The Official 4th Annual Mudspike Christmas Flight - 2018 Edition





That thing looks like it should be hunting submarines…! Maybe you can locate the pirates for @Cygon_Parrot to avoid…! :male_detective:


In Havana, at long last…

Journey's end

Finally, we had docked in a port in Cuba. Not Havana yet, but getting there. The Confederacy had bugged us, of course, but with our super ketch and some more of that raw, alcoholic sugar cane syrup dispensed all around, we had outrun them. In fact, it was the rum that had finally convinced Captain Parrot to set sail for Cuba. The island was rife with sugar cane, and the rum that could be produced there was, well… something else.

We sailed into Manzanillo, Cuba, clear the other side of the island, but not before coming into contact with an unarmed sloop…

Which we captured…

I took a bit of a shine to the sloop, despite her tattiness after the capture, and spent some of my own share of the money making her pretty in the port. She was going to serve my purposes…



I installed some cannon, bow and stern chasers, and provisioned her up with some vitals…

Captain Parrot was reluctant to go to Havana, you see. Despite the fact that our notoriety had eventually attracted the attention of The Confederacy, he was very pleased with the results of my original plan to make money, and intended that I remain with his little band. He was dreadfully suspicious of my interest in getting to Havana. He did not know why I wanted to go there, but I had mentioned it enough times that he most certainly knew something was up. When I asked him if I could be given command the sloop I had showered such care upon, he refused point blank.

“Yer nought gone any-war neyar thar sloop 'ter puck sayals on 'er, lad.”

Fine. Plan B. I would steal her. I had figured out that the crewmen were a strange breed. They always believed your first story without question. They never believed an amendment to the story, even if you had made a mistake in the first version and wanted to correct. I used this. During the night, the lieutenant of the sloop came across to the ketch for some boozed up gambling with the ketch’s crew. I took the opportunity to slip away quietly and paddle across to the sloop. I told the small prize crew I was the new commander of the sloop, and that later we would leave for Havana, on Captain Parrot’s orders. Gullible as they were, they swallowed it. Later, when the crew on the ketch were in full swing and distracted, we sailed…

Havana, here I come!

But we ran into the pesky Confederacy again, alas…

We had a fight with a corvette, and before we had managed to put enough holes in her sails to get away, the sloop’s hull had been seriously breached by a well placed broadside. She would assuredly go down, soon…

We were not far from Havana now, by my reckoning, so we beached her in the moonlight at the first opportunity. In the confusion, I split from the crew and raced up the beach into some plantations inland, and slept the rest of the night there…

When I woke up it was daylight, and a sugar cane plantation worker was standing over me, wearing a straw hat and holding a machete in one hand. I spoke to him in Spanish, telling him I needed to get to Havana. He listened to me, and then lead me through the plantation to a road without saying a word in reply. I was not happy, and the words of a song kept going through my mind “You’d better understand that you’re alone. A long way from home”. Presently, a car passed, and he flagged it down. He had a laugh with the driver about the “loco” he had just found, and asked him to give me a lift to “la Ciudad”.

During the drive, I was able to reflect a bit. This was positively the first time since I had flung myself from the deck of Van Amstel that I had seen a modern apparatus, like a car. I could not understand what had transpired between then and now. Caribbean privateers? They had not been actors, as I had originally suspected. How could they not have been discovered? And who was Captain Parrot? Or who had he been? I got goose bumps, and figuratively sailed all these thoughts of ketch Lilith into the mists of my mind…

After some formalities of identification, and some lengthy tracing of my data through some bureaucratic procedures, I managed to get to José Martí International airport. I asked at the Aeronautical Information Services office about contacts for MAD, and was told they would look into it and inform me. There was nothing more to do. I went to a hotel and booked in.


I thought that might be Plan D or E…but nope…right to Plan B…!

Great voyage Captain! I almost ended up headed to Santa Clara today as a matter of fact. A quote came in and they asked how quickly we could get there. The permit process takes between 3-5 hours, which was apparently longer than they wanted to wait. Maybe someone who knows the right palms to grease had a better way…



Now, that is a view I have not seen in a while now. :slight_smile:


That isn’t SLAL is it?


LEG 1 - Cessna 152 - Gastonia, NC (KAKH) - Mountain Air, NC (2NCO)
LEG 2 - Cessna 172 - Mountain Air, NC (2NC0) - Andrews-Murphy, NC (KRHP)
LEG 3 - Cessna 182 - Andrews-Murphy, NC (KRHP) - Tyndall AFB, FL (KPAM)
LEG 4 - T-34 Mentor - Tyndall AFB, FL (KPAM) - New Orleans, LA (KNEW)
LEG 5 - PA-28 Warrior - New Orleans, LA (KNEW) - Beaumont, TX (KBPT)

So next up we have LEG 6 and the next aircraft in my logbook - the Piper PA-32 Lance. The company I worked for out of North Myrtle Beach, SC (KCRE) operated two Lances. One was a straight tail and one was a T-tail configuration. Both had the seats taken out and the passenger compartment was plated with thin aluminum sheeting and a cargo net.

My logbook shows I took my checkride for my instrument rating on 5/31/1995 with about 195 hours of total time. Still about 55 hours short of the minimum for my commercial certificate (250). A couple months after my instrument, in preparation for coming online as an actual “commercial” pilot, I started familiarization flights with my best friend Peter. Over the course of two weeks I flew with him and received instruction on the PA-32 N4457X and N36575.

Blasting off out of Beaumont, TX and heading to the FEMA base we used last year for Hurricane Harvey relief and evacuation flights - Draughon-Miller / Temple Texas (KTPL).

The non-turbo charged Lance sported a big bore Lycoming IO-540 with 300HP - to that point the beefiest engine I’d flown. The Lance was quite a workhorse - able to carry about 1,000 lbs of cargo nearly 1,000 miles. When at max gross, I remember the Lance required a ridiculous amount of right rudder on initial power application, and the T-tail Lance would definitely kill you if you got slow on final approach. The straight tail Lance had almost instant elevator authority with a burst of power, while the T-tail was mounted up and out of the prop airflow, meaning you didn’t have Panic Power to save your butt - requiring you to maintain speed and allow that it would take a bit of time to recover your elevator effectiveness if things got mushy.

I’m using the Carenado Lance, but mine is an older model that only works in XP10, so this flight I used XP10 with some nice ortho I generated for the route…

This is not the interior I was used to seeing…

Operating the IO-540 was easy enough - run it square with manifold pressure and RPM, and only pull it back 1" of MP per minute while managing the descent to prevent shock cooling. We typically didn’t fly it over 10,000 and we didn’t have oxygen systems on our freight planes.

Some of our planes had autopilots. Most did not. Some would try to kill you. The Century III was a pretty good autopilot…but you couldn’t really trust it. It was more of a helper than something to rely on…

Watching the scenery of east and central Texas roll by under the wings…

Passing by Cleveland, Texas with I-69 running off to the north…

The weather turned a bit worse toward central Texas with some rain and light turbulence…nothing compared to the terrifying act of flying single engine freight, at night, in the winter, in Bluefield, Roanoke, and Beckley, West Virginia. We lost the T-tail Lance when one pilot iced up, got slow on the approach, and crashed the plane in the approach lights at Smithville, TN, destroying the aircraft but the pilot escaped with minor injuries.

Flying the Saratoga on this leg was a nice step back in time. Back then, we had no GPS, and only one plane in the entire fleet of two dozen airplanes had a LORAN-C. All navigation was done with VOR, DME, and NDBs. Reaching Temple, Texas, I elect to shoot the VOR RWY 33:

I cheat and use the GPS to hit FITTS intersection. With no DME, I have to use NAV 1 tuned to the inbound course, and NAV2 to determine distance based off the cross radials from GRK VOR. As well, with no DME, the missed approach point can only be determined with timing from the FAF. I fly around 90 for 2:04 and it works out pretty well. I actually made a mistake on the approach though and flew to S-33 (straight in) minimums of 1200 (526 AGL), when in fact I could have used the DUAL VOR mins of 1080 (406 AGL). Haha…that’s why we practice these things and even a “professional” can overlook something. And always pay attention to those notes in the briefing strip - they are full of gotchas!

Arrived safely in Temple, Texas. The last time I was here was a bit over a year ago, sleeping on the wing of my plane and in an insufferably hot hangar while we spent the week doing Harvey relief flights.

I’m sure the staff at the FBO were thrilled to death when all us FEMA planes left since we worked them incredibly hard over the few weeks that flights were being operated there.


No, it is old Quito airport, SEQU, from @Chuck_Owl’s post.


Sea Power patrol you say? Well there might be something I’ve got that’s just the ticket…


Beautiful day across Central Texas today…! Plowing along in the old Cessna 172RG…


Hmm…not sure what is happening here…hopefully my wing roots aren’t on fire :rofl: Looks like maybe a manifestation of the new particle system and perhaps the center of lift and maybe humidity/temperature. This is an old, old, 172RG model by Alabeo…so probably some issues with it in XP11…actually, definitely because you run out of nose down trim at cruise speed, requiring you to pull it back to 110 knots instead of the normal cruise of 130 or so…


I read the report on the T-tail accident and I got the impression that the blame was placed entirely on the pilot with none of it going to the fact that the forecast was incorrect making any choice regarding the flight flawed from the outset. Is my interpretation correct?



Yes, the blame was pretty much entirely placed on the pilot. It is a tough thing to armchair quarterback for me anyway. He lost his airspeed indicator due to ice accumulation and that is one of the primary “stay out of trouble” instruments in icing. Speed is life in icing. Knowing your airplane is a great thing…this amount of power at this VSI = this kind of airspeed. Climbing with a load of ice in a piston single can really be a chore…the weight, the disruption of airflow, the windscreen freezing over…it is a scary situation. Then the prop starts to vibrate funny because it starts picking up ice, so you cycle the RPMs back and forth rapidly to hopefully shuck some of it.

The forecast might only have been a bit off…icing is very hard to get to an exact science. A 500’ change of altitude can be the difference between picking up lots of ice in the tops of a cloud layer and either being above it or down lower where it isn’t as heavy (or might even be warmer higher…very often the case). The last few nights on the east coast, the temps were around +10 to +15C at 4 to 6 thousand feet while they were at or below freezing on the ground.

I feel for the guy though. The T-tail Lance was a beast to fly on a good day…and he had a really not good day. Without an airspeed indicator, probably with a windscreen frozen over, wondering why the NDB isn’t working and trying to catch sight of an unfamiliar airport in the dark…ugh…all bad. And do you want to be going fast, fast when you hit the trees or is there that natural inclination to slow down and feel your way in…? Got too slow, tailplane or structural icing upped the stall speed by 10 or 20 knots…and it’s all over.

Glad the guy only had minor injuries. I have another freight hauling story to tell in another couple legs…this one doesn’t end as well. :slightly_frowning_face:


Wasn’t trying to fault his choice. I just felt that to have none of the blame placed on a faulty weather report was disingenuous, especially then. If you had to check ten weather reports and confirm them before you took to the air no flights would ever leave the ground.



There’s a saying we have “they are gonna get you for something”. The amount of ridiculous stuff you have to do before any flight is pretty nuts. And if you omit one thing, and it ends up biting you, you are going to be found “careless and reckless”. With experience, you learn to see the big picture and hopefully don’t get bogged down in the trees and hit the forest because you are paying attention to the wrong things. And I mean that from the minute you walk in the door to the minute you leave. Being distracted by some BS SMS (Safety Management System) matrix form that causes you to waste time when you could be studying NOTAMs or refining some performance data is the type of thing I’m talking about.

No plane would leave the blocks if every crew had to perform 100% of what they are supposed to do prior to each flight. Focus on the important things and prioritize based on what you know to be the gotchas.

Sometimes I envy Part 121 crews since they have a bigger network of assistance behind them. They show up, get handed a weather print out, manifest, and fuel load. They do have to verify everything though…so there might be even more tendency to rely on something that might not be right…so there are gotchas there too. Part 135 and “being your own boss” is fun, stressful, rewarding, and challenging all at once. Some days and nights are easier than others. And every time I read an accident report… “There, but for the grace of God, go I…”


Eleventh entry for the Christmas Challenge.

Click to reveal AAR

This time, we take TFDI’s wonderful Boeing 717.

Entering my flight plan

An interesting peculiarity of the 717 is that the Bleed Air Isolation Valve in AUTO position doesn’t provide bleed air for the engine starter. It needs to be OPEN. I checked in the documentation to see if this was a bug, and apparently it’s as per aircraft.

The isolation valve separates the left and right air systems. The aircraft will attempt to keep them isolated at all times. In the event of a loss of pressure to one side, the isolation valve, when controlled automatically, will open to pressurize the anti -ice systems. It must be manually opened for air conditioning and engine starter operation.

Good start

Another cool feature is the required takeoff trim is displayed on the MFDs

Taxiing to Runway 05

Ready for takeoff

Takeoff thrust: set

Gear up!

Climbing over the clouds

In terms of looks, the 717 is hard to beat.

I guess in another life I was a McDac fan through and through

Weather radar actually works!

That’s a lotta clouds

Over Isla Puna

Looks like the Automatic Cabin Pressure system has set a pressure that is way too high.

I close the valve manually and wait for the system to set a pressure of about 6,000 ft as per the scale.

Much better now

Now I have to wonder… how does a pilot deal with a situation like that where the airport pressure altitude is at more than 10,000 ft like El Alto? The automatic pressurization system in the 717 seems that it will keep pressurizing up and exceed its own limitations of 10,000 ft.

I’d be curious to have the opinion of real pilots like @BeachAV8R @smokinhole @Cygon_Parrot

At 32,000 ft the Andes look so much smaller than they did with my tiny C47

Trouble ahead

Thunderstorm… (Gasp)

Do I REALLY want to do this?

Oh my GOD! What have I done?

The wind is insane! The wing flexes and and cockpit shakes as if I was stuck in a tornado. It feels just like that scene in the movie Flight with Denzel Washington.

Almost out of the storm above Galilea (SPGB)

Out of the soup. Phew! That was rock and roll!

Following the The Marañón River. It’s the principal or mainstem source of the Amazon River, arising about 160 km to the northeast of Lima, Peru, and flowing through a deeply eroded Andean valley in a northwesterly direction, along the eastern base of the Cordillera of the Andes, as far as 5° 36′ southern latitude; from where it makes a great bend to the northeast, and cuts through the jungle Andes, until at the Pongo de Manseriche it flows into the flat Amazon basin.

There’s a long 300 nm stretch before EKURU where not much happens and everything is covered with clouds.

As we turn, I put the sun shade panels up.

As the sunset begins, we get to see how dirty my cockpit is.

Speaking of sunsets

Interesting cloud formation

The Andes

Cordillera Apolobamba, near Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is right next the Top of Descent point

Stuck between two cloud layers

Since there is no ATIS station at El Alto, I consult a METAR from the internet

Coming across snowy mountain tops

Visibility is close to zero. I can never catch a break can I?

Final checks before landing
-Localizer and glide slope about to get captured
-Barometric setting correct
-Approach Autopilot mode armed
-Good approach speed
-Flaps set to 40 deg
-Speed Brake armed
-Landing gear down
-Cabin pressure set to 8000 ft until touchdown

Arming Autoland

Doing ok so far. I keep my fingers ready to disengage the AP in case something funky happens


(Buzzer) “Minimums”

AP Disconnect for good measure, flaring a bit late

Thrust reversers on

Vacating runway

Setting parking brake

Setting cockpit dome light, turning on APU and shutting down engines

3 hour long flight… time to stretch my legs.

4500 lbs left of fuel out of the initial 20000 we took. Not too bad!

Doors open, waiting for the stairs.


Yes…some (very few) airports will cause you to have to think about that. You don’t want to touch down, have the outflow valves open, and your cabin will go from 9,000’ (about the max cabin altitude we can have in the Citation) to 13,000’ or whatever. If you haven’t disabled the auto-deploy mechanism…you will end up with what is affectionately called “The Rubber Jungle” in the back of the plane. And your maintenance people will not be happy. So airlines that fly to these high altitude airports consider that and have either procedures or mechanical adjustments so that it doesn’t happen.

That 717 is fantastic. I had in installed, but a way early beta, so I need to update it. It was really great…but pretty hard on my framerates…


It got much, MUCH better on the framerate. I had night lighting on in last year’s challenge and it brought my system to a crawl. However, with the same computer, one year later… I could maintain a great framerate without much problem even with dynamic lighting on. TFDi did a great optimization job here.


LEG 1 - Cessna 152 - Gastonia, NC (KAKH) - Mountain Air, NC (2NCO)
LEG 2 - Cessna 172 - Mountain Air, NC (2NC0) - Andrews-Murphy, NC (KRHP)
LEG 3 - Cessna 182 - Andrews-Murphy, NC (KRHP) - Tyndall AFB, FL (KPAM)
LEG 4 - T-34 Mentor - Tyndall AFB, FL (KPAM) - New Orleans, LA (KNEW)
LEG 5 - PA-28 Warrior - New Orleans, LA (KNEW) - Beaumont, TX (KBPT)
LEG 6 - PA-32 Lance - Beaumont, TX (KBPT) - Temple, TX (KTPL)

Time for LEG 7! I put up my Christmas lights today…so I need to start putting down some mileage!

The 7th airplane type in my logbook came just two week after my introduction to the PA-32 Lance. Another of Ramp 66’s fleet was the one-off Cessna 172RG that was also in their Part 135 fleet. My logbook shows that on Sept. 9, 1995, my best friend Peter once again checked me out in this plane N6289R with three instrument approaches including and ILS at MYR, an ILS at CRE, and a VOR approach at CRE. We also practiced an emergency gear extension. According to my logbook, this was all done “under the hood”.

Getting ready to fire up in Temple, Texas for the 253 nm flight to Midland International Air and Space Port (sounds exotic!), Texas.

The “RG” is a pretty basic airplane. Not a whole lot of power, and probably not really worth the complexity and upkeep of a retraction system for the added speed. The O-360 engine is fantastic though - reliable, light on maintenance, and just a nice powerplant.

Anyone who has seen the sickly looking gear retraction sequence of the RG would beg to fly a fixed gear Cessna 177 Cardinal, which was just about as fast as an RG if it had wheel pants. The electro-hydraulic powerpack would scream and whine in a very odd pulsating fashion, and each time you retracted the gear you wondered if something had broken in all that mayhem…

Central Texas…looking rather dry and dusty down there…

The Alabeo Cessna 172RG was built for an older version of X-Plane (maybe 9/10?) but it still works pretty well. It needs a trim adjustment since high speed cruise results in full forward trim, so you have to back off the throttle a bit. The panel is just about what I flew, although we didn’t have the fancy-dancy fuel flow indicator. Everything else looks pretty much exactly like the panel we had though.

More sorta drab looking Central Texas. Can someone turn on a sprinkler or something? Fertilize some grass?

Finally running across some greener areas with more trees…!

A bit of clouds forming…but nothing terrible…

Ortho scenery is just amazing. This little patch is a picture…so it is unique…and the entire world is like that if you use ortho…

CFI Lou Ferrigno and student Dale Earnhardt Jr… Lou looks hungry. Hope he doesn’t go full Hulk…

After a couple of hours - we slide on into Midland, TX Air & Space Port…!

We are instructed to taxi to the huge hangar on the south side of the field. We have an appointment!

On the Cessna 172RG - I flew it quite a few more times over my short career at Ramp 66. Most often carrying checks or film canisters for Konica, the RG took me all over the Carolinas, Virginia, West Virginia, and some of Tennessee. My overriding memory of it is the red cockpit lighting at night and that banshee wail of the gear system.

This particular airplane (N6289R) was also the aircraft that I took my Commercial Pilot checkride in on October 3, 1995. The flight notations include chandelles, steep turns, lazy-8s, 8s on pylons, and emergency procedures. I achieved my Commercial at 265.7 hours, with 230.1 of those in aircraft and 33 hours on that darn ATC-610 simulator. My first actual commercial flight would occur on November 11, 1995 with callsign “Pelican Beach” - a .2 hour beach ride over Cherry Grove, North Myrtle Beach. I had finally earned a dollar.

My history with this plane continues just two months later on December 10, 1995 when I flew a 1.5 hour checkride for my initial CFI. It was the hardest checkride I’ve ever had. I was to demonstrate to my FAA designee examiner (who was pretending to be a student pilot) a partial panel NDB approach to Conway, SC from the right seat. My examiner, a crusty guy in all regards, smoked the entire checkride. So there I am, in my IFR “foggles”, choking on blue smoke, sweating in spite of it being December, trying to hamfist my way through a partial panel NDB approach while trying to explain it to my “student”. It was awful. But I passed. Somehow. Another memory in the RG.

A search of the registration for the aircraft shows that was exported to Panama in 2007. Who knows where she is now.


No date on the webpage so i have no idea when the plane was sold and only you will know for certain if it is the correct plane but the N number matches.

Forum is getting upset with me. :frowning: :wink:

Consider replying to more people

You’ve already replied 3 times to @BeachAV8R in this particular topic.

Have you considered replying to other people in the discussion, too? A great discussion involves many voices and perspectives.

If you’d like to continue your conversation with this particular user at length, send them a personal message.