This is the sort of flight I'd want to take, so I'm simply writing the kind of book that I'd want to read. That's why the flight plan is pretty close to something you could use to make a real-life flight: it actually comes right from the preliminary planning I do when preparing for a journey like this. It is the prequel to an even larger book: one which goes all the way around the world in FSX. No avgas to buy, no hotel rooms to pay for, no hours ticking on the Hobbs meter: just get in the virtual plane and have a blast!
There are several books on the market already that use FSX as a “training tool”. The problem with most of them it that they tend to be more like dry, dusty workbooks than useful, enjoyable tools. With the exception of “FSX for Pilots: Real World Training” by Jeff van West and Kevin Lane-Cummings, which is one of the few enjoyable textbook-style books that doesn't treat FSX as the redheaded stepchild of aviation, most of these focus too much on drill and repetition of isolated skills.
A recent trend in training is “Scenario-Based Training” (SBT). This is a promising concept, as instead of isolating a specific skill or maneuver and then practicing that without context, SBT's goal is to package many factors and skills together and place them in a scenario that reflects more closely the kind of situations a pilot may face in real life.
However, even the books that follow the trendy scenario model of training tend to lack imagination. Not here. Instead of a bunch of variations on “To grandmother's house we go” flights, you'll be flying the ultimate scenario: an immense voyage down one of the world's longest rivers. You'll see more of the Mississippi than Lewis and Clark did, you'll face serious challenges that will test your piloting skills to the limit (and possibly beyond), and by the time you're done you'll be able to boast of having accomplished something few people ever have.
This book takes an entirely different approach than almost any of the ones out there today. Instead of lecturing you about everything you'll ever need to know and lots you won't before you ever get to touch the controls, you'll learn by having fun. My goal is that you'll be too busy having fun to realize you're learning. No one remembers a dull lecture, but everyone remembers that one time they did such-and-such. This book is just a string of such-and-such.
I assume only a basic familiarity with whatever flight simulator you choose to use. There are many references to Microsoft Flight Simulator X, but only because that is the flight simulator with the largest installation base. It would be impossible to write one with such specific references for all of the major flight simulators on the market today. However, I have put effort into ensuring that it is just as possible to do this flight in any of the others with minor adjustments. For example, I reference the FSX GPS, but your flight simulator will almost definitely have a GPS of its own. The commands to make it do certain things may vary slightly, but they probably do the same basic things.
You should know the basics of how to fly whatever flight simulator you choose, but you don't need to be an expert at all. As long as you know how to go up/down, left/right, and can land on a mile of runway, you have all the skills you need. The goal is that by the end of the book, you'll be a great pilot. If you're already a pilot, this journey should make you even better.
|Hernando de Soto "discovering" the Mississippi River. Image from Wikipedia.|
This isn't just a trip of 1500 miles. It is a trip through time, both on a human scale and a geologic scale. The Mississippi is a dynamic, living creature, and just as people have whims and layers of history of their own, so does the river.
It is alive on a daily basis, as barges push up and down the waters. It lives on a yearly basis in its floods, which after decades and decades of engineering are much tamer than they used to be, but still not entirely eliminated. It lives on a millennial scale in the layers of sediments that are a mix of new material deposited through its innumerable floods and old layers that date back millions of years to when it was an enormous bay.
Along the way, you'll encounter some of the human history that has taken place along its banks, and see how the laws of man are no match for the moods of the Mississippi. If you've ever wondered why rivers are so winding instead of taking the simpler, straighter route, you'll finally have your answer, and you'll see the traces left over that are evidence that rivers really do take the straighter course at times.
You'll also discover that river banks and airplane wings have something in common, and the Mississippi has had an impact on aviation in its own way. The travelers on the first steamboat to traverse the Mississippi, the New Orleans, were nervous by the high speed of the new boat: 8-10 miles per hour! You will go over ten times that fast as you travel along the river where the only thing constant is change.
See the table of contents for the rest of the book.
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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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