Showing posts from January, 2006

VATSIM for practice with ATC

I tried out VATSIM for the first time today - it is a multiplayer Flight Sim setup that puts sim pilots in touch with real people acting as sim ATC (and vice-versa). The first flight I did was with text-only comms. It went ok, but flying the airplane on final, simulated or not, while trying to type a reply to ATC was a bit awkward. My second flight, later in the day, was voice-based and was much easier. I need to move my push-to-talk button to the yoke, but other than that it was much more enjoyable. I've wanted to get on VATSIM for a long time now and I'm glad I finally did it. The learning curve seemed a bit steep at first, but there was really little to it - 2 software installs and a little learning about how to use Squawkbox and the general operating procedures. It was worth the time investment and should serve as a handy way to practice ATC comms.

Getting checked out at PHF

With my flight school having recently closed it was time to get checked out to fly with another company's airplanes. I live about 30 minutes from PHF (Newport News) and I really like that airport so I went over to Rick Aviation to get checked out. It took almost 4 hours to get everything done, which included a 1 hour checkride and a 1 hour open-book written test. The checkride went fine, though we had some serious winds at altitude. They made the trip back from the practice area a long one. We did a landing at a small airport called Hummel and then did an "interesting" soft field takeoff when leaving. It was interesting b/c of gusty the winds. I learned a lot of new techniques from Tom, my checkout instructor, and plan to go back to PHF to fly some more, on my own. I doubt I'll fly out of there too often though since it is a little out of the way. I also noticed that they are building a new tower at PHF, which I was surprised by. I guess they are growing, which

A little time as safety pilot

Today I met a new pilot friend, Tom, out at JGG. The goal was to let him get a few approaches in while I acted as safety pilot. For those not familiar with the concept, I would essentially act as his eyes looking for traffic while Tom shot the approaches under the "hood". This lets him get IFR current and me learn a few new things from him about how he likes to shoot approaches. He shot the NDB into AKQ, which was the first time I have had the chance to see an ADF-based approach in action. Tom used the GPS as backup for the approach, which is certainly a good thing to do, being that ADF/NDBs are notoriously inaccurate. After shooting a nice approach there we headed up the West Point for the VOR-A and then used the VOR-B approach into JGG to get back home. We had to stay below a very sparse cloud layer during the approaches but they proved to be little factor. After we landed Tom was kind enough to let me take his airplane around the pattern to get some idea of how it

CH Products Yoke for PC Flight Sim'ing

For Christmas I got a CH Products Flight Sim Yoke , a fairly simple USB-based yoke for my PC. It worked right out of the box with a very simple installation process. I fired up MS Flight Sim after installing the yoke and was up and flying in no time. The buttons were setup to good defaults, with the 2 "panel" toggle switches setup to raise/lower the gear or raise/lower flaps. It also has a elevator trim wheel and plenty of hats and buttons. I soon realized that I didn't have a control setup for the rudder, but there was a pair of buttons on the right top of the yoke for rudder trim. I found that using the trim was plenty good enough to keep me on the runway on takeoff. All in all it is a nice device, not super high levels of quality but definitely worth its cost. Being a yoke, it gives a better "general aviation" feel than the joysticks I have used for the last 15 years on flight sims. Since I also have the excellent thrustmaster Cougar HOTAS, I am contemp