So the weather was a bit rough today, cloud ceiling as low as 800 feet in some areas and no higher than 1500′ pretty much everywhere. I’m still not ready to bother with IFR procedures so I took the easy way out and climbed into the helicopter so I could stay VFR and be comfortable flying at only 500 feet. Luckily N81, the airport I landed at last time, supports helicopter operations so I was able to secure one for my trip.
Two new things I used on this trip:
- FSRecorder - I finally remembered to install and set up FSRecorder, which lets me record flight data to play back later. The idea for me is this way I can fly the flight, and then afterwards play it back and skip through to snap photos for my blog post later on. It’s hard sometimes (pretty much all the time in a helicopter) to fly the aircraft and snap a cool external shot at the same time, and I never want to pause the sim since I fly in real time. I will have to troubleshoot it however since when I played back my flight the Dodosim would not activate the blade animation, so I had a flying helicopter with no spinning rotors. Hence, no flight gallery for this entry!
- Fullscreen windowed mode - now this is really cool. I fly in windowed mode because I have to use my other monitors sometimes to move my flight map or scroll my flight plan text file, and if I were to do that while the game was in fullscreen mode, the whole window would minimize. The downside to windowed mode, however, is that you have to see the titlebar up at the top of the screen. Well this thread on the AVSIM forums pointed me to an AutoHotkey script that resizes the window to match your screen resolution and hide the titlebar off the top of the display. Works like charm! I had gotten used to the titlebar but it’s still nice to have it gone.
Here is the flight plan for this trip.
Things started out okay, I was on the tarmac going through my start-up checklist at a little after 3pm, on time for a 3:30 departure. I ended up ready to go at around 3:15 so I had the smart idea of hover taxiing to the runway for takeoff rather than departing straight out. Well the taxi part went okay up until I came to the hold short line and remembered I would need to stop before entering the runway. But I was going to fast and when I tried an abrupt landing I ended up coming down a bit too hard.
So yea I had to run through the start-up procedure again and, not about to let my previous failure get the best of me, I hover taxied once more and remembered to slow down as I approached the hold short line. I ended up landing behind a Maule waiting for a Piper Cub to come in for a landing. He announced 5 miles but this is a Cub, not an Archer and so of course he was poking along probably at like 55kts at best. So I throttled down and waited. By the time the Cub was 2 miles out the Maule ahead of me timed out and disappeared off the taxiway, lol. By then there was no time to taxi on and depart so I just had to keep on waiting for the Cub to finally fly by on final. I taxied onto the runway and ran through my takeoff checklist and then departed to get out of the way of another Piper 7 miles behind me.
My first leg had me intercepting a radial from the Cedar Lake VOR, however after I reloaded post-crash it seems I forgot to set the HSI arrow to the proper radial. I didn’t realize this until I was practically atop the VOR so I had to circle a bit to get properly oriented and heading north to intercept the Turnpike as planned. I was a bit disoriented flying so low, it’s not as easy to pick out landmarks on the ground, but when I reached the Turnpike the 4 lanes was easily recognizable and I turned to follow it. About halfway up the Turnpike to N87 I started getting a bit impatient so I upped my speed from 80kts to 100kts – the good thing about 80kts is that it’s very easy to hold your attitude as you cruise along. At 100kts you need to pay very close attention to the position of your flight controls and the effect they are having on the craft. Your eyes are pretty much glued to the VSI, with sparing glances to the other instruments (mainly the altimeter) and out the window. Just glancing down to check the DME was a chore.
I circled over N87, which is a newly-finished airport I modeled, then caught another radial, this time from Robbinsville VOR, to lead me out to KBLM. I kept my speed up and managed a decent approach as I came over the airport, electing to fly straight in for the helipad rather than land on the runway and hover taxi in. Despite an approach that was, in my opinion, very well done, I ended up futzing all over the place trying to get the aircraft on the ground *sigh*. I finally managed to get on the pad (which is huge at this airport, BTW) and run through my shut-down checklist.
Overall I managed to keep my altitude +/- 100 of 500′, although there were times I took too much pressure off the stick and ended up as high as 700′ within seconds. Descending smoothly in the helicopter is difficult without inducing rotor slapping so I hate it whenever I rise too high. Besides the initial VOR snafu navigation was no problem. I added an item in my takeoff checklist to double-check I have all my nav/com instruments properly set. I also forgot to note my departure time and almost forgot to note my arrival time, so I added two more checklist items to make sure I don’t have to remember next time. I also re-ordered my start-up checklist, which had me checking fuel quantity before I toggled the master battery switch, so of course the fuel gauge wasn’t reading anything.
Weather-wise it was mainly rain here and there, plus some low-visibility (2-3nm) every now and then as well. Saw some lightning flashes light up my cockpit from behind as I flew towards Trenton, but that was about it. Winds weren’t that bad at all. Really it was just the low ceiling – I did have to swerve around a few clouds.
The reason I decided to fly back to KBLM was because the next two airfields I’m modeling this weekend are turf fields, so I plan to take out the 172 to visit them next weekend, return to KBLM and chopper back down to N81 to pick up the V35 and head out to N87 and KMIV.