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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Happy Birthday, Dad

My father passed away over 8 years ago. He loved flying with me, and I loved taking him up flying. He died four years before I would fly my first airliner, but I know he would have come out to the airport to see me fly into Cleveland-Hopkins for the first time. (Sadly, my first flight into CLE was also our airline's last flight there in the old Dash-8. It would be over 3 more years before we'd fly into it again, this time as an all-jet airline.)

I still think of him often. I occasionally get sad when I think about how he never got the chance to see me go from the 2-seat Flight Design light sport airplane we used to poke holes in the sky together in to the captain of a jet airliner. I know he'd be happy and proud, which lessens some of the sadness sometimes.

This year, Wednesday also happens to fall on what would have been his 71st birthday, so I'm going to do something I almost never do and go back into the archives. I'm re-posting "Last flight with my best passenger" as this week's blog entry. It is the story of an impromptu flight up the Ohio River with him. What was supposed to have been a much shorter flight with him turned out to be a much longer, much more fun experience, but unfortunately (and unbeknownst to us), it would be our last one together.

You can read it here. See you next Wednesday!

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The author is an airline pilot, flight instructor, and adjunct college professor teaching aviation ground schools. He holds an ATP certificate with ERJ-145 and DHC-8 type ratings, as well as CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, and IGI certificates, and is a Master-level participant in the FAA's WINGS program and a former FAASafety Team representative. He is on Facebook as Larry the Flying Guy, has a Larry the Flying Guy YouTube channel, and is on Twitter as @Lairspeed.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Impostor Syndrome


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This month, Southwest's application window was open for new pilots. I'm over half way to my 1000 hours of jet PIC, so I'm getting close enough to their requirements that I wouldn't be totally wasting their time. So, for the first time, I applied.

I remember feeling a mixture of nervousness and excitement when I applied at my current airline. It was mixed with a "What am I doing applying at an airline? Can I really do this?"

When I got hired and went through training, I was sure I shouldn't be there. I was positive I wasn't doing it right and any day they were going to send me home. If you read my series "Becoming an Airline Pilot" back in 2014, you might remember that it wasn't until over halfway through I dared open my training folder and look at the grades in it.

I was sure I was one step from failing, and yet when I finally did get the courage to peek, I was doing just fine!

I have over twice as many hours in the logbook as I did then. I've added an EMB-145 type rating on top of the Dash-8. I passed upgrade with flying colors and I've spent a year in the Captain's seat now. After four years on the job, I'm reaching the point in my career where people start to move on to major carriers. It should be a piece of cake to apply by this point, right?

Nope. Despite having spent the last several years zooming around the sky at hundreds of MPH in 50,000-pound airplanes and having carried 59,897 passengers 522,369 miles, I felt the same thing this time around as I did when the largest thing I'd ever flown was a 6-seat Beech Baron: "What am I doing applying at a place like Southwest? Who do I think I am?"

This must mean I'm insecure and lack confidence, right? Well, actually, that rhetorical question was thrown in there to make my wife roll on the floor with laughter. That's probably the absolute last way she'd describe me.

It's actually a very common phenomenon called the "Impostor Syndrome". It's rarely talked about in aviation because pilots would never admit to something like that. Nonetheless, Wikipedia's article includes a small example of some people who actually have admitted to having felt like an impostor, and it includes a Supreme Court justice, several super-successful actors (like Tom Hanks, for instance), multiple best-selling authors, and some billionaires.

It's also addressed in Barbara Oakley's book A Mind for Numbers, which I raved about two years ago and highly recommend. Although its subtitle is "How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra)", I wrote about it several times because it's really a book that is more about learning how to learn than it is learning math and science, which makes it extremely valuable to people who are learning how to fly. The material applies to all subjects and tasks you'll need to learn throughout your lifetime, and is really a book for everyone in that respect.


In my case, I certainly don't suffer from a lack of confidence. I simply have extremely high standards; sometimes to the point of them being unrealistically high standards. I tend to expect more out of myself than is humanly possible, and despite asking for more from myself than what is reasonable, I still am unhappy when I fail to jump over the bar I've set too high. If that's a real flaw, it's one I'm happy to live with, and my next post will go into why that is.

I don't expect to get a call from Southwest this time around. Not because I don't think I don't deserve one, but simply because I haven't yet checked off all the boxes they like to see. Their total time requirement is only 2500 hours, and I'm almost twice that now, but they do prefer 1000 hours of jet PIC time and I'm not quite 2/3rds of the way there at the moment.

So even though I don't expect a call, it's not because of the impostor syndrome per se, but because there are still a lot of people out there that have checked all the boxes. Nonetheless, I will still keep applying, because they like to see you applying over and over. To them, it means you have the persistence and real desire to work for them.

I will keep applying until one day you get to read a series on becoming a 737 pilot! See you next Wednesday!


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The author is an airline pilot, flight instructor, and adjunct college professor teaching aviation ground schools. He holds an ATP certificate with ERJ-145 and DHC-8 type ratings, as well as CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, and IGI certificates, and is a Master-level participant in the FAA's WINGS program and a former FAASafety Team representative. He is on Facebook as Larry the Flying Guy, has a Larry the Flying Guy YouTube channel, and is on Twitter as @Lairspeed.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The circle of training

Last week, the FAA issued a Safety Enhancement Topic on emergency management handling (PDF file) after engine failure, especially in twins. Here's an excerpt:
Every pilot needs to prepare for the unexpected. Engine failures and inflight emergencies have a nasty habit of cropping up at the most inopportune times. However, with the right training and preparation, you can be ready for any hazardous situation that comes your way.

During your initial pilot training, you may recall the layers of learning involved with acquiring and mastering aeronautical skills. You might begin your learning path by memorizing certain facts or details like airspeeds for best rate (Vy) or angle of climb (Vx). You would then need to understand the relationship between these speeds in order to best choose which speed might be applicable for your environment. You would then apply that knowledge by actually choosing to fly at Vx to clear an obstacle on takeoff.

Finally, through correlation of Vx/Vy knowledge with climb performance at high density altitudes, engine cooling, and traffic spotting requirements, a pilot may opt to begin a departure climb at Vx, transition to Vy after obstacles are cleared, maintain Vy until a safe maneuvering altitude is reached, and then transition to cruise climb to improve traffic spotting.

Correlative learning takes place when students are able to apply previously acquired knowledge to solve new problems.
It praises Scenario-Based Training, which in and of itself is not a bad thing. I'm a big fan of SBT. In fact, my Flying the Mississippi book is designed to be one big scenario in which to learn and/or practice.

Nonetheless, as much as I like SBT, it is not a one-size-fits-all magic cloak. It is extremely powerful if used when appropriate, and horribly inefficient when jammed into places it doesn't fit. This is a place where it probably doesn't fit.

While the excerpt above sounds pretty and contains 100% of your recommended daily allowance of FAA-approved educational jargon, it doesn't actually address the cause of loss of control accidents in twins. Basically zero accidents are caused by pilots reaching the "correlative" level and not being able to decide whether they should choose Vx or Vy. Those pilots are smoking holes in the ground long before that stage.

In other words, the last thoughts of a pilot about to die from an engine failure on takeoff aren't
Hmm, I think I should choose Vx here due to obstacle clearance requirements. Or was it Vy? I can't really remember exactly the difference between the two. Perhaps I should split the difference and choose a target airspeed between the two. In any case, it is warmer than standard today, but I'm 800 pounds below max gross weight. That means my Vx will be lower than normal. Or higher? That's quite the interesting mathematical challenge here. Let me think about it...

Nope. The last thoughts are going to be a LOT more like
I'm rolling! Why am I rolling!? That roll is making us sink. Why aren't the ailerons leveling us the way they usually do?!? Pull back on the yoke to keep us from sinking so fast!!! Got to pull--[SPLAT]

No scenario-based training is going to help here. What is necessary is a return to memorization. But not the "entry-level" memorization that is the only type the FAA mentions above. This memorization is "mastery-level" memorization, which is a term you won't find in any FAA textbook.

This level of memorization is also different in that it takes place less on a cognitive plane than a physical one. While ELM (Entry-Level Memorization) is concerned with storing and regurgitating facts and figures, MLM (Mastery-Level Memorization) concerns itself with physical responses.

This is by no means a new concept. What I'm calling MLM here has been known for decades as "automaticity". In fact, it's not even new to this blog: I referred to automaticity last year in "Smart people do stupid things in emergencies".

This MLM or automaticity is what it will take to reduce the number of accidents caused by loss of control. Pilots aren't dying because they didn't grok a scenario; they are dying because they didn't have the response to an engine failure so ingrained, so physically memorized, that it was automatic.

So we go full circle, from one form of memorization to another. We go from a mere fact stored in our head to an entire memorized response stored deep in our mental being. One stored so deep it no longer even looks memorized; it simply looks natural. The circle of training goes from the beginner's memorization to understanding to application to correlation... and finally to the master's memorization.

The master's memorization is a way of understanding without having to understand. It has passed through understanding and become being.

That sounds very Zen-like, and it is. It is at that point of mastery that it paradoxically becomes difficult to explain to someone else what you are doing because the skill is no longer a set of discrete steps. It has become one single chunk.

As an example, go and land a plane and think of each step as you're doing it. You'll probably find it extremely awkward and won't make the best landing. It is something you've internalized so much that landing is something you "just do" now. (Or if you're not a pilot yet, try to explain to someone everything you're doing as you drive down the highway.)

That's why SBT won't fix this issue. Pilots of twins have to go beyond the conscious, awkward response into the unconscious memorized response. In other words, not to practice until they get it right, but to practice until they can't get it wrong.

The next post will go into what SBT is really good for. See you next Wednesday!


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The author is an airline pilot, flight instructor, and adjunct college professor teaching aviation ground schools. He holds an ATP certificate with ERJ-145 and DHC-8 type ratings, as well as CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, and IGI certificates, and is a Master-level participant in the FAA's WINGS program and a former FAASafety Team representative. He is on Facebook as Larry the Flying Guy, has a Larry the Flying Guy YouTube channel, and is on Twitter as @Lairspeed.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

You know you've found the right job when...

In my former life, I was an IT guy. I liked it, but I can't say I was in love with it. I certainly can't say I ever looked forward to going back to work after a week off. As a pilot, though, I actually do look forward to getting back in the cockpit after a week or so off.

The decidedly non-traditional schedule of an airline pilot with a good amount of seniority means I get a week or more off every month or two. Consistently, after 5-6 days off, I'm looking forward to going back. Not because I want to get away from the wife, because I have the most wonderful woman in the world. (Right, Shannon?) Not because I like seeing the dog get depressed. Not because I'm bored, because I'm one of those people who is always trying to get 28 hours worth of stuff done every day.

I look forward to going back because I love what I do.

I came across "Airline Captain For A Day" today and it brought to light another reason I know I've found the perfect job for me. Although every job has its days, I consider myself insanely lucky to have found something that most of the working world unfortunately has never experienced: a job that is fun, intellectually stimulating, and meaningful all at the same time.

When I looked at the simulators (which cost $589, $628, and $789 an hour for the MD-80, 737-300, and 737-800 respectively), my response was, "Hell yeah... I'd do a V1 cut [an engine failure at the most critical time during takeoff] in any or all of those!"


Then I realized what I was saying: that I'd be willing to pay real money to pretend to do what I already do for a living, just in a different kind of airliner. I'm an Airline Captain Every Day, so just three weeks ago, I got paid to spend four hours in the simulator, since that was when I completed my last six-month recurrent session. (And, yes, V1 cuts and single engine approaches were part of the required tasks.)

There is absolutely no scenario in which I can see myself back in my IT days saying, "You have simulators that will let me pretend I'm working in a Linux shop instead of a Windows one? Wow! Shut up and take my money!" In fact, the very thought of voluntarily paying to pretend to work in any other field makes me giggle a bit:

"You mean I can pretend to litigate civil cases instead of criminal ones? Sign me up!"
"You mean I can pretend to perform heart surgery instead of brain surgery? Here's my credit card!"
"You mean I can pretend to run the grill instead of the fryer? Woo hoo!"

I spent years before finding a field where I'd say, "Shut up and take my money!" and mean it. May you be so lucky! And if you happen to have an extra $500, $600, or $700 lying around, I can put it to good use for you....


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The author is an airline pilot, flight instructor, and adjunct college professor teaching aviation ground schools. He holds an ATP certificate with ERJ-145 and DHC-8 type ratings, as well as CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, and IGI certificates, and is a Master-level participant in the FAA's WINGS program and a former FAASafety Team representative. He is on Facebook as Larry the Flying Guy, has a Larry the Flying Guy YouTube channel, and is on Twitter as @Lairspeed.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Aviator's Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, and out on the ramp,
Not an airplane was stirring, not even a Champ.
The aircraft were fastened to tie downs with care,
In hopes that  come morning, they all would be there.

The fuel trucks were nestled, all snug in their spots,
With gusts from two-forty at 39 knots.
I slumped at the fuel desk, now finally caught up,
And settled down comfortably, resting my butt.

When the radio lit up with noise and with chatter,
I turned up the scanner to see what was the matter.
A voice clearly heard over static and snow,
Called for clearance to land at the airport below.

He barked his transmission so lively and quick,
I'd have sworn that the call sign he used was "St. Nick."
I ran to the panel to turn up the lights,
The better to welcome this magical flight.

He called his position, no room for denial,
"St. Nicholas One, turnin' left onto final."
And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a Rutan-built sleigh, with eight Rotax Reindeer!

With vectors to final, down the glideslope he came,
As he passed all fixes, he called them by name:
"Now Ringo! Now Tolga! Now Trini and Bacun!
On Comet! On Cupid!" What pills was he takin'?

While controllers were sittin', and scratchin' their heads,
They phoned to my office, and I heard it with dread,
The message they left was both urgent and dour:
"When Santa pulls in, have him please call the tower."

He landed like silk, with the sled runners sparking,
Then I heard, "Left at Charlie," and, "Taxi to parking."
He slowed to a taxi, turned off of three-oh,
And stopped on the ramp with a "Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho!"

He stepped out of the sleigh, but before he could talk,
I ran out to meet him with my best set of chocks.
His red helmet and goggles were covered with frost,
And his beard was all blackened from reindeer exhaust.

His breath smelled like peppermint, gone slightly stale,
And he puffed on a pipe, but he didn't inhale.
His cheeks were all rosy and jiggled like jelly,
His boots were as black as a cropduster's belly.

He was chubby and plump, in his suit of bright red,
And he asked me to "fill it, with hundred low-lead."
He came dashing in from the snow-covered pump,
I knew he was anxious for drainin' the sump.

I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work,
And I filled up the sleigh, but I spilled like a jerk.
He came out of the restroom, and sighed in relief,
Then he picked up a phone for a Flight Service brief.

And I thought as he silently scribed in his log,
These reindeer could land in an eighth-mile fog.
He completed his pre-flight, from the front to the rear,
Then he put on his headset, and I heard him yell, "Clear!"

And laying a finger on his push-to-talk,
He called up the tower for clearance and squawk.
"Take taxiway Charlie, the southbound direction,
Turn right three-two-zero at pilot's discretion"

He sped down the runway, the best of the best,
"Your traffic's a Grumman, inbound from the west."
Then I heard him proclaim, as he climbed through the night,
"Merry Christmas to all! I have traffic in sight!"


The best of the season to you and yours! See you next year!

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The author is an airline pilot, flight instructor, and adjunct college professor teaching aviation ground schools. He holds an ATP certificate with ERJ-145 and DHC-8 type ratings, as well as CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, and IGI certificates, and is a Master-level participant in the FAA's WINGS program and a former FAASafety Team representative. He is on Facebook as Larry the Flying Guy, has a Larry the Flying Guy YouTube channel, and is on Twitter as @Lairspeed.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Flying the Mississippi: Preface


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Each of the legs in this adventure begins with the basic information about what is coming up in a "briefing strip" that looks like this:

Start time:
Starting fuel: %
Takeoff runway:
Leg length:
Distance traveled so far:
Distance to go:
Here's more about those pieces of information.

Start time: Flight Simulator X will keep having you start at the same time over and over. To have the feel of the real passage of time, you will have to adjust the time manually before your flight. You can either simply start the next leg at the time the last one ended, look at the logbook to see the amount of time the last flight took (if you click "Details..." on a particular entry, it will tell you what time you took off), or add some custom amount of time to the last flight.

As an example of that last option, when I land, I usually add 15-30 minutes to the end of the last flight. That's my way of simulating getting out of the aircraft, walking around and checking out the airport and its nearby surroundings, and starting back up. If I land between noon and 1:00 p.m., I'll add 60-90 minutes to simulate going into town for lunch. If there's something there that I would like to see, I'll even set the start time for the next leg at 8:00 a.m. the following day to simulate staying overnight. (I do this, for example, at Little Falls/Morrison County to simulate visiting the birthplace of Charles Lindbergh.)

Starting fuel: If you like more realism, you can keep track of the fuel burned and set the next leg to start with how much you ended with last time. Subtract 1-2% for startup, taxi, and run-up if you prefer starting at the end of the runway. I use a ballpark figure of 2% for every .1 hour in the logbook.

In Microsoft Flight Simulator X you can use Shift-Z, Shift-Z, Shift-Z (press "Shift-Z" three times) to display the fuel status in percent. If you need to adjust it, open up the "Fuel and Payload" menu from the main start screen.

Takeoff runway: This is only a suggestion. If you're using no weather (in other words, every day is a clear blue, calm wind, "clear and a million" day), this is usually the runway that will put you closest to getting back to the river the fastest.

If you are more advanced and are using real weather or conditions you set up yourself, this may not match the runway you would actually use under those conditions. Feel free to change this to match the runway that would be appropriate for your weather conditions.

Leg length: These are given direct. You'll end up flying approximately 20% more due to following the terrain, going to airports that aren't right on the river banks, etc.

Distance traveled so far: Oh, how far we've come!

Distance to go: How much is left until we land in the "Big Easy", New Orleans.

Customizing your experience


Weather

If you prefer real-world weather, then feel free to use it. Because real world weather will vary from person to person depending on when you may be flying this, I have the weather set on the "Fair Weather" weather theme for all of these flights. This allows for some standardization and predictability throughout the journey, since the runway to use will never change when the wind is always calm.

In fact, if you want to make a second fly-though or more, I'd highly recommend turning on the real-world weather feature. This will give you experience in making go-no decisions, dealing with weather en route, figuring out which runway to use, and many other factors that real pilots have to consider on every trip, whether it be 15 miles to the $100 hamburger or 1500 miles along the Mississippi.

FSRecorder

There is an add-on for Microsoft Flight Simulator X called FSRecorder that will allow you to record the path your airplane took. It does not record video; it only records your flight track. This is useful if you want to review your flight. It may or may not work with the Steam Edition.

Other flight simulators have this functionality built in.

Loading/saving your own flights

If you want to fly this trip seamlessly, you can save your flight at the end of your session. When you come back and load it, everything will be restored to the way it was when you saved it. Your aircraft will be in the same location at the same time of day with the same amount of fuel, etc.

Although I give suggested times and fuel amounts, these are intended to be a guide and not a set-in-stone rule. It's your trip, so you can and should change these to suit your goals and style. Saving your flights allows you to start off with an exact figure instead of the estimates provided. Whether you save or not has no impact on the overall course of the trip.

Aircraft

This flight was designed and flown with the stock Cessna 172 with a plain vanilla installation. I chose this aircraft because it requires no special installation of software or add-ons. You naturally can feel free to use any aircraft you like: there is nothing about this flight that is aircraft-specific, with the exception of some shorter grass fields, which you may want to avoid landing at in a bigger aircraft.

In fact, in real life, I'd love to do this flight in a Piper Cub, another aircraft that comes with Flight Simulator X. You can go along as slow as an AirCreation Trike Ultralight, build up some multi-engine time in a Beech Baron, fly the river on floats in a Beaver, or even combine the last two by flying it in a Grumman Goose. In fact, if you're one of those people who prefers that the wings be going faster than the rest of the aircraft, you can do this whole journey just fine in a helicopter. If you want to speed up the trip a bit but still get almost all of the fun, the Mooney is a good choice.

The Learjet can give you the 30,000-foot view at 500 MPH if you're not into "low and slow".
 Optional airports

There are several airports that don't add much to the trip, but are included solely to break up the journey into smaller chunks and to give you a chance to add an airport to your logbook. These airports can be skipped with no loss of fun, so if you're into speed-running, I have marked these airports with * in front of their name.

I have avoided putting lessons or flying tips into these legs, so you won't miss anything important if you choose to skip over them. Instead, in many cases I've put interesting bits of historical or geographical knowledge into those, so you can merely read those segments and still get the experience.

Time of year

I chose to start my flight in mid-November in order to experience the change in scenery from snowy up north and greener as I progressed southward. Fall is another beautiful time to fly, and I highly recommend starting the trip any time between October 1st and October 20th if you want to enjoy hundreds of miles of changing leaves. It's up to you, and the time of year has no effect in Flight Simulator X besides a change of scenery textures.

Autumn leaves can make for great scenery along your adventure.

Flight Simulator X downloads the current weather regardless of what date you have selected as the virtual calendar. As noted earlier, I have the weather permanently set to “Fair Weather” during this trip in order to standardize the legs, as it is impossible for me to write in every condition you might have otherwise. However, using real-world weather is a great experience that will give you practice in making go/no-go decisions, figuring out what altitudes and routes you may have to adjust, etc. You might even “get” to experience the feeling of being stuck on the ground for several days in the middle of nowhere waiting for the weather to pass.

Other tips


In Flight Simulator X, Shift-Z is extremely useful, especially if you like to use the spot plane view to make it easier to look around and check out the scenery. Pressing Shift-Z once places a small information line at the top left of the screen that gives you your latitude and longitude, altitude, magnetic heading, airspeed, and winds. Pressing Shift-Z again gives you your frame rate, how many Gs you're pulling, and your fuel in percent. Pressing Shift-Z again gives you both of the first two lines at the same time. Pressing Shift-Z again makes them go away, which is useful if you want to take a screen shot without the clutter. Don't worry: you can bring the information right back by pressing Shift-Z again.


Early on in the journey, when the river is still small enough to be somewhat difficult to see from the air, don't try to follow every bend; you'll go crazier than a Mark Twain plot. Just stay within a mile or so of it, keeping it in sight. Odds are that if it bends hard to the right, it will probably bend back hard to the left not long after.

The most efficient course is easier to see by the time you're a couple hundred miles downriver.
If it's too hard to spot the river at the beginning and you're getting frustrated, the journey is just as fun in reverse. Try flying upriver instead, because the mighty Mississippi is easy to spot when it's extremely wide. However, there are some lessons early on about how to use the GPS and equipment, so if you want to fly the "other" way, I suggest reading through from start to finish first.

I like to fly with the autogen scenery objects cranked up to maximum. That makes finding the river a challenge at the beginning, just like in real life. Even moderately large real rivers are surprisingly hard to see from the air. In real life, it's often easier to see the trees that line the river instead of looking for the river itself. That's not as useful in Microsoft Flight Simulator X.

For that reason, in the first leg I included a GPS flight plan with custom waypoints you can follow instead of getting lost trying to keep up with the tiny trickle that hasn't become the Mighty Mississippi yet. These waypoints follow the real river, so at times the flight may not match up perfectly with the river. They'll keep you close the whole way, though.

Optional Airports

It's your flight simulator and your journey! If you want to fly at 5,000 feet instead of 2,500, have at it! If you don't want to land at every airport (or even hardly any airports), don't! If you just want to fly along with the autopilot on going from airport to airport without even following the river closely, do it! The flight plan follows the river closely enough that you should be able to enjoy it no matter how you decide to do it. That's what flying is all about, isn't it?

There are many, many small legs, so it's quite possible that you might not want to land at every single airport. I've put them in the flight plan to help the GPS trace the river better, to help you navigate, and as suggested places you can land if you're an airport collector or going for the next “Landings at X airports” badge in Microsoft Flight Simulator X.

So many places to land does tend to break up the flow, so it would be understandable if you skipped landing at one or several of them. Another advantage of having them close together is that if you only have a few minutes available, you can still squeeze in one more leg.

I don't taxi in Microsoft Flight Simulator X (after all, it's a flight simulator, not a driving around on the ground simulator), so all the flights start on the runway. I also tend not to follow standard traffic patterns, but make a straight-in on most occasions. Just as I encourage you to make your own modifications to these flights to suit yourself, I do, too. In real life, I'd be listening to the CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency) for the airport 10-15 miles out, and I'd know if there was traffic in the pattern, and I'd have a plan to fit myself into the flow of the traffic pattern.

X-Plane or other flight simulators

One of the major reasons I limited this flight to almost entirely airports that are on a sectional is to make it easy to use X-Plane, FlightGear, or any other major flight simulator with almost no adjustment. The keyboard commands you use and the visuals you see may differ if you're not using Microsoft Flight Simulator X, but the journey will be the same.

Ready? Let's go!


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The author is an airline pilot, flight instructor, and adjunct college professor teaching aviation ground schools. He holds an ATP certificate with ERJ-145 and DHC-8 type ratings, as well as CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, and IGI certificates, and is a Master-level participant in the FAA's WINGS program and a former FAASafety Team representative. He is on Facebook as Larry the Flying Guy, has a Larry the Flying Guy YouTube channel, and is on Twitter as @Lairspeed.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Flying the Mississippi: Real-world flight plan

When I fly this in real life, I certainly don't plan on breaking it into almost 70 legs. I will be doing it over five days. That will give me a good balance between amount of flying per day and time to check out the locales.

Day 1: Lake Itasca to Little Falls (KLXL)


Sky Manor (MN86) -> N47 14 04 W95 11 59 -> KBJI -> KPGZ -> 2MN2 -> KAIT -> KBRD -> KLXL
187 nm, 2.1 hours

Start by flying over the source of the Mighty Mississippi and finish the day in Charles Lindbergh's childhood hometown.

Day 2: Little Falls to Quad Cities (KDVN)


KLXL -> KSTC -> KSTP -> KONA -> 7WI0 -> C74 -> KSFY -> KDVN
340 nm, 3.8 hours

I've never been to the Quad Cities area, and 4 hours in a prop plane is enough for one day's flying. I also would like to check out John Deere's headquarters building, since it was designed by the world-famous architect Eero Saarinen. He also designed Washington-Dulles International Airport, which I am in every day at work, and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

Day 3: Quad Cities to St. Louis (KCPS)


KDVN -> KMUT -> KBRL -> KEOK -> KHAE -> KSET -> KALN -> KCPS
237 nm, 2.6 hours

Although I've spent several weeks in St. Louis while getting my EMB-145 type rating and during Captain upgrade, there are still many things here left to check out. The first time I was there, I got a bottle of water from where the Missouri River meets the Mississippi.

Day 4: St. Louis to Memphis (M01)


KCPS -> KFES -> 12LL -> KCGI -> KCIR -> 0M2 -> 7M4 - M01
244 nm, 2.7 hours

It's not hard to find a reason to stop in Memphis for a day!

Day 5: Memphis to New Orleans (KNEW)


M01 -> KHEE -> 0AR7 -> M32 -> KVKS -> 0R4 -> KHZR -> KREG -> KNEW
391 nm, 4.3 hours


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The author is an airline pilot, flight instructor, and adjunct college professor teaching aviation ground schools. He holds an ATP certificate with ERJ-145 and DHC-8 type ratings, as well as CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, and IGI certificates, and is a Master-level participant in the FAA's WINGS program and a former FAASafety Team representative. He is on Facebook as Larry the Flying Guy, has a Larry the Flying Guy YouTube channel, and is on Twitter as @Lairspeed.

It takes hours of work to bring each Keyboard & Rudder post to you. If you've found it useful, please consider making an easy one-time or recurring donation via PayPal in any amount you choose.