Thoughts on Flying the Big Iron

1 month 2 days ago #17534 by Westcoast
Thoughts on Flying the Big Iron There is a wide spectrum of interests among SPA pilots.  A lot seem to be primarily interested in “low and slow” flying in light (“GA”) aircraft.  This includes bush aircraft and such activities as the “RTMM” (Return to Misty Mooring) flights of amphibious aircraft.  This side of our “hobby” emphasizes VFR flights, minimal use of flight instrumentation for navigation and the development of “stick and rudder” skills.  It’s a lot about what you can see out the windscreen and what you can feel about the handling of the aircraft.  There is a continuous spectrum reaching from this end of the activity, through light GA aircraft for local flights, using instrumented landings, to commuter aircraft for flights lasting an hour or two (that’s where I have been for the last year or two) up to the “big Iron” end of the spectrum involving heavy, multiengine aircraft flying long distances with large passenger and/or cargo loads.  These aircraft have heavily automated flight control and navigation systems which are “managed” by the flight crew.  Over the twenty or so years I have been flying for/with SPA I have spent a good deal of time in each of these domains.  At various times I have been “current” (defined below) in very light bush aircraft (e.g., DHC-2) through multi-engine GA aircraft (Cessna 310, Beech B60), to multi-engine utility aircraft (DHC-6), to short range commuter aircraft (ERJ-145XR) to single aisle passenger jets (B737 NGX), to long range, and/or wide body aircraft (B767, B747, and. I hope, B777).  The pros and cons of each of these domains are numerous.  At the light end of the spectrum the aircraft are comparatively easy to learn and are usually employed for short flights with manually executed take offs and landings which occupy most of the flight time.  These are particularly useful if you just have an hour or two to spare and a good, manually controlled landing in a cross-wind is a satisfying accomplishment (and not that easy to master).  For those of you with good scenery add-ons, or flying MSFS, the visual aspects can be a real treat.  At the other end of the spectrum, a B747 flight from KJFK to RJAA takes more than all day, spent mostly on autopilot, much of it over-water, or at an altitude too high to provide much scenic interest.  At the same time, if you are flying a high-end aircraft simulation, you will have had to devote many hours to learning to manage the complex systems necessary to fly this aircraft.  And at that, you will know only a fraction of the knowledge required of the professionals qualified to fly these aircraft.In my experience, I can only maintain “currency” on one of these complex aircraft at a time.  In spite of their underlying similarities, the automated systems in both major families of aircraft (Boeing and Airbus) have to be learned for each specific aircraft, if you are not to have to stop every few minutes to research what to do next.  This means that I have to devote quite a few hours learning (not flying) each different aircraft before I can undertake to fly it competentlySo, over the past several years, I have gone from finishing my work on our ECON 2018 model, to developing the 387th Bomb Group project, to returning to flying the ECON mode flights out of the KMSP Hub.  To do this, with limited time at my disposal, I settled on the Feel There ERJ-135/145 model aircraft.  This is basically a Cat II aircraft carrying up to about 50 passengers.  It’s fine for the Cat II flights John has provided for the KMSP Econ Hub and I have reached the point where I know the check list by heart (that saves a lot of time) and this model performs uniformly and flawlessly. This is emphatically NOT TRUE for all payware aircraft. While there are challenges from time to time, I derive a lot of satisfaction from executing a flight well and earning a few bucks for my ECON mode airline. However, to effectively compete in the ECON airline contest, I really need a good Cat III or Cat IV aircraft, as heavier aircraft carry more passengers and cargo and earn (or lose) proportionally more money.  At first I tried a payware CRJ-700 aircraft (which shall remain nameless) which did not perform reliably or predictably, so I scrapped that.  The next candidate is the Aerosoft A318 (Cat IV).  I am familiar with Aerosoft aircraft.  They are dependably very realistic and reliable, though complex.  But it seems every time I have an hour or two to devote to flight sim, I would rather spend it flying the ERJ-135, than going through the many pages of the A318 tutorial flight, much as I know that it will pay big dividends at the end.  I’ll get there soon, I hope. Which brings me for the motivation for starting this long-winded piece in the first place.  It’s the latest video from the Blancolirio channel on YouTube (
).  It’s about an American Airlines B777-200, which lost an engine shortly after takeoff from Buenos Aires enroute Miami.  All ended well, but Juan, who is currently an active B777 First Officer, talks about how well the crew handled the emergency, resulting in a safe landing back at Rwy11 about 10 or 12 minutes after takeoff.  I am reminded that prudent flight planning includes setting up before takeoff for an immediate return to the departure runway.  This means tuning the ILS with the required frequency and Rwy heading, calculating the required (overweight) landing distance and determining that the runway is long enough (or dumping fuel), etc.  I remember that I used to do this for all my simulated passenger flights, just because I knew it had to be standard procedure.  But I don’t do it anymore, because I know I’m not going to lose an engine on takeoff.  Likewise, I haven’t spent the time to learn or practice the procedure necessary to plan and quickly execute a diversion to the best available nearby airport in case of an inflight emergency.  Again, I know there won’t be an emergency, so why bother.  How many of us select and plan for an alternate destination based on the TAF for our intended destination?  Should we be setting up our flight sim program for unexpected failures.  When I bought the PMDG 737 NGX, I bought the complete set of Boeing manuals that come with the aircraft, including all the checklists and the QRC.Am I the only one at SPA who has even considered these issues? Mike

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4 weeks 12 hours ago #17536 by Oswald
Hi Mike,

you exactly raised a central point why I like flying with SPA - apart from hearing and reading from nice people. SPA is as far as I know the only VA available for Flightgear pilots to cover the whole spectrum of (semi) professional flying - from airport hopping in the 48 states to bush flights to charter flying, further to commuter, regional, continental and intercontinental flying. My personal interest in flying is very widespread and I'd love to look into flying beyond the odd 200 to 400 nm flights. After having done quite a few flights with DHC8 (Q100 and Q400), in Flightgear the next aircraft would be the A320. This is very highly developed in FG and you would need very much work to learn to plan, check and fly with the aircraft - additionally, in the end flights would be considerably longer.

I near future I just won't have the time and personal resources to do anything like that. Therefore I am very happy with the smaller birds, which are carrying there own challenges. I am very greatful to John and Larry that they give us tasks to fulfil again and again. After a very rewarding and long lasting "charter" flight with the Aerostar and 5 Pax around the world, delivering aid stuff to flooded Florida with the tricky PC-6 will be the next thing to do. After years of non-use of the PC 6 it was quite an issue to relearn to fly it without spilling my precious cargo. New aircraft developments in the last year needed to be tested, weighed against the old version, decisions whether a newer Cessna 208b might be preferable or an ancient DHC2 Beaver.
In open source Flightgear, an extra pleasure is to keep in touch with the developers while testing new aircraft versions. All these issues fit perfectly into interesting flightsim evenings and I love to have flight challenges with SPA instead of just fluttering about without flying targets.

The Big Iron will be far beyond my abilities for time to come (though, interestingly, I am "fleet captain" ), the smaller stuff is quite my thing.
Thanks for bringing this up, Mike!


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4 weeks 8 hours ago #17538 by Westcoast
Thanks for your reply Oswald. It's great to get some feedback. I understand the constraints you are working under, as they often apply to me too. I've been spending a little more time flight simming recently which has allowed me to move up to the Cat II - Cat III range, but I hope to get back to Cat IV/V/VI sometime this winter.


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