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…