Mudspike Logistics - Diary of a Cargo Pilot

For more information on Air Hauler and X-Plane, check out our feature article on Mudspike.com

So today is the day. The grand opening of Mudspike Logistics. At the moment - one pilot, one aircraft. I might get a dog too, but for now, we are a one man show. With a Cessna 172 and $100,000 in startup capital, I’m going to try to build an air freight empire.

My base of operations is the small airport at Vernon, British Columbia (CYVK). It has asphalt, lights, and an NDB approach - what else could you possibly need?

I found a good deal at a nearby airport, so my first business transaction was to sell my Cessna 172 for around $92K and pick up a Cessna 172RG for $186K. Yeah - not cheap, but the 172RG takes me back to when I was first hauling freight in Myrtle Beach.

I only had to spend $10,000 of my startup capital to open my base at Vernon, so coupled with the purchase of the RG, I’m now a bit in the hole with a cash balance of ($4,058) - so I’d better get to work.

I tapped into the local freight market job listings and picked up my first flight - a nice easy run hauling 596 lbs. of shrimp on a short flight over to Kamloops (CYKA).

My RG is fairly lightly equipped with dual NAV/COMS and an ADF receiver. No GPS in the budget, so I’ll be mostly flying VFR when I can, and some IFR using VORs and NDBs. Three decades ago, the RG I flew contained the newest cutting edge technology - a LORAN-C! Given the rugged terrain, I’ve made sure to check out the weather reports for the departure and destination prior to accepting the job. All looks good.

I check my manifest, load up the RG, ensure I have enough fuel for the short leg, and fire up the engine.

My newly purchased RG has a zero time engine on it…sweet…!

A little bit of light haze…but for the Pacific Northwest - I think this is superb weather. I’m guessing it won’t be that way always…

Dialing in one of the Kamloops NDB frequencies and watching the needle swing to the bearing…

It’s been awhile since I’ve flown a piston single, so I consult the POH and set the manifold pressure, RPM, and lean it out to 50 degrees peak of lean…closing the cowl flaps on reaching cruise altitude of 6,000’…

The terrain is stunning with heavily forested slopes and beautiful rivers and lakes. It will be interesting to see how the landscape transforms in winter. As I fly northwest, I pick up the South Thompson River which will lead me directly the Kamloops airport. Visibility has improved and just a few clouds dot the sky…

Soon enough, the airport comes into view…

Gear down - three green, prop forward, mixture back towards rich.

Here we are!

What a nice airport - one of the vast area that I’ll be flying in that is covered by Tom Curtis’ Canadian Rockies, Inside Passage, and Final Frontier package. Eventually, I hope to make my way west into EPOCH Passage Aviation territory to start flying into some of those unique airfields frequented by my EPOCH Alaska Air friends.

I park on the ramp, set the brake, and shut off the engine. My first cargo haul is in the books!

I haven’t damaged anything, won’t need to pay for repairs, and the cargo arrived safely. With the money earned, I’m back in the black with $1,480 in my account. Time to start building this company!

I want a boat that drinks six, eats four, and sleeps two. - Ernest K. Gann

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did… did you just position yourself on cyka?

I did not take you for gopnik Beach, blyat.

Hey…I have my eyes on an AN-24 whenever I make enough money to buy it…!

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Who the hell needs that much Shrimp in Vernon?

Warren Buffet is holding a retreat there I heard…

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My plane still reeks of it.

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With our first flight in the books - it’s time to settle in and make some money. The goal, of course, is to keep earning money and reputation to build up the business and continuously upgrade aircraft and facilities.

For my next leg, I was planning to strike further west, however I was not presented with any flight contracts out of Kamloops with destinations further afield. So I pulled out my calculator and did some quick math and found that I could actually score a two-for-one flight by accepting two contracts back to my home base in Vernon.

A check of the weather verified that the VFR conditions were holding up for today - great news! I have to go with CYYF (Penticton) weather reports since Vernon does not issue METARS.

Time to load up the cargo and get going…

Though fuel is set in X-Plane, it doesn’t appear that cargo is - so I bumped up my cargo to match my load manifest + pilot…

Since we have good VFR today, I wanted to take the opportunity on the flight back to explore the region, so we’ll drop by Douglas Lake (CAL3) and put an eyeball on the field for future reference. We won’t land, just do a fly-over…

Getting ready to fire up in Kamloops - nice Canadian jet on a stick there…

A check of the flags verifies that I need to taxi to runway 9 for departure…

I did not have to buy fuel in Kamloops - having tankered in enough from Vernon the previous day…

Hey that’s a nice air tanker there - I wonder if I could buy it off them as a cargo plane later in my career? I could spray many tons of cocktail sauce on the residents of Kamloop that are currently buried under the near 500 lbs. of shrimp I delivered the previous day…

Of we go…

I pick up the 146 heading toward Douglas Lake and try to keep track of the geographic features as they go by and compare it to the VFR chart.

There are so many water features it is easy to get confused - which is why it is a good idea to get familiar with the flying area…

I also use NDB bearings to keep track of my location - soon we have the airstrip at Douglas Lake in sight and I fly over the field. The ADF points toward Vernon…

High terrain exists between Douglas Lake and Vernon, with the hills creeping up to near 7,000’…

As we fly into a new weather reporting area the visibility starts to drop as a bit more haze settles in…

For practice under VFR conditions, I elect to shoot the NDB approach to Vernon so that I can have the procedure clear in my mind for when I have to do it for real. I proceed to the NDB, track outbound, perform the procedure turn while descending and then turning inbound…

My vintage panel has a fixed card ADF, which means you have to spin it to match it to you heading, then you can more accurately read the bearing TO/FROM…

When I reduce power during the descent, the carb ice suspected message pops up. A bit of carb heat makes it go away…

I remember to turn the ADF receiver audio on while I shoot the approach…

Unfortunately, I butcher the portion of the approach from the final approach fix inbound…allowing myself to wander too far to the west while I’m fiddling with the fixed card rotation. I correct the wrong way and it is a pretty ugly NDB approach. Shameful because I’m a CFII…

It was a good reminder that these skills are perishable though…so I’ll have to practice more NDB approaches. Fortunately, I did remember to extend the gear though…

Another trip in the books and two more contracts fulfilled!

I’ll probably have to grab some fuel here at the home base before I accept another contract…getting a bit low…

It is a going to be steady progress - flight by flight…!

BeachAV8R

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Enroute to WN23 - Grand View, WA. I could really use a wing-leveler autopilot at the very least. :thinking:

Holy cow…what a beautiful route on V342 westbound toward Vancouver…

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I put down some miles today - three more contracts…and find myself RON in Astoria…

Pictures tomorrow!

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Nice job, fun read, looks like a very nice area to fly in, my air hauler 2 base is at KPAE a bit south of yours (my local airfield) , and I’ve only been accepting jobs in Washington and Oregon so far, but after seeing your screenshots I’ll have to start taking jobs in B.C. to check out the scenery up there. Hopefully P3D and Orbx PNW will do it justice.

Compared to you I feel spoiled GPS wise hauling in the PA44 with Flight1 GN750 installed… I suck at ILS approaches though so I would probably either get good at them or lose a plane everytime conditions didn’t allow for VFR if I didn’t have GPS and AP.

Great reading how you handle not having those luxories.

You’ve inspired me to grab Air Hauler for P3D. Fun to actually have a purpose.

Great read. I look forward to more of your adventures. Thanks

-Jeff

Ha…! That’s the very plane I’m planning on starting my AH2 campaign with (FSX). Love that bird. It is the closest thing I could find to the second aircraft I used to fly freight in - a Piper Lance.

Speaking of no-autopilot…last night was brutal. I stupidly accepted three contracts that would string out concurrently to take me all the way out to Astoria. The problem is, I didn’t look at the expiry on one of them…and it was only 8 hours away. It was 4AM, I’m exhausted from being up all day…but I had to finish two more hand flown legs (fortunately they were both 70 miles or less) because I couldn’t risk letting that one leg (the last one) expire and losing money and reputation. LOL…it felt a bit like a job!

Oh…and for some reason…outside of Tom’s scenery areas I wasn’t getting the add-on autogen that X-Plane Prefab airports (really, really cool free program) adds. I deleted my scenery.ini and let it rebuild and they are now working. Still scratching my head over that one.

Cool. I’m hoping to write up something on AH2 in the near future. Post up your progress!

Ah cool if you like that plane the Alabeo FSX/P3D version on sale now is awesome, of the 5 twins I bought in this sale from them, I think the PA44 is my favorite. I actually felt guilty taking a job hauling 500lbs of livestock to 2W3 in it lol. Ended up being a scary night flight imagining the stinky nervous chickens in back as Seattle control IFR routed me all over due to the proximity to KSEA traffic, still amazed I was able to land it at night with the plane and the chickens in one piece… I need to do the return trip but am going to route to the east and avoid KSEA on the way home.

I definitely agree with you on how AH adds a new purpose and urgency to flying, loving the new and unusual situations that I’m taking on just to get the cargo there on time, before it I usually just flew some favorite routes during daytime, but now I’m doing stuff I never would have tried but makes for memorable flights.

Looking forward to when my rep is high enough that I can take on passenger jobs, the PA44 will need a thorough cleaning when I refit it from cargo to passengers, probably some chicken crap back there from that trip.

Ha…! I too delivered some stinky chickens to a dinky place outside of Seattle WN23 (Sequim)…grass strip. I was praying that the weather would hold up because it is a VFR only airport. My plan if the wx went downhill was to shoot the ILS to Fairchild International (KCLM) and then break off the approach under the clouds and proceed VFR to WN23. I can’t shoot RNAV approaches in this 172RG…and WN23 doesn’t even have any approaches anyway.

I’m looking forward to checking out AH2 because it has some additional features (like checkrides or ratings rides or something?) that should make it even better than AH for X-Plane.

BeachAV8R

@Kludger - Man…I almost cried man tears when I downloaded and opened up the Alabeo Cessna 402 Titan for X-Plane tonight…

Let me indulge myself with a little story. Before I started flying for a living (ie: prior to earning my commercial certificate), I worked on the ramp fueling and tugging aircraft at North Myrtle Beach airport (CRE). I worked my butt off on that ramp in the oppressive heat of Myrtle Beach summers…and the cold chill of damp Myrtle Beach summers (admittedly not as bad as Canada I’ll give you). I’d often work from 5am til 10pm pulling doubles. All the while, while I was washing planes, fueling them, moving them…the freight pilots of the operation (Ramp 66) were out doing their thing. We had a 172RG, several Bonanzas, Barons, a Lance, Cherokee 6, and a half a dozen Cessna 402s with tip tanks. I can’t tell you how many times I sat in the cockpits of those 402s late at night, after everyone went home, with a flashlight. I’d start them (hoping I wouldn’t get caught) and let them run for a minute and shut them off.

The pilots that flew them were always at odds with the manager of the operation about fuel loads. The pilots would always want a little extra fuel…the manager would call me and have me prefuel the airplanes. I always snuck more in for the pilots under a gentleman’s agreement. Their policy - “the airplane will fly overweight…but it won’t fly without gas…” Given that the freight weight that Airborne Express was giving our pilots was wildly estimated, nobody cared about an extra 30 gallons of gas because we all knew it was a joke.

True story - one airplane had a cargo door open in flight (the top half of the rear clamshell on the 402) and he left a bunch of boxes on the runway at MYR. Well, Airborne Express raised hell about it with the manager…until the pilot pointed out that the manifest showing what he LEFT Myrtle Beach with showed LESS weight than the weight of the cargo when he ARRIVED in Charlotte. Thus, even though he lost boxes…he somehow managed to GAIN weight…LOL… That put an end to that conversation.

Anyway - sorry for the rambling…but just seeing that starter panel on the Alabeo 402 and the instrument panel brought back a flood of really great, old memories. Whenever those guys used to taxi off the ramp…as far as I was concerned they were MY pilots and flying MY airplanes. If a fuel cap came off or a gust lock wasn’t removed…it was as if I personally had failed them. It really was beneficial to how I grew as a pilot later on…

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You truly are, living your dream.
Great story!

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Great story, sounds like an awesome job, very cool that you figured out your dream career at that age and made it happen. Living the dream indeed :slight_smile:

Really enjoying AH2, but I’m also learning the hard way to do better analysis of jobs before I accept them… last night stupidly took on a high paying job that was due in 7hrs to a grass field that isn’t even a strip and didn’t exist in the Flight1 GTN750, and I didn’t realize until too late that it was 240lbs over my cargo limit… so there I am doing another middle of the night vfr flight into an unlit grass field, and to top it off I had to do the trip a second time to pickup the last 240lbs that didn’t fit… made it with just 45 mins to spare. Learning the hard way why some jobs pay as well as they do, and that maybe taking lower paying jobs might be worth more in the long run lol. Never flown so much at night and into so many sketchy fields lol, but have to get that freight delivered.

Now that I’m getting into the groove of this Air Hauler thing, I decided to take advantage of a few contracts and link together a flight plan that would take me west into some interesting territory.

With Air Hauler, you are allowed to select as many contracts as you want to fly - all you have to do is make sure you can complete them in the time required. Thus, I linked up a few flights with good weights (and pay). The first leg would take me to WN23, a tiny grass strip northwest of Seattle. After dropping off my cargo there, I’d deadhead (empty) over to KAWO (Arlington), pick up another load and run it down to Olympia, drop there, pick up another, and head over to Astoria on the coast of Oregon. Sounds like a plan right?

The manifest for the first leg - with 434 lbs. of poultry… Should be a nice, smelly flight! This time I need to put some gas on for the long leg over to Sequim…

Due to the weather and some high terrain, I’ve elected to fly an IFR flight plan with an enroute altitude of 12,000’. Since my 172RG only has VOR and ADF receivers, I’ll be limited to flying the Victor airways…

Something interesting happens when X-Plane launches and puts me at my base in Vernon. There is apparently a small glitch in the terrain which put a big rut in the taxiway…and as I taxi over it, I hit my prop and kill my engine. Oh crap…! I can only imagine how much a new engine is going to cost me. I exit out, fully anticipating that AH will see the damage and penalize me…but apparently it doesn’t track that kind of damage (?) and I’m able to restart. Technically, it wasn’t my fault since it was a scenery glitch…so I’m OK with the result…

Try again…we get over the rut carefully and to the runway…

Dialed in the VOR to start my Victor airway navigation to the south…

It’s a slow climb to 12,000’ at near max gross weight…

I spot Kelowna off the left side…looks like a really nice airport…

I finally reach cruise altitude, pull the power and prop back, lean the engine and settle in. With no autopilot, the plane requires a bit of attention although trimmed out it isn’t a constant affair…

Some cloud layers are building ahead…

Turning westbound over Princeton VOR to pick up V342 - the MEA on this segment is 11,000’…

…it’s pretty easy to see why. I’m certainly glad I’m IFR and staying on the “black lines” as it were…

The scenery is just drop dead gorgeous…and menacing…

Toothy peaks ahead…

The valley leads to the flatter areas as the terrain drops toward Seattle…off the to the left, I try to catch a glimpse of 10,800’ Mt. Baker…but it remains shrouded in cloud…

Once over the lower terrain I can head south toward my destination and start a slow descent…

Coming up over the tank farms near Anacortes - a great VFR landmark…

Continuing the descent, I catch a peek of NOLF Coupeville through the broken layer…

I follow the course off Penn Cove VOR…passing Protection Island and Diamond Point. I’m lucky that the broken layer ends at a couple of thousand feet since WN23 has no IFR approaches. In a pinch, I had planned to shoot the ILS to Fairchild International, breakout, and proceed VFR to WN23, but that plan will be unnecessary…

Soon I spot the grass strip. My auto-populated scenery wasn’t loading (I figured out what was wrong)…so it appears sort of barren…

My first landing that wasn’t a greaser…this one was just “OK”. Must have had a bit too much vertical speed to get the OK rating…

I drop of my load of live chickens…no doubt going to the farm near the airport maybe?

Now I need to fly the short dead-leg over to Arlington and pick up the cargo for delivery to Olympia…

I stay below 2,000’ for the short flight…being careful to avoid the restricted areas on the way…

Soon the area near Arlington comes into view…with the big mountains rising to the east…

Safely down in Arlington. At this point I’m very tired…but realize that the contract I had taken for the final leg was going to expire in 8 hours. So if I went to bed, I’d risk losing that money and losing reputation…so I forge ahead…

I need fuel here too…so I load fuel and the cargo for the next leg to Olympia…

The flight to Olympia will take me south down Puget Sound with Seattle off my left side…

Soon enough I’m airborne and heading down Puget Sound with the beautiful Seattle skyline a bit off to my east…

I land in Olympia and taxi up to unload my cargo and take on my new cargo for the last leg to Astoria…I should claim duty time and zonk out in the FBO!

When I offload my cargo, I must have hit some reputation threshold because I received a promotion…!

I load up my soft drinks (they must be very special to require air freight!) and head for Astoria…

The weather is a bit low…so I scud run toward the coast knowing that there isn’t much terrain to worry about…although there are some hills up to 3,000’ along the route…

Finally the coast comes into view!

On final for my last landing of the route…whew!

The cargo agent accepts my load and all three of my contracts are now fulfilled… I can finally head for the hotel…err…wait, I’m a cargo pilot…I guess I’ll have to sleep on the FBO couch (been there, done that)…

I’m quite a way from my home base in Vernon, but I should be able to pick up some contracts tomorrow on the return flight…

I’ve got my eye on a sweet Cessna 207 that @chipwich has made me an offer I can’t refuse…! I can’t wait to get an autopilot…!!

BeachAV8R

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Had a great overnight in Astoria…! Well needed sleep… As well, I had an opportunity I couldn’t resist. One of the great members of EPOCH @RocLobster came to visit in Astoria, pushed my Cessna 172RG back into the hangar, and worked all night to hook me up with a custom EPOCH paint scheme!! Check this out!

I’ve decided to pick up a contract out of Toledo (WN05)…a little grass strip about 45 minutes east of Astoria…where I’ll pick up some cargo to run back to my home base at Vernon - a bit of a haul on that leg.

Going to fly that one tonight unless they send me out to move hurricane refugees…! :cloud_rain:

Many thanks to @RocLobster for providing me with the unique EPOCH skin!

BeachAV8R

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