EPOCH Alaska Diary

Time to stretch the legs…coffee anyone?

BeachAV8R

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Hit a bit of weather in the south portion of Saskatchewan that reached up into the high 30s…thus I had to put the engine and wing anti-ice on as a precaution…

After an hour or so the weather was behind us and it is clear sailing for a bit…


Just a few miles from crossing YPE VOR (Peace River)…

BeachAV8R

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Now this is a useful link…!

http://avcams.faa.gov/index.php

BeachAV8R

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Just crossed Watson Lake VOR (YQH) - solid undercast, so not much sightseeing up here right now…


BeachAV8R

I’ve arrived…! 6+59 of actual flight time…whew…! I’ll post the full trip report tomorrow…I’m beat…! PANC - Anchorage, Alaska…

BeachAV8R

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After my flight from Asheville to Memphis, I make my way over to the FedEx ramp to hop my next flight leg. The VMAX Boeing 757 Professional Extended is about as good as aircraft come for X-Plane - it’s just fantastic in every way.

With tanks near full (roughly 80,000 lbs. of fuel) we head out for our long cross continent flight to PANC (Anchorage, Alaska)…

Climbout is slow over the urban sprawl of Memphis while we take up an initial heading to the north-northwest…

We arm the autothrottle and bump it up to 300 knots after passing through 10,000. Initial climb altitude will be FL300…

Once out of the terminal area, we head on course. Our FMC flight route is YPE YYE J515 YQH DB JOH.ELLAM4

The VMAX 757 cockpit is simply jaw-dropping…

As we head up north we cross into Iowa and the Dakotas, the farmland stretches in all directions. A bit of weather lays along portions of our route, but nothing severe…

Eventually the weather starts to build into our flight levels. We’ve climbed now to FL360 but we are skimming through some of the tops, so anti-ice comes on as a precaution…

Crossing into Saskatchewan the terrain changes from farmland to mostly forested areas…

Approaching Fort Nelson, B.C…

Soon we are crossing into Yukon territory. I try to catch a glimpse of Kluane Lake through the cloud deck - Silver City (CFQ5) is down there and I have a professional interest there…

Through the breaks in the clouds I can see the terrain is getting more and more rugged - and beautiful…!

My center fuel tank pump lights illuminate, letting me know that I’ve exhausted all of the fuel in the fuselage tanks…

The scenery just gets more and more beautiful. The mesh is enhanced by the awesome alpilotx HD Mesh

Approaching JOH VOR (Johnstone Point) it’s time to start a gradual descent. Not being very familiar with the area, I choose FL230, knowing that will keep me over the highest terrain in the area. The STAR suggests 12,000’ for the transition from JOH, so I know that elevation will be safe once I get past JOH…

Throughout the descent the scenery is just awesome. Glaciers, rugged peaks, valleys, passes… This is going to be awesome!

A bit of rain showers as I continue the descent. I wish I could point out landmarks, but I’m not familiar with the region yet…

Crossing JOH, I elect to fly direct to ENA VOR to fly the full transition to the ILS 7R at PANC. This will take me a bit out of the way, but it will get me established on final without any drama…

The scenery continues to unfold in front of us…

Soon we are past the mountains and over what looks to be coastal plains as we approach JOH…

After crossing JOH, we fly the long transition and get set up to intercept the ILS. The VMAX 757 is nice because you can control the left and right side instruments independently, so you can set the ILS on the flying pilot side, and keep the FMC map on the non-flying pilot side for reference and situational awareness…

Approach flaps going out…

We intercept the localizer and a dot below the glideslope we swing the gear…

The autopilot and autothrottles (set to around 150 or Vref+15) handle it all with no problems…

Through the murk the Ted Stevens International Airport / Anchorage (PANC) comes into view…

I’ve always loved the way the 757 looks in the landing configuration - the broad slotted flaps and outstretched main landing gear looking as much like the local Bald Eagle’s wings and talons…

Autopilot and autothrottles off…

Touchdown - spoilers and thrust reversers deploy…

As we roll out - I’m not super impressed with the Aerosoft PANC scenery. The airport structures and textures are fabulous, but they didn’t put any static aircraft! What a glaring omission! (I wonder if I can fix that somehow?)

I exit the runway, and taxi north toward the FedEx facility (again - empty!). As I pull into the stand, I sigh with relief. Amazingly, I’ve been able to run X-Plane and task switch all day (for nearly 12 hours!). Actual flight time in-sim is on the chronometer - 6 hours and 59 minutes! I land with 24,200 lbs. of fuel after having departed Memphis with about 80,000 lbs.- roughly $25,000 worth of fuel for this leg alone!

We pop the doors and I look out across the airport towards the Chugach Range…this is going to be an adventure! I’ve never been to Alaska in real life. I’ve never been north of Seattle. I gotta get there someday. I’m looking forward to meeting my hosts at EPOCH Alaska Air.

BeachAV8R

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Awesome!!!

And yes you can fix the glaring aircraft omission I think.

Xplane Airport Customization

Check that link out. It gives you an overview. I dont have the Aersoft scenery set so I cant verify if it would work. Maybe if I feel motivated I might set up a quick how to.

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Cool - I wonder if I can populate the airport with relatively low poly airplane models to give it a lived in look. I need to explore some of those utilities like X-Traffic or whatever as well. I sure would like to liven up my X-Plane world a bit…

BeachAV8R

You should be able too. X Scenery, I think thats what its called, gives you a bunch of stuff to place at airports in the WED program. Tons of aircraft ranging from 172s to 777s. I fly x plane without traffic so basically i just have static A/C on the ground. I hate the traffic system in X plane.

Man, that’s impressive!

Can you VATSIM on Xplane? Is there an equivalent? [runs to go google]

[edit: sweet! you can! http://www.vatsim.net/pilots/software re: xSquawkBox]

Is it bad I spent some time looking for bears on those Alaska weathercams! I think this site has spoiled me :slight_smile:

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Isn’t that a cool resource? I love how the FAA in Alaska thinks outside the box and actually does stuff like that. I think they are a bit more of the frontier style of enforcement too… I think I need to move to Alaska… :smiley:

BeachAV8R

After a nearly 7-hour flight yesterday, I spent the night in the EPOCH crash pad in Anchorage (PANC) before making my way back to the airport to hop another flight to the EPOCH main hub in Bethel (PABE). As luck would have it - a FlyJSims Boeing 737-200 in Alaska Air Cargo livery (by MB Liveries) was available for me to hop over to Bethel in. I can’t say enough good things about this B732 - it is an incredible aircraft for X-Plane with old school avionics and new school cockpit modeling. It is simply gorgeous and a joy to fly…

We carry a good load of cargo, no passengers, and enough fuel to make the trip to Bethel and back easily…

Our route will leave Anchorage (PANC) and pick up J501 off TED VOR, cross Sparrevohn VOR (SQA) enroute, then continue down J501 to Bethel VOR (BET). Since the 737-200 features old school avionics, we’ll be flying the route entirely with “green needles” on the Jet airways using our VOR radios.

After getting our engines up and running I start setting up the radios. We tune in 113.15 (TED) and set the J501 radial of 252 degrees. I also put the next VOR freq. in the standby (117.2 - SQA). Remember - the more work you do while sitting on the ramp and in dead moments of time, the less scrambling you will be doing later when it counts!

The FlyJSims 737-200 cockpit is a work of (functional) art…!

We taxi out to depart runway 15 since it is adjacent to the air cargo ramp. Our TOLD card shows our V-speeds and engine power setting (EPR) for our takeoff weight…

Throttles forward to the EPR setting and the virtual first officer calls out V1, VR, and V2… Off we go!

Aerosoft’s PANC does look great, despite the lack of static aircraft (I’m gonna fix that though!)…

Default X-Plane clouds and weather are quite good. I’m using real weather downloaded from current METARS and TAFS for my flying in Alaska to keep the challenge realistic…

The 737-200 flight director and autopilot panel is a joy to use. Simple, straight-forward, and allows for great control of the aircraft in all modes…

We hold 250 knots using the IAS hold (not an auto-throttle though…so remember it will pitch to maintain your commanded setting!) until breaking through 10K, then we accelerate up to 300 knots during the climb. Meanwhile we fly a heading to intercept J501…

Joining J501 in the climb away from Anchorage International…

Our initial climb and route takes us out over Cook Inlet as we climb through multiple cloud layers…

I set the pressurization controller to FL290 - our cruise altitude will be FL280 going westbound and set the cabin altitude to the recommended differential level for that altitude…

Through FL180 we go to 29.92" and our speed is settled on 300 knots as we climb toward our cruise of altitude of FL280. The altitude preselect is armed and we’ve captured our VOR course…

Through breaks in the clouds we see some spectacular scenery enroute… Soon, I’ll be winging my way VFR among some of those peaks! (If the interview goes alright!)

At FL280 I let the plane accelerate to Mach .78 then pull the power back to maintain that speed…

A really nice flight deck on this 737-200…

Again, being unfamiliar with the terrain I’m flying over, and not under ATC control, I elect to play conservatively. “Stay on the black lines on the chart, and you won’t run into anything…” said my CFI many, many years ago. So I check out the low enroute and see that the mileage break between SQA and BET occurs at around 92 miles. The MEA is 6000 until VIDDA intersection when it drops down to 3000 westbound. Thus, I start my descent at idle power over SQA VOR and settle at 6,000’ waiting for 40DME from Bethel…

At the mileage break, I switch to Bethel VOR and put the ILS 19R localizer frequency in the standby…

With multiple broken layers and the METAR reporting weather around the initial ILS approach altitude, I decide to stay on the “black lines” and shoot the full approach into Bethel…

At 40 miles, the enroute chart indicates I can descend further to 3,000’. I hit IAS hold and pull the power to idle to allow the nose to drop until we capture 3,000’…

Once we capture 3,000’, I set my heading bug to a right 90 degree turn in anticipation of starting the DME ARC to the ILS. I also set 1,800’ in the preselect but don’t disengage altitude hold yet. Now all I have to do is wait until a few miles from the ARC and hit HDG mode and IAS hold and pull the throttle to idle and the airplane will automagically turn and descend onto the arc…

Commencing the ILS DME Z RWY 19R. The reason I have to fly the ARC is that the ILS DME Y uses RNAV waypoints to establish on the ILS inbound course - something my -200 does not possess. That’s OK though, flying a DME ARC with an HSI and an RMI is a piece of cake…

We maintain a distance of 12 DME as we arc, keep the airspeed around 170 and start getting the aircraft dirty while we drop to the 1,800’ ARC altitude. Just keep the RMI needle off the wing and adjust your angles to widen or shallow the arc as necessary…

A few minutes later we’ve slowed to 145 and the 199 lead radial is indicating that we need to go ahead and turn inbound and switch frequencies to the ILS while monitoring the VOR course on the RMI (or the first officer HSI)…

As we make the turn, the ILS course comes alive. A sharp eyed reader will see a mistake here (that I catch about 30 second later)…

LOC captured, Glideslope armed and speed looks good…

At the initial approach altitude we are skimming through the bottom of the murk…

One dot below the glideslope…getting ready to capture…time to swing the gear…

We have the radar altimeter set to 200’ minimums and just prior we disengage the autopilot and hand fly the last few hundred feet…

With 6,400’ of runway, Bethel has plenty of room for the 737-200…

Spoilers, thrust reversers, and only minimal braking are required…

Pulling off the runway we clean up the aircraft and taxi to the ramp…

Elapsed time is 1+05 and we’ve only burned about 2300 lbs. of fuel…

Here we are! The green building is EPOCH’s operations building - wish me luck! (Beautiful EPOCH Bethel scenery available to registered users: HERE!)

BeachAV8R

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So what was the mistake? Guess I’m not sharp eyed. I’m not familiar with civilian jets. Do you use manual controls besides take off and landing?

Pretty interesting.

Well, the mistake was minor - and actually doesn’t affect the outcome even if I had not caught it. But when I set the inbound course on the HSI for the ILS - I was off by 10 degrees. You can see the difference (199 vs 189) in these two shots…

The good news is - the ILS inbound course is for reference only and it doesn’t actually matter what you put in the HSI because the airplane is only tracking a single beam and twisting the OBS does not change that frequency like it does when you are selecting a VOR station. It was just a small mistake, but when you brief the ILS several times, you should put the right inbound course in the HSI…

BeachAV8R

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Good news - I got the job! I guess the three days of stubble from lack of a shave didn’t count against me…! So the highlights:

1 - I’ll be based at King Ranch (AK59), one of EPOCHs specialty hubs for SAR training and other needs.

https://img.airnav.com/ap/29300.jpg?v=KMS96V

2 - I’ll fly occasional flights out of Valdez (PAVD) for revenue.

3 - I’ve got a house and hangar being built at Beaver Creek Air Park (CYXQ) - an EPOCH community!

4 - My personal aircraft is going to be the awesome Shade Tree Micro Aviation (STMA) PC-12 - probably a little rich for a lowly bush pilot, but this job is more about pursuing a lifelong dream than making a mint!

According to EPOCH management, my PC-12 will be available for pickup tomorrow (now today) at 0800 at Merrill field (PAMR) in Anchorage. It is scheduled to go into paint this evening…! Fortunately, I’ve managed to secure a ride back over to Anchorage from Bethel with a transient Canadian SAR aircraft. When they heard I might be based at King Ranch, they were more than happy to drop me off at PAMR.

We check the weather over at Merrill and they are indicating a few broken layers. Our Alenia C-27J (by Paolo) is not a true RNAV approach certified aircraft, so we’ll have to use a trick of the trade and file IFR to Anchorage International (PANC), shoot the approach there, then proceed VFR under the clouds to Merrill just a short distance beyond PANC. With a solid plan, we pour the power to it and get out of Bethel…

We are flying V319 eastbound over Sparrevohn VOR and then on to Anchorage, so I set up the HSI and NAV radios for that course…

The C-27J is a fantastic short field performer. We climb out of Bethel and turn eastbound, climbing initially up to 7,000’…

Sometimes part of SAR is just showing the flag…

As we head east the cloud cover gets a bit heavier toward the mid-point of the route…

As we approach Sparrevohn, we initial a climb to a higher altitude, necessitating turning on anti-ice measures as we get into some clouds…

We settle at 13,000’ for the flight past Sparrevohn due to the eastbound MEA on V319 of 12,000’. You could fly lower on the T-route but the 12,000 MEA assures both terrain clearance and navigation signal reliability.

Why such a high MEA? - THIS! Always pay attention to your charts (particularly in an area like Alaska with such widely varying terrain…)

We maintain 13,000 on V319 until we are 57 DME from TED VOR, at which point the MEA drops to 7,000 eastbound. The plan is to use the GPS to fly direct to AINKK waypoint, which is on the final approach course for the ILS 7L at Anchorage.

After shooting the ILS to 7L at PANC we plan to break out high enough to proceed VFR to Merrill Field…

At AINKK we swap back to green needles and pick up the ILS inbound to PANC…

As expected, the ceiling is high enough that we break out way early. We cancel our IFR approach and request VFR direct to Merrill…

As we approach Merrill, the Spartan drivers indicate we will land on runway 5 - a bit of a surprise to me. They want to show off the awesome short field capabilities of the C-27J and shoehorn it into the 2,000’ gravel strip…

I switch to the HUD view for the landing. Full flaps and we drag it in at around 95 knots…

PAMR by -bc- is absolutely stunning…

We aim for the very beginning of the gravel strip and keep speed right at minimum controllable…

Touchdown is firm and with very little flare - just get it on the ground and save the finesse for longer runways!

Full reverse and braking brings us to a stop in just about 1,600 - plenty of room!

Fortunately the taxiways are just wide enough to accommodate the Spartan as we taxi to the Quebec transient parking area…

As stated, the airport is really nicely populated if your system can handle it…!

We round the corner and I spot my plane! The PC-12 is parked just off the transient area and is getting ready to get towed in for the repaint… Awesome!

My Candian hosts wish me luck with my new job and kindly feather the left prop to allow me to disembark (I could have gone down the tail ramp actually…)

I head down the stairs - eyes on my dream plane…

The Spartan heads back to runway 5 to demonstrate a short field takeoff and moments later they are winging their way eastbound toward their home base…

Many thanks for the ride fellas. Now I just have to wait for my Pilatus to get finished in paint and we’ll start the next phase of the journey… Thanks to -bc- and the other EPOCH pilots for the warm welcome and all the tips, suggestions, and guidance…

BeachAV8R

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Good morning! As promised, my PC-12 is out of the paint shop and ready to go. She looks gorgeous sitting at the transient ramp at Merrill Field…

Of course, after a repaint you should tear the plane apart on the preflight inspection. Having picked up planes from paint many times before, you have to check everything. Look for taped over ports, misrigged controls (particularly trim!), unsecured panels, and left over parts or tools. It isn’t unusual to read about planes coming out of the paint shop and running into problems on the first flight after…

The cold and dark Shade Tree Micro Aviation (STMA) PC-12. Time to go through the start procedure…

The panel is nice and includes some lightly modeled Garmin 530s, which is a relatively new addition to the STMA PC-12 - and a welcomed upgrade!

I plug in direct to Silver City (CFQ5) in the Yukon - my destination this morning. We will be flying IFR RNAV direct at FL230 to make sure we clear the very high terrain between us here in Anchorage and Silver City. Flight time should be around 1+24

Double check the trim tabs and control movements…

We taxi out to the 4,000’ long runway 7 at Merrill Field…

I take a look at the nearest weather reporting facility to Silver City (Burwash) and the weather looks like it is holding up, but I’m concerned about the multiple cloud layers and the forecast isn’t very good. There are no instrument approaches to Silver City, so weather is of prime concern…

Again, I can’t say enough good things about the Merrill Field scenery…

On the roll…

Positive rate…gear up…

Liftoff time is around 1000(L) and our tanks are full…

It doesn’t take long for the terrain to ramp up as we cross the first set of mountains east of Anchorage (Chugach I think?)…

I engage 150 knots airspeed hold and climb up to FL230 where we level off for the cruise. The PC12 sips gas burning just shy of 400 lbs./hour. I pull the power back to about 740 ITT to save a bit…

The wide expanse of wilderness in Alaska and Canada is just mind boggling…

The clouds remain a concern as I keep an eye on our destination reports…

Default X-Plane cloud layers are very well done. I’m surprised to see it even seems to do rising cloud decks of some sort…really nice (if only their performance was a bit better!)…

As we approach Silver City, we have to stay really high due to the terrain west of the field. It leaves you looking at a bit of a slam dunk approach to go from the 20s down to a few thousand feet…

About 30 miles out I start a descent to 5,000 my hitting IAS hold and closing the throttle. As the clouds close in, I have second thoughts about that altitude and consult the local IFR chart to determine a safe MEA and settle on 11,000 to be safe…

As I get over top of Silver City airport the cloud decks are solid below. I know what is coming - ATC is going to want to know what the plan is. I’m trying to fly this EPOCH adventure according to real conditions and real rules (for the most part), so I know I can’t just go busting down through the clouds. I scramble and come up with the plan of proceeding up to Burwash on the airway to maintain terrain clearance. Meanwhile, I pull the power back to slow to 150 knots since I’m not in a hurry to fly away from the airport…

A look at the VFR map shows why stopping at 11,000 was a good idea - take a look at the terrain just west of the airport. And updated wx report for Burwash shows multiple scattered and broken layers. X-Plane just reads the current METAR and builds clouds and weather based on that, so I’m at the mercy of the real conditions and however X-Plane wants to interpret them…

As I fly slowly north there are some tantalizing holes in the clouds that are too small and close up too fast to take advantage of. Again, I could be illegal and just bump my nose over and descend through the clouds, but the rules are the rules…

Finally, after flying nearly up to Burwash, I start getting some nice size holes in the undercast and I quickly cancel IFR, disengage the autopilot, and swoop down through one of them. I’m confident in my position and the fact that I’m over the lake is good since there is plenty of room down there to maneuver…

The view is beautiful below the overcast and I continue the turn back around to the south and plug in direct to CFQ5 hoping the weather holds for the short sprint to Silver City…

After a few minutes, Silver City strip comes into view. I cross over and enter the right downwind to land on runway 36…

The gravel runway is cut out of the surrounding forest and is part of the Ultimate Glacier Pilot Adventure Package

Safely in Silver City! Elapsed time was about 1+33 and we used about 651 lbs. of fuel with nearly 3/4 fuel remaining. I’m happy the weather let me in or I’d have had to divert to Yakutat until conditions at Silver City came up…

BeachAV8R

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Loving these updates, Beach! Xplane looks beautiful, and that PC-12…wow!

Question: why was it “illegal” for you to drop through the clouds? I thought that’s what IFR was all about?

It would be illegal unless a controller cleared me to drop through the clouds - and in that (presumably) non-radar environment, the controlling agency up there would not probably not offer a decent unless you were on a prescribed route that had a minimum enroute altitude (MEA) - or, if you are in radar contact, they would have a Minimum Vectoring Altitude. Minimum Vectoring Altitudes can often be lower than the Minimum Sector Altitude…for instance, when you are getting vectored for an ILS approach in mountainous terrain, the local radar approach controller has a high enough resolution radar and coverage that he can take you down below the peaks. Where I was flying, there is no approach radar facility, and the center radar does not have the coverage to separate you from terrain. Therefore, they tend to only let you fly on courses and altitudes that are accepted as having enough terrain clearance.

Even though I was extremely certain of my position over the lake, it is still illegal for me to descend through the clouds, and a controller would not authorize it even if I asked for it. This can often be a dilemma for pilots who are under radar control that only need to squeak down a couple hundred more feet to get VFR - and can sometimes lead to poor decision-making by pilots trying to sneak in through a sucker hole or just “pop through” the undercast.

As we’ve noted before EP - sim flying and real world flying are two wholly different things. We tend to do riskier things in the sim and perhaps skirt the rules a bit for the sake of fun. It can also be rewarding to fly by the rules and face the types of conditions and decisions that real pilots sometimes come across.

BeachAV8R

http://forums.mudspike.com/uploads/default/original/1X/b6a8962c1d1df620b2aa8de9095bc76cceb26048.jpg

“On Canadian IFR High- and Low-Level charts, area minimum altitudes (AMA) are published for quadrangle areas, which provide a buffer beyond the VFR maximum elevation figure. The AMA is the lowest off-airway altitude to be used under instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) that will provide a minimum vertical clearance of 1,000 feet (AGL), or in designated mountainous terrain 2,000 feet above all obstacles located in the area specified, rounded up to the nearest 100 foot increment.”

Those are the Large/Small blue numbers in each quadrangle on that chart. As you can see, just west of Silver Creek the numbers is 150 - 15,000’ due (no doubt) to the 14,261’ peak in the bottom left of that quadrangle. That is a VFR chart, not an IFR one, so my guess is the IFR one has even higher numbers to meet that +2000’ requirement (and indeed it does - 181 or 18,100’):

So technically I was illegal in those sectors flying below 21,900’ and 18,100, and 11,300 respectively moving west to east if I was off airway (which I was). So I’ll need to file the equivalent of a Canada ASRS report…LOL

BeachAV8R

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