be wondering why I’m blogging about the topic “The Cost of a Hobby”.  What got me thinking about this?  Well….if you’ve read my introduction blog post here you know that I’m a long-time flight simmer who has been flying computer simulators for over 25 years.  You also know that I stepped away from the hobby about 5 years ago and now getting back onboard.  In the past month I’ve spent a few dollars building a new PC which I’ve dedicated to flight simulation.  You can read that blog posthere.  

Last night I was using Google to find more blogs and other online resources about our hobby and stumbled on the 10 Minute Taxi YouTube channel.  Each segment ArcHammer (Shane) discusses topics related to the hobby of flight simulation and typically does all this in a short 10 minute segment.  Recently he discussed the cost of various flight sim add-ons with a guest host (Vance from Sonic Solutions).  You can view that episode here.  Specifically they discuss the issue of some flight sim add-ons actually costing more than the base software (MS Flight Simulator) does.   In addition, they talk about the demographics of those participating in our hobby.  We have a strong user/customer base and the point the host tries to drive home is it shouldn’t cost as much as it does for certain add-ons.  Please take a few minutes to watch this episode.

In my own opinion, I would have to agree with the point Shane and Vance are trying to make.  However, I also subscribe to the philosophy that there is nothing free in life.   The good thing about the Flight Sim hobby and community is there are a lot of low to no-cost accessories (panels, sounds, aircraft etc.) to help keep us entertained and help to add more realism into our hobby.  The one take-away from that episode of 10 Minute Taxi was just how much these online stores charge the developers.  Vance mentioned the on-line stores will take between 20 and 30%.   Again, in my opinion that is a lot of money especially when you look at the volume some of these on-line retailers are selling.  But I also understand these guys have costs associated with their on-line presence. 

At this point, I don’t really have any answers.  After all I’ve been away from the hobby for almost 5 years.  I guess the business is sustaining itself.  I mean, the on-line retailers are charging the developers 20-30% and the developers are successful at moving their product.  I suppose us consumers are in the drivers seat in this.  Meaning we either continue to pay the prices which will continue to allow these costs to be justified or we don’t.  This is all a very fine line. 

The last comment I’ll make about the 10 Minute Taxi episode, is I’m glad I fit smack dab in the middle of the demographics Shane discussed. I’ll turn 44 in a few weeks, I have a successful career which allows me the opportunity to do the things I want to do with regards to the flight simulation hobby (or any hobby for that matter).  I’m also glad to know I’m among “like individuals”.  While this hobby needs youth participation to continue to grow…it also needs those of us in the older crowd.  I call this balance and it’s good.

So is there a take-away to this blog entry?  Sure…if you’re reading this and not currently involved in the hobby of flight sim…don’t let the glossy pages of Computer Pilot Magazine (I’ll blog about this magazing soon) and the $$$$ for computer hardware and such scare you away.  While you will need a computer and you’ll need a version of Microsoft Flight Simulator and you’ll need at a minimum a joystick of some sort….that’s it.  That’s really all you need to get started.  This…and only this can be considered your cost of getting started in the hobby.  There is a ton of fun to be had just in this basic setup.   How you continue to grow and experience the hobby is all in your control from that point forward.

Until next time,

J

Around the World – Update 4

My position as of this posting is LLJR (Jerusalem, Israel)
I’ve traveled a total of 9914 nm
I’ve burned a total of 934 gallons of fuel
I’ve flown a total of 54. 75 hours
My next destination is Cairo, Egypt

Hello everyone. After taking a day off from flying (Tuesday), I’m back at it on Wednesday, 6 October. The route today will take me from Antwerp, Belgium through the heart of France to the town of Cognac, France (LFBG). After a brief stop for fuel I will depart Cognac, France for Gibraltar (LXGB).

I chose Gibraltar as I had watched a History Channel show on the most dangerous airports. Gibraltar was listed due to the winds that are produced by the Rock of Gibraltar and the location of the airport. I can state that FSX along with Active Sky X both do a very good job depicting the turbulence around the airfield. It was a bumpy ride into LXGB but the Mooney handled the job.

Flying downwind at LXGB Gibraltar.

Short final at LXGB

Once refueled I departed LXGB headed south to Africa. But before turning south, I flew past theRock of Gibraltar. (See below)

The Rock of Gibraltar. Awesome huh?

I turned and flew across the Strait of Gibraltar into Morocco. I then turned to back to the east towards Tunisia and DTTA in Carthage. I’m planning to fly across from Carthage to Sicily then continue across to Greece. My future route will continue through southern Europe into Turkey. I plan to then head south through the holy land then back down to Egypt.

One goal I’ve tried to accomplish is to keep things as “real” as possible. I’ve pushed and flown perhaps more hours than might be possible in a real world setting. But I’ve enjoyed the planning for this trip as much as I’ve enjoyed the actual flying. As I set a course through the Holy land, I realize my course may not be the course that would be taken in real life due to political, religious or other reasons. In addition, I’m not omitting countries or regions for any political or religious reason either. I’m simply enjoying what this hobby provides to us and learning a lot in the process.

Did you notice the new paint job on the Mooney?  Well it’s not just a new paint job, it’s an entirely different Mooney.  I decided to purchase the Carendado Mooney M20J and I’m using the freewaretexturefrom Orbx.  Hey…I figured I deserved a little “Eye Candy”.  This new Mooney is awesome.  However, she is a little slower than the FSX default Mooney, but I figure this is just more “true to life”.  I’ve had to look behind me a few times to make sure I wasn’t pulling a trailer.  But she’s fine and she’s real purty.

OK…time to move along.  I resumed my Around the World – 2010 adventure on Friday, 8 October flying from Carthage, Tunisia (DTTA) to Catania, Sicily (LICC).  This is a short leg in comparison to others I have flown at just 270 nm.  While I’m headed for Athens, Greece and Athens is certainly in range for the Mooney, I wanted to take in some of the sights of Sicily.  I plan to re-fuel and the continue to Athens.

Now speaking of “eye candy”.  I also recently installed REX (Real Environment Extreme) and am running it for the next few legs instead of Active Sky X.  Both products appear to be similar in depicting real world weather conditions and feeding that data into FSX.  However, where REX walks away with the prize is in the textures it produces based on those weather conditions.  I’ll discuss REX and my thoughts about this product in a future blog post.  But for now, I’m happy with the product.

I arrived in Greece with several hours to spare and decided to go ahead and fly down to Jerusalem, Israel.  This would position me for a quick flight down to Cairo, Egypt before heading east into the Middle East towards India. 

Passing over Athens, Greece

REX (Real Environment Extreme) has done a beautiful job depicting the clouds and sunset over the Mediterranean Sea

Clouds over the Mediterranean Sea

Sunset over the Mediterranean Sea courtesy of REX

I arrived in Jerusalem LLJR airport about an hour after sundown.  LLJR is closed in real life, but wide open and ready for traffic in FSX.

Short final LLJR

As mentioned earlier, I’ll depart Israel for Cairo, Egypt.  After flying around viewing the pyramids I plan to set a course that will take me across Saudi Arabia, Qatar, The United Arab Emirates then across the Arabian Sea to India.  From India I haven’t decided my course.  I may head southeast to Singapore which will set me up for Australia and New Zealand.  I would then head back to Australia from New Zealand then Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, China, Japan and then Russia.

Bottom line, at this stage I’m just a few miles shy of 10,000 nm traveled and I’m still having fun.  While I’m still a long ways away from KAPA, I get closer each and every day. 

Until next time,

JT

Around the World – Update 3

The journey continues into the 5th consecutive flying day.  I wanted to briefly explain how I’m managing to fly for five days in a row with a daily average of over 1000 nm.  Well…it’s very simple.  I took a few days off from work.  But unfortunately, I go back to work tomorrow (Tuesday, 5 October) and as a result the “Around the World” adventure will slow down considerably.  So if you check my progress over the next few days you’ll know what is going on.   But this is OK as I’ve reached a point where shorter legs and flying segments will be just fine.  Remember my goal is not to do this in a certain amount of time.  The goal is to complete it and have fun along the way. 

My position as of this posting is EBAW (Antwerp, Belgium)
I’ve traveled a total of 6670 nm
I’ve burned a total of 643 gallons of fuel
I’ve flown a total of 35.5 hours
My next destination is LFBG (Cognac, France)

Day Five – Leg 11 & 12

Day five began without rain…but St. Petersburg was cloudy and some patchy fog.  Visibility was poor when flying over a portion of St. Petersburg.   But I did manage to grab one shot which is typical of St. Petersburg that I’ve seen in pictures with the domed buildings and the tall spires (see below).  I do plan to start looking into scenery add-ons for some of the future areas I plan to visit.  But for now I’m just running default scenery with my sliders cranked up fairly high. 

Today I plan to complete two legs.  I will depart St. Petersburg, Russia and head towards Berlin, Germany for a fuel/food stop.  Then I’ll proceed from Berlin down to Antwerp, Belgium.  In my real life my Mother/Father-in-law and Brother/Sister-in-law all live in the area.  Actually my Mother/Father-in-law live less than a mile from EBAW (Antwerp, Airport) and my wife and I fle2 into that airport from London City last summer (2009) and plan to do it again next summer (2011).  I enjoy sitting out in my in-laws garden and listening to the sounds of the airport.  The Fokker 50 that CityJet uses really has to wind up to get off the just short of 5400′ runway.

I departed St. Petersburg, Russia after breakfast and spending time reading weather reports and examining charts.  The trip to Berlin would be around 4 hours and I will cover a little over 700 nm.  I expect fair weather for the duration of my journey today.  After take-off from ULLI, I made my turn to the west.  I was able to snag the photo below which shows the unique round terminals which are located in the center of Pulkovo Airport.  If you visit the wiki page here and scroll down you’ll see a photo. 

ULLI (St. Petersburg) airport. Note the round terminals in middle.

My route carried me across a portion of the city.  From pictures I’ve seen of St. Petersburg you note the tall spires and domed buildings.  This is somewhat depicted in FSX.  (see below)

Flying over a portion of St. Petersburg, Russia.

I continued southwest across Estonia, Latvia, Poland and into Germany.  I picked Berlin’sTempelhof(EDDI) airport as it is the smaller of the three in the area.  I was looking for easy in and out access and a nice rahmschnitzel for lunch.  EDDI has a unique half-circle shaped terminal as depicted in FSX (see below)

Berlin’s Tempelhof (EDDI) airport. Left base to active runway.

Short final into EDDI Berlin, Germany

It was fitting that I flew into Berlin today as my wife cooked rahmschnitzel for dinner tonight for my birthday dinner.  I turned 44 today.  :-)  After a brief lunch, refuel and inspection of the Mooney it was time to resume my flight.  The second leg would take me from Berlin to Antwerp, Belgium (EBAW).  As previously stated, I’ve flown into EBAW in real-life.  Last summer (2009) my wife and I visited her family.  We flew from KDEN to EGLL (Heathrow).  We traveled across London and departed EGLC (London City) for Antwerp.  Oddly enough, it is easier for us to do this versus fly into Brussels. 

On short final into EBAW (Antwerp, Belgium). I love this little airport.

I will spend at least one day (perhaps more) in Antwerp.  The next opportunity I will have for any flight sim ops would be on Wednesday afternoon.  If not then, it could be Friday or the weekend.  I’ve really enjoyed my five days of simming.  While in Antwerp, I may look to virtually trade my FSX default Mooney into a Carenado Mooney M20J.  I know I said I wanted to do this in a default FSX aircraft.  I don’t feel I’m cheating since I’m staying in a Mooney.  But I’ve grown to love this aircraft (what can you expect after spending over 35 hours flying her) and love the look of the Carenado product.  But I’ll just have to see how much I can get for my slightly used Mooney.  :-)  Would you like to buy it?

Well I’m going to close and post this blog post.  I’ll be back very soon with more blog postings.  I have several blog postings in progress regarding a lot of different flight simulation topics.  I realize people visit for different reasons and perhaps not everyone is into my Around the World journey. 

Until next time,

J

Around the World – Update 2

After a really long two first days of flying to get me all the way across to the east coast of Greenland, I didn’t want to lose the momentum.  So today is day 3 of flying and also the third consecutive day.  Please make sure you read this post to better understand why I’m doing an around the world flight and then read this post to get caught up on the first two days of flying.   Additionally, you can track my progress by clicking on the Around the World – 2010 button at the top of the page.  You’ll find a link to my Google map which shows my route.

My position as of this posting is ULLI (St. Petersburg, Russia)
I’ve traveled a total of 5577 nm
I’ve burned a total of 533 gallons of fuel
I’ve flown a total of 29.5 hours
My next destination is EDDI (Berlin, Germany)

Day Three – Leg 7 & 8

Day three really began much the same as the three previous days.  Having not arrived until late lastnight, I allowed myself a nice sleep in.  I didn’t have to go far to determine the current weather conditions at BGKK (Kulusuk, Greenland).  I stuck my head out of the motel door and saw it was raining.  It was a gentle rain…but rain no less.  But hey…this is flying and not baseball….the show must go on.  Especially since I know what can happen when the temp drops.  The rain turns into snow or freezing rain and that would be a show stopper for sure. 

The weather report for both my departing location (BGKK) and my next arrival location BIRK (Reykjavik, Iceland) were much the same.  BIRK does have a couple of ILS approaches (unlike BGKK) and I figured I was safe to start my journey.  I settled up at the airport, inspected my Mooney and it was time to go. 

On the runway at BGKK in the rain. First rain of the trip.

I busted through the cloud tops around 12K and eased on up to my crusing altitude.  My flying time from Kulusuk to Reykjavik should just be a little over 2 hours at a distance of just short of 400 nm.  I’m reaching the decision point for how I continue the journey beyond the 9th leg fairly quickly.  After departing Reykjavik, I’m headed for EKVG (Faroe Island).  I may have referred to BITN in a previous post, but I was mistaken.  Once I arrive at EKVG I have to different directions I can go.  I can turn south and head for Scotland or I can continue my southeast drop and head for the Nordic Countries of Norway, Sweden and Finland. 

Now, my Around the World – 2010 Adventure is not about collecting countries.  It’s also not simply about just flying around the world.  If that were the case I would continue flying east across Russia and enter North America through Alaska.  Which will eventually be my crossing point to get back home, but I don’t expect to see that route anytime soon.

No, this trip is about experiencing the FSX flight sim world in areas I’ve never been and re-experiencing some old favorites but at a much lower and slower pace.  Plus it is about accomplishing a goal the way I want to accomplish it.  So having bored you with that ramble, I’ve decided I would continue southeast and enter Europe through Norway.  I plan to make my way across Norway, Sweden and Finland then drop south into Russia and Eastern Europe and make my way somewhat along the northern edge to Spain and then drop into Africa.   I will probably head back across the Mediterranean to Italy, then Greece and then setup for a tour through the Holy Land and Egypt.  How and where from there is all undecided and even all of the proposed route I’ve just identified is all subject to change.

One more thought.  I think if I were making this trip in real-life, I would steer clear of the major cities and I would “take in” the country culture in the smaller towns and villages.   After all, when my wife and I visit Belgium about every two years…it’s the small Belgium villages that most appear to me and not the hustle and bustle of the city.  However, in the FSX world most of these smaller villages and towns (while their airport may be depicted) there isn’t a lot to see.   So as I get closer into the the heart of Europe and beyond, I’ll seek out the smaller GA airports in the larger metropolitan towns.  A quick example of what I’m talking about is with London.  Instead of flying into Heathrow or Gatwick, I plan to fly into London City. 

By the time I made it to Reykjavik the weather system which produced rain was gone and the weather was just beautiful.  FSX did produce some blowing snow on the runway which was a nice feature considering I was in Iceland.  But the sun was shining and visibility was much improved from earlier.  It was also sort of nice to get back into ATC controlled airspace once again. 

On final into BIRK. No need for ILS approach.

The city of Reykjavik out the left side window of the Mooney. This is why I invested in the TripleHead2Go and two extra LCD’s.

I  grabbed a late lunch, fueled up the Mooney for the second leg of today’s journey over to EKVG.   This will be another short hop and a little over 2 hour flying time.  The weather and visibility had improved from the time I landed.   Iceland looks beautiful from the side windows today.

Position and Hold at BIRK.

The flight from BIRK to EKVG was uneventful as has been most of the flights so far.  Heading into the Faroe Islands the rain started again as I dropped through the clouds.  Once within 10 miles of the airfield the rain stopped.  The approach into the Faroe Islands is beautiful as shown in the pictures below.

On Final into EKVG.

Left window view. Approach into EKVG.

Having covered over 1500 nm on day one and 1750 nm on day two, todays mere 814 nm is a drop in the bucket.  But I’m still averaging over 1350 nm per day.  This will certainly drop over time, but I have no concerns about maintaining any sort of daily mileage goal.

Day Four – Leg 9 & 10

Day four of the journey began much the same way day three did.  It was raining on the Faroe Islands.  I had made the decision for the next half dozen flight legs and where they would be taking me.  I would depart EKVG for ENGM(Oslo, Norway).  The flight leg was just over 550 nm and would position me to then proceed through Sweden, Finland and into Western Russia with St. Petersburg being the only Russia stop I would make for now.  I’ll see more of Russia (Asiatic Russia) in the weeks and months to come.

The Faroe Islands off the port side.

Approaching the coast of Norway.

The view from port side as we approach Oslo, Norway

On final into ENGM – Oslo, Norway.

I grabbed some food and fueled up the Mooney just before the rain started.  Leg #2 will take me across southern Sweden and Finland enroute to ULLI (St. Petersburg, Russia).  Today will be a easier flying day but still covering over 1000 nm.  From St. Petersburg I’ll fly southwest into eastern Europe.

Fedex flight heading back to the US from ENGM. The World On-Time.

Position and Hold – Runway 19R at ENGM headed for St. Petersburg, Russia.

I chose St. Petersburg as my final destination east.  From there I’ll turn and head in a southwest direction into eastern Europe to Berlin, Germany.  From Warsaw I plan to head to Antwerp, Belgium (where my Mother/Father-in-law live in real life).  Once I reach Antwerp, I’ll probably continue flying southwest into France, then into Spain to Gibraltar where I’ll briefly cross into Africa and fly up the coast to Tunis and head over to Italy. 

Of the Russian cities, I believe St. Petersburg appeals to me more than Moscow and hopefully one day I’ll visit in real-life.  I’ve traveled some throughout Europe since meeting my wife who grew up in Belgium and has lived in Switzerland and London (where we met).  She and I have traveled to Rome and plan to visit Paris next summer.  I’m really looking forward to that.

Crossing the Gulf of Finland headed for St. Petersburg. The sun is setting fast.

Flying downwind runway 28R at ULLI

On final for runway 28R at ULLI, St. Petersburg Russia

This has been the perfect end of two awesome flying days.  As previously stated, tomorrow I hope to begin making my way down into eastern Europe and plan to be in Antwerp, Belgium at the end of the evening. 

Thanks to all who have commented.  Please keep them coming. 

Until next time,

J

What is Customer Service?

This blog post is going to be a little bit different as I’m writing it over a period of a few days to document a story.  I know exactly where the story will lead me and how I’ll feel when I complete the journey. 

What is Customer Service?  Does support and service after the sale exist today?  Does it exist in our hobby?  My story will sum all these answers up….please keep reading.

As I’ve mentioned a few times since starting this blog, I’m returning to the hobby after a multi-year break.  Please read this blog post if you haven’t already to bring you up to speed on my past experience with the flight sim hobby.    But to summarize, I’ve been flying computer sims since the early 80’s (I started on the Commodore 64) and I got super heavy into it around 2000-01 timeframe.  So much so that I replaced the joystick with a yoke and peddle set and began purchasing some additional hardware from a company called GoFlight.  You’ve probably heard of GoFlight.  They provide various pre-made hardware modules to enhance your flight sim experience.  From 2000 through 2002 I purchased eight items from GoFlight and used them in their flight deck console unit. 

While the GoFlight hardware modules may appear expensive at first glance….let me tell you the equipment is built solid.  You won’t find any plastic where plastic shouldn’t be.  They are constructed from metal and alloy materials.  They honestly feel like the real thing and will compliment any home cockpit setup.  These things remind me of my old Tonka trucks from the mid 70’s.  Anyway, I used this equipment without issue on my old Windows XP and FS9 setup for several years.  When I stepped away from the hobby, my GoFlight equipment was wrapped up carefully and stored.  I knew I would eventually return to the hobby when life settled down.

Well that time is now and as you know I built a brand new gaming machine dedicated solely to the hobby of flight simulation.  You can read all about my new hardware specs here.  I designed the system to run Windows 7, 64bit and FSX with all sliders set to MAX.  In no time I was ready to connect my GoFlight equipment and head to the skies.

I’ll admit that I forgot more than I probably ever knew about flight simming and specifically about setting up the GoFlight gear.  I still had my old PC which ran Windows XP and FS9.  When I would connect my GoFlight gear all worked and all worked as designed.  But on the new machine I encountered many issues.  With a little “tech support” from GoFlight I was able to correct 85% of my issues.  But something still wasn’t right with one particular GoFlight module, the GF-MCP Advanced.

The GF-MCP is the heart of my home cockpit setup.  The GF-MCP controls all the auto-pilot functionality and allows me to operate without the need to use my mouse to set altitude, heading, speed etc.  All these settings (including approach hold) are controlled by the MCP unit.  My problems with this unit were mainly centered around it’s ability to remain functioning for a long, cross-country flight.  In most cases a short 30-60 minute flight would function fine.  However, for longer flights the GF-MCP would appear to go to sleep or just simply stop working all together.  About 50% of the time I could “wake” it by turning each knob and pressing each button.  However, on more times than I cared for, the speed hold would just stop working.  It was becoming annoying to say the least.

I had read on the GoFlight forums and elsewhere that the problem could be with the GF-MCP and specifically with the advancement of USB technology today versus 4-5 years ago.  Equally the issues pointed to Windows 7 and FSX.  In my research (and in discussions I had with GoFlight) I believed everything should work without issue with Win 7, 64 bit OS and FSX.  But why was I having issues and what would need to happen to fully resolve the problem?

Much to my surprise within a day or two I received an email from Mitch at GoFlight.  Mitch is the Operations Manager for GoFlight.  Mitch had been the Operations Manager at GoFlight around the time I purchased my equipment and has now returned.  The goal for Mitch and GoFlight is to make their Customers happy.  After explaining my issues to Mitch he simply told me not to worry and he would be shipping me a brand new GF-MCP Advanced module.  WOW…this truly is a company which understands how to keep Customers happy. 

According to Mitch at GoFlight, my replacment MCP unit will ship Thursday, 16 September.  Mitch did just as he said and I received the replacement unit on Monday, 20 September.  Due to having family in town, I didn’t have time to test the replacement MCP until the approaching weekend of 24, 25 and 26 September.  I couldn’t wait to determine if this replacement MCP would solve my issues.

The moment of truth arrived and on Friday evening I installed the replacement GF-MCP Advanced unit, double-checked that it showed up in the GF-Config setup utility and loaded up FSX.  Just as expected, the GF-MCP Advanced lit up and was in perfect sync with FSX.  But would it stay that way?  Would the GF-MCP operate for an entire flight?  Would it work for a full, long-haul over the pond sort of flight?

The answers to all those questions was YES!  I was back in business.  I suppose GoFlight didn’t have to replace my older MCP unit.  However, GoFlight certainly went above and beyond and I’m a very happy customer.  So much so I have recently placed an additional order for a few more toggle and push-button switch units.  I truly love GoFlight and how they enhance the enjoyment of a long time hobby for me. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

JT

Around the World – Update 1

Just taking a few minutes to update everyone on my around the world adventure.  I plan to provide updates every four to six legs.  Here is my first update.   Please read this post to get the general idea of why I’m doing an around the world flight and how I’m accomplishing it. 

My position as of this posting is BGKK (Kulusuk, Greenland)
I’ve traveled a total of 3264 nm
I’ve burned a total of 325 gallons of fuel
I’ve flown a total of 18.75 hours
My next destination is BIRK (Reykjavik, Iceland)

Day One – Leg 1-2

I began the first of what will probably be many flight legs on 30 September 2010.  As discussed inthis post, I have no expectations on how long this trip will take.   I can tell you based on day one experience, I can cover a little over 1500 nm’s in a little over 8 hours.  But keep in mind that this is includes one fuel stop.  While I believe I covered a lot of ground on day one, I have much, much more ground and water to cover in the coming days, weeks and months. 

While I state I have no expectation regarding the amount of time this journey will take me, I do plan to be in Greenland at the end of the 5th leg and in Iceland at the end of the 7th leg.  This is as far as I’ve planned out at this point.  From Iceland I have many options.  I can drop down into the United Kingdom or slide over into the Nordics.  Right now I’m leaning toward coming down into the UK, enter Europe and drop down through Spain into Africa.  But like I said, I haven’t really planned much past Iceland.

I departed KAPA (Centennial, Colorado USA) on Thursday, 30 September 2010.  I knew I wanted to travel in an easterly direction and plotted a course that would take me up into northeastern Canada.  I planned to spend the first night somewhere deep inside Canadian territory.

Not having much previous experience in the Mooney Bravo(other than casual flying around) I wanted to make sure the published range was fairly accurate.  So I set a first leg for St. Paul, MN (KSTP).  This first leg would be a short stint at just 632 nm.

Departing runway 35 at KAPA. When will I see this airport again?

Just a minute or two into the air. My real world home is located just to the left of the lake in the background.

The flight to KSTP (St. Paul, MN) was uneventful.  The weather today all along the trip was perfect flying weather.  I encountered a lot of cloud cover as I approached Waskaganish, Quebec (CYKQ).  The runway at CYKQ is gravel, but very well maintained.  There was even a small amount of traffic around the airfield as I was approaching.  I would be calling it a night here and getting some much needed rest so I can continue on my journey soon (hopefully tomorrow).

Short Final into CYKQ to complete the second leg of a multi-leg journey

On the ground and parked at CYKQ. I’m thankful they have a nice security fence to protect my Mooney tonight.

Day Two – Leg 3-6

Day two began early reviewing weather forecasts with a good cup of coffee.  The goal today is to continue flying northeast through Quebec, Canada headed for a crossing over to Nuuk, Greenland.  I’m approaching the next half-dozen flight legs with a little bit of urgency.  While we’re just easing into fall, the weather this far north could be unpredictable at best.

The Mooney Bravo handles beautifully.  I estimate I have a dozen or more hours in this aircraft prior to starting this journey.  I’ve flown the Mooney around the rockies to airports like KASE(Aspen, CO) and KEGE(Eagle County).  Each time I was impressed with the power and maneuverability of this fine aircraft.   She is performing just great on this trip.  But enough about all this…let’s get going.

As I said the day began early.  well before sunrise as much needed planning needed to be done to determine the days activities.  I left a mild, Denver yesterday with day time highs in the mid to upper 70’s.  This morning in Waskaganish it was cold….really cold with a morning temp near freezing.  As I looked over weather reports for the route ahead, I did take a minute to watch Ten Minute Taxi.  I really love this show on Youtube.  Check out Shane’s recent episode by visiting the Ten Minute Taxi page here.  You can thank me later.

Dawn at CYKQ to begin day two.

Armed with the critical information I needed, it was time to head out to the airport.  My Mooney was just where I left it.  I settled up and paid for the overnight parking and fuel.  If all goes as planned today I’ll be making a hard effort to complete at least two flight legs today.  If I’m lucky, I’ll make three.

Today’s first leg (the 3rd leg of the journey) will be from CYKQ (Waskaganish, Quebec) to CYVP(Kuujjuaq, Quebec).  It’s a short leg of just over 550 nm, but I didn’t want to take any chances on fuel.  So the plan is to land in CYVP, refuel then depart for CYFB (Iqaluit).  Once refueled and a quick check of the weather a decision will need to be made if I push on to BGGH (Nuuk, Greenland).

Ready to go at CYKQ

Heavy cloud cover between CYKQ and CYVP. Nice tail number huh?

Lined up runway 07 at CYVP

The Mooney being serviced at CYVP for her next leg to CYFB. Are we there yet?

Making great time and the weather has been great.  It’s cold….but that’s OK.  If the schedule continues this smooth I’ll spend the night tonight on the west coast of Greenland.

On final approach runway 35 at CYFB. Is that snow I see to the right?

Once on the ground at CYFB (Iqaluit, Quebec).  I will take some time to have lunch, re-fuel and research weather conditions.  I’m making great time today and plan to make the crossing over from Canada to Greenland this evening.  

Make note of the screenshot below.  I use MyTraffic X with FSX and it does a wonderful job depicting the aircraft one might see at the various airports.  You won’t see the generic AI flying around or find aircraft here you wouldn’t see.  The “First Air” aircraft you see would be found here at Iqaluit and it is even mentioned here on the wiki page.   As Real As It Gets!

Taxing to parking at CYFB. MyTraffic X does a good job representing the aircraft you would see at this airport.

I departed CYFB after having a bite to eat and getting the Mooney fueled up.  This next leg will take me due east across the Labrador Sea to the small town of Nuuk, Greenland.  I say small town, however, it is the capital of Greenland and over 15,000 residents call it home. 

Heading east from CYFB. The Canadian Coastline is in view. This course will take me across the Labrador Sea over to Nuuk, Greenland.

The Labrador Sea crossing is perhaps the largest body of water I will encounter (at least in one go) for a while.  The next major ocean crossing will occur soon when I depart the east coast of Greenland for Iceland.  Then again from Iceland southeast to the Faroe Islands just before either dropping south to the United Kingdom or continuing east to the Nordics.  I just haven’t decided as of yet.  But I will say that I’m leaning towards touring through the Nordics.  But hey….I need to get to the Faroe Islands first.

Finally the west coast of Greenland is in sight. Now that I’m officially out of North America I feel like I’m making progress.

As the caption above states, runway 23 at BGGH was listed at 3110 feet.  The end of the runway came much quicker than expected.  But I managed to stop and all is good.  Perhaps it is just a perception that it was really short.  Anyway…it’s great to be on the ground in Greenland.  I grapped a snack, serviced the Mooney and decided today would be a great day to head to the east coast of Greenland.  I’ll call it a rather long day, but a good day over in Kulusuk, Greenland.  I departed BGGH and am headed to BGKK

Awesome moon scape as I fly across the tip of Greenland.

Most of this crossing was in the dark as it gets dark much earlier this far north.  But I’m anxious to get across this portion of the globe and get into Europe.  I plan to visit countries and regions that I’ve never explored in flight simulation and re-explore some old favorites.  The more I look at both the progress I’ve made and all the places I plan to explore, I realize this truly will be a long, long journey.

But the bottom line is this.  As of this posting I’ve flown a total over 3000 nm and spent over 18 hours doing so.  I’ve learned a ton about VFR flying and have really enjoyed the first half-dozen legs.  I’ve also learned a lot about the airports and towns I’ve visited.  I believe we should all learn more about the places, things and especially the people we share this planet with.  Who knows….if we all did this we might all get a long a little better.

Until next time,

JT

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