I’ve managed to squeeze in a few hours of flying and reading.
I’m surprised how interesting I am finding the descriptions of how the instruments, gyros etc. work. Understanding the mechanics behind the faces of the instruments really makes a difference to how you view the information they provide.
So far I’ve been reading about the basic instruments, preflight procedure and ground handling in detail, while on the simulator side I’ve been a bit less disciplined and taken the 172SP out for 5 short ‘introductory flights’, mainly pattern work and a little bit of getting my bearings for pilotage over the Auckland region.
The default X-Plane 11 Ardmore Airport is a ‘3-D’ one, plain but quite nice - the layout is reasonably accurate and the buildings are in the right places (they don’t look the same, of course).
I’d call it ‘functional’ rather than pretty but my framerates quite like the excessive tree pruning the Ardmore ground keepers in X-Plane have done:
The 172SP REP introduces a few extra things to the standard Cessna. Manual towing, walk-around checks, a maintenance log and various checklists are nice for immersion. It is also nice that the settings carry over from flight to flight - I’ll need to do an oil change after 50 hours and so on.
Judging from Youtube preflight videos, the POH and the Student Pilot’s Flight Manual (I’m going to call it “SPFM”) comments about preflight in general, the procedure is accurate, although not quite as detailed as in real life - still, going through the aircraft like this does add to the experience.
It is easy to flood the engine during start-up, but following the checklist guidance helped - a 1-2 second squirt of rich mixture with the auxiliary pump on does the trick.
I initially found the ground handling quite challenging - the Cessna seemed to want to wallow its nose all over the place from the smallest rudder inputs.
I removed all control dampening and that actually made things easier - the inputs required are still tiny, just thinking of the adjustment direction is enough, but it is manageable now. I’m comfortable with taxiing, but after a dozen or so takeoffs I’m still finding it a challenge to keep the nose on the runway centreline without slight over-correction during the takeoff acceleration.
Another feature modelled in REP is spark plug fouling: I assume this is something that a real-life pilot would learn about early on, but I had never heard about it before. For those who don’t know - spark plug fouling is when the firing tip of the spark plug becomes coated with lead(I think?) and at least in the REP Cessna seems to happen when your mixture is rich and your RPM is low.
It can be avoided by leaning the mixture aggressively during ground operations - I’m still in the process of learning this, as it seems to be a balancing act.
When taxiing slowly, I want to pull the throttle right down to idle, which causes fouling if the mixture is too rich or high EGT if mixture is too lean…but then I’m trying to minimise brake usage as well and braking with the RPM at 1000 seems like a good way to heat the brakes unnecessarily.
I’m sure a few lessons in a real aircraft will quickly teach me what the real deal is.
The run-up takes a little while but the oil temperature arrow creeps up after a while.
I did learn the importance of checking the oil pressure and temperature after start-up and before take-off when I tried a startup in a cold winter morning in Finland: I must have used the wrong kind of oil and the engine cut off in the take-off climb. I was in a climbing turn and had enough altitude to turn around to the adjacent runway - the deadstick landing was successful but I definitely learned something!
Next up I’ll keep reading through Part One and Two of the SPFM and set up a few basic lessons from the MSX book - ground reference maneuvers, coordinated turns and anticipating the compass lead / lag and so on.
Having a great time so far.