The Official 4th Annual Mudspike Christmas Flight - 2018 Edition



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)
LEG 7 - Cessna 172RG - Temple, TX (KTPL) - Midland, TX (KMAF)
Intermission - Sub Orbital Flight

After a thrilling ride to the edge of space, it is time to continue on westbound with Leg 8. At this point in my career I’m just shy of four years into my flying journey. I have my Commercial Pilot Certificate at the bare minimum 250-ish hours, but now I can actually be paid to be in the airplane.

Three weeks after my Commercial checkride, on October 23, 1995 there is an entry for my next aircraft type - N72GP, an A-36 Bonanza owned by Ramp 66. Again, one of the single engine freight haulers that hauled packages, checks, and whatever else needed to be moved throughout the southeast. I’d once again be checked out in the Bonanza by my friend Peter with a short flight over to Raleigh-Durham to swap out planes and pick up a Piper Lance that needed to come back to the beach for maintenance. My logbook entry for the first A-36 flight reads “Awesome a/c”. Yes, yes it is.

With no Bonanza in my X-Plane hangar (and not wanting to shell out any money for just this single leg) I bounce over to P3D v4, which includes by default the very nice Carenado A-36 Bonanza. Again, a lot cleaner and newer than the ones I flew, but very familiar feeling.

The Bonanza, just like all big piston engines, sounds awesome when you start it up and it falls into a deep bass gallop. The Bonanza definitely felt more rigid than the straight or T-tail Lances I flew. Everything felt tight…almost fighter aircraft-like. It was a real performer that had a good amount of power to spare, and very nice feel on the yoke. We had three A-36s in the fleet, two had throw-over yokes and one had dual yokes.

Our flight today will take us from Midland, TX (KMAF) across to Albuquerque, New Mexico (KABQ).

As I taxi off the ramp at Midland, it doesn’t escape me that I’ve pretty much flown every plane type on the ramp at some point or another…

A nifty paint job on this Southwest 737…

Our Bonanzas back in the day had no GPS or RNAV equipment. Just VOR to VOR and NDB approaches. Some had DME.

Climbing out of Midland…

The back of this plane is much nicer than the ones I flew. Our freighter Bonanzas had all the interior stripped out and (just like the Lances) had sheet metal sides and a plywood floor with a cargo net bolted to it.

Sadly, the plane I flew a bit at the ramp was destroyed and the super nice, young pilot killed in Roanoke when he somehow became disoriented on a localizer approach. He descended past the airport, thinking he was still on the LOC, and ended up plowing into the side of a mountain. The story is horrible to read. I had met Talex a couple of times while swapping airplanes in Roanoke, and his death shook the whole organization. The plane he was flying (N1795W) was the same one I had flown many times. It was not hard to imagine me making a similar mistake at my very green level of experience.

The accident report makes for interesting reading: NTSB report.

Newspaper article about the accident: HERE

Settling in for our flight…

The weather was rough on this leg. Lots of turbulence, and a pesky cloud layer and icing level that was coincident with our cruise altitude. At one point I had to leave 10,000’ to descend to 9,000 because of ice accumulation that was causing airspeed to decrease. With no deicing boots, and the possibility of induction system icing, the Bonanza was not a great winter ops airplane. My friend Peter was almost killed in one in North Myrtle Beach when he picked an insane load of icing flying the ILS to runway 23. He required full power just to maintain the 500 fpm descent on the ILS and he had to put his hand out the pilot storm window to scrape a hole clear on the windscreen to see enough to land. I was chipping ice off the leading edge of the wings that was probably 2" thick. Luck was just barely in his favor that day.

The problem on this leg is that the MEA is so high, with terrain to above 10,000 in close to ABQ. Getting squeezed down between the icing level and the ground is never a fun position to be in.

Finally the ceilings started rise a bit - just in time to cross the last hurdle before Albuquerque - the Manzano Mountain Wilderness with mountains up to 10,098’…

Once over the mountains, the terrain drops off into ABQ with a field elevation of 5,355’…

The Bonanza is a great aircraft. I had some close calls in it, most due to flying around embedded thunderstorms in the summer in the southeast. None of our single engine aircraft had weather radar, so you had to rely on ATC and some spidey-sense to make your way through sometimes. I hit a storm so bad once that I briefly lost control of the Bonanza and luckily it spat me out the other side instead of out of the bottom. The A-36 was built like a tank though. I also had my first real life emergency gear extension happen in an A-36.

Lots of good memories in the logbook flying it. At that point in my career, I was technically a “VFR Only” freight pilot. I was so inexperienced, that I was only allowed to fly commercial legs in VFR if they were passenger or freight. I could reposition planes, which was great, except all the planes that needed repositioning usually had something wrong with them. And despite the VFR Only tag…cough…uh…there just weren’t that many non-IFR days in the Carolinas, so I might have been more like “psuedo-VFR” at some points. :wink: (I’d actually just file and fly IFR and if anyone asked, it was VMC on an IFR flight plan…)


Fifteenth entry for the Christmas Challenge.

Click to reveal AAR

Like some US president once said: “This might be the bigliest leg yet.”

It’s a sunny morning at Santiago.

As the ground crew plug in ground power, I start aligning my IRS and plugging my flight plan.

10 degrees of flaps on takeoff? Why not. However, the 747-8i has a couple of noticeable differences with the 747-400. In this one, the V-speeds are computed with the help of the EFB (electronic flight bag).


It’s a really in-depth tool with plenty of cool functionalities (like Pilot Utilities, where I never need to calculate anything ever again!).

Tuning in the ATIS to get the required information (barometric pressure, outside air temperature, winds) to input in the EFB to get our performance calculation.

Pro tip: you need to make sure to press on the LSK (Line Select Key) next to EXT KBD to pop up the keyboard or you can’t write in required fields of the EFB. You select a field by touching it with your mouse like an iPad Touchpad.

Bingo! We’ve got our V-Speeds. Time to start the engines.

Spooling up the GEnx engines.

The checklist system in the 747-8 is also a little different. You need to use the Cursor Control knob and rotate it to change menus. You select a menu by pressing the SEL button on top of the control knob.


Now there is one very cool feature: the Airport Ground Mapping functionality. Basically, you press the ARPT display mode button to have the blue ARPT message on your Navigation Display. You may have to click it twice (first click shows the ARPT but without the overlay, second press with the overlay, third press removes overlay). If you don’t see it right away, don’t worry… you just need to toy with the ND (Navigation Display) Range Selector (click on outer knob ro rotate). You then get a nice airport overlay on your ND.

Runway feels a bit tight

Last checks before takeoff

Flight control surfaces check. Good to go. Let’s get this monster off the ground.


Good-bye, Santiago!


The SID makes us do a whole tour around Santiago before going for the Pacific Coast.

The sky is really blue today

One last looksie at LatinVFR’s Santiago

Passing over the Andes… that’s a lotta clouds.


And here is the Pacific Ocean. Chile’s the last piece of land I’m about to see for a looong time.

Endless, endless clouds!

Endless, endless blue!

Flying over the Robinson Crusoe Island

The island was home to the marooned sailor Alexander Selkirk from 1704 to 1709, and is thought to have inspired novelist Daniel Defoe’s fictional Robinson Crusoe in his 1719 novel about the character (although the novel is explicitly set in the Caribbean, not in the Juan Fernández Islands). This was just one of several survival stories from the period that Defoe would have been aware of. To reflect the literary lore associated with the island and attract tourists, the Chilean government renamed the place Robinson Crusoe Island in 1966.

The Waypoint is also called ROBIK, which I found amusing

In the distance we can also see the Alexander Selkirk Island

A slightly better view of the island

More cruising

Uh oh… Fuel Tank imbalance. I must’ve set the OVRD tanks by mistake.

The TANK/ENG message pops up to notify you that you need to configure the tanks. When you see this, you usually will need to turn off the OVRD tanks on the inboard tanks, and then close the outer (unguarded) crossfeeds. This very likely happened because I set the OVRD tanks at the beginning of flight and forgot about them, and the fuel imbalance happened over time.

However, even with the OVRD tanks off and the cross-feed off, I still have a fuel tank imbalance to fix manually. I’ll have to open the cross-feed valves and shut the Engine 2 and Engine 3 main tanks and wait for the FUEL IMBALANCE caution to go away. This way, Engines 1 and 2 will feed from tank 1 and Engines 3 and 4 will feed from tank 4. I “think” the fuel balance is calculated with MAIN 1 + RES 1 should equal MAIN 2. At least, that’s how I remember it was on takeoff.

After a while, the FUEL IMBLANCE caution extinguishes. I think my theory was right! You can also notice that the RES 1 and RES 4 tanks began to transfer automatically in main tanks 1 and 4.

Setting the tanks as they were at the beginning (no cross-feed, Main 1 for Engine 1, Main 2 for Engine 2, etc.)

That did the trick. We’re balanced now! :slight_smile:

Back to more cruising

900+ more nm to go? Pffffffff…

Reaching top of descent just after VINAP

Starting my descent to Easter Island

Consulting METAR online to get my barometric setting

I’ll have to swing west of the island to land before I can start my approach

The STAR (Standard Arrival Route)

Admiring the view

Doing some calculations on the EFB. That a very, VERY neat tool!

Before the last turn

The last turn

Lined up on final

Better watch that cliff!

(Clenching buttocks)

AP Off. Umpf!

I wasn’t sure if I had enough runway but the reversers installed on these GEnx engines are powerful as hell!

Full stop.


Tiny, tiny taxiways

Looks like I may have overheated my brakes during landing.

Parking brake on, chocks on, APU running, engines off, doors open.

I think we’re good to step out of the plane. Parking space is a bit tight though.


I’s just GEnx generally speaking, or GEnx-1B/2B if you want to be more specific. Not sure how they came up with the 2867 designation but it’s in the general nomenclature. Probably S/N related. :wink:


Nice. The Queen of the Skies is beautiful… Yeah…those brakes looked toasty!


Don’t you get an FSX award / medal for flying to Easter Island - Airport farthest away from another airport or something like tha. Congrats! :slightly_smiling_face:


Aren’t they 2B67 not 2867? If so I do believe the 67 refers to the thrust rating.


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)
LEG 7 - Cessna 172RG - Temple, TX (KTPL) - Midland, TX (KMAF)
Intermission - Sub Orbital Flight
LEG 8 - A-36 Bonanza - Midland, TX (KMAF) - Albuquerque, NM (KABQ)

Next up in my logbook (this has been really fun going back in time and reading some of the entries) is an odd leap forward for me that I wouldn’t really be able to take advantage of for a long time after. On January 10, 1997 I was enlisted as a First Officer on a flight to Philadelphia via Richmond, VA out of North Myrtle Beach in one of the company Cessna 402Bs. Ramp 66 operated maybe six or seven 402Bs, most of them in a cargo configuration and two in passenger / air ambulance configurations.

Without a multi-engine rating, (one month earlier I had passed my Certified Flight Instructor rating) I was just getting familiar with flying multi-engine aircraft in anticipation of starting that training.

The plan for this flight was to go from Albuquerque to Salt Lake City, but enroute I noticed our route was passing Telluride, Colorado - a very interesting airport that has some interesting approaches and unique challenges.

For the flight, I’ll be using the very nice Alabeo Cessna 404 Titan - which is a derivative of the Cessna 402. Obviously, the ones I flew nearly 25 years ago were not as nicely outfitted as this one.

Taxiing out for departure from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Looks like a nice day to fly!

The Alabeo model has some problems since it is a version for X-Plane 10. Some autopilot functions are wired backwards (the heading bug must be used 180 degrees opposite of what you want…LOL) but it is largely functional.

Our “executive” 402s were pretty threadbare and worn…and the cargo 402s were similarly outfitted as the Bonanzas and Lances with wood floors and sheet metal sides…

Partway to Salt Lake City I realize that the route goes by Telluride (KTEX) which is at an elevation of 9,070’ - a tough airport in the best of times, let alone when weather conditions close in.

The weather in Telluride is looking a bit horrible…so I’m not really optimistic that we will get in. The straight-in localizer minimums to runway 9 are 2,303’ and 1 1/2 miles (CAT B) - very conservative ceiling and vis minimums…

East of our route the clouds are hovering over the mountains, which should make any pilot double down on their study of the approach plates and start considering other options…

Soon enough, we start to enter the broken layers. On with the anti-ice and de-ice equipment…!

Soon the serious mountains of the Rockies come into view. These mountains range from 12-14,000’ or higher. These areas are no joke…

More ice and freezing rain…

Turning inbound on the localizer…

As we make the step-downs, things are not looking real good…

As we fly the approach and level at the MDA, we pass the point where we can expect a normal descent rate and drive in to the missed approach point. Right on top of the airport we can see the airport just barely through the clouds straight down (a frequent occurrence on non-precision approaches). Not good enough to circle for sure, so we start the missed approach procedure.

An external view of the airport from a couple hundred feet lower…definitely scuddy and ugly…

The missed approach procedure is critical to fly correctly. The high minimums mean there isn’t such a large vertical profile to attend to, but piston performance suffers at such high altitudes.

A frequent alternate in this area is KMTJ - Montrose. If the weather up in the high mountains is miserable, often Montrose is better and has much lower minimums and is within driving distance of most of the mountain resorts.

Shooting the VOR/DME arc to runway 13 is a fun, old school approach…

I was starting to get worried after turning inbound…but eventually the runway came into view…

Our route with the two approaches…

The 402 was a great airplane that I was lucky to fly a bit at Ramp 66. It felt like a much bigger plane, and really felt like it had a “flight deck” almost. A few years later, when I was flying Citations, the lineage was very apparent and the Cessna piston twin panels feel very much like later Citations.


Nice AAR Chris. As I was reading and looking at your screenshots, I was thinking to myself that you can see that the C500 series was more of an evolution than a totally new design. I don’t know why that thought hadn’t struck me before.


Yeah…even the shape of the fuselage very much resembled the Citation with that flat nose profile.


Yep, CFMi/GE/SNECMA(Former Safran) engines are usually thrust rated. the CFM-56 engine first has a dash -3/5/7 to determine aircraft type(Airbus vs Boeing) and then a B24/26/27 to give you thrust in pounds rounded up/down to the nearest thousand as such.

You can derate your engine to get a bit more life out of it so that’s nice. I think it is indeed a typo in the aircraft.

Even then, I don’t know if that information is that visible to the pilots. perhaps @smokinhole can give us some insight into what info he had in the 737 concerning engine rating/names?


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)
LEG 7 - Cessna 172RG - Temple, TX (KTPL) - Midland, TX (KMAF)
Intermission - Sub Orbital Flight
LEG 8 - A-36 Bonanza - Midland, TX (KMAF) - Albuquerque, NM (KABQ)
LEG 9 - Cessna 404 - Albuquerque, NM (KABQ) - Montrose, CO (KMTJ)

Next up in the logbook comes the Grumman Tiger AA-5B which I first flew in June of 1996. Aircraft N1585R was a Tiger owned by a based customer at Ramp 66 and the owner would be my first instrument student after obtaining my CFII just five days earlier on June 5th.

The Tiger was a nifty, stubby winged airplane with a nice sliding top canopy that helped relieve some of the summer heat of the sweltering southeast. Keep in mind that none of the single engine planes I flew back then had air conditioning - that was a thing that was barely an option at the time, and only then for the richest and nicest planes. Of course, once you slid the canopy back into place, doing instrument approaches at two to three thousand feet didn’t let much cooling air in, so it did become a bit of a greenhouse. Always best to fly at 5 or 6AM on those summer days.

The panel back then, of course, did not have a GPS or any type of RNAV - it was strictly a green needles aircraft…

Our route today is going to take us from Montrose, Colorado across to Salt Lake City, Utah - definitely some high terrain enroute, but the weather forecast is perfect for today!

Trying to figure out this goofy autopilot. I finally hit the right buttons and settled in on NAV and altitude capture…

Ortho really is a game changer for our simulators. I can remember having to pay $20 to $40 for a single state of this kind of imagery…now…nearly the entire world is out there with stunning results.

The Tiger was a fun airplane to fly, very responsive and twitchy, which made it a pretty tough primary instrument trainer for a beginner IFR student. It required constant control inputs even when trimmed and was very light on the controls. This resulted in a student that developed a pretty fast basic instrument scan, that would make him a better pilot down the road.

Don’t forget to switch tanks every 30 minutes or whatever interval you want to use (set a countdown timer!)…

I flew myself out of my ortho coverage - the dividing line is pretty stark!

A bit of haze settling in nearer to Salt Lake City…

But it cleared up entering the basin (usually it doesn’t)…

Old school CDI needles - I love it!

On and in safely…a nice run down memory lane. The Tiger was a fun airplane and one of my favorites I instructed in. It wasn’t the most practical airplane from the standpoint of not being able to really carry much in the way of bulky cargo. I always said I probably needed a Cherokee Six or something that could fit my windsurfing equipment.


Hey beach, I love how you are weaving your own story into your AARS. It’s great :slight_smile:


I was about to say the exact same thing. It sort of feels like a diary. I really like this format. I feel like I’m getting to know Chris a bit better even if we’ve never actually met IRL.


Leg 06 Boise to Vancouver, WA (KBOI - KVUO)

Add-ons used on this leg:

After a nice stroll to WesternAircraft, I picked up the Aztec’s flight bag and headed out to the ramp for preflight. Approaching the twin Piper, I was reminded how pleasing the design is. The Lycoming O-540s fired eagerly and settled in to a nice idle once I leaned them a tiny bit.

Even though I hung on to a fast taxiing King Air to 28R, it took forever to get to the line. Checking the AD again on my iPad confirmed that we were about to take a ten thousand foot runway. Travel - sometimes it’s the smallest of details that keep one entertained.

Bu-bye Boise. See you again one day.

It’s hard work lookin’ this good :slight_smile:

Author’s note: the FltPlan Go app will take a feed from either X-Plane or P3D. It’s rather nice to be able to have what one sees out the window on OrthoPhoto scenery exactly match the moving map. Off to our right we pass Prairie City, right where it should be.

FltPlan Go will follow your position on the airport diagram as well. From our Boise arrival the other day.

We make our way Northwest.

Were we interested in agriculture, we could debate round vs. traditional planting. But our mission is to get our toes in the sand somewhere in Samoa. We motor on.

At one point looking over my left shoulder, I spy the perfect hilltop to land a bush plane. Must come back to this place. Wish that I would have dropped a damn pin!

Eventually Idaho gave way to Oregon, and with that three familiar mountain peaks in the appeared distance. Mt. Hood had more or less placed itself right in the middle of the route, so I had to grab west a few degrees.

On November 7, 1805, Meriwether Lewis reached an estuary of the Columbia, that he mistakenly thought was the Pacific. With a 213 year navigational tech advantage, we arrive on the Columbia more sure of our location.

When I left Boise, I had flight planned for KPDX. But taking a look at all that commercial aviation going on in earnest, made me wish for something a little more laid back.

Something just up the river, Pearson Field.

A little trivia is in order. Even though Pearson sits pretty darn close to the West end of KPDX, the FAA did us a big favor and placed a NW facing VFR corridor over the little field. So, as long as you stay at pattern altitude coming and going in that pie slice, your sole obligation is “ARRIVALS CONTACT PEARSON ADVISORY ON 119.0 PRIOR TO ENTERING CLASS D AIRSPACE FOR TRAFFIC AND WAKE TURBULENCE ADVISORIES, DEPARTURES CONTACT PEARSON ADVISORY ON 119.0 PRIOR TO DEPARTURE.” One time back in the day, I was descending out of 4000 in a C172 on the way to said pie slice and pattern altitude when a climbing Bonanza came out of nowhere head on. We both cranked a bunch or right aileron and passed, how shall I say, belly to belly. Much debate was heard on Unicom following the incident.

But I digress. Back to the approach.

She hasn’t changed much in 25 or so years.

Things were pretty quiet and without a pimply faced line boy wanting to park us in BFE, I grabbed a VIP spot. I bet that she won’t be here in the morning. Wait, maybe I am a VIP.

The weather was so nice that fortified by a Diet Coke and some vending machine trail mix, I decided to flight plan the next leg on the picnic table before ordering up an Uber.

Tonight, I’m thinking a stop at LABrewatory, Base Camp, or Sasquatch Brewing is in order. Cheers.


Great leg…! Now I’m off to download FltPlan GO!


Another day another leg


this time from WAMM to WAPP (I’m not kidding, and I love those identifiers more than I would care to admit). An over water flight, nothing terribly interesting to do. So what to fly? Why of course…

The Virtavia Lockheed P-2V-7 Neptune.

If you’re not a cold war ASW aficionado (which I didn’t think I was until I started this whole thing) the Neptune was the USN’s first and only dual powered, land based, ASW aircraft. The Neptune was a post WW2 development that replaced the Lockheed PV-1/PV-2 which were variants of the Lockheed Ventura (also known as the B-34 Lexington), a medium bomber that turned out to be a much better patrol aircraft. Following WW2 the USN realized that it needed LOOOOONG range sea patrol power, and that aerial ASW was where it was at. The Neptune was the “hunter” part of hunter/killer pairings, with destroyers or the short lived carrier based Grumman Guardian.

The Neptune would eventually be replaced by the legendary P-3, but the Neptune was legendary (if rarely recognized in it’s own right) too. The Neptune served from 1946 to 1970 in active duty, and soldiered on (Sailor’ed on?) with reserve units until almost 1980, and as the Kawasaki P-2J (licensed turboprop and jet variant) all the way to 1996.

The Neptune combined a pair of Wright Cyclone engines (which were on everything from the B-29 to the A-1 Sky Raider in various variants), and (on this model of the Neptune) a pair of Westinghouse J34 turbojets. So we’ve got about 7,400 SHP and 6,800 ft/lbs of thrust to work with. The the J34’s run on Avgas rather than JP-4 to keep the fuel system simple. The J34’s were to allow for high dash speed to prosecute targets, or at least be in the area of the datum within a reasonable time frame from take off, and to be able to haul a massive supply of fuel airborne within a reasonable runway distance.

The Neptune is of course almost exclusively analog and early digital. The big blank white space in the instrument panel in the shot above is actually just an old fashioned plotting board. The PNF would be responsible for keeping it updated with the pertinent info to allow for the prosecution of targets.

So lets talk a little little about the Virtavia model before we get back to cold war ASW trivia. I picked up the model from PCPilot for around $10, and it has 5 different textures. The VC as can be seen is reasonable, though as you zoom in the gauges do get blurry. As Virtavia isn’t exactly known for their systems modeling, it’s light, real light on the systems modeling, there’s not even a working CHT gauge for the engines, let alone anything for the turbojets. There is the VC, and a couple views from the observer’s position in the nose, and a 2D panel that has no more info than the VC panel.

Externally the model has some nice touches, the jets have a smoke effect that’s toggleable, the inlet doors of the jets are closeable, and a bomb bay with a pair of torpedoes to name most of them. Flight dynamics wise I have no data for the Neptune, but the plane feels reasonable for its size, and reading some crew reports, it was quite comfortable to fly and fly-in at low level in turbulence. It has the default FSX gauge, a working autopilot, and a decent but certainly not great external model. Worth $10? You be the judge on that.

One BIG note, FSX does not like (and without a lot of exterior coding) does not allow for multiple engine types on a plane (jets and props). Being a Virtavia product, it should come as no surprise that this extra work was not done. The jets are purely visual and provide absolutely no extra thrust, but burn no extra fuel. For all intents and purposes this might as well be an earlier model that didn’t have the jet pods.

Alright back to the cold war. The Neptune had an incredibly diverse career over the almost 40 years it was in service. It was land based ASW asset, post WW2 armed with 20mm cannon turrets, rockets, and a MAD stinger (which was still relatively new). It served a “deniable” ELINT aircraft for the CIA in Taiwan immediately after the Communist revolution probing the Chinese mainland in ELINT overflights. It served as a maritime recon and sea control plane in the Korean war. And for much of the cold war engaged in classified ELINT and recon work over/near Russia in areas where the Soviets considered US aircraft as “shoot on sight” targets.

In Vietnam it went green with the US Army as the OP-2E it supported Operation Igloo White, which was the the Army’s remote (and occasional in person) reconnaissance of the Ho Chi Mihn trail. It was converted to the AP-2H gunship variant, being a contemporary of the original “Puff.” It was even the USN’s first carrier based nuclear bomber. This later involving a JATO takeoff, and a Doolittle raid style landing.

As mentioned above the Neptune began its professional life armed with 20mm cannon turrets in the nose, dorsally and in tail, and even had an “attack nose” with 6 fixed 20mm cannons. Shortly the capability to carry rockets was added, and the Neptune worked much like the their WW2 predecessors. As time progressed, the guns came off, sensors were added, and it was one of the first airbornes assets to have sonobuoys. (So promo marketing in the 1950’s and early 60’s was probably little more direct I’d say. Sorta NSFW (it’s bikini cheesecake, so click accordingly). For more info on exactly what’s going on with that picture check out post #10 here (safe for work link)) . Eventually the Neptune in it’s final ASW form had a whole suite of detection equipment that was state of the art for the day. The final few still flying Neptunes in the US have almost exclusively been turned into fire bombers.

One of the other missions the Neptune routinely performed was the investigation of surface shipping. This process was normally known as “rigging” a ship, and consisted of a low (sub 200’ officially, and from accounts, deck level wasn’t uncommon on large merchants) and close passes of the ship on all four sides. The nose observer would take pictures and note anything of interest.


I cranked up the sliders in FSX for ship traffic and quick glance at showed there should be plenty of shipping to check out.

This was the only water craft FSX gave me:

When I banked over to come across the bow it autogenn’ed it out of existance! Oh well, that’s certainly something I’m going to play with near a port city.

So with the history lesson over, it’s time to land the Neptune.

With the gear hanging, the flaps dangling, and when I finally remembered to put the spoilers out to slow down, the Neptune settled down just fine having barely made a dent in the 50% fuel I had loaded up with (I landed at 42% after approximately 1.5 hours, real world 10+ hour ON STATION time wasn’t uncommon).

So the overall verdict for me is that the $10 is worth it. It’s an AC that is fairly rare, but has a ton of real world history. There is a freeware model out there of this plane,that’s not quite as good graphically, but it does feature a kludge for the jet engines. I’m still deciding which on I like better.


Nice! I can appreciate a $10 value that does the job well enough. Out of curiosity, did the Neptune typically turn off the jet engines once it was on station and loiter using the props or did they just leave them running?


Great question and one I meant to address.

Yes for max loiter time the jets turned off as soon as you were able to climb out, and they only came back on under 500’ day time, 1500’ night time, and for landing. The idea with the low altitude jet activation. was to have a reserve of power when investigating a contact or ship. The intake doors on the jets would close when then engines were off to make things that little bit more aerodynamic and efficient.


Enroute at the moment…and the scenery in Idaho is just insanely gorgeous…


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)
LEG 7 - Cessna 172RG - Temple, TX (KTPL) - Midland, TX (KMAF)
Intermission - Sub Orbital Flight
LEG 8 - A-36 Bonanza - Midland, TX (KMAF) - Albuquerque, NM (KABQ)
LEG 9 - Cessna 404 - Albuquerque, NM (KABQ) - Montrose, CO (KMTJ)
LEG 10 - Grumman AA-5B Tiger - Montrose, CO (KMTJ) - Salt Lake City, UT (KSLC)

With Leg 10 in the books, it is time for another odd order of operations in my logbook. Being a single engine commercial pilot in a large mixed fleet of aircraft, I had lots of opportunities to fly the aircraft I wasn’t actually rated to fly. Those being the Cessna 402B and also the Beechcraft BE-58 Baron. The other freight pilots would let me build up experience flying with them and I really appreciated the leg up on future training.

February 2nd, 1997 was my first Baron flight in N8121R. I would later fly a trip in this airplane to deliver Vanna White (of Wheel of Fortune fame) to a ball in South Carolina, earning me a hug and a kiss (I haven’t washed since). Ah…memories…

Though X-Plane has a stock Baron that is pretty good, my flight happened to coincide with a 50% off Carenado sale, so I picked up their XP10 version Baron for around $19 - it works great in XP11 and looks fantastic!

A bit of a more modern panel than the beaters we flew at Ramp 66. We had both freight and passenger Barons.

Bringing the Baron to life is quick and easy, and you can only love the beautiful blat-blat-blat of those engines that always seemed like they were running rich like a Harley at idle…

At takeoff power though, they have this phenomenal growl and airy whoosh to them…and syncing the engines by sound alone is easy…

The Carenado panel is really very nice…

I wish I had this avionics package in the ones I flew! We are headed up to 3U2 - a backcountry forestry strip in Idaho about 280 miles north…

Hey look - Idaho paid their taxes unlike Utah, so they get ortho!

Hey Sheriff, I found the guy that is cheating on the drought water restrictions…

This was definitely the most scenic leg of the Christmas Flight that I’ve flown. The scenery in Idaho is simply stunning in all regards…

Starting to cloud up a bit…all the anti-ice stuff on…

Those high ridges buried in the clouds - makes my palms sweat a bit…

Lake Walcott Reservoir and dam…

After twenty minutes in the clouds, we pop out the north side of the weather…

The terrain gets more rugged, with peaks up to around the 12,000’ level…

I believe this is in the Sun Valley area…

Passengers get a nice view…

Weather clears out temporarily, but build back in as I work north…

Back in the clouds, starting to worry that my VFR only destination may not be in the cards this afternoon…

The last 15 minutes of the flight I break out again though to clear skies and great visibility…

Johnson Creek is in a tight little valley with very high terrain on all sides. You have to descend via connecting valleys to end up in the right spot at the right altitude. If you were doing this for real, you’d want some local knowledge and a good grasp on mountain flying to keep yourself safe. And obviously, you need to know your aircraft and what performance it is capable of…

We need to descend into that valley and then take a spur valley back to the south to find Johnson Creek…

Heading downhill, a little drag helps keep things reasonable and allows for a slower reduction of manifold pressure to avoid shock cooling the engines…

Down the valley, scraping the walls…

Found the side valley to the south…

One last big right turn and the field doesn’t come into view until you are lined up on short-ish final…

This approach works out and we find ourselves on the right speed and altitude…

A fantastic scenery area with some fun flying to squeeze in…!

My approach plan and execution…

Scenery available here:

The Baron was a great aircraft to fly. It felt more intimate and tight than the Cessna 402B. I never met a pilot that didn’t love to fly Beechcraft products…they feel so solidly built and stout that they impart confidence to the pilot.