bag's Round-the-World Flight

Introduction | San Francisco to Honolulu | Honolulu to Wake Island | Wake Island to Guam | Guam to Manila | Manila to Bangkok | Bangkok to Calcutta | Calcutta to Karachi | Karachi to Kuwait | Kuwait to Cairo | Cairo to Rome | Rome to Paris | Paris to London | London to Keflavik | Keflavik to Goose Bay | Goose Bay to New York | New York to Chicago | Chicago to Oakland |


If you're running Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.1, I can whole-heartedly recommend Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.1: The Official Strategy Guide by Nick Dargahi (1996, Prima Publishing). This hefty book is intended to be a companion to the Pilot's Handbook provided by Microsoft. As a companion, Dargahi's book provides a wealth of background and supporting information, such as: However, by far the most interesting chapter in the book is Chapter 13: Around the World in 80 Hours, which provides a complete flight plan for a round-the-world flight with the Learjet. The chapter provides excellent information on flying the Learjet at high altitudes, fuel consumption, great-circle navigation, handling high-altitude descents, etc. The round-the-world flight comprises 17 legs, starting at San Francisco and returning to Oakland; all the way-points, flight levels and navaids are tabulated.

I embarked on Dargahi's round-the-world flight on January 31, 1996 and I'm planning on completing one or two legs each weekend. In the following paragraphs, I'll share some of my impressions and experiences in this adventure and a few tips I picked up along the way.

San Francisco to Honolulu

The first leg of the trip, a distance of 2,086 nautical miles, starts on Runway 28R at San Francisco International Airport. The cruising altitude is 45,000 feet. One thing I discovered is climbing to the cruising altitude without losing airspeed takes some practice.

To make the flight more interesting and to provide additional cockpit activity, I have all the Realism features enabled, including Airframe Damage from Stress. I later found that it is quite easy to self-destruct due to stress during a careless descent from 45,000 feet!

I have Reliability set for no equipment failures and I have Weather and Winds disabled. I'll learn to deal with these factors in a future flight!

For the first leg of the flight, the book provides extra detailed instructions on setting up the initial conditions, taking off, climbing to cruising altitude, making course corrections at way-points, finding the destination airport and bringing the plane down (safely!). I often referred back to these instructions in later legs.

The final approach to Honolulu is quite straightforward because the approach radial is closely aligned with the runway. I had only two problems on this leg:

Honolulu to Wake Island

The second leg is a distance of 2,003 nm at a cruising altitude of 45,000 feet. At the second-last waypoint (between FROTH and DUSKI), the longitude flips from West to East. By the way, how do these waypoint names come about?

To keep things running smoothly, I let the Autopilot keep the wings level and the altimeter set to the cruising altitude. Then I run the Simulation Speed up to 4x. If I deviate from the desired magnetic compass heading, I use the rudder (the twist action on the Microsoft SideWinder 3D Pro) to tweak the heading. When I center the rudder, the Autopilot wing-leveler automatically restores level flight. This scheme works quite well.

I initially tried using the Autopilot to hold the compass heading, but the aircraft would get into a left-to-right rocking motion as it continuously made course corrections. The wing leveler works better.

My final approach and landing at Wake Island was done in a single take! However, I do have difficulty lining up the runway. It is a skill I haven't quite mastered.

Wake Island to Guam

The 3rd leg of the trip is a distance of 1,371 nm at a lower cruising altitude of 43,000 feet.

While flying at cruising altitude, cockpit activity is now quite routine and many waypoints are passed without making a course correction. This allows me to make good time with the Simulation Speed at 4x. To keep a constant eye on my position, I keep the Global Positioning System turned on all the time. You do this by pressing Shift-Z twice.

A successful descent from 43,000 feet takes about 15 minutes. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to the VOR/DME indicator on the final approach to the airport. The VOR/DME will activate at 80 nm from the airport and if you don't begin the descent right away, you'll overfly the airport. That's what happened to me on my approach to Guam.

FS 5.1 (with CD-ROM) shows a couple of islands in the Guam group. So, I took the opportunity to circle the group at 5,000 feet and land from the opposite direction (toward the East). I made the landing in a single take again! But I'm still having trouble lining up the runway and coming to a final stop on the runway! Oh well, at least I landed in one piece...

Onwards and Upwards!

Guam to Manila

The 4th leg is a distance of 1,384 nm at a cruising altitude of 43,000 feet. If you're not familiar with geography and you don't already have your atlas out, now's a good time. My atlas has a two-page spread of the Pacific showing principal air routes. So what do you know... I'm actually following one!

Navigating from Guam to Manila was completely routine until I reached the final waypoint, JOMALIG, which has a VOR on 116.7 MHz. Oddly, the JOMALIG VOR didn't engage as expected. For that matter, neither did the Manila VOR on 113.8 MHz. What's going on here?

I decided to make a descent to check out the situation. As I passed through the clouds at 10,000 feet, I couldn't see any land in any direction! Yet, the map display said I should be right smack over the Philippines! And my atlas confirmed the software's coordinate. This was too weird, so I decided to fly a "search pattern" to try to locate the island. After a couple of passes, I had found nothing even though I was definitely at the proper coordinates.

Then it occurred to me to check my CD-ROM drive and sure enough... the Flight Simulator CD-ROM was NOT in the drive! Two valuable lessons were learned that day:

Manila to Bangkok

The 5th leg of the round-the-world flight is a distance of 1,137 nm at a cruising altitude of 43,000 feet. My method of course corrections using the rudder to tweak the Autopilot wing leveler worked very well and I flew the distance without trouble, until...

With the Autopilot off, as I was flying the descent into Bangkok, everything appeared OK except the aircraft response was rather critical. My descent profile caused me to overfly the airport, so I had to circle around. As I did so, I found the controls were very sensitive. I couldn't lock on the ILS (109.3 MHz) for Runway 21R and lining up the runway was impossible.

So, I circled around again... and again. And each time, I found I couldn't control the aircraft well enough to make a successful approach and landing. I crashed twice on the runway! The trip so far had been very routine, so what could be the problem?

Eventually, I discovered what the problem was: the Simulation Speed was still at 4x! Another valuable lesson was learned:

Bangkok to Calcutta

The 6th leg of the trip is a distance of 868 nm, the shortest so far. The cruising altitude is again 43,000 feet. I have started to keep the map display on screen so I can watch the passing parade of hills, lakes and islands. There is actually a fair amount to watch while crossing the Bay of Bengal, as compared to the blank expanse of ocean across the Pacific segments of the trip.

There were no "valuable lessons" learned on this leg, fortunately. However, I still have a great deal of difficulty making the final approach and getting lined up on the runway. It's some sort of spacial visualization problem I think!

If I'm having a lot of trouble locating the airport and lining up on the runway, I turn on the EFIS/CFPD (Electronic Flight Information System/Command Flight Path Display). Then, it is a fairly easy matter to fly through the rectangles projected onto the heads-up-display and land the aircraft. Even so, I have trouble trimming the aircraft so it stays on final approach. I'm wondering if it has anything to do with the joystick.

Calcutta to Karachi

The 7th leg of the trip, 1199 nm, was completed uneventfully on Mar 15, 1996, after a hiatus of several weeks. This was my best landing yet and I learned the importance of beginning the descent from 43,000 feet early.

Karachi to Kuwait

The 8th leg of the trip, 1225 nm, was also completed on Mar 15, 1996. I'm starting to use full flaps on take-off to make it shorter and slower. The departure from Karachi was in the late afternoon and as I approached the PUNEL waypoint, the sun began to set. Sunset is a fairly rapid process in Microsoft Flight Simulator and it wasn't long before I was in the complete darkness of night with the dull red glow of my instrument lights on.

This was my first serious night flight and my first attempt to land at night. It took 4 attempts. In the first two attempts, my descent was too fast or my airspeed was too high and the aircraft broke up in mid-air. You have to monitor everything carefully! And at night, you don't have a horizon to use as a guide -- everything is done by instruments.

On my 3rd attempt, I was within a mile of the runway but crashed in the desert! I had underflown the glidescope and was so busy trying to get aligned with the runway, I failed to pay attention to my altitude. CRUNCH!

Finally, on the 4th attempt, I decided to ignore the book and flight northward to the east of the airport until I picked up the 330-degree radial from the airport VOR. This radial would then bring me into good alignment with the runway at a much greater distance, giving me more time to fine-tune the approach. When the ILS kicked-in at 45 nm, I was already in good alignment and on the glidescope for the descent.

Even so, in this simulation, you can't see the runway until <10 nm out and the details don't materialize until you're only a couple of miles out. So, I was still doing quite a dance near the end trying to keep the OBI centered.

I can't say that my landing was smooth; I think some of the passengers will need dental work! But, I did get it down and refueled and ready for the next leg of this adventure. And I have a lot more respect for those commercial airline pilots who land the 737s on instruments at night!

Kuwait to Cairo

I completed the 9th leg of the trip, 976 nm, on Mar 16, 1996 with only one event.

While flying over the Red Sea, on approach to the SHARM EL SHEIKH waypoint at the tip of the Sanai Peninsula, my engines suddenly went dead. I assume this was a "flame-out", although I'm not clear on what that is exactly. Anyway, I lost a few thousand feet of altitude fumbling around to get the engines restarted!

Once the engines were back online, I completed the landing at Cairo without further trouble.

Cairo to Rome

Cairo to Rome, a distance of 1296 nm, was completed on Mar 17, 1996. This leg is complicated by the fact that there is no VOR at the Rome Fiumicino airport. Instead, there is an NDB on 345 KHz which you use to aim towards the airport in the final approach.

The other complication regards when to start the final descent from 43000 feet. The published flight plan has you fly 309-degrees to the PONZA VOR (114.6 MHz), then 313-degrees for 59 nm to the OSTIA VOR (114.9 MHz), then toward the NDB on 345 KHz for <10 nm. So when should you start the descent?

I decided that as soon as the OSTIA VOR came on (about 80 nm), I would have about 90 nm for descent. At the same time, I dialed in the Rome Fiumicino ILS for runway 34R (109.3 MHz) and found that the glidescope kicked in at about 50 nm out. So, I was able to make a smooth, long descent into the airport.

But don't depend on the runway localizer for runway 34R. This didn't kick-in until well after I could see the runway and get lined up visually. This localizer would make for a "close call" landing at night!

Rome to Paris

The 11th leg of the trip, a short 632 nm, from Rome to Paris was completed on Mar 19, 1996. This was a fairly straightforward process, except I had some trouble locating Orly Airport on the VOR. After circling around, the landing was made easily. Touchdown was shortly after 5pm.

Paris to London

The Paris-London leg is the shortest one on the trip, a mere 174 nm. The cruising altitude was still a hefty 35000 feet. At a simulation rate of 4x, I found the navigation hops to be too short. However, the landing at Heathrow went smoothly, just as the sun was setting and I had to turn my instrument lights on.

London to Keflavik

The 13th leg of the trip was also the 3rd leg completed in a single session on Mar 19, 1996. Since the distance was 1123 nm, the cruising altitude was 43000 feet. The book says the trip from London to Goose Bay could be completed in one go, but you should play it safe and refuel in Iceland.

This is an interesting leg involving a VOR radial cross-check. The plan is to be at W15 degrees longitude just as you cross the 175 degree radial from the INGO VOR (112.4 MHz). Unfortunately, the INGO VOR never kicked-in as I passed by. So I just maintained the same heading until I crossed the ALDAN waypoint and then picked up the VESTMANNAEYJAR NDB (375 kHz).

In order to pickup the ILS for runway 20, I had to circle around to the north side of the airport and then loop back, all the while maintaining a smooth descent. I could not find a DME at Keflavik, so calculating a descent rate was not possible. Luckily, I was able to pickup the glidescope from an adequate distance out to make the descent.

The landing was probably one of my best yet, and at night no less! But note: at night, it is difficult to see the refueling rectangle -- the yellow becomes grey and you don't see it on the ground in front of you until you're practically on top of it.

Keflavik to Goose Bay

I completed the 14th leg of the trip on March 20, 1996. It was a night flight from take-off to landing on this 1319 nm hop, from Iceland to Labrador. The polar route is interesting because you graze the southern tip of Greenland to use the PRINS CHRISTIAN SUND NDB (372 kHz) located there.

For some reason, the ILS on 109.9 MHz didn't work on my approach to Goose Bay, so I had to land strictly by the runway lights. Also, the refueling rectangle is inconveniently located near the far end of the longer of the two runways. In the dark, it took me several minutes and a couple of loops around the airport to find it! Despite these minor problems, it's good to be back in Canada, if only for this one stop-over enroute to New York!

Goose Bay to New York

After a few days off in Goose Bay, I resumed the trip on March 24, 1996 by flying the 1161 nm leg to New York's JFK Int'l, chalking up another 3.1 hours of night flying in the process.

This leg is navigated exclusively by VOR, from Sydney NS to Hampton NY. With the simulation speed at 4x and the relatively short distances between these VOR stations, I was quite busy in the cockpit flipping the dials on the NAV radios and trying to steer the proper courses. Fortunately, with so many VORs to choose from, great accuracy isn't required to reach the destination!

As near as I can tell and as incredible as it may seem, there are no runway glidescopes and localizers for JFK in Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.1 CD as it comes off the shelf. I suppose this is an incentive to buy the Microsoft New York Scenery add-on package. Anyway, without the full ILS at night, I'm rather clumsy! I botched my first approach to JFK by coming in too low and too slow. I had to circle around, over La Guardia and repeat the approach. This time I landed safely, if not a little off the mark, on runway 13L.

Finding the refueling quad at JFK at night is a challenge. From the control tower I must have looked like an idiot as I rambled about the taxiways and runways. The refueling quad is on the north side of runway 13L at about the midpoint.

New York to Chicago

I completed the 16th leg of the trip, from JFK to Chicago O'Hare, on April 10. The 709nm hop took just 2 hours, all at night. It was my best outing yet ... the landing on runway 04R was virtually perfect, using the OBI to get alignment.

Chicago to Oakland

On April 11, I completed the final leg of the round-the-world trip. I decided to set the time of day to "day" for this trip as I was expecting to see some scenery on approach to Oakland. The 1705 nm hop was completed in 5.6 hours. My only problem was the landing on Oakland runway 27R. For some reason, I had a lot of trouble getting my runway alignment and descent rate co-ordinated. It took four attempts. I guess I was nervous!

It was while flying this leg of my Flight Sim trip that I learned of the fatal crash of brave little Jessica Dubroff, who crashed shortly after take-off at Cheyenne, Wyoming, while attempting to become the youngest person to complete a trans-USA flight.

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