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Air Badger Guest

Morning Pilots!

I’d just like to post a big thankyou to “ARD-DC” for his ongoing and comprehensive help in making this Badger a little more informed as he sits scratching his head in the cockpit of his Cessna.

After a number of extremely helpful emails, “ARD” set me a small flight challenge to help orientate me with the workings of VOR. Taking off from Southampton International (EGHI) and landing at Gatwick (EGKK) via VOR Stations at Goodwood, Midhurst and Mayfield. So I thought I’d throw together a quick post to share with you all how I got on.

Starting at a small gate in Southampton international (and in fact finishing at one at Gatwick) I realized later that I’d already goofed in the realism stakes. My little Cessna would be in a parking area I suspect, not at a gate. Ah well.. No biggie, I won’t tell if you don’t.

My initial thought as I sat at the gate at 9:30am was that it was a little too quiet. I’d hoped to see lots of other aircraft bustling about as a result of my investment in “Traffic 2005”. But then I remembered reading in the manual that the traffic takes a little while to build up at the start of a flight.

I wasn’t completely alone though. One wing of a fellow Cessna was in evidence, just peeking around the corner of the terminal building and right next to me was parked something rather ugly!

Not being much of an authority on aeroplane makes and models in general I hadn’t seen this type before and couldn’t identify it. FS9 of course doesn’t label anything that’s not on the move, so I had no help there.

From the side the body with “” painted boldly across, looked like that of a small jet airliner, but this impression was then confounded by wings that went across the top of the fuselage just like my Cessna and with a single propeller engine mounted on each. Then from behind I noticed that the body actually bulged with a flat bottom in the middle of the aircraft, giving it a most ungainly look.

I’ve always been a fan of ugly cars. Cars with a little more character than the standard fare of streamlined edges and smooth lines and it seems the same is true of planes as I found myself warming toward this ugly duckling and couldn’t resist a little extra curricular research to discover what it was.

Well it turned out to be part of an Airline called “Aurigny Air Services”. (The clue was in the title then!) A company based in Guernsey and with a fleet including three different types of aircraft, this one being the ATR 72-200 and shockingly also the looker of the bunch!

I was pleased to note that Southampton was listed on their website as being one of its flight destinations though. It’s often the little nods toward the authentic which make you smile don’t you think?

Enough feeding of the inner nerd though, it was time to take to the skies and set this navigation challenge in motion.

Before contacting Southampton Ground to request taxi, I spent a few seconds looking at the map to establish my direction of takeoff (geography not being one of my strong points) and decided to request departure to the East. All taxiing instructions sound complicated to me regardless of where I’m sitting and having been told which way to go I turned on progressive taxi, only to quickly feel a fool as on reaching the runway I realized that there was only the one!

During the climb to “ARDs” suggested cruising height of 3500 feet (suggested for sake of realism, though I haven’t looked up why that is yet.) I tuned in the Nav one radio to 114.75 for Goodwood VOR and wondered again why only last week I couldn’t work out how to do this!

It’s not that the information isn’t right there in the learning center, it’s just that it’s so dry and disjointed, as well as separated from its partner in crime “Rotating the OBS dial”! Two items which should be presented side by side as part of one “how to” article, presented in step by step “as you fly” fashion.
Patting myself on the back for managing to level out within a few feet of 3500, (yes I’m afraid I am that green) I throttled back to 2100rpm which slowed me to about 89 knots , before beginning a leisurely right turn to 109 degrees.

Ouch but my turning skills are rubbish! It’s no wonder Rod the instructor keeps ending my “Steep Turns” lesson prematurely. It’s hard enough to bring the plane accurately to an easy heading of say 360, 90, 180, or 270 degrees. But when you’re talking about trying to roll out on something like 109?? It was pretty much a case of left a bit, right a bit for the next few seconds before I was about right.

I managed to bring it into the groove in the end though and was rewarded by the digital indication that the miles between myself and Goodwood were shrinking by the moment. But my good mood was cut short by the double blow of;

a/ Realizing that during all the tom foolery of trying to get on the right heading I’d managed to descend to 3300ft, thus demonstrating once again my complete lack of control over the aircraft.
b/ Spotting the fact as I closed on Goodwood, that my VOR needle wasn’t doing anything remotely useful, thus highlighting the fact that although I’m sure I now understand the basic principle of the thing, I still can’t set the bugger!

I think the problem is as simple as my not being able to properly read and use the compass. I’m fine when it comes to the big main headings in fat bold letters, but fiddling around with those little five and ten degree lines inbetween makes me stop and think for far too long than can possibly be good for my aching head.

I can just about manage the main heading compass when it comes to physically turning the aircraft, but the problem is compounded when it comes to rotating the VOR dial, because the markings on that are just not as distinct as the main one. The degree tick line thingies are not as clear.

I’ve no idea how I’ll ever be able to set the thing accurately, because even when I manage to pull the correct way to turn the dial out from the depths of my Neanderthal brain, I’m still only ever going to be relying on my best guess without some kind of accompanying digital indicator to tell me exactly where I’ve put it.

Rebounding from this disappointment I consoled myself with the knowledge that one way or the other I was definitely tuned into the right VOR and heading toward it. So I started listening to its Morse code identifier and checking to see whether I could reconcile it with the information given on the map.

At first it was just a noise, but I had a few miles to go yet before Goodwood, so I persevered and eventually the dots and dashes began to make a kind of sense in my head. Finally I decided I was ready to commit my take on what I heard to paper and was gratified to find on checking that I was only out by one dash which should have been a dot.

Far quicker than I expected and with the sea dominating the view through my forward and right hand cabin windows, I was over Goodwood. Or at least just under a mile away from it and I decided to make my turn now rather than bother waiting on a needle which I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make sense of.

Coming left and holding my altitude a little better this time, I turned to the business of working out where 028 degrees was on the compass, eventually working it out and heading toward Midhurst, while putting the sea to my back while tuning Nav 1 to 114.00 and noting with satisfaction the mile counter beginning its relentless march toward my new destination.

Idly taking in the view around me I started to speculate as to just how much some scenery add-ons might affect the performance of this vanilla installation of FS9. I’ve not had a PC for over a year and a half now and this one kindly donated to me, whilst not current spec, is still the most powerful I’ve ever had. I don’t even know its specs, but I know it handles FS9 beautifully so far. My flying is nice and smooth and I find myself torn between the satisfaction and enjoyment to be had from a machine easily handling the load, v’s the thought of some nicer scenery and perhaps a few detailed airports.

Putting such speculation behind me I turned again to the Morse identifier and this time I found myself bang on the money first time! “Dash Dash Dot Dot Dash Dot Dot” Its repeating signal was shorter and more to the point than Goodwoods rambling monologue and perhaps for this reason I had no problem confirming what I was hearing against the details on the map.

The VOR needle looked a little more reasonable this time, but any thoughts of my having cracked it were dashed as it went chicken oriental at about 2.7 miles out.

Giving it up as a bad job I turned my attention instead to my next heading and at that point I had a brain freeze! 099 Degrees?? Where on earth is that on the dial??!! Left? No it must be right! Think about it man, logically it has to be right!! Finally I managed to shake myself free of this mental half nelson by reminding myself that east is 90 degrees, so it follows that I need to roll out just before the second tick after east on the compass!

Making the right turn with no regard what so ever for altitude, I was shocked to discover that I actually managed to hold what I had! Brilliant, now we’re relying on dumb luck for our turns!

Tuning to 117.90 for Mayfield VOR I suddenly realized that completed in a timely fashion this turn would have seen me gently grazing Gatwicks air space on my way east to Mayfield. But with all the monkeying about I was going to cut right across a big fat chunk of it instead!

I wondered if I should contact Gatwick Tower and request a transit of their air space. After all I was going to be asking to land there shortly… did I really need to bother them twice? What if the ATC was so busy answering my stupid transit request, that his attention was diverted away from two Jumbo’s which were in imminent danger of colliding! Then hundreds die in a burning fireball and it’s my fault do you hear? ALL MY FAULT!!!!!

Meh.. What the hell! They picked a bad day to travel!

Tuning in the radio I made the request and was given permission and told to handle my own navigation. I’ll really have to look up those different transit types…”D-Class Transit” “A-Class Transit” etc to see what they all mean.

Making a complete hash of identifying the Morse code signal this time, I contented myself instead with watching Gatwick slide slowly by on my left and nursing a grin as I was able to listen to the radio chatter from aircraft coming and going and then actually match it up with the takeoffs and landings I was actually seeing! Little things please little minds eh? Sorry..guilty as charged!

Reaching Mayfield I struggled with another funky heading change to 307 degrees (ARD is just trying to make me look silly now I’m sure!!) and clumsily brought my long suffering Cessna around in a left turn which brought Gatwick into my front window 14 miles ahead.

At about eight miles out I contacted Gatwick Tower and requested a full stop landing ( I know what that one means folks.) and was directed to “enter traffic right for runway 8 right.” Which I took to mean enter the pattern by carrying on my course across the mouth of the runways, before making a left turn onto… is it the “downwind leg”? Then following the runway before coming left again beyond it… assuming by then I had landing permission.

Well I’m not sure that I got that quite right because as I was just about to pass the end of the runways, I heard permission to take off being given to somebody down there and sure enough as I began to “cross the road” as it were, I could see the aircraft in question starting it’s takeoff along the runway I was just passing.

Wondering just how good the AI ATC was, I questioned whether or not my flight was going to be cut short so very close to reaching my objective. What would happen with crash effects? An explosion? A Fireball? Or just a black screen and a “game over player one” message.

As the Jet Airliner (which I didn’t identify) tore into the sky behind me I realized that it was more my nerves than my tail feathers which had been burned. It all seemed a little too close for comfort as far as I was concerned, but perhaps that’s just how they do it.

On the other hand I found myself remembering a taxiing incident the other day at Heathrow, where a huge 747 (I think) pulled out in front of me, before being given instructions by ground control to stop where it was because I was on the taxi way. At which point as I was actually “behind him” I had to pull out and round to get by. Then I’m pretty sure he was also told to wait for a jet which was behind me, so which also had to maneuver around him!

As I turned left and paralleled the runway I sensed victory in the air and my mission objectives in the bag and I switched to the outside view to enjoy the living model of Gatwick going about its business below me. Then the tower contacted me, gave me permission to land on “8R” and told me to “follow in a Boeing 747 on finals.” Rotating the external view I looked over to my front left and sure enough there it was gracefully gliding down toward the runway. How cool is that? Look sorry.. but you’re all used to it by now and I’m easily pleased.

An ugly loop to the left brought the runway to my front window and after possibly the clumsiest (successful) landing I’ve managed so far, I found myself in one piece on the runway where as per instructions I taxied off as quickly as I could.

I was just going to contact ground for parking instructions when a 777 rolled by in front of me taxiing for the runway I’d just left for takeoff. I decided to stop and watch the action and was doubly pleased to find that he had to hold short for an Airbus A320 which was coming in at that moment.

Yup, there’s no doubt about it. I really am a sad case.

Conclusions of the flight?

Well for one thing I obviously still can’t turn for toffee! And I can’t read a compass either which is obviously going to be something of an obstacle if I can’t get a handle on it. Also unless I can get it right I’m never going to be able to properly rotate an OBS dial.

Where are the birds?? It struck me that I didn’t see any birds the whole time I was flying. Is FS9 set in a world where some bird apocalypse has take place and now the few of our feathered friends who are left live in caves and cower from the light!?

It would be really nice to be able to target other planes you see out there and switch to a rotatable external view of them, rather than having to accept them as impersonal dots in the distance with flight information hovering above them.

All in all great fun and a very satisfying couple of hours spent. I look forward to many more, especially once I manage to scrape my way through the flying lessons and into the cockpit of something with a little more sex appeal.

All the best


Answers 3 Answers

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Air-Head Guest

An Excellent read Badger!! sounds like a lot of fun too!

Really must be said, your a very talented writer, I can honestly say I was inspired and on the edge of my seat for the whole text...

You should consider writing a book on your adventures!!

Pro Member First Officer
ARD-DC First Officer

Wow mate, can you write ❗ Excellent story.

Congratulations on completing the flight, It sounds like you had a lot of fun.

And thank you for your kind words, although really, it's too much praise. 🙂

About you wondering about the addon scenery; take a look at what Gatwick Airport looks like in add-on version.

Pictures are with rather low graphic settings, as my PC unfortunately isn't capable of running FS with the best settings. On top of that, the quality degraded a little in the conversion into JPEG.

Gatwick 1
Gatwick 2
Gatwick 3

Speak soon 🙂

Air Badger Guest

Glad you enjoyed it chaps, as well as impressed you made it all the way to the end 🙂

I don’t think I quite have a “Badgers Bumper Book of Aviation Adventures” in me Air Head, but thank’s for the thought.

It was certainly a worth while adventure and great fun although it raised as many questions as answers. Have a look at “Wild VOR Hunting” for one of them. Wink

All the best


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