Welcome Aboard KPHX to KLAS

SnapShot_aal777 Hello and thank you for stopping by.  For several years I have wanted to produce more cinematic flight sim productions.  However, the amount of time required hasn’t always been something I’ve had a lot of.  But times are different now.  Of course I love flying and this video was a lot of fun to put together.  There will be more soon….

Welcome Aboard to American Airlines flight 777 with non-stop service between Phoenix Sky Harbor International
Airport and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport.  Your captain for this flight is JT.  Please sit back,
relax and enjoy the flight.

Addons used:

PMDG Boeing 737-800 (NGXu)
American Airlines Livery

Lockheed Martin Prepar3D v5

(2) ORBX OpenLC North America
(3) Flightbeam Studios KPHX
(4) FlyTampa KLAS
(5) FSDreamTeam GSX Lvl 2
Camera Effect:


I hope you enjoy watching my videos.  If you do, please hit that “Like” button!  Also, if you are new to the channel, please SUBSCRIBE.  It really does help!

Please visit my blog site https://grizzlybearsims.com  You’ll find my complete mod list and various articles and reviews on many of the simulation based games I enjoy playing.

Thank you for watching!



Inflight Music
Dreaming in 432Hz by Unicorn Heads (YouTube Music Library)

My Top 10 Payware Airports for Prepar3D v4

I recently compiled a My Top 10 Payware Aircraft for Prepar3D v4 listing where I ranked my favorite ten (plus an honorable mention) payware aircraft and why.  This list will be similar in style, but will obviously focus on payware, add-on airports.  I would encourage you to read my latest article titled “Why Consider Payware Airports” as it answers some of the questions as to why we spend the extra $$$ to add extra scenery to our flight sim.

For the record, I have a fairly large amount of payware add-on airport scenery.  Sometime last year I compiled a Google map so I could (at a glance) see what I owned and where I might want to fly so I can enjoy this add-on scenery.  At the time of this writing, I own a total of 63 add-on, payware airports and over the course of this article, I’ll give you the rundown of my favorite ten or so.  Let’s get started!

#10 – UK2000 London Heathrow (EGLL)

Actually, Heathrow is one of my favorite places in the world.  I absolutely love to plane spot here.  Both my wife and I enjoy our time we spend in the English Countryside and arriving at Heathrow is truly an awesome experience.  Generally on our way back home we’ll arrive a bit early so I can stand in awe and watch Boeing 747’s, 777’s and Airbus A380’s land and take-off to/from destinations all over the world.  I’m always amazed at just how efficient this airport operates with the volume of traffic and only two runways. 

#9 – FSIMStudios Cancun International Airport (MMUN)

Cancun is one of the newer add-on airports to land in my collection.  While I’ve never had the opportunity to visit Cancun in real life, it’s certainly a place I wouldn’t mind going.  The team at FSIMStudios have done a fantastic job with the scenery and I’m looking forward to their future work. 

#8 – Imaginsim Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (KAUS)

Austin-Bergstrom is another newly acquired add-ons which I picked up a few weeks ago.  This is a great airport in real life and it’s nicely modeled in the sim.  I really like the work Imaginsim puts into their sceneries and also own Atlanta KATL.

#7 – Captain 7 & 29 Palms Nuremberg Airport (EDDN)

The second largest airport in Bavaria, Nuremberg is beautifully done and is a great airport to pair up with flights from London Heathrow or London City.  For the level of detail this add-on also performs really well with little to no impact on sim performance. 

#6 – Drzewiecki Design Seattle Airports X (KSEA, KPAE, KBFI and KRNT)

If you’re like me and often enjoy taking delivery of your favorite Boeing aircraft direct from the manufacture, then you’re going to want to add Seattle Airports X to your inventory.  Obviously Seattle-Tacoma (Sea-Tac) KSEA is the primary commercial airport servicing the greater Seattle area.  A major hub for Alaska and Delta airlines, you’re sure to find lots of flight opportunities into and out of KSEA. 

Paine Field, KPAE is the home of Boeing’s Everett Assembly Plant and home of the largest building in the world and where the largest planes in Boeing’s fleet are born including the 747, 767, 777 and the 787 Dreamliner. 

Boeing Field, KBFI is where Boeing conducts final preparations for deliver of the 737 aircraft. 

Renton Municipal Airport, KRNT is located adjacent to the Boeing Renton Factory that manufactures 737’s.  KRNT is the initial point of departure for airplanes produced in the Boeing Renton Facility. 

#5 – My Dangerous Airport Collection EGLC, LPMA, LXGB, LOWI and TNCM

I’m grouping these five airports together and calling it “My Dangerous Airport Collection”.  Each of these five airports have very unique landing criteria and in the real world some of them require special certification and frequent training. 

London City, EGLC Along with Heathrow, this is another airport my wife and I use every 18 months or so as we connect from London to Antwerp, Belgium.  Much like Heathrow, this is a great airport to plane spot.  London City Airport features a single 4,900 foot runway and only certain aircraft are certified to operate here.  This includes ATR 42, ATR 72, Bombardier Q400, BAe 146/Avro RJ, Embraer ERJ 135/170/190 and the Fokker 50.  The largest jet aircraft that can operate here is the Airbus A318 which British Airways operates from London City to New York, JFK (with a brief fuel stop in Shannon, Ireland).  The return flight operates non-stop from JFK to London City.  Aircrew must be certified to fly the 5.5° steep approach.  If you’ve never flown into London City and never in that steep of an approach, let me assure you that you can feel the difference.  London City, EGLC is developed by UK2000.

Madeira Airport, LPMA this airport is ranked 9th in the world of Most Extreme Airports due to its location and spectacular runway construction.  Much of the 9,124 runway is built on stilts.  The cross wind action at this airport will test your skills like almost none other.  Madeira Airport, LPMA is developed by Aerosoft.

Gibraltar International Airport, LXGB is another one of my favorites.  Gibraltar was ranked 5th in the Most Extreme Airports of the world.  Just like Madeira, you have the possibility of strong crosswinds, terrain all around you and to top it all off, Winston Churchill Avenue intersects the short 5,511 ft runway and consequently has to be closed every time a plane lands and departs.  Gibraltar, LXGB is developed by Aerosoft.

Innsbruck Airport, LOWI  The Innsbruck airport offers something for everyone.  The airport can handle aircraft up to the size of a Boeing 767 but you’ll most likely see smaller aircraft such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus A319/320/321’s operating in and out.  The approach can be both difficult and also breathtaking.  Innsbruck, LOWI is developed by Orbx and they have done a fantastic job with both the airport scenery as well as the surrounding area.  Of course it blends in with the Orbx Global products. 

Princess Juliana International, St. Maarten, TNCM  You’ve probably watched videos of aircraft departing and arriving into this extreme airport.  Folks hang onto the fence just behind runway 10 and try to keep from being tossed backwards from the jet wash.  TNCM features a 7,546 ft runway and until just a few years ago handled Boeing 747’s operated by Air France and KLM on a regular basis.  Perhaps today the largest aircraft flying into TNCM is the Airbus A340.  St. Maarten, TNCM is developed by FlyTampa.

#4 General Aviation Favorites by Orbx 7S3, WA56 and WA79

Another, but the last grouping of favorites.  This one is some of my favorite general aviation favorites by Orbx.  I just love loading up my A2A Cessna 182 or Cherokee and exploring the countryside.  Each of these airports is within the Orbx FTX regional system so the everything just blends in so nicely.  Plus each have a little extra eye candy to enjoy.

Stark’s Twin Oaks, 7S3 is located in Oregon and is a privately owned, public use airpark.  I believe this was the first of these I purchased.  Developed by Bill Womack, it’s a classic. 

Israel’s Farm, WA56 is located in Washington State and you’ll certainly experience the thrill of skimming over the trees, avoid clipping the fence and stopping before you run out of grass. 

Walter Sutton’s Private Strip, WA79 I often fly between Israel’s Farm and Walter Sutton’s place and it’s only a short hop from Stark’s Twin Oaks.  Another grass strip airfield which will certainly test your skill and nerve.  

#3 FlyTampa Las Vegas McCarran International Airport KLAS

When I began identifying the payware airports I owned for this “Top 10” list, Las Vegas wasn’t included.  Keep in mind that it may take me a few days to write an article and I often find a creative burst and I’ll start the framework for many articles at one time and then work on them a bit here and a bit there.  In the meantime, a new version of KLAS was released by FlyTampa and OMG…it’s amazing.  If it weren’t for the reasons I’ll later mention for my #2 and my #1 entries…this airport scenery would be #1.  Without a doubt.  FlyTampa has completely raised the bar and in my opinion snatched KLAS away from FSDreamTeam.  I love FSDT scenery, but what FlyTampa has done with Vega is just simply amazing.  Buy it!  You’ll thank me later.

#2 FSDreamTeam Dallas/Ft.Worth International Airport KDFW

If I had any way to track the number of flights into or out of a particular airport, I would honestly believe KDFW would be at the very top in the ranking order.  In the real world and starting at the age of a young boy, I have very fond memories of going plane spotting at DFW.  I saw the Concorde back in the 70’s when it was being operated by Braniff Airways and I’ve watched the airport grow (and the surrounding area) into what it is today.  As I became older and began my IT career, DFW was a common sight for me on Sunday afternoons and late Friday evenings for many years. 

In the virtual world, FSDreamTeam’s KDFW was one of the first add-on airports I purchased and the first from FSDT.  In my mind, FSDT’s KDFW has stood the test of time and is still pretty accurate.  One of my favorite routes to fly in the sim is between #1 and KDFW. 

#1 FlightBeam Denver International Airport KDEN

For those who know me and/or those who are regular readers of my blog content, it should come as no surprise that I would list Denver International Airport (DIA) as my #1 payware airport.  After all, DIA is my home airport and I fly out of DIA both in the real and virtual world often.  In just a little over two months, my wife and I will board a British Airways 747-400 and travel to London and I frequently fly out of Denver on American and Southwest.  If I’m not careful, I may surpass the number of flights into/out of KDEN in the virtual world as I do enjoy simulating both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines flights.  As I previously stated, my favorite route is between Denver and Dallas/Ft. Worth flying the PMDG 737-800 for American Airlines. 

In Summary

Most likely (and just like “My Top 10 Payware Aircraft for P3Dv4” list), I could re-write this posting a year from now, two years from now…perhaps 5-10 years from now and items #10 – #3 would/could change.  But I wouldn’t anticipate either of these top 10 lists changing the #2 and #1 items. 

While it was easier to compile the aircraft list, it was truly difficult to pull this list together.  When I began the framework for the article, I had noted over thirty different airports and through process of elimination I began whacking that list down to what you see here.  It truly was a struggle as I own so many really top-notch airport sceneries.  

Why Consider Payware Airports

It’s sometimes funny how articles are born here on my blog site.  I began the framework to a “My Top 10 Payware Airport Scenery” article which more or less started off with a question as to why we purchase payware airport scenery and showing examples.  I realized this would become a seriously long article, so I decided to split them into two different writings.   So let’s get the why out of the way first, then in a few days I’ll release my top 10 list.

Why purchase payware airport scenery?

If you are new to the hobby of flight simulation or perhaps a complete stranger to it, you might wonder why we spend additional money on airport scenery.  After all, this is both a valid question and a very good question. 

Unlike other simulation based games in my library (FS19, ATS, ETS2) Flight Sim (and this includes FSX, FSX: Steam Edition, All versions of Prepar3D and even XPlane) does include the entire map of the world.  As is the case with American Truck Simulator where we either have to wait for SCS to release a new US state DLC or rely on a mod developer, Flight Sim includes an open world to explore.  This means that out-of-the-box, you can start up at just about any default airport in the world and fly to just about any other default airport in the world.  Most default airports will include all runways, taxiways and buildings which exist in real life.  Some of the buildings may even very closely resemble their real-life counterparts.  However, as is the case with FSX/P3D…these airports (including runways, taxiways and terminal buildings) are seriously outdated.  Let me give you an example of just how outdated some are.

Example – Chicago O Hare International Airport – KORD

As you can see from the chart below which is dated 2006 versus the second image which is more recent, a lot has changed.  By default, even in Prepar3D v4, KORD is outdated by over 10 years. 


As you can see, Chicago O Hare looks much, much different with some runways removed and others added. 


But by default, if you fly into KORD you’ll be landing on runways which may not exist today and this truly confuses things when you are flying online with other pilots and ATC.

To overcome these obstacles, many of us will purchase add-on airport scenery which will update the airport based on what it looked like at the time the add-on was developed.  Of course, even these add-on airports can become outdated rather quickly as KORD is once again due to make changes in 2020.  So as you can see, it’s almost a never ending struggle to stay 100% current. 

Unfortunately, as is the case with Chicago O Hare…the FSX/P3D community finds itself in a holding pattern awaiting an updated version of this awesome airport.  The best current add-on version available today for KORD is based on what the airport looked like in 2011 timeframe.

Maximum Immersion and Eye-Candy

While the main reason to update might be to ensure airport accuracy, another reason is what I refer to as maximum immersion and eye-candy.   Denver International Airport (KDEN) by default is modeled based on what the airport looked like around 2006.  It’s recognizable in FSX/P3D by its iconic tent looking main terminal.  But DIA has undergone some radical changes since it first opened in 1995, replacing the old Stapleton Airport.

Is the image below real or a screenshot from P3D?  Hard to tell the difference huh?  It’s a screenshot compliments of FlightBeam who developed the most recent version of my home airport.  This image is from the vantage point of just north of terminal A.  Overlooking the international arrival/departure gates used by Lufthansa and British Airways.  You can see the iconic tent roof structure over the main Jeppesen Terminal building and directly in front of that the newly opened Westin Denver International Airport Hotel.  Maximum immersion – CHECK!  Eye-Candy – CHECK!

Image result for FSX KDEN default images

Photo Credit: FlightBeam KDEN

More than just the airport

Sometimes payware airports come with a little and some with a lot of additional features other than just a detailed airport.  As is the case with the brand new Las Vegas McCarran Airport (KLAS) which was recently released by FlyTampa.  In this example, not only do we get a highly detailed representation of the Las Vegas airport, but we also get bonus bling of the Vegas Strip.  I personally can’t wait to do a nighttime approach into KLAS with this beautiful scenery.  Can you say “Viva Las Vegas”?

Photo Credit: FlyTampa KLAS

Photo Credit: FlyTampa KLAS

Photo Credit: FlyTampa KLAS

In Summary

I recently read a Facebook comment from someone who said something along the lines of “This isn’t airport scenery simulator” when commenting on a post regarding payware scenery.  The great thing about this hobby is there’s literally something for everyone.  One can simply purchase the flight simulator platform of their choosing and have a ton of fun flying around in the vanilla or default state.  Or you can enhance the immersion and take it to a completely different level.  The flight sim world is big enough and welcoming enough for all types of individuals.  Enjoy the hobby on your terms.

Until next time…

Thank you….Thank you very much (read this in an Elvis accent).


A Pilot’s Life Storyteller Series–S1, E10

The situation is getting worse. Since returning from Portland, it’s been more than 10 days since I’ve worked and I’m looking at my options.  Before I accepted the transfer to San Francisco, I had been contacted by Southwest Airlines.  I’m currently in discussions and weighing all my options.  Something has to change.  But for now, I have a trip down to Palm Springs and back.  At least I’m flying…at least I’m working.

Flight Details

Our flight today is Alaska flight 596 with service to Palm Springs.  We’re in the B738.  Our block time is 1 hour and 33 minutes, with flight time of just over 1 hour.  Our cruising altitude is 31,000 and we’re taking 13,780 lbs of fuel. 



Time To Go

We’re all buttoned up and just waiting for the jetway to be moved and the tug to connect to us. 


Taxing out to 01L.  Looks like a United Airbus is about to depart. 


Wheels up and we’re off


Making our turn around SFO.  I do enjoy this departure.


Bye-Bye SFO, see you later this evening.


Beginning our descent into Palm Springs


I’m digging this approach


Looks warm down there




Palm Springs, California


Making our turn to join the visual approach 31L




Two Red, Two White….We’re Alright!


Parked up at the gate in Palm Springs.  I believe this is the Sonny Bono (as in Sonny and Cher) concourse.  Has that Denver look to it. 


I have some thinking and planning to do.  I really don’t want to make a change at this time, but at the same time I need to work.  Decisions, decisions….


If you are interested in experiencing your own “A Pilot’s Life”, I highly recommend the A Pilot’s Life, by SimBitWorld add-on for Prepar3D, FSX and X-Plane.  You can learn more about the A Pilot’s Life by visiting the SimBitWorld website and/or purchase APL at SimMarket.  Also, please read my full review of A Pilot’s LIfe here.

Flight Simulator:  Prepar3D v4.5 (hotfix 1)
Aircraft:  PMDG 737-900
Airline: Alaska Airlines (ASA)
Airport Scenery: KSFO Flightbeam, KPSP Orbx
Terrain Scenery: Orbx Global Base, Orbx Vector, Orbx openLC North America, Orbx Northern California, Orbx Southern California
Sky/Cloud Textures: REX 5 SkyForce and REX 5 Environment Force
Weather Generation: ActiveSky (ASP4)
Flight Planning: SimBrief, Navigraph, FlightAware, FlightRadar24

Note:  If you are interested in any of the above mentioned add-ons.  Visit my P3D Add-ons directory for links.

A Pilot’s Life Storyteller Series–S1, E9

While I’ve only been based at SFO a short time, I’m starting to sense a bit of an uneasy feeling.  Some of our pilots have had their schedules cut and others temporarily furloughed.  While I enjoy a relaxed schedule, I also need to work.  After all, if we’re not flying…we’re not earning a living.  I’m hopeful this is only short-term problem as it’s been over a week between flights for me.  But hey…today I’m flying up to Portland and back. 

Flight Details

I’m back in the right-hand seat and flying with a captain I’ve worked with before.  We get along very well.  He’s been my mentor for a while now and I’m always pleased to serve as his FO.  In this case as is SFO at SFO.  Smile   Perhaps I’ll have some time to speak to him and get a better understanding of what all is going on. 

Our flight today is Alaska flight 800 in the Boeing 737-900 up to Portland (KPDX).  Our alternate will be my old stomping grounds of Sea-Tac.  Our block time today is just under 2 hours.  We’re taking 16,000 lbs of fuel and have a planned cruising altitude of 34,000. 



It’s Time To Go

Today we’re in the “More To Love” livery which celebrates the merger between Alaska and Virgin America. 


No flight can begin without a walk-around.








Time for push-back and hopefully an on-time departure.  Today our taxi is a little longer as we’re departing from 28L.


Let’s Roll


Wheel’s Up


Climbing to cruise


The view on this side of the aircraft won’t change much as we fly up the coast of California into Oregon.


I believe that’s Mt. Hood just behind us. 


Clouds are building as we begin our descent into Portland. 


Making our turn to join the localizer for 10R


The Columbia River just below. 


Cleared to land 10R





If you are interested in experiencing your own “A Pilot’s Life”, I highly recommend the A Pilot’s Life, by SimBitWorld add-on for Prepar3D, FSX and X-Plane.  You can learn more about the A Pilot’s Life by visiting the SimBitWorld website and/or purchase APL at SimMarket.  Also, please read my full review of A Pilot’s LIfe here.

Flight Simulator:  Prepar3D v4.5 (hotfix 1)
Aircraft:  PMDG 737-900
Airline: Alaska Airlines (ASA)
Airport Scenery: KSFO Flightbeam, KPDX Flightbeam
Terrain Scenery: Orbx Global Base, Orbx Vector, Orbx openLC North America, Orbx Northern California, Orbx Southern California, Orbx Pacific Northwest
Sky/Cloud Textures: REX 5 SkyForce and REX 5 Environment Force
Weather Generation: ActiveSky (ASP4)
Flight Planning: SimBrief, Navigraph, FlightAware, FlightRadar24

Note:  If you are interested in any of the above mentioned add-ons.  Visit my P3D Add-ons directory for links.

A Pilot’s Life Storyteller Series–S1, E8

Our new San Francisco adventure starts now and I’m really excited about this new opportunity.  My first flight out of SFO will be a trip over to Vegas and back in the 737-800.  I’ve flown into and out of SFO many times, but there’s something a little different about this first flight out, as now I’m based here.  The good news is I’ve been really made to feel welcome by all the SFO based team and I’m starting to settle into my new home. 

Flight Details

Today I’m serving as Sr. First Officer on Alaska flight 1932 with service to Las Vegas.  Our flight today is in the Boeing 737-800.  Our block time for this trip is 1 hour, 40 minutes and we require 14, 650 lbs. of fuel and our take-off weight is just over 148,000 lbs.  This is a late afternoon flight and will be arriving into Vegas just around sunset. 



Let’s Go Already

Our 738 is at the gate and being prepped for the flight.  As Sr. First Officer, it’s my job to perform the walk around. 


We start at the front and make our way around. 


Inspecting the engine and control surfaces.


Making sure all lights are working as they should.


Then to the rear of the aircraft.


Tires and gear all look good.  It’s time to head back inside.


Some things are still branded with Virgin America, but that will soon change I’m sure.  Time for push-back.


Push-back and two successful engine starts.  It’s time to taxi out to 01L.  Don’t worry…it’s a short taxi. 


Line up and wait.  We’re waiting on a United B788 landing on 28L. 


Blasting off 01L at KSFO on our way to Vegas.


Making our left turn to circle around SFO and join the departure out of the Bay area.


Climbing up to FL370. 


The sun is setting and the moon is rising as we enter our cruise phase. 


Beginning our descent on the Las Vegas SUNST4 Arrival.


The view from my office window.


Beautiful sunset


The Vegas strip just off our left side.


On final approach.


Cleared to land


Parked at the gate and deboarding.  We’re set to return to SFO tonight.



If you are interested in experiencing your own “A Pilot’s Life”, I highly recommend the A Pilot’s Life, by SimBitWorld add-on for Prepar3D, FSX and X-Plane.  You can learn more about the A Pilot’s Life by visiting the SimBitWorld website and/or purchase APL at SimMarket.  Also, please read my full review of A Pilot’s LIfe here.

Flight Simulator:  Prepar3D v4.5 (hotfix 1)
Aircraft:  PMDG 737-800
Airline: Alaska Airlines (ASA)
Airport Scenery: KSFO Flightbeam, FlyTampa KLAS
Terrain Scenery: Orbx Global Base, Orbx Vector, Orbx openLC North America, Orbx Northern California, Orbx Southern California
Sky/Cloud Textures: REX 5 SkyForce and REX 5 Environment Force
Weather Generation: ActiveSky (ASP4)
Flight Planning: SimBrief, Navigraph, FlightAware, FlightRadar24

Note:  If you are interested in any of the above mentioned add-ons.  Visit my P3D Add-ons directory for links.

Real World Meets Sim World

I know I’m not the only one who enjoys simulating their real world flights either before or after any trip.  I’m actually a little superstitious about it to be honest.  In the past dozen years or so, there’s only been one real world trip which I didn’t fly in the sim before hand.  It was a few months ago when I received the word that my Mom had passed away.  I rushed out to KDEN and jumped on a Southwest Boeing 737-700 and flew to Austin.  When I got back home a week later and found myself in the mood to spend some time in Prepar3D, I setup that flight in memory of my mom.  I think she would have appreciated that.  After all, flight simulation has been a hobby I’ve been involved with since I was a teenager back in the early 1980’s.

Memorable Flights

I’ve had many.  When I first moved to Denver back in the late 90’s, I would fly to visit my family in Texas.  Before hand I would simulate an American Airlines flight from KDEN to KDFW in one of my favorite aircraft the MD80.  After landing at KDFW, I would jump in a Saab 340B and simulate the quick flight down to Killeen – Fort Hood Regional.  Then I would do the reverse. 

Of course, in my job I’ve traveled a lot.  Some domestic and many trips overseas.  After all it was a business trip back in 2001 which led to me meeting my now wife.  But regardless if I traveled domestically or international, I set aside the time to simulate the roundtrip flights before I head to the airport in real life.

London Calling

By the time you read this, my wife and I will be halfway through our European vacation.  Once again we’re headed cross the pond from Denver to London Heathrow via the Queen herself a beautiful Boeing 747-400.  A trip I’ve made about a dozen times.  Anyway, we’ll spend a few days in the English countryside before heading to Antwerp, Belgium (family visit) on the Eurostar for a week, then back to the English Countryside for another week and then back home to Denver. 

A few weeks ago I completed the first leg of the trip and flew my PMDG 747-400 from Denver to London Heathrow.  On Thursday, 4th of July I completed the return leg and captured the following screenshots of the trip.

Of course, no trip of this magnitude can be completed without snacks.  I’ve gotta say, the food British Airways serves in their business class is top-shelf and the drinks are nice as well.  Smile


I would have snapped a picture of the bags being loaded, but GSX being GSX decided to use belt loaders which just looked really silly.  So here we are being pushed back from our stand at London’s Heathrow (UK2000) airport (one of my favorite airports in the world). 


Pushback complete, time to taxi out to 27R


Once you get this big girl rolling, she just wants to fly and fly she does.  I don’t fly the Queen near as much as I wish I could. 


Well on our way across the Atlantic. Personally I find the return trip to be a lot easier than the eastbound trip.  I think it has to do with flying during all daylight hours. 


If you happen to live or have visited the Denver area, then you know all about our late afternoon thunderstorms.  They can wreak havoc with on-time departures and can cause holds while these powerful, but quick moving storms move near Denver International.  In the below, we’re approaching KDEN for the ILS 16L approach with storms brewing just northwest of the field. 


Touchdown imminent.  9 hours, 45 minutes after pushing back from Heathrow we safely touchdown on runway 16L at KDEN (Flightbeam). 


And with that…I’m ready to board the Queen for what might be my last flight aboard a Boeing 747-400.  As most will know, United Airlines retired their last 744 in 2017 and with that it marked the end of any US carrier flying the Queen.  Other airlines including British Airways have also started the process of replacing their 747 fleet with 777’s, 787’s and others from that other aircraft manufacture.  Smile

As a point of reference, when I began flying British Airways between Denver and London (2001 timeframe), BA operated the 777-200 on this route.  They changed to the 747-400 in Spring of 2015.  While BA’s plan to reduce the number of 747-400’s by 50% in 2021, the Queen may still fly until 2024.  But who really knows what the future holds…

Until next time….God Save The Queen!


A Pilot’s Life Storyteller Series–S1, E7

Just a little clarification.  As my storyteller series continues to unfold, I’m going to be taking a new job in APL with Virgin America.  As Virgin America was acquired by Alaska Airlines and fully merged in 2018, for the sake of this continuing story line…I’m going to continue to fly for Alaska.  But be based in San Francisco.  APL will think of me employed by Virgin America…but I’ll follow the real world situation and consider myself still employed by Alaska.  Confused?  Hopefully not….

Present Day

Image result for flight deck door images

Upon returning from the Las Vegas trip, I had a few days off and needed to give serious thought to my future plans.  The way I saw it, I had three possible doors to open and walk through.  Thankfully I knew what was behind each door.  The hard part was deciding.  Would it be door #1, door #2 or door #3?
I also suppose there could have been a 4th option, but I just don’t have the brain power to think about that option right now. 

Door #1 is basically stay with Alaska and stay in Seattle.  I could continue flying mostly the same routes I’ve been flying. 

Door #2 would have me accept the transfer down to San Francisco and operate the old Virgin America routes.  Most likely I would stay in the Boeing 73x aircraft.  But could certainly work through the process of getting type rated on the Airbus A320.  This option would certainly better assist me down the road. 

Door #3 is to look at the list of offers I have available.  I really didn’t want to take a step back in pay and my ultimate goal is to eventually get hired on by a 5 star airline.  As far as I’m concerned, this can wait until I reach the rank of captain.  I’m really in no rush. 

A part of me feels that Alaska needs/wants me to go to San Fran.  After all, if they didn’t…they wouldn’t have offered it.  So I must be doing something right.  Again…decisions, decisions. 


Done!  We’re moving to the Bay Area.  Might as well. 

Flight Details

All my belongings are packed and being moved down to the San Francisco area.  My car is also being shipped down and while I’m still in Seattle, I managed to get assigned to a flight down.  Might as well earn some money and XP in the process right?  Right!

Today I’ll be serving as Sr. First Officer on Alaska flight 1740 with non-stop service to San Francisco.  Our flight today is in the Boeing 737-800 with a total block fuel of 17,141 lbs. and a take-off weight of 159,232 lbs.  Our block time is 2 hours and 10 minutes and our cruising altitude is 35,000.



Time To Go

The feeling is somewhat bitter sweet.  While I know this won’t be the last time I fly into Sea-Tac, I’ve truly enjoyed calling this airport home.  I’ve enjoyed living in the Seattle area, but looking forward to finding out what life is like in San Fran. While I know this isn’t permanent, SFO will be my new home for the foreseeable future. 

For my big send off, Alaska has matched me up with one of the old black/white liveries.  She’s a classic for sure and I’m honored to have one last opportunity to fly this livery before they are all repainted.  Obviously, Alaska has been most concerned with getting all the Virgin America Airbus aircraft updated first.  After all, branding means everything. 


We’re all buttoned up and ready to push back. 


Push back the Boeing 737-900


Holding short runway 16L.  We all bow to the Queen.  A Boeing 747-400 landing 16L.


Once the Queen vacated the runway, it was our time to blast off for SFO.  Bye Bye Sea-Tac.  See you sometime soon.


Turning to join our departure course. 


Climbing out above the clouds. 


Descending into what will be my new home for a while.  Alcatraz and the Bay Bridge just out of the Captains window. 


Silicon Valley


Clear to land, runway 25L


Almost there….


Short final for 25L. 


At the gate, SFO.


The sign above the door says it all.  Or at least tells us we landed at the correct airport.  This day and age, that fact is not always a given.


I’m here and a new adventure begins at SFO.  We have a busy schedule of flights which start almost immediately.  For me, A Pilot’s Life has really helped to give purpose to my virtual flying.  APL makes you think, it makes you plan and it makes you work hard to gain both experience as well as money. 

I truly hope you are enjoying this storyteller series and I hope you’ll tune back in for the next episode next week. 

Thanks again and happy flying!



If you are interested in experiencing your own “A Pilot’s Life”, I highly recommend the A Pilot’s Life, by SimBitWorld add-on for Prepar3D, FSX and X-Plane.  You can learn more about the A Pilot’s Life by visiting the SimBitWorld website and/or purchase APL at SimMarket.  Also, please read my full review of A Pilot’s LIfe here.

Flight Simulator:  Prepar3D v4.5 (hotfix 1)
Aircraft:  PMDG 737-900
Airline: Alaska Airlines (ASA)
Airport Scenery: KSEA Drzewiecki Design, KSFO Flightbeam
Terrain Scenery: Orbx Global Base, Orbx Vector, Orbx openLC North America, Orbx NA Pacific Northwest, Orbx Northern California, Orbx Southern California
Sky/Cloud Textures: REX 5 SkyForce and REX 5 Environment Force
Weather Generation: ActiveSky (ASP4)
Flight Planning: SimBrief, Navigraph, FlightAware, FlightRadar24

Note:  If you are interested in any of the above mentioned add-ons.  Visit my P3D Add-ons directory for links.

A Pilot’s Life Storyteller Series–S1, E1

Welcome to the first series and first edition of “A Pilot’s Life” Storyteller Series.  For more context on what this storyteller series is about, please read Return of the Flight Sim Storyteller.  This will bring you up to speed and set the stage for this first edition. 

Commercial Break

LOL  OK….I figure this is as good a place as any to plug my new Flight Sim Project, Flight Sim Helpers.  Flight Sim Helpers is my way of giving back to the community which has been so good to me for over 35 years.  The concept of Flight Sim Helpers, is to help those who are just starting out in the wonderful hobby of flight simulation.  However, regardless if you are brand new or a seasoned veteran, all are welcome.  I’m actually hoping to recruit others who are knowledgeable in FSX, P3D and X-Plane to serve as moderators and subject matter experts.  If you are interested, please let me know.  For now, please visit and join the Flight Sim Helpers Facebook Group and also check out the Flight Sim Helpers website.  Thank you and I’ll now proceed with the story.

Present Day

Once again I had an overnight layover in the Bay Area.  This time at SFO.  I enjoyed a nice steak at the hotel in celebration of my new promotion.  Looking at my schedule, I’m due to fly back to Seattle then out to Salt Lake City and then back up to Ketchikan, Alaska.  Oh…my favorite.  But I need to get through the next few days first. 

The crew shuttle picks us up at our hotel at 4:30 AM sharp.  It really feels like we only just arrived.  But I had the rest required by the FAA and anxious to get back to sunny Seattle (NOT).  It’s been raining all up and down the West Coast of the US the past several days.  We have a great crew with us today, so we expect no issues.  Of course I’m dreaming of my next promotion which will finally have me at the rank of Captain.  But  I’ve gotta grind it out from 212 XP up to 650 XP for this one.  But XP points do come a little quicker with each promotion.  As a comparison, at FO I earned just a little over 5.0 XP on KSEA to KOAK.  However, with Sr. FO on the flight from KSEA to KSFO, I earned almost 8 XP.  As soon as I get paid (end of the month), I’ll purchase a mobile phone which will earn me a 10% XP bonus each flight. 

Flight Details

This morning my captain and I will be operating Alaska flight 1737, non-stop service from San Francisco to Seattle.  Our flight is scheduled to depart at 6:00 AM from gate 52B.  Our planned fuel for this morning is 16,720 lbs and our take-off weight is 148,143 lbs.  Our cruising altitude will be FL360 and we have a block time of 2 hours, 9 minutes.  We anticipate departing from runway 28L. 



Walk Around

As Sr. First Officer, it’s my job today to conduct the walk around inspection of our Boeing 737-800.  This is the first flight of the day for this aircraft and the bags and cargo haven’t arrived yet. 


Almost done, checking all lights and this aircraft is looking good. 


Here Comes the Bags

Obviously we can’t go anywhere without our passengers and all their bags. 




Time for push-back

With our passengers, bags and a small amount of cargo loaded onto our Boeing 737-800, it’s time to close the doors and push back from the gate.  The skies are looking a bit rough this morning, but we expect no departure delays this morning. 


After a brief taxi, we have arrived at runway 28L. 


ASA 1737 is wheels up and on our way to Sea-Tac.


Making our right turn and headed east towards OAK.


The  obligatory wing shot. 


Making our way along the SID or Standard Instrument Departure, just a slight chop as we continue our climb.  We’ll keep the cabin crew in their seats a bit longer, but reports are smooth skies above FL200.


It’s complete cloud cover as we make our way through northern California and into Oregon. 


At FL360, we can relax a few minutes before we need to start planning our descent and arrival into Seattle. 


Monitoring a thunderstorm as we cruise above Portland. 


As we begin our approach and descent into the Seattle area, a little drag is required to meet the speed restrictions of the STAR or Standard Terminal Arrival Route.


Runway 34C is in sight.  No auto-land required today.  The Sr. First Officer has control. 


I think it’s going to be a beautiful day in Seattle today.  This makes a nice change.


Clear 34C, Cross 34R and taxi to the gate.  Note the other Alaska B738 which arrived just before us.


Parked at the Alaska terminal Sea-Tac. 


I’m due to report to another aircraft and Captain for a rotation down to Salt Lake City and back in the Boeing 737-900.  Since I only have default scenery for SLC, I will return with my “A Pilot’s Life” Storyteller Series in a few days for my trip to Ketchikan, Alaska.  That’ll be fun. 

Until then…

Happy Flying!



If you are interested in experiencing your own “A Pilot’s Life”, I highly recommend the A Pilot’s Life, by SimBitWorld add-on for Prepar3D, FSX and X-Plane.  You can learn more about the A Pilot’s Life by visiting the SimBitWorld website and/or purchase APL at SimMarket.  Also, please read my full review of A Pilot’s LIfe here

Flight Simulator:  Prepar3D v4.5 (hotfix 1)
Aircraft:  PMDG 737-800
Airline: Alaska Airlines (ASA)
Airport Scenery: KSFO FlightBeam, KSEA Drzewiecki Design
Terrain Scenery: Orbx Global Base, Orbx Vector, Orbx openLC North America, Orbx NA Pacific Northwest, NA Northern California
Sky/Cloud Textures: REX 5 SkyForce and REX 5 Environment Force
Weather Generation: ActiveSky (ASP4)
Flight Planning: SimBrief, Navigraph, FlightAware, FlightRadar24

Note:  If you are interested in any of the above mentioned add-ons.  Visit my P3D Add-ons directory for links.

GBS Beast v5–Update at 10 Days

It’s been 10 days since the covers were battened down on the new GBS Beast v5 (my new gaming PC) and I couldn’t be happier with how she’s been performing.  All the simulation based games I truly love and enjoy playing perform flawlessly.  Since v5 first booted up with a brand new install of Windows 10, I’ve been feverishly getting everything reinstalled, configured and operational.  I’ve managed to resume (and almost catch up) with getting videos recorded for the GrizzlyBearSims YouTube Channel.  For me, my simulation gaming is a huge stress reliever for me from the hectic days of real life and I feel that life and my sanity are back to normal, or as close to normal as can be expected in my life.  I’m very pleased.

Baby Steps

Much of the time I spent with v5 in the first few days could have been considered baby steps.  As previously noted, I spent some time playing FS17 and recording content for the YT channel.  I also began the daunting task of getting all my flight sim add-ons reinstalled and configured.  In addition, spending time getting Prepar3D v4 dialed in with the new system.  While P3D v4 is not new to me, the configuration settings with the new performance hardware is drastically different that how I had it setup with the previous gaming machine.  But thankfully, the new hardware in the Beast v5 is allowing me to really crank up the graphic settings and both the GPU and CPU are working well together to deliver a spectacular visual experience which I couldn’t be happier about.  But with almost 10 days of taking it easy on the new machine, I felt the need to really stress her and see just what she could do.

The True Test

As my long-time readers will know, I’ve been a flight simmer for a very long time.  Quite honestly, it’s because of my passion for virtual flight which served as the requirements for the new PC build.   I could have saved a lot of money if I were only building the new rig to play FS17, ETS2, ATS etc.  But to achieve the stunning levels of immersion and eye-candy I wanted from Prepar3D v4, I needed the CPU/GPU and other elements.  But how would this new system perform.  Would it, could it deliver the level of performance I really hoped it could.  I new of only one way to test this and it would involve pretty much an entire day of my time.  Of course, time spent gaming is never a waste of time.  Right???

Now, I must admit that I rarely have the time or real desire/interest to commit to a full international long-haul flight in the sim.  In my earlier years, spending a full day flying from the US to the UK was something I did quite frequently.  But as one begins to settle down and all that…then sacrifices must be made and for the most part my virtual flying generally consists of shorter haul flights in the 2-4 hour range.  Also, until the GBS v5 was born….I had difficulties getting the type of performance that would allow a full international long-haul flight without a system crash or really slow performance at the very end.  I had hoped this new rig would solve those issues and let me say once again, I couldn’t be happier.

On Saturday, I booted up GBS v5 and loaded up Prepar3d v4.2 with the PMDG 747-400 (Queen of the Skies II) and placed her at the gate at KDEN (Denver International Airport).  I set the sim time for just before 1900 hours and began to perform all my pre-flight setup work to ensure a prompt departure for 19:35.  I would be simulating British Airways flight 218 which operates daily between Denver and London’s Heathrow Airport.  This is the very flight my wife and I will take in a few months.  While in the past BA operated the Boeing 777-200 on this route, for the past few years they have operated the Boeing 747-400.  The Queen of the Skies won’t be around many more years and it’s truly a joy to have the opportunity fly on this wonderful aircraft.

The real life flight time for this route is approx. 8 hours, 35 minutes and I’ll be doing my best to simulate this down to the very minute.  After all, “As Real As It Gets” right?

Push-Back and Departure

Unfortunately, the first few screenshots which I captured while on the ground, pushback, taxi and take-off didn’t get saved.  But despite one family being a bit late arriving to the gate, Speedbird 218 Heavy pushed back at 19:36 and began the short taxi to runway 36R.


Speedbird 218 Heavy climbing through the clouds just as the final minutes of sunlight was visible to the west.  The four Rolls-Royce RB211 engines provide all the thrust we need to reach our cruising altitude of 37,000.


A near full moon is visible just off the starboard side of the aircraft.  Wing shots are some of my favorite to capture.


The flight deck of the B747-400 (view from the jump seat)


Here comes the sun.  The sun rising in the east, but we still have many hours to go.


A port side wing view.  PMDG simulates wing flex very well with their aircraft.  It’s truly amazing just how much flex these large wings have.


The Queen of the Skies is a thing of beauty.  Note the heavy cloud cover over the Atlantic ocean.  Not much to see.


Land Ho….just approaching the cost of Northern Ireland.  Almost time to get to work getting this bird safely on the ground.


One more body of water to cross before reaching the coast of England.  At this stage of the flight we’re beginning our descent from FL370 and experiencing a lot of turbulence.


Somewhere, down there….you’ll find Thornton Farm, Coldborough Park Farm.  Love the details


It’s pretty soupy in Old London Town today.


Gear down and fully configured for landing.  Speedbird 218 Heavy is joining the ILS for runway 27R.  The Thames River is visible in the background.


Cleared for landing on 27R and just seconds before this shot the end of the runway was in full sight.


The total flight time from push back at KDEN to engine shut down at EGLL, was just a little over 8 hours, 45 minutes.  So about 10 minutes late, but this was mainly due to heavy traffic as we entered the busy London airspace.  But the GBS Beast v5 performed just as expected during this entire time.

This long flight pushed the new machine hard.  Night time, heavy cloud cover and flying from and to heavy detailed airports were all tasks which would have been difficult with the old PC.  It handled it all with flying colors (pun intended).  I’m going to spend a few weeks flying some European routes before eventually heading back to Denver.

Until next time….



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