Having not flown since January, it was high time I got some stick time on something, and I figured the best way to do that would be to role play a bit with a scenario that didn’t require a ton of pre-flight planning (other than designing the small bit of extra scenery needed) and where I could just hop in the sim and go without doing engine startups and talking to ATC and all that jazz. I’ve been sitting on the US Cities X – Niagara/Buffalo scenery for nearly just as long now and decided it was high time I got some use out of that as well. A while ago I found a sweet yellow/black medical livery for the Cerasim Bell 222B and the Niagara/Buffalo scenery has a hospital helipad so I decided to have an emergency airlift. But from where? Looking around the scenery I spotted the bridge linking the US and Canada and once I confirmed it was a hard surface I could land on I opened my scenery toolbox and got to work adding cars, a median barrier and light poles. The scenario is that traffic is backed up all to hell and someone is having a heart attack or whatever and first responders on the scene can’t wait for an ambulance to fight its way through the logjam. So in comes the helicopter to the rescue!
Before I could get going though I decided to update my ATI drivers, which I still had running 11.12 because versions later than that had changed the 3D gaming settings interface and I was too lazy to figure out how to get good looks out of the sim similar to the old settings I had. Then this post came up on the FTX forums and I decided to give it a whirl. It does a good job nixing the jaggies – I get a little shimmer on my 3D instrument needles but that’s it. The graphics quality is definitely a lot “crisper” than my previous settings without being so crisp you get jagged edges everywhere. I also had to update a few external programs given the time that had passed since I last flew.
Finally I could boot up the sim and hop straight onto the pad at the Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo with the engine running. I took off and headed north, flying over the water so I could stay low (1,500 feet) and go 130kts without bothering the residents too much. Soon I was passing over American Falls and the bridge was in sight as I continued to decelerate and work out my approach. I ended up swinging over the Canadian side to come at the bridge from the side at a 45° angle. However there was a feisty 9kt wind to go with the low cloud cover (thankfully the rain that was intermittent throughout the area held off) and down near the bridge the canyon funneled it and not only did you hear it but you certainly felt its effects. I think I did at least two complete 360° rotations trying to line up my landing. I’m sure my patient wasn’t feeling any better watching me try to land. Finally though I was able to stabilize and edge over the bridge and thump her down. Anything over 4 ft per second could cause damage to my landing gear – I landed at 3.9 ft/s. That was close! Oh and I also almost rolled into a cop car because I forgot I had wheels not skids after touching down.
We got the patient loaded up in good order – she was in stable condition. Once we were buttoned back up I took her up and out, minding the tall light posts to either side. We flew back over Horseshoe Falls, giving our passenger a chance to sight-see, then it was back to the deck and 130kts racing for Buffalo. The winds were starting to buffet at bit, so the ride wasn’t as smooth as I’m sure our patient would have liked but her condition didn’t worsen. Once back over the city I had to circle once to spot the hospital, then it was a straight approach, minor futzing over the pad and a nice gentle 1.8 ft/s landing to ensure the continued good health of our passenger. Of course, this time on landing I forgot that the door to egress the patient was on the other side, so I had to taxi through a K-turn so the patient could be offloaded without falling off the side of the helipad. That would be bad.
Well, thankfully my first foray as a medical evac pilot came out okay. I just checked in with the doctors and it looks like our patient will be making a full recovery. Hurrah!
If you’d like the scenery I used to test your own skill, you can download it here.
Next time I hope to hop in the Bonanza V-tail for a nice long flight up to Buffalo and then some heli tours of the falls…
So this trip to the range was all sorts of fucked up – but I’ll get to that. First, let’s discuss the new scope rings, which I specified in my previous after action report would be replacing the Leupold rings I found to be highly incompatible with my scope/rifle setup, not to mention just bad design in general. The new rings came in this past week and are similar in design to the rings on my 1-6x scope, with a thumb screw and half-split ring where the screws meet at mid-point. I got the extra-high pair because when in doubt, you can always add a cheek rest to your stock – but I didn’t need to. They are well-machined and fit perfectly around my 30mm scope. They are also much thinner than the Leupolds which gave me more room to move the scope to a position that would provide good eye relief. All the screws tightened equally and even when I “loosely” tightened them to the point where I felt a little resistance, the scope was already locked down and unmovable without considerable effort. Once I got the scope positioned, I tightened all eight screws in criss-cross fashion using a tip I picked up from the NSSF videos which is to tighten them as much as I can using the small part of the alan wrench. Though, these rings did come with torque settings – 18 in/lbs for the ring screws and 65 in/lbs for the thumb screws. I just don’t have the tool to use these numbers.
Secondly, let’s discuss ammo. As in, there still isn’t any to be found on a casual visit to Dick’s Sporting Goods. People are still lining up outside in the mornings and the supply that comes in is gone in a matter of hours. 5.56, .223, 9mm, .22 – all gone. This is the main reason I haven’t been making many trips to the range despite all this wonderful weather we’ve been having. In fact, were it not for a recent business trip down to Raleigh I still wouldn’t have any reason to go. Along the way, since I drove, I was able to stop off at several Dick’s stores and hit jackpot – tons and tons of 5.56, the same Independence ammo I’ve been shooting recently! I still failed to find any bulk .22 and only one store had cheapany 9mm. I even looked around at Walmart stores. Roanoke VA and Greensboro, Burlington and Raleigh NC all had insane amounts of 5.56 – as soon as I started to head back north and tried Richmond and Fredericksburg VA everything was gone again.
In a related note – the 3 boxes of 9mm I ended up leaving with a friend in Raleigh to sell on the online market – he nearly doubled what I paid for them and passed all the money back to me. So that was a pretty cool investment. I don’t plan to spend any serious time playing the market though.
So I have 320 rounds of 5.56 and I dug out an old box of 500 .22 lead-tip bullets and decided it was past time for a range trip. I hated the lead-tip .22 rounds because they often mis-fired or jammed on ejection but it’s not like I had anything better to shoot. The range is open on Fridays now and I didn’t have to coach cheerleading this week so I called up and told my boss I would be at the shooting range (my boss is cool like that) and I packed up my gear and off I went. Rain has been coming and going since mid-week but this Friday was supposed to be mostly clear, light wind – and hot. 80°F, which is the hottest it’s been all spring. I kne leaving the house that I was forgetting something but at the same time I also knew I had everything so I figured it was just that normal nagging feeling you get when you go on a trip, even a short 1-hour one to the range.
Then I get to the range and realize I left my .22 rifle back at home. Let the FUBAR begin. I’m rather disappointed because I really like plinking with the .22 rifle, but I know I need more practice on the 5.56 anyways so no big deal. However then I realize that a few weeks ago I did consider going to the range with just the .22 rifle and the lead-tip ammo, so I had packed just the .22 rifle bag with stuff I needed – like my universal bipod. Well, okay at some point I had wanted to try shooting positions other than prone, so I figured now was as good a time as any. I didn’t want to reach out far in a new position so I pulled out my 1-6x scope and set up a target and clay pigeons out at 50 yards, with a 15 yard target to use with my P22, since I figured I might as well get some action out of the .22 I lugged with me.
I started in the sitting position, Indian style using my elbows for support. I don’t have a rifle strap so I couldn’t utilize that as well. The hardest part of this position was forcing myself to relax as I held the weapon. I wanted to tighten up to hold it steady but found that had the completely opposite effect, causing my muscles to strain and the sights to bounce even worse. Rather than holding the rifle, I tightened my supporting arm to just stay rigid, and my hand held the rifle but did not grip it. The target image above has my first ten rounds. If you only count nine that’s because I punched two through almost the same spot 6 0′ clock in the 9 ring. I was encouraged, but a bit annoyed at the drift to the right so I adjusted the windage turret on the scope to compensate. Next I stood and sent some more rounds downrange. Again, same concept with holding the rifle – tight arms but loose hands. After a few shots at the target I tried hitting one of the clay pigeons while standing. It took me 13 rounds but I finally blew one away. It was hard to see where I was missing because each shot would buck my sight up and off target.
At the next cease fire I went out and put two new targets up, one at the top for standing shots and one at the bottom for the sitting ones. Aiming at the center of the target while standing I put two 3 round groups downrange and checked in the scope. I was perplexed to see them all off paper to the right. So to see if it was a stabilization issue I went to the slightly more stable sitting position and fired off a few rounds and checked in the scope. Right again, off paper. WTF? I recalled my golfing days, where my huge backswing would make me slice the ball horribly so I figured my trigger control might be off. And just for good measure I adjusted the windage turret a bit more to the left. My next shots were even farther to the right. At this point I finally said wait a fucking minute, rested the rifle on my lap and stared carefully at the windage turret, and the arrow that shows you the direction to twist it to adjust your aim rightward. Opposite rotation thus adjusts your aim leftward. I had been adjusting the scope in the wrong direction. How fucking retarded am I?? I twisted the turret a good deal back past the initial adjustment I made after my first few shots, sighted in and got off one round before the next cease fire. That would be the one hit you see on paper below:
So once I un-borked my scope things fell into place much better. I didn’t even bother changing targets and just put more rounds on paper during my last fire session, starting with sitting and then switching to standing when my legs started to cramp up. I ended by taking out 4 clay pigeons in a row while standing – I missed the 5th one and then cease fire was called.
Here are the final paper targets, with standing on the left and sitting on the right:
You can see I could still use a bit of scope adjustment to the left but overall not too bad. The shots way left I knew were off target, even in a sitting position you get a good deal of scope movement and those shots were just badly-timed because I would anticipate and jerk the gun slightly before pulling the trigger.
In other gun news, I was also firing and adjusting the sights on my P22 for better results at 15 yards. Thankfully, the lead-tip ammo didn’t jam at all although I had about 4-5 instances of misfire where I had to re-cock and try again. One round I just plain ejected and kicked out onto the range after three tries. I was horrible at aiming at the start but after some tweaking on the rear sight and raising up my point of aim on the front sight I got much better. Here are some targets from 15 yards:
So the target on the left you see I start low-left and then adjust the rear sights and my aim on the front sight and gradually work my way up into the bullseye. Then the next target I start off good and gradually lose my aim and track back down to the bottom-right and even off paper. So I have the basic idea I just need to practice more at consistently aligning the sights properly.
Oh but there were more fiascoes. As I go to put the rifle down I realize I gashed open the back of my trigger finger. How?? I have no idea but now it’s bleeding. Then when firing the P22 a casing shot straight up and back and fell through the top of my sunglasses and lodged at the bottom right next to my left eye. I used my left hand to pull away my glasses a bit so the casing could fall out while twisting rightwards and bending forward, so my gun was now pointing down at the concrete but slightly towards the next table. Just as quickly I straightened up and resumed pointing downrange – my finger was off the trigger the whole time. Still, I wish I hadn’t turned slightly. Last time something like this happened a .22 casing got stuck between the arm of my glasses and my face. In case you don’t know, casings are friggin hot as hell after being ejected from a gun, as the slightly-visible burn mark below will attest.
And, sadly, the story doesn’t end upon my return home from the range, because I still needed to get the guns cleaned up. While running the cleaning rod through the barrel of my P22 it consistently got stuck near the end of the barrel, regardless of which way I inserted the rod. I looked through it (note it is detached from the gun at this point) and saw what looked like some decent gunpowder build up so I got the bristle brush attachment out to break it up – and it got stuck. Like, legit stuck I’m-not-pulling-this-thing-out-on-my-own-without-some-kind-of-vise stuck.
Soooo I’m going to bring it over to my grandfather’s house since he has all kinds of clamps and whatnot to see if I can’t yank the damn thing out. Regardless I think I will need to take it to the local gunsmith to have it looked at. This means I’m once again out of .22 rounds because until I figure out what the hell happened to my P22 barrel I’m not taking any chances with my .22 rifle and those damn lead-tip bullets. So maybe it’s a good thing I forgot my rifle. But at least I can go back and unload some more 5.56 since I still have 240 rounds left. And I put the bipod back in the rifle case so I should have it next time.
Final bit of fucked up irony – I never even got to try out the 6-24x scope with its new mounts. *sigh*
So I had the brilliant idea to set up the archery target in the basement, which I probably should have done from the start. There are a few downsides – the ceiling is lower so when I draw I need to detach my quiver so the arrows in it don’t hit the beams/ducts/pipes over my head, and if I miss the target well, kiss that arrow good bye. But at least I won’t potentially riddle one section of the dining room wall with holes I need to patch so, I’ll waste a $5 arrow if I have to. Anyways so far I haven’t missed the target. I didn’t check the distance but it’s probably around 30 feet, 10 more than in the garage – maybe a bit more. I’m shooting behind the staircase so no one can come tromping down and into the path of my arrows.
Now, over the past few days I’ve been putting a lot of thought into my outdoor backstop. I got approval from my dad to build one, it’s just a matter of how. There are all sorts of means you’ll find online with some light searching – and that’s all I’ve done so far. People had used simple compressed wood boards, burlap sacks, walled in dirt mounds, and compressed hay bales. The hay bales were my original thought but one of the videos said the compressed kind you want to stop arrows costs $100 a bale. Yikes! But tonight while setting up the target I rolled some old tires over to support part of it and realized I hadn’t considered using scrap tires for the backstop:
The only thing about tires is that they don’t lie flush around the edges, which creates more than enough room for an arrow to find its way through. So the simplest solution is to just put an additional row of tires behind and offset the first one so they catch those arrows. Looking at the stack of 4 tires I had in the basement, 8 would be high enough to catch any arrows sailing over the target. The target is the width of the tires, so 4 across is more than enough (3 would be good, but a tighter margin for error) – the image above is not to scale. Anyways the military uses tires filled with sand to stop bullets so I can’t see them having any trouble stopping an arrow, except I’ll just use dirt since it’s less likely to pour out through the holes and is in ready supply in our back woods. Now I only need 7 tires in the back since they have to only cover up to the gap between the last two, but that still adds up to 53 tires in total. I couldn’t find any ready information online about buying up scrap tires from junk yards and recycle centers so I have some more research cut out for me – but I do have a mechanic friend and can ask him if he could just start saving the tires they change for me to use if they don’t sell them used.
So I will be spending the next few weeks researching and building the backstop, hopefully just as its diagrammed above. In the meantime I’ll continue to use the range down in the basement. Since I didn’t ever miss the target and I wanted to see what would happen if I did, I deliberately shot one of my arrows (a ruined one with bad fletches) into the wall. Besides destroying the aluminum arrow, which was expected, it also managed to gouge a decent chunk of wall – the tip still seems good though at least!
So I can’t find any ammo. Anywhere. I went to Dick’s last weekend and the guy behind the counter told me people are lining up outside at 7am, waiting for the store to open at 9am so they can buy up all the ammo that just arrived on the truck that morning. I called up the other Dick’s in the area and didn’t even have to get past the phone operator to find out that they didn’t have any ammo in stock. My friend Sasha got some intel on a small, little-known skeet range in Farmingdale that had a pro shop – we checked it out and they were even out of ammo. We called the Walmart closest to us in PA and they had no ammunition. I’m not talking about just 5.56/.223, but 9mm and even .22! I never thought I’d see the day .22 ammo was impossible to come by.
Fortunately while I was at GDC a short while ago I ran into a local friend and mentioned getting into shooting and how I also wanted to take up archery more seriously and he told me he had an old compound bow in his basement I could have for free. I’ve been looking to buy a compound bow for a while now from Sash’s brother, who used to shoot competitively but Sash has been having trouble lately talking to him and getting a deal set up. So this was exactly what I was looking for and I picked up the Black Bear last week – it has a 30″ draw at 55lbs. I brought it over for Sash to look at and get some initial pointers since he learned a lot from his brother and has a few bows himself, including a compound (a Bear bow like mine but a heavier Black Panther with 65lbs draw), compound recurve and composite recurve.
I picked up some arrows and a target from Dick’s – at least those are still in decent supply – and set up in my garage, which is a good 20′ across. First problem was the ledge of the bow where the arrow rests was missing the piece that helps keep the arrow from hitting the bow as it fires. My first solution was to screw in a hex bolt, which I thought was a pretty good idea:
It wasn’t a bad idea, but as you can see from the picture it didn’t keep the bow from being scratched up as I shot. Still, all things considered from 20′ shooting a bow for the first time in like 8 or 9 years I was happy to at least consistently hit the target. I started off aiming high but gradually worked my arrows down until I was close to the center. Below are the first 6 arrows shot from the bow:
Even though I still didn’t know quite how to aim, a lot of the time I was still consistent in placing my arrows – so much so that it wasn’t long before I realized I should probably be shooting at all 5 targets separately so I didn’t destroy any more fletchings on my arrows:
Another thing I remembered quickly was that when you pull the arrows out, you need to grab them as close to target as possible to keep from bending them. Luckily I didn’t destroy any shafts before I remembered this. Despite the fact that I was hitting the target I was still having trouble aiming and nailing a specific point – like the bullseye for one. First, I decided to take out the hex screw and go with what Sasha recommended – just glue some cloth onto the bow ledge. Well, I taped some there with masking tape just to see how it worked and it worked so well I decided to just leave it taped instead of glued for easy removal if needed.
It’s a bit torn in this image but I’ll get to why that is later on. Suffice to say I now shoot in a manner that keeps the tape intact. The next problem was my bow string had nothing on it to help me consistently nock my arrow in the same location – this is important because, well think about it. They sell these small rings you can clamp around the bow string but I just took a thin length of masking tape and wound it around – works just as well. Finally, now that the arrow was being fired from the same position each time, I needed a front sight on the bow. Again, masking tape to the rescue, as I taped a length horizontally on the inside of the bow above the ledge and bent it back towards me so I had a piece sticking out in front of my line of sight. I had to move the tape up and down a bit to find the right height, but finally I could place the bottom of the target on the top edge of the tape and the right side of the target on the inside edge of my bow and started nailing bullseyes.
Well, mostly – but hey those three in the bullseye were all in a row! Here are two more of my better shots from 20′:
Hey I may have been off the bullseye in the one above but at least I was consistent in my misses haha!
So now that I had my sights dialed in, I didn’t want to have to rely on a piece of tape that could fall off at any time. After a bit of thinking I pulled out some packaging and cut out the clear plastic used for the window. A rectangular strip of that is now taped onto the bow curve so it sticks out in front of my line of sight. I used marker to draw a line where the top edge of the old tape sight was and marked it for 20 feet. There’s room below that for any further distances. Sasha told me you could buy all these fancy sights to hook on to your bow. Pah! All this one cost me was a few minutes of time to make and it works superbly.
Everything was looking well and good until I talked to Sash some more and learned about how an arrow should be properly nocked to keep the fletchings from touching the inner bow string or the bow ledge when you let it fly. I took a look at all the arrows I had bought and all of them had notches that nocked the arrows so a fletching was either touching the inner bow string or the bottom of the ledge (hence the slice in the tape in the earlier picture). The best thing I could find to do was nock the arrows with the odd-colored feather straight up so the two other fletchings kind of rode atop the ledge at an angle:
According to Sash and remembering the arrows he had shown me at his place earlier, the odd-colored fletching should be at 90 degrees to the bow so the other two slide past the inner bow string and clean along the side of the bow. So imagine the arrow in the above picture rotated 90 degrees to the left. You can see by the notch though that this won’t let the arrow nock on the string properly as it would then be sideways. I still don’t know why all my arrows are like this, but when I return to Dick’s to pick up some more I will be taking a cut-off shaft end from one of my ruined ones to compare and see if I can find any that are notched properly. Over a distance of 20′, the impact of the fletching against the bow string has almost no effect on the flight of the arrow. Even outdoors, the results are pretty accurate:
3 out of 5 bullseyes. However once I started backing off and the flight time of the arrow increased, the aerodynamics started to become more of a factor and I could definitely see the arrows wobbling as they flew towards the target. For some reason my first shots are always the best, as you can see below I nailed the center bullseye from 40′ but the rest all went pretty wide except for one where I nicked the bullseye:
Backing off to 60′ you really saw the effect of the fletching striking the inner bow string. I missed completely with two of my arrows, and the one in the top-left bullseye was actually meant for the bottom-right target!
So yea – about misses. I’ve had about 5 so far – which, considering I’ve shot close to 50-60 arrows over a range of 20-60 feet I think isn’t so bad. I dunno maybe it is, considering when you don’t hit the target you hit something else, and that something else may not be a good thing to hit – like a human being. Let it be known that I at least made sure that wasn’t a possibility from where I was shooting. I had hoped the big, thick bushes surrounding our pool area would be enough to foul the arrows as they flew through them if I missed. But it turns out that’s a bit of a crap shoot. There’s still plenty of space for a slim arrow to slip through – one miss from 40′ went through the bush behind the target, through the fence, across the pool, through the fence again (chain link) and still managed to poke out almost in its entirety from the bush on the other side of the pool area. Past that was about 75 yards of woods it would have landed in. Another actually split a branch in the bush and still embedded itself partway up the fletchings – luckily I was able to extract it without damage to the fletchings. Then another shot low – the only one I’ve ever missed low of the target – blew through the top of the plastic crate the target was sitting on and wound up embedded in one of the water bladders holding down the pool’s winter cover. I’m sure my dad will be thrilled about that one!
You can see how the plastic chewed up the fletchings. Damn. Also note the arrow didn’t make it all the way through the water bladder, no doubt stopped by the pressure if the water – it didn’t rip or appear to have slid across the pool cover. So I need to come up with an alternate plan for a backstop, like buying up a bunch of hay bales to stack out in the back yard, with about 3′ to all sides of the target to catch any more misses. Oh, there’s still one more miss that made me go >.<
There are in fact 5 arrows in that picture up above. Okay, so the order the arrows were shot in was center, top-right, bottom-right, bottom-left, top-left. It’s fair to say that by the time I got to the final top-left target I was feeling a little cocky. I had just put on the new plastic see-through sight and except for that second shot I was dead-on. So maybe I didn’t take enough time to aim, or pay close enough attention to my grip in the string, or my release – or whatever. Fact was my last arrow missed and – well you can click on the picture above to see the result. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I’ve never missed far off to the side of the target right?
So from here I’m just going to fumble around for a bit – maybe check out some online references and How-Tos but just generally have fun with it. Again, I want to be a consistent shot but the size of the bullseye on the target I’m currently using is about as accurate as I’m looking to be. Once I get the fletchings issue worked out an build a proper backstop I look forward to spending some more time outside now that the weather is getting nice again. It’s just something to get me up off my ass from here in front of the computer for a little bit. After I get comfy with the compound bow I want to go old-school with a longbow.
Let’s start with the new hotness, the 6-24×50 Viper PST from Vortex Optics, shown above mounted with Leupold 30mm QRW rings and with the sunshade screwed on the objective. I put a lot of time researching for a decent high-power rifle scope, considering glass from well-known companies like Nikon and Leupold. But it was in Barnes and Nobles one day I was browsing the magazine stall and found Sniper. They had an article on affordable yet durable and good-quality rifle scopes and the PST was one of the scopes on their list. I did some more research after getting home and decided that this would be the one. After that I had two more decisions to make – the focal plane of my reticule and the units of measure for the scope adjustments. Fortunately, Vortex Optics themselves had some nice video tutorials on these subjects which helped me make my decision, but I was also aided by these videos from the National Shooting Sports Foundation. I chose both second focal plane and millirand mainly because that was the type of scope most widely in stock, but also because second focal plane was almost $300 cheaper and I liked the millirand’s slight benefits for long-range shooting over MOA. You may also notice the shooter in the NSSF videos is also using a Viper PST
Unfortunately I screwed up on the mounts. The QRW rings are of solid construction, but they just don’t work well at all with this scope. It’s mainly the locking levers, which make for an easy release but it turns out I need to mount the scope in such a way that the front ring is snug up against the turrets, and the locking lever snags on them when you rotate it. After settling and aligning the scope I also couldn’t get the screws to lock down in what felt like an equal manner – it seemed I was torquing some much more than others even though I was tightening them each gradually cross-wise like you would with tire lug nuts. So I’m going to be taking up Brownell’s on their no-hassle return policy and will try these instead.
So I did manage to get the scope mounted so I could at least use it this week at the range before returning the rings. Before that though I removed the lower from my rifle along with the bolt carrier mechanism so I could do an old-fashioned bore sighting to align the scope properly. I did consider ordering a laser bore sight, they weren’t that expensive, but I’m no gun smith and other than this one time I can’t think of any other use for it. Plus doing it the normal way wasn’t hard at all – I had to use a towel to elevate the barrel but after the second try placing it I had the target (set out at 15 yards) dead center in the barrel and adjusted the scope accordingly.
At the range, I first went to shoot at 100 yards. Above you can see me set up next to one of the metal support columns – the muzzle blast from the gun actually traveled up that cavity in the support and made the roof over my head vibrate with a loud metallic reverberating twaaannggg every time I shot. It was pretty cool I know this is going to sound stupid but I’m tempted to put my hand out in front, but to the side, of the barrel when someone shoots it so I can feel the muzzle blast. Like, I said – stupid. But tempting.
Aaannnyway, I started shooting and didn’t see my rounds on the target. After carefully studying the target through the spotting scope I finally noticed some holes way up to the left just barely on the target. Because the wind was coming from behind me at 15-20MPH it was hard at times to keep the scope steady enough to see the bullet holes. Once I realized where I was shooting though it was an easy process of measuring out the distance using my reticule and adjusting my windage/elevation turrets. The next couple of shots ended up where you see them in the image above. Once I was close enough to center I pulled the caps off my turrets and re-aligned them to zero so when I made adjustments at 200 yards next I could get right back to 100 yards easily. The scope has this Zero Stop capability, but I’ll only be adjusting between 100-200 yards so pointless to install it as I won’t be rotating either turret past the current zero.
Above are 3 target sheets from 200 yards, in order of them being shot. I had trouble adjusting my elevation for the first target, as there are only 4 rounds on paper and I shot 15. After that dealing with the wind was troublesome. I should have just held-off rather than fiddle with the windage turret but I did and ended up going too far right the second time and too far left the third time. Let’s not talk about my elevation – that’s probably all on my trigger and recoil control – which was pretty horrid this day for some reason. I really need a nice, calm day so I can’t blame the wind for all my troubles.
Even so, I had two clay pigeons set out flanking the target at 200 yards and managed to nick one of them after sending 5 rounds downrange. By this time however I was out of my 5.56 ammo so I had to take the partial victory. The rest of the clays I set out weren’t so lucky however, as the .22 was picking them off at 100 yards like nobody’s business:
It took two bullets to knock out just the center of this clay pigeon. I did it again several more times and during my last firing session, since by then I had run out of pigeons, I simply started to pick away at the fragments that were left. And even that didn’t prove to be much of a challenge! I hope one day I can learn to control the 5.56 as easily as the .22. Speaking of the clays, I ordered a bunch of holders for them, which weren’t cheap but did a good job – better than piling dirt behind them or propping them up with stakes. Faster, too, to replace them in the short time you have down range (especially when you have to trek out to 200 yards and back). Here’s a bunch I had set up for pistol shooting:
The only real problem with them was in loose dirt and high winds the clays will weathercock – and if the wind is coming from behind you that means they’ll present the narrowest part to you. Oh well, more of a challenge right? Although I ran through all my clays, unfortunately not all of them ended up getting shot:
So next trip, which will be sometime next month, I should have my new rings mounted and I’m also looking to find a good angle mount I can use to stick my laser sight next to my scope as well. Other than that, I need to see if it’s even possible to restock on ammunition.
There was a slight break in the rain/snow/cold/miserable weather we’ve been treated to this February so I took the opportunity to hit the range along with some friends. Since it was to be the first time they would be shooting most of these weapons at most of these ranges, I had thought to myself earlier that they were going to be popping their cherries. This immediately led me to the thought of going out and finding cherry mylar balloons to have inflated and posted out on the range for them to shoot at. Unfortunately I came up with this idea the day before so I couldn’t spend a lot of time looking around and had to settle for just regular red balloons – but the concept was still awesome. So back to the weather – as you can see above the clouds mostly dominated the day but the sun peeked through every now and again to warm things up. Temperatures hit the low 50′s and the rain that had lashed the area the previous night and early morning was gone by the time we got there. But the wind – owch! The forecast had called for moderate winds around 12mph but unfortunately we had to deal with winds of 15-20mph gusting up towards 30mph. The only break was the wind direction, which was out of the west, and the range is oriented east so it was to our backs mostly. Still, I had my pistol case open on the table and the wind nearly blew it off with all the guns still inside!
Setting up, I had trouble twisting the cap off my spotting scope. It’s a very thin cover with a ridged edge like a coin and I swear the last time I used it I had screwed it on lightly because I had this same issue last time I was at the range. I tried, one of my friends tried, but the damn thing just refused to twist off and you couldn’t get a good grip on it – even with my gloves, which have leather on the palms. I was ready to give up and do without it (which would have sucked) when I suddenly had the brilliant idea to take my GoPro camera mount off the windshield of my car and use the suction cup, which was just smaller than the lens cap. Once it was attached, the mount gave me more than enough leverage to apply the pressure needed to twist off the cap – which was still enough that I thought the cup was going to strip off! Needless to say, I’m not putting that damn cap back on again since the only time the scope is out of the bag its being used. No wonder when I was buying it the lens cap was the source of a negative user review.
The plan was to have both my friends start on the P22, then move to the larger P99, with posted targets at 15 yards and the balloon targets at 25 yards. We wanted to post the balloons at 15yds too but the wind blew them so low to the ground we had to move them back to the limit of ground targets. Even so, both my friends were able to pop the balloons on both pistols with only a few tries. Then they tore up the two 15yd targets. While they were on the P99 I set up the .22 bolt-action rifle and started to zero it back in for 50yds as I had adjusted my elevation out to 100yds last time I was shooting it and the difference in bullet drop is a good foot and a half. I set the elevation dial on the scope back towards where it was when I first got the rifle and started shooting, I had to dial it back a bit more before I hit the proper elevation. You can see the target below where I walked my shots down to the center of the target, not adjusting for windage.
Once I was dialed in I handed off the rifle to my friends and told them to just aim for the center of the balloon since the push of the wind was well within the dimensions of the balloon. The balloons were pretty great dynamic targets. I didn’t think to staple them to the posted targets so they would only wave a little bit – instead we staked them to the ground with about 2-3 feet of string so they were bouncing and swaying a good deal. You had to just sight in close to it and wait for the balloon to swing over the cross hairs. Despite the added challenge though both my friends nailed their balloons in a single clip of 5 rounds. I let them expend the rest of their clips on the posted target. Time was running short, so we immediately hopped onto the 5.56 at 100yds. I had one of them spot for me to make sure the scope was set then turned them loose. Again, within one clip the 100yd balloons were toast. One of my friends had trouble using the scope prone, and when she had the idea to use the bench to sit that worked out for her. I was spotting as she fired, looking at the 100yd balloon, and was dismayed to see that although she could use the scope now her shots were coming nowhere near the target, I couldn’t even see them through the scope. Then she announced she had hit it and I was confused until she told me she had been trying to take out the 200yd balloon!! Well, that explained a lot. She got plenty of congrats for nailing the balloon at 200yds, then sighted in a blew away the 100yd balloon easily. My other friend also had a 200yd balloon, but it was inadvertently popped as he was putting rounds into the 100yd posted target. Below is the 50yd posted target, the 100yd posted target and one remaining balloon, and you can barely make out the 200yd balloons. I kept forgetting to take better pictures while out on the range – that 400yd round trip walk takes quite a while!
My friends had to depart after that, so I took the last balloon and staked it out at 200 yards – this would be my first 200yd target. I set up behind the gun and scoped in – the wind had kicked up again and the balloon was bouncing all around back and forth and side to side – I knew I could wait for the wind to die down but that probably wasn’t going to happen any time soon so I put the cross hairs in the spot the balloon crossed most frequently and timed the shot as best I could for when the balloon was swinging towards the middle. I didn’t adjust for elevation, I was pretty sure at this range the bullet trajectory had flattened out enough for it not to matter. After the shot the balloon didn’t pop, but it did slowly bounce around less and less until it was lying out of sight on the ground. Did I actually hit it?? It had been posted out there for some time before I was able to take the shot and the temperature had been falling as the afternoon wore on so the gas in the balloons would contract. But it had still died down too quickly for compression to be the reason, though I wasn’t letting myself be sure until I was able to actually walk out there and see the hole in it. One shot, one kill!
For my last firing session I set up some clay pigeons at 25, 50 and 100yds. Twice it took me until the last round in my 15 round clip to nail two pigeons on my P99, and 7 rounds to nail the remaining 25yd one on my P22. The 5.56 was still set up so I took on the 100yd clays next and managed to nail on in 14 rounds. I sent a few after the second but gave up and was ready to switch over to the .22 bolt-action at 50yds when the cease-fire was called and my time was up. I also sent some 5.56 through the target I used earlier – below you can see a good example of how beneficial it is to have a spotter when you don’t have a lot of experience. The numbered holes are with my friend spotting for me, you can see how he guides me on target and I get a nice grouping. Then the rest of the holes around circled from when I was shooting on my own, having no clue where I was going, just aiming towards the center of the target.
Looking ahead, I have a single Wednesday afternoon late next month to try and make it out again and I may be able to sneak in a morning session on the weekends too. But besides just getting to the range with decent weather there’s still the ammo concern. I’m running low again and it’s still near impossible to find 5.56 and 9mm at any of the gun shops anywhere within reasonable driving distance :/
This past Saturday my buddy Sasha and I stopped by the local gun range that sells weapons to look for .22 rifles. He wanted another semi-auto assault rifle but I’ve always wanted to add a bolt-action rifle of some caliber to my armory. I figured since it’s useless to buy a bigger caliber to shoot a measly 200 yards I might as well go with a smaller .22 and end up saving money on ammo further down the road. 20 rounds of 5.56 ammo costs around $9 per box, and I have on previous occasions easily gone through 200 rounds of 5.56 in a single day at the range, which means $90-$100 of ammo. Meanwhile 200 rounds of .22 gets me barely halfway through a box of 500 rounds that cost me under $30. See what I’m getting at? With a .22 rifle I could split my attention, and thus my ammo consumption, during my range visits. Well it turns out that pretty much all caliber of assault rifles are back ordered all to shit with so much craziness going on about possible gun bans, so Sasha was out of luck. But I spotted a pretty nifty-looking bolt-action with a scope already mounted and checked it out. It turned out to be a CZ rifle, designed in the Czech Republic, and had a 3-9×32 Simmons optic that was crystal clear. I bought it right then and there but had to wait until Tuesday night for my background check to finally come back clean since there was so much demand things were back logged. In comparison, when I bought my assault rifle back in November all it took was a 5-minute phone call. Here’s what the range looks like these days – bare gun racks and piles of sold weapons (mine is the second from the top on the far right):
And yea, I said previously I was going to just buy a new .22 upper for my AR-15 rather than buy a whole new gun but this .22 was only $300 all told which is actually cheaper than the well-made .22 AR uppers and those are, you guessed it, back ordered half a year or more. Screw that!
So it was too late to get it Tuesday night but that was okay since Wednesday was shaping up to be a halfway-decent day to visit the outdoor range, with non-freezing temperatures and only moderate winds. The range is open 1-8pm on Wednesdays and I got there around 3:30, when temperatures peaked at 40°F and the wind was just starting its gradual decline to single-digit numbers although at that time it was still 10-15mph. Mostly down-range from my back but also blowing slightly cross-range quite often. I set up the target at 50 yards as I figured that was where the scope would probably be zeroed at, and got behind the weapon – prone position of course. I noticed right away the eye relief on the scope was a bit off, but it was just because the stock was longer than I was used to when handling the AR-15 so I forced myself to adopt a new position with the rifle and things worked out fine. I loaded the 5-round mag and slid the bolt forward, locking it down. Sighting in on the center of the target, I squeezed off a round. The trigger pull was silky smooth and the rifle made a satisfied POP! Recoil was negligible and I held my sight picture as I popped up the bolt lever, racked it back, then forward again and locked it down, chambering a new round. I can’t really explain it, but working the action on a bolt-action rifle just feels bad ass, even if it’s only a .22 caliber. I put two mags down range, one aimed at the 10 and another at the 9. Satisfied with my groupings at that the scope was indeed dialed in to 50 yards I dropped my cross hairs down to the 5 clay pigeons I had spread out on the ground, adjusted for wind by offsetting the cross hairs, and popped all 5 in a row. Well god damn.
Satisfied with the performance at 50 yards it was time to push out to 100. One of the big differences between this range trip and previous ones was a friend was able to join me today, which means I had a spotter. Now, I knew things would be better with a spotter but they were beyond better. It was awesome being able to know where every shot is going and adjust accordingly. Otherwise, I would shoot 3-round groups before adjusting, or shoot, check, shoot, check – each time having to get up from the weapon to look through the spotting scope. Now, with Bobby calling out my shots, I was able to stay on the weapon and adjust after each round. After we set the target up at 100 yards I got behind the weapon and aimed for the center of the target, telling Bobby to ignore my windage and tell me my elevation. I expected bullet drop but I actually shot about half a foot below the paper on my first shot! Gradually I walked the shots upwards, adjusting my scope elevation until I was on paper teasing around the bulls-eye level. Dialed in at last, I dropped my sights down and, this time adjusting my aim for windage, emptied a clip at the 5 clay pigeons lying on the ground, hitting 3 of them. Not too shabby.
We were having a ton of fun with the .22 but it was starting to get late – and cold – so I pulled out the Mossberg 5.56 and we got to work laying down the BOOM! at 100 yards. My scope for the AR-15 is actually less-powerful than what I have on my .22 – it’s only a 3-6x – so the target at 100 yards is smaller and more difficult to hit. Again, wind was the big culprit in taking my shots all over the paper but I did keep pretty much everything on paper at least. Established on paper, it was time to see if I could take out any of the clay pigeons laid out on the ground. I managed to blow away two, although I can’t remember how many rounds it took me. I think the first went with the first clip and the second with the third. After that both Bobby and I sent about 30 rounds down range trying to nail the third, and the little fucker just would. not. die. Looking through the spotting scope we could see the rounds kick up dirt all around the clay, and I even witnessed tall grass behind the pigeon get cut by the bullet whizzing overhead! The scope on my AR-15 has what’s called a mil-dot cross hair in the reticule (my .22 scope has a duplex) – see that first line of elevation above the center? If you put that on the top of the clay you would tend to shoot high. If you put it towards the bottom of the clay you would tend to shoot low. That little space between the line and the center was how fine a needle we were trying to thread.
We never got the little bastard. Here he is, laughing at us:
Note the metal stakes in the ground to the left and right – I grabbed these from the garage today because I was tired of using dirt to prop up the pigeons and having them mostly just fall over. These worked great at supporting the clays on the ground, even with the wind blowing around.
Bobby also has some guns, a Ruger pistol and a revolver, both .22 as well as a double-barrel shotgun – I didn’t think to ask what gauge. He set up a target at 25 yards and was popping several rounds down range when I decided to have a try myself, so I grabbed up my P22 and called out that I was aiming for the 1 and 3 on the left side of the target since he was going for the right side numbers. I aimed and squeezed off 10 rounds, emptying my clip. I then went over to the spotting scope and trained it on the target and burst out laughing. Sadly, despite my 10 rounds and however many Bobby had sent down (had to have been at least a dozen) there was exactly 1 hole in the entire target, which as you can see below is not small. Wow, hahaha. Epic fail. I mean sure, you generally shoot pistols at 25-50 feet, let alone 25 yards… but still! So that’s when Bobby broke out the shotgun and put plenty of holes in that target! He also managed to get some 9mm holes on there with my P99.
So it was another great trip to the range, made better with company this time around. Hope to bring out some more friends next time, and hope next time is soon but realistically probably will not be until closer to the end of the month thanks to the weather. I’m still looking at a new optic for my AR-15 so I can start punching out to 200 yards. I saw one or two people shooting at 200 today and didn’t think to go over and ask them what kind of scope they were using. Right now I’m looking at either a Nikon or a Leupold and will probably go with the Leupold but like having a good alternate to compare to.
I finally made it back out to the Fort Dix rifle range for the first time since last month, in some part because I’ve been rather busy but largely due to the trouble I’ve had finding .223 or 5.56 ammo to shoot out of my AR15. Not even kidding, it’s practically impossible to find a lot of the more common rifle/pistol ammunition thanks to all the craziness that’s been going on with gun advocacy and gun control since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. People are buying up ammo and weapons like there’s going to be no tomorrow. This is what I have seen every single week at the closest Dick’s sporting goods store to me since the last time I was at the range:
Completely empty shelves of .223/5.56 ammo. And calling around didn’t help much either. In fact the last trip to the range I didn’t even buy my ammo from Dick’s – instead I drove 45 minutes north to a smaller sporting store to buy 2 boxes of 100 5.56 rounds and it looked like they were pretty well stocked. When I called last week they told me not only were they still out of .223/5.56 but 9mm and even had trouble keeping .22LR in stock. Madness! However I caught a break just this past Thursday when I called the Dick’s up in Woodbridge to learn they had just got a shipment of 5.56 in that morning. I rushed up and was able to buy 6 boxes of 20 rounds for $8.99 each. You can only buy 6 boxes per ammo type per day so I called the next morning, found out they still had some and asked the guy to set aside 6 more for the hour it would take me to get up there. Once I picked up those six I called the Dick’s in East Brunswick and found out they had the cheap Remington 9mm in stock – I had been hunting around for those too! $14.99 for a box of 50 and I picked up three of those (the others they always had were $34.99 for a box of 50!). Finally I was stocked up and ready to go! But really, all this running around to find ammo is just exhausting and frustrating. I hope this doesn’t last much longer.
While today was supposed to be nice and sunny with a high of 50°F I was worried about the wind, which was forecast to be up to 17mph by early afternoon. I got to the range a little after 8am and just before they started their first firing session, and the wind already felt like it was around 8-10mph gusting up towards the teens. Plenty of friends said they wanted to join me this time out but almost all of them ended up sick. Stupid flu season. So I had no spotter and I knew that was going to be trouble. Sure enough after I post my target at 100yds and start sending rounds down range I check my spotting scope and don’t see any holes on the paper after a full clip. I can’t see the trace through my rifle scope and I have no idea where these rounds are going. My windage was set from my previous dope so I wasn’t zero’d and able to just shoot off-center. I had to aim to all sides of the target and see if I could make a hole in the paper to find out how I needed to adjust. It took me 20 rounds to get an idea of where I was shooting and 20 more before I was consistently on paper and around the center.
I was swapping back and forth between two targets. The one on the left has my best single shots, with one breaking into the center bulls eye. The one on the right has my best grouping, which are the three on paper far to the left (the one clipping the edge isn’t part of that group). I was purposefully aiming off-center to try and account for wind and ended up over compensating a lot. Despite the nasty wind, which ended up at close to 20mph by the time I decided to pack up, I’ll take a bulls eye shot and 1-inch grouping as a win for the day. I also managed to hole one of the clays on the ground at 100yds in only two shots. Still, I need to get a better zero on my scope so I can deal with wind properly next time. Hopefully I can find a day soon that has no wind or just a light breeze and rent one of the range’s rifle benches to get a proper zero at 100yds.
I took a couple of shots with my P22 and P99 at some clays on the ground at 20yds but the damn wind kept blowing them over!
Also this time out I remembered to bring a flag to stick over the target and help me get an idea of the wind down range. I noticed a hole in the center of a tab you could bend back at the top of my target. I don’t know if this it what it was meant for and the flag is just a Medieval Times banner I got years ago but it worked out really well!
Took a new livery of the Bell 222B out from Lincoln Park (N07) this morning. I knew the weather was hanging low and hazy but decided to see how it went and just turn around and cancel the flight if I needed to. Gotta love the price of virtual AVGas – nothing! I started the flight with something new – a rolling takeoff. Since the 222B has wheels I can taxi around and also takeoff sort of like an airplane by building up speed on the ground instead of lifting off vertically. I’ve never tried this before and I really had no idea what I was doing – it was a spur of the moment idea. I just throttled up a bit to get rolling then slowly increased throttle until I felt the nose dip as the wheels came off the ground. Then I overcompensated backwards on the stick because I was afraid of plowing nose-first into the runway. So I oscillated a bit up and down and swung left and right as I tried to compensate for the torque effect of the main rotor now that the wheels weren’t holding me straight. It’s easier to do when you’re taking off vertically because you can gradually add rudder (counter-torque as helicopter pilots call it since there’s no rudder like on a plane) as you add throttle (collective, to use chopper speak) – if you do that on the ground though you nose-wheel steer off the runway, heh. I made it up and out okay, but I’m going to do some reading up on how to do a proper rolling takeoff (and landing) to see about doing it better next time I have the chance.
Once airborne I was climbing into clouds almost immediately. They were thin, so as I approached them I was through them, but the whole layer extended for several miles and so I had trouble navigating while only catching glimpses of the roadway below. Plus I’m supposed to be flying VFR and not even supposed to be in a cloud at all. Luckily the virtual FAA is in my pocket Still, I got as low as I could without generating any noise complaints from residents and followed my route into the city. I noticed I was off when I realized I was approaching north of Teterboro airport, which meant I had followed Route 80 instead of Route 46, but no big deal it’s not like I filed a flight plan. So I hit the Hudson River at the GWB rather than further south towards the Intrepid aircraft carrier. By this time I had switched on my pitot heat as I had noticed my airspeed indicator read 0kts. I also switched on my engine de-ice just for good measure since I was over the water now.
I thought my approach to Wall Street heliport (KJRB) was pretty sloppy, but it actually turned out alright. I had meant to go straight-in from the Hudson River side and ended up swinging over the pier onto the East River side before landing from the little bay formed by the platform. It still looked good when I replayed the landing, so hey – whatever! I hovered early and nudged over the platform for my landing but didn’t futz around and touched down soft as a feather – HTR reported a landing speed of 0.7 feet per second. Booyah! My passengers might still have thrown up during the flight but at least I didn’t compress any spines on landing. I was again not too happy with my attitude performance during flight. I was up and down, up and down, up and down. The VSI needle hardly ever sat still.
Next I hopped into the other livery I left sitting at Newark Liberty (KEWR) and decided to head up the Hudson to the Haverstraw heliport (H43). Weather was much nicer over Newark, but I knew it was still hazy with low clouds back over the city and northwards. I meant to turn on my pitot heat during startup but again had to switch it on in-flight, which isn’t easy mind you. I have to use the mouse stick on my throttle since letting go of the cyclic isn’t an option when flying a helicopter. Even grabbing the cyclic with my left hand and mousing with my right I’m still taking eyes off the horizon and not being able to feel inertia means the helicopter can go a ways out of proper attitude very quickly while I’m trying to hit a switch that’s moving out from under my cursor as the virtual cockpit pitches and rolls with the aircraft.
Anyway, I was up at 1200 feet approaching the city since that’s in the airway for aircraft just flying through the area but again the clouds closed in and I had to drop down to about 550 feet instead. Didn’t run into any traffic though, literally or figuratively, so all was good. Once past the city and over the GWB the skies seemed to be clearing so I started to climb again and leveled off at 1000 feet. Once I hit the Tappan Zee Bridge though I slammed into another low wall of cloud and was forced to drop all the way to the deck. Thankfully I could just stay over the river and only buzz boats, not houses, but I was still at times only 150 feet off the water, zooming along at 130kts. It was pretty cool! I was afraid that the clouds were going to keep getting lower and turn into fog and I would have to turn around since the only approach into Haverstraw is visual, but luckily the cloud bank let up a bit and I was able to climb to almost 300 feet and get my bearings, spotting the heliport and making my approach. I messed up a bit on the landing and drifted off the grass onto the hard surface where I landed. Technically you’re supposed to land on the grass and taxi over to the hard surface. But dammit those trees around the small landing field freak me out. I still remember the time it took me three separate attempts to land the 206B here because I kept crashing into the blasted trees. Makes for a nice challenge though. Despite my drift I still landed less than 1 foot per second.
I was pleased this time out with my attitude during the flight – the helicopter was much more stable and I was able to hold my altitude much better while climbing and descending when needed without lifting my passengers from their seats or crushing them into their seats. Turning was better too but I still need to get used to pushing my nose down more as I begin the turn – the 222B climbs a lot more aggressively in the turn than the 206B does. Practice makes better and since my landings are all so awesome, I’m going to start doing even longer flights in the 222B. Which is cool since that’s what it’s for anyways!
At last, I made time to climb back into the good old 172 and head out from Trenton-Robbinsville (N87) up north to Lincoln Park (N07). I’ve been planning to do this for over a month now, ever since I finally finished off Lincoln Park back at the end of November last year. Today wasn’t the best weather for flying, but I’ve done too much fair weather flying lately and it was time to mix things up a little bit. A high layer of cloud scud around 9-10 thousand feet provided a nice ceiling and I wasn’t planning on going up above 2.5-3 thousand feet anyways. The route I plotted had me zig-zagging a bit but I wanted to do some VOR navigation and steer clear of any controlled airspace as well.
Flight started off a bit rocky as I chose the wrong runway for takeoff and ended up departing with a tail crosswind. Not fun, but I managed to get off the ground okay. Then once airborne I climbed towards my 2500′ cruise altitude and forgot to back off the throttle and start leveling out at 2000′, so I went close to 3000′ instead and had to climb back down to find 2500′ then trim for level flight. Still, while I was fighting for proper altitude I did manage to stay fairly well on-track towards my first VOR, especially since I had to fight a 20kt cross-wind trying to push me east. So I offset my heading about 30° to keep tracking straight along the radial I was on.
Once I reached the first VOR I tracked out west a bit farther than planned to pass over the Round Valley Reservoir, which looks like a crater lake and is a pretty cool visual feature I like to fly over when I can. After that I turned north again to track towards my last VOR. Now I had the wind mostly to my back so I was up towards 125kts ground speed and really zipping along. I was just thinking to myself how smooth the ride had been so far when things started getting bumpy. And then shortly thereafter started getting extremely bumpy. I had just installed the new AccuFeel 2.0 release for this flight and I’m pretty sure I have this to thank for really getting my pulse pounding as I was shaken and rattled for a good 5 minutes. It felt way longer! Still, despite the fact that I probably would have been in danger of losing my lunch had I been able to feel G-forces, I had throttled back to 50% as soon as the chop got severe and managed to hold my altitude and course fairly well. By the time I hit smooth air again I was only around 2700′. I circled the turbulence section of the vertical trail analysis below (click to see it in the larger version)
Once past my last VOR it was time to switch over to visual navigation and looking out my right window I easily spotted Route 23 and confirmed it by checking the charts and noting it passed just north of a readily-identifiable water body (the Charlloteburg Reservoir). Following that I had my eye out for the airport and couldn’t see it until it popped into view as it was hidden behind the ridgeline I was flying over. I could have made a straight-in approach as Runway 19 was in use but heard some incoming traffic on the multicom and decided to fly a full pattern to give them time to land and clear out. Rounding out on final I finally started to feel the effects of the crosswind as I came down towards the runway. I tried holding her aligned but just kept getting blown off to the side and literally at the last moment (stall horns were sounding!) I threw open the throttles and started to climb out and go around, pulling up flaps almost too late as the wind was blowing me into the trees and I wasn’t climbing fast enough to get over them. So that was a bit hairy. Coming around again the crosswinds of course hadn’t abated but I did line up with a proper crab angle to help offset and although I still had trouble and landed with no flare rather hard I stayed on the runway. You can see below just how askew I was climbing out over the east side of the airport!
Next up I’m thinking a new livery for the Bell 222B and taking her from here all the way down to the city, as that’ll be the longest flight I’ve flown in it so far.