The Official 4th Annual Mudspike Christmas Flight - 2018 Edition



High temps, a little too long off the GPU and we started the flight with a dead APU. Fortunately I had a single engine running, although it was a little difficult to start the rest with bleed air. With a quick bump of the throttle to get the necessary flow the second engine was started, while I waited for #2 to fire up I quickly reviewed the CIVA INS and verified all the necessary waypoints were in as well as total alignment. Click The ignition switch popped back into place and it was time to fire the final engine up. A short taxi out of ramp, back taxi down the runway and off we were into a steep climb up to the flight levels.

Backing up the CIVA with VOR’s, Radials and airways we were on our way to RPMR. The weather climbing out was slightly uneventful, it turned out to be 000/000. Hmmm. Odd. (Turns out ASXP would fix this next day)

There’s something glorious about FlyjSim’s 727 panel, it just looks phenomenal. Short turns into RPMR and we were down with no issues, minus the silly APU. Nothing flight safety breaking. Although this seemed to start a trend.

The weather hadn’t shifted much from the day before, still some low hanging clouds. Nothing really to be worried about fortunately.

Performing an NADP1 Takeoff, it was a turn to the right over the city, so necessary to keep the JT8D’s a little quiet. Clearing 3000 I dialed up a higher airspeed and slowly brought up the flaps as per schedule. The JT8D’s rocketed the 727 up at 3000FPM barely breaking a sweat.

Descending into Jayapura Sentani, the clouds had lingered on from before. Prior to takeoff I noted a Thunderstorm Sigmet north of my route. The winds would cooperate and continue to blow it North, Northwest away from my route. There is possibly foreshadowing in this picture below, I thought nothing of it at the time. Turns out I should have.

The overcast got thick, the METAR had mentioned something along the lines of OVC025. I knew there were mountains around but I hadn’t realized just how close I was going to be. Going from a plane with a GPWS to a plane without any glass gauges at all really teaches you to plan ahead for things like terrain. It was a bit unnerving going down into the clouds and the mountain lingering off to the left. I planned to be overhead the airport at 3000 feet.

Well, out of the soup at 3000 I was, which conveniently is when the field came into sight. Thankfully I was right on top of the field, however I was a little too close for comfort to those mountains.

A sort of broken teardrop approach thing occuring here

Now unfortunately I didn’t take too many photos this next flight. Jayapura to Honiara. Prior to departure the CIVA had failed. Ok fine, there were enough landmarks that I could do this visually. No airways, 1 VOR on the way and the destination airports VOR. Off I went. No issues. My alternate airport was AYPY. This is important because it’s 500nm-ish away from my departure and nearly 800 from my arrival. The flight up to about mid way point was perfectly ok. No issues following landmarks I had planned for. Roughly 450NM away from my destination the #1 fire handle lit up. Well this makes things interesting. At this point I have to continue to the destination, each minute it takes me to sort this fire out I’m moving 8NM per minute further away from the alternate. Pull the fire handle, nothing. Immediately cut fuel to that engine and it’s just windmilling. Still on fire, I try to get the extinguisher to work. Nothing. I hit the switch to transfer bottles and use up #2’s extinguisher to kill the flames on 1. In the short few minutes it’s taken me to deal with this I’ve not noticed my airspeeds decreased, the nose is rising. I noticed somethings off when looking at the engineer station, look back. 180kts and decreasing, full power and pitch nose down slightly to regain airspeed. Down to 26,000 feet.

I have extra fuel, which allows me to keep the remaining JT8D’s running close to max to keep the 727 aloft. The ground speed bleeds off, to a very reasonable 380kts. A tense hour and a bit roll by as I meticulously watch my engine instruments for any signs of abnormality. At this moment if another engine goes out that’s it. There’s nothing left but to ditch it in the ocean. I end up making it all the way to the airport thankfully. However because I’ve got a middle and a right engine, the opposite rudder needed to fight the asymmetric thrust is insane. If there’s one thing I’ve discovered, if you lose an engine, do not at all try to land with flaps 30. I could not for the life of me keep speed up. It bothered my brains normal function to pitch down on approach and increase power to reduce the descent rate as well as increase airspeed. Flaps 25 was the sweet spot and I could keep the plane flying. A mildly uneventful landing, which I could’ve made easier had I opted for a slight tail wind giving me some extra force against the asymmetric thrust.

Fire crews were on “standby”

Waiting for several days, a new engine was finally flown in for the plane. JT8D’s aren’t easy to come by. Behind schedule it was time to get into the air. Departing at 3am has it’s perks, the plane looks good with only the ramp lights.

Off to Fiji we go, in the dead of night. A fixed CIVA also meant we could properly navigate to the next airport. Punching in the waypoints for B452 airway, verifying the fuel levels and weights it was off we go.

On a side note, XP has killer lighting. It just looks so good. Now all we need is volumetric clouds and we’re set.

I’ve seemed to have ran my luck of clear skies dry. Nothing but ceilings here. Nothing requiring an ILS but enough to keep me paying attention to exactly where I am based on DME’s.

The old girl is pretty slippery in the descent still too, it cruises at ridiculously high speeds as well. Comfortably too, I might add.

NFFN has 2 runways, so I picked a minor cross wind ([email protected]) and took runway 02 which would lead me right to the terminal on the right hand side. Nothing had gone wrong this flight luckily. Company higher ups told me however they were going to have a new plane out here for me shortly. Although I’m not sure what it is quite yet, it sounds like I’ll be going back to a prop plane. Let’s just hope it’s as capable as the TBM if it isn’t the TBM.



I’m not sure if it is a hardwired thing into people to have a bit of a soul refreshing chuckle when they first see a picture of a younger version of someone as they would recognize them now. This was no exception! Sorry @BeachAV8R !

I was pretty excited when I first saw that post, as I thought it might have been for X-Plane. There was a bit of a “rare bird” off-shoot of the Jet Provost in the form of the Strikemaster, which was the armed version of it solely for export. Ecuador had the equivalent of two squadrons of them, back when I was here the first time. My mother was in charge of logistics for them (BAC/BAe liaison).

I know what you mean. RIP.

It was a great post!


Seventeenth entry for the Christmas Challenge.


Click to reveal AAR

This time, we take the 777-300ERX with a kickass livery. Seems rather thematic since we’re going to Middle Earth!

Prepping the aircraft


Lining up on the runway

Setting up 5 degrees of flaps for takeoff

Full power!

Up we go!


The stars are beautiful

Climbing some more. The ocean is getting darker

Leaving Tahiti. I’m not a Boeing fan but I have to admit that the 777 flexing her wings is a thing of beauty.

Contrailing when reaching 30,000 ft. Our cruising altitude is FL350

Top of Climb. Wind turbulences cause some pitching oscillations from the autopilot.


The flight is long and super boring.

Some clouds over Rarotonga (RG). We still have roughly 2100 nm to go.

Some interesting cloud formations over the Pacific. For some reason they remind me of this picture I saw once of “Mackerel clouds”.

More stars

More than halfway through

(Big Sigh) This is literally the most boring part of the whole Christmas Challenge… cruising over the Pacific. I’ve come to a point where I almost want an emergency to happen.

Approaching the North Island of New Zealand. We can see NZOH (Ohakea ) on the navigation display.

Land ho! North Island is to my right, but we’ll swing further south to land on South Island.

Crossing from North Island to South Island

The approach to Queenstown shouldn’t be too difficult with a normal plane… but with a heavy 777… the runway is going to be really, REALLY tight. Plus, no ILS is available, so it’ll have to be a a visual and manual landing… at night. (Gasp)

Overflying Christchurch

Starting my Descent near ELRUV

The mountains of Middle Earth!

Preparing the altimeter. Don’t want to mess this up!

Following the STAR

At least visibility isn’t too terrible. Almost no clouds!

In the STAR

On Final

Terrain! Terrain!

Lining up the runway

The approach has to be really steep and I have to come in a bit hot…if I can come in close enough and float a bit, maybe I’ll have enough runway to stop.

Nailed it

Eating up runway

Holy cow… couldn’t have been closer than that. I can start breathing now.

Turning back to rollback the runway towards the parking area.

We made it! Whoo!


Welcome to New Zealand. Time to explore Middle Earth together!

That’ll be in the next episode. Stay tuned!


Nice leg. That RNAV arrival looks exciting. Lots of lumpy stuff to hit in the vicinity.


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)
LEG 11 - BE-58 Baron - Salt Lake City, UT (KSLC) - Johnson Creek, Idaho (3U2)
LEG 12 - Navion 205 - Johnson Creek, Idaho (3U2) - Mile Hi, Idaho (I97D)
LEG 13 - J-3 Cub - Mile Hi, Idaho (I97D) - Krassel, ID (24K)
LEG 14 - Mooney M20C - Krassel, ID (24K) - Enterprise, OR (8S4)
LEG 15 - Piper PA-44-180 Seminole - Enterprise, OR (8S4) - Hanel Field, OR (0OR9)
LEG 16 - BAC Jet Provost - Hanel Field, OR - S50 Auburn, WA

Next up in my logbook was an aircraft checkout in a based owner’s Cessna 210. I really liked the 210 - it felt like an even bigger Cessna 182. I didn’t have a 210 to use in either X-Plane or P3D, and didn’t feel like dropping $15 on a version for a single leg, so I’m going to use the Cessna 206 as a stand in. No, it doesn’t have retractable gear or a non-cantilevered wing, but it is close enough for government work.

Our flight will take us up through downtown Seattle for a nice, scenic flight and then over to 3W5 - Mears Field in a valley north of the city…

A good bit of moisture is streaming up from the southwest…so we will be low-level today to stay out of the crud…

The Alabeo Cessna 206 still looks good and performs nicely. Engine oil temperatures and cylinder heads run a bit too hot, but otherwise everything seems functional.

Blasting off out of Auburn…

Conducting a low approach at Sea-Tac…

Followed a few minutes later by a low approach down the runway at iconic Boeing Field…

Heading toward downtown Seattle…

Up north of the city the suburbs start to peter out…

After a bit, we turn eastbound and follow the Skagit River up into the foothills…

Soon we are lining up for Mears Field…

Nice leg in a nice plane. We are getting to Pago Pago in small chunks! Not sure if we will manage it by Christmas, but we are pedaling hard!


@Chuck_Owl Whoa! I suspect we are going around the world with you, now. Nice! :+1:

Well, it wasn’t actually a tutorial, just a chat with @PaulRix mostly, about some omissions of detail in the sailing simulator Sailaway, on last year’s Christmas Voyage. It had not implemented the tilted axis precession effect of the planet as it orbits the sun, and was screwing up my star plots, until I nailed what the problem was. LOL!


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)
LEG 11 - BE-58 Baron - Salt Lake City, UT (KSLC) - Johnson Creek, Idaho (3U2)
LEG 12 - Navion 205 - Johnson Creek, Idaho (3U2) - Mile Hi, Idaho (I97D)
LEG 13 - J-3 Cub - Mile Hi, Idaho (I97D) - Krassel, ID (24K)
LEG 14 - Mooney M20C - Krassel, ID (24K) - Enterprise, OR (8S4)
LEG 15 - Piper PA-44-180 Seminole - Enterprise, OR (8S4) - Hanel Field, OR (0OR9)
LEG 16 - BAC Jet Provost - Hanel Field, OR - S50 Auburn, WA
LEG 17 - Cessna 206 - Auburn, WA (S50) - Mears Field, WA (3W5)

Another logbook oddity pops up on April 5, 1997 when I provide another Instrument Competency Check in a C-23 Beechcraft Sundowner N1963L. The 180 hp, fixed gear Sundowner was basically a renamed Beechcraft Musketeer.

There is aC-23 out on the market for X-Plane by Leading Edge Simulations and had I thought ahead a bit, I could have picked it up for a bit over $7 during the X-Aviation 50% off sale a few weeks back. Not wanting to spend the full $15 for a one-time use airplane that might not even work in X-Plane 11, I elected to search for a comparable airplane elsewhere.

I remembered coming across an airplane on Jason Chandler’s really cool X-Plane add-on site and a quick visit showed that the freeware AADX Hawk IIX.V was a pretty close replica to the C-23 shape and design.

Of course, Chandler’s Hawk is his own design, and features an interesting R-13 Wankel (rotary) engine of Mazda fame. His turbo-boosted R-13 ends up with a nominal horsepower of 160-180 hp. Some of the features:

  • HKS Turbocharged 2-Rotor 1.3L R13 Wankel w/ 2 blade constant speed prop
  • Turbo critical alt, 18,000
  • Water cooled, ambient, inlet & amp; prop airflow directed through radiator
  • Closed loop electro-hydraulic retract gear
  • Low stall speeds in the sub 50 range, sub 40 if you’re good and light
  • Cruise speeds 140-160 KIAS
  • Standardized AADX panel layout and ergonomics

One look at the panel and we can see this isn’t your dad (or grandfather’s) Sundowner. With dual screen PFDs, a clean central instrument pillar with engine and systems gauges, a dual GNS install, and an autopilot - the Hawk has a spacecraft interior.

Startup is a quick and easy affair and I plug in a flight plan for a short, 90nm hop up to Squamish Airport, Canada. We will shoot over to the plains near Vancouver to take advantage of the waterways of Howe Sound and the Squamish River to make our way under VFR to the VFR-only airport.

A bit of a gloomy day as we take to the sky. The overcast is hovering right around our planned flight altitude of 8,000’. I keep the power pulled back, and leave the landing gear extended to emulate the Sundowner, shooting for a cruise speed of around 120 knots.

While heads down to sort out how to work the autopilot, I almost ran into this mountain…tsk, tsk…

On our way with the autopilot flying. We scoot along the base of some clouds so I go ahead and fly an IFR altitude and track the VOR radials to get where I’m confident of an IFR descent into VFR conditions.

Some toothy looking peaks…

Getting closer to Vancouver…

Making the turn to track the Whatcom 299 radial for 42 DME, which should put me over Howe Sound…

Cross checking with the GNS…

Once we clear that ridge, we will be good to descend…

The weather holds up and the plan works as we drop down toward the Squamish River…

Soon the valley starts to neck down and a few minutes later Squamish airport is in sight…

The Hawk is a nice flying machine. I elect to land straight in to runway 33 despite a 13 knot tailwind - probably safer than circling to the north of the field…

I only use about 1,200’ of the 2,400’ long runway…

I park on the ramp next to an airplane I wish was in my logbook - the Lake Renegade.

A nice hop in the Hawk / C-23. I don’t actually remember much from the real airplane other than that it felt like an honest aircraft. Since we were doing an ICC, I was mostly observing the other guy shoot multiple approaches and it seemed like a pretty stable IFR platform.

The flight track of my route to Squamish…


The Alabeo C207 is one of my favorites. The interior is such a masterpiece of worn fabric and panels, a sim pilot can almost smell a mixture of 100LL, degraded rubber, and mildew. I was flying it around oregon the other day tinkering with VR settings and at first I thought that the the CHT gauge was broken. But a quick half cycle of the mixture knob woke it up. Great airplane.


Was that standard X-Plane scenery for Squamish? Or an ORBX airport? Or?

I’ve got ORB’s Squamish for FSX…one of my favorite areas to fly.


As I mentioned earlier, for some unknown, possibly mild OCD caused, reason I have decided that for each of the remaining legs to…to…to wherever we are going (somewhere in the Pacific), I will chose the aircraft to be flown based on the country of origin of the flight. In other words, use the national civil or military registration from departure airfield. And it has to e an aircraft already kn my virtual hangar.

This is not as easy as it seems. I fortunately had a Croatian Airlines Dash-8 for Leg 7. Leg 8 proved to be a bit trickier. I thought for sure I had a Turkish Airlines livery somewhere…nope.

Then I discovered my Milviz F-4E in TAF colors. So that is what I am going with for the next installment. Here it is, waiting for me at the military side of Antalya (LTAI).

I’ve had to drag my TM Warthog over from my DCS PC…and review the Youtube tutorials…and remap some Warthog buttons…and take a few practice turns around the pattern…I’ll launch off in a day or so. Currently the destination is Jordan (Royal Jordanian Airlines L1011). After that…? Singapore or Malaysia…or?


A superb choice my man. :+1:


Ah, the Mudspike Christmas Flight! About a month ago it occurred to me this might be coming up so I checked. And quite a nice destination this year. I got the “take off from the airport closest to your home location” part but forgot the “with a load of gifts” part and had to improvise, as we’ll see. Here’s one single PIREP for my three-flight journey, so please forgive the length. X-Plane 11.25 for the flight and the following pics.

Drove over to my home field, KTUS Tucson, Arizona, USA on a typically sunny autumn day at the cargo ramp. For a brief moment I thought I’d just stay home, click a lot of gifts on Amazon, and sub-contract this out to one of the big 3:

But that wouldn’t be in the spirit of the season or the Mudspike Flight. Instead, I commissioned a special paint on my newest acquisition:

C5 Galaxy–I was planning on lots of gifts this year. The C-130 Hercules from last year would not do.

Taxied out at Tucson and departed northbound:

Some time and a fair distance later I descended through the clouds at dusk for PAFA-Fairbanks, Alaska:

After one go-around (I cannot find a chart for Vref approach speeds at various weight and flap settings for the C5 Galaxy–if anyone has one, please alert me–and am having difficulty getting the big plane down without being long or bouncing as I guess at the proper speeds), taxied in and parked up:

Left it there for a few days while I re-positioned myself to help with the Anchorage earthquake. Oh yea, why PAFA Fairbanks? Because I was picking up a bunch of gifts from North Pole. North Pole, AK:

Time was passing by and Alaska felt even colder knowing others were en route to Pago Pago so I headed out to coordinate the loading. Opened the front and back of the C5 to expedite loading:

When all was secure and the forklift drivers well tipped, an uneventful climb-out had me southbound in the winter sun:

A short while later, after an uneventful over-water flight, I descended for landing at Honolulu, Hawaii. I think I could have made Pago Pago in one go from Fairbanks but I was heavy with cargo and a bit concerned with fuel; also, my organization is stretched thin right now so I was having trouble finding relief pilots–I’d have to do this non-revenue flight on my own–so a layover by Waikiki sounded good. Got down, not pretty, on 08L and parked in an out of the way spot:

Ah, island warmth, island time, a few iced Konas, some surfing on the north shore. Uh, “layover” turned into a longer stay. Then one day I remembered I still had a job to complete. Besides, the non-stop Christmas muzak and sidewalk Santas were messing with the island vibe, so back to the airport. Checked that the cargo tie-downs were still secure, checked the weather en route and at Pago Pago, called ahead to be sure there’d be parking space for me, then filed the flight plan, engine start and taxi out. I fly from PHNL frequently in my 777 but have always used runway 08L. I’ve always wanted to use the “reef runway” and given both my parking proximity (so shorter taxi time) and the fact that I’m still not expert with the C5 (so maybe out of the way would be good for everyone), I decided to use 08R reef runway for takeoff:

Ah, the Pacific is a big place. Even in a big jet. Settled in at FL280 for cruise above the clouds:

And then it was back to business. Tutuila Island came into view. I radioed down to NSTU-Pago Pago for approach clearance. I had been on autopilot while enjoying Amy Grant’s second Christmas album on the in-flight sound system and found myself past TOD. So I flew a break pattern over the field and set up for a long final:


Put it down on runway 05. Not great, not horrible, but needed most of the 10,000 feet. Back-taxied on 26 and turned onto the cramped parking apron:

Parked up and shut down the engines. Hey, wasn’t that Hawaiian jet at PHNL when I left?

My arrival was attracting attention from folks at this nicely modeled scenery (Cami de Bellis’ in X-Plane):

Though this one didn’t seem to care:

Enough messing around, time to complete the mission. Off-loading the gifts. As the saying goes “articles may have shifted in flight”; I opened the back ramp and some spilled out. Then the ground crew got to work:

And that, pilots, is that. A little detour made my flight longer this year, but got it in before Christmas! Last year, with the C-130 Herc, I continued on to go around-the-world to get home. That burned me (and the plane) out for a while, so this year I think I will soak up some south Pacific cheer then just head home direct. Until next Christmas, Pilots, happy holidays and Happy 2019!


Very nice…! That C-5 should have brought in enough supplies for @chipwich to open up a South Pacific Brewing Company.


Leg07 Pearson Field to Bella Coola (KVUO - CYBD)

P3Dv4 mods used for this leg:
Carenado Beech D18S
Orbx: all layers plus KVUO and CYBD
Active Sky P3Dv4 and Cloud Art


The Pratt radials seemed perfectly happy as the old Beech and I loped along at thirteen thousand enjoying the view, warm and cozy over an increasingly rising landscape. Waylon and Willie sang of good hearted women and urged mommas not to let their babies grow up to be cowboys on the David Clarks.

I first noticed an airspeed rolling off, with an obstinate autopilot apparently determined to hold altitude until we quit flying. I pulled off my headset, disengaged the AP, nosed over a bit, checked fuel selectors, quantity, mixture, and gauges. There was no visible precip, but I began to have the sinking feeling (pun intended) that the engines were sucking ice, so on comes the prop and other deice equipment, what little I had. The props were still turning, but power was non existent. CHT was coming down too. Not good. We passed through 11.5 and those mountains were beginning to get my attention…

A shame because the day had begun so well.

Anytime someone is willing to swap Aztec for Beech 18 time, you jump at the offer.

Clearance received and tail wheel locked, I hold the brakes while running her up to almost takeoff power. The wind had shifted almost 180 degrees during taxi, but remained light and variable.

The Beech tracked straight and the tail lifted easily a little over 45 kts.

Tailwind or not, we lifted with plenty of asphalt remaining.

We pulled up the gear and flaps, banked left away from PDX, and were soon on our way. Bella Coola lay 515 miles to the north.

To be continued…


Wow those are some great screens!


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)
LEG 11 - BE-58 Baron - Salt Lake City, UT (KSLC) - Johnson Creek, Idaho (3U2)
LEG 12 - Navion 205 - Johnson Creek, Idaho (3U2) - Mile Hi, Idaho (I97D)
LEG 13 - J-3 Cub - Mile Hi, Idaho (I97D) - Krassel, ID (24K)
LEG 14 - Mooney M20C - Krassel, ID (24K) - Enterprise, OR (8S4)
LEG 15 - Piper PA-44-180 Seminole - Enterprise, OR (8S4) - Hanel Field, OR (0OR9)
LEG 16 - BAC Jet Provost - Hanel Field, OR - S50 Auburn, WA
LEG 17 - Cessna 206 - Auburn, WA (S50) - Mears Field, WA (3W5)
LEG 18 - Beechcraft C-23 Sundowner - Mears Field, WA (3W5) - Squamish, Canada (CYSE)

On April 22, 1997 I caught my biggest break in my aviation career. The previous couple of years I had worked at Ramp 66 in North Myrtle Beach - very often working on the line pumping gas and washing airplanes from 5AM until 2PM, then flight instructing from 2PM to midnight for many, many days. Work, fly, sleep, work, fly, sleep was the mantra for much of that period. It was exhausting and fun for a guy in his early twenties.

In the period of working the line, I met many pilots from all walks of life. One of those pilots, Terry, was a corporate pilot for an outfit in Gastonia, North Carolina called TPT Aviation. They were what would be considered one of the earliest fractional outfits, although they operated under Part 91 of the FARs. Terry had seen me busting my butt and one day, out of the blue, he offered me an interview. With only a thousand hours in my logbook, and a stunningly little 27 hours of multi-engine time (I had only gotten my multi-engine rating 60 days prior), I drove up to Gastonia, just outside of Charlotte and took my interview trip with another pilot.

The pilot I flew with on April 22, 1997 was named Cliff, and I’m sure he was amused by how green I was. I was being thrown into the right seat of a Citation II, with the fastest thing I’d flown being a few hours in a Beech Baron.

My first leg that day was AKH-CLT, literally a five minute reposition flight over to Charlotte to pick up corporate passengers. My only responsibility in the right seat was to not touch a thing, and try to keep up with the radio calls. I can honestly say I will never forget that takeoff out of Gastonia (which was a stunningly short strip to be operating jets from might I add - at that time it was around 3,650’). That plane roared down the runway, the needles moved faster than anything I’d seen before (I know…the irony…a Citation) and everything happened at light speed. I think we were landing in Charlotte before I even said “Vee One”. Haha…I was so out of my element.

Cliff kindly shepherded me through the day as we hit Charlotte, Chattanooga, Calhoun-GA, back to Charlotte, and into Gastonia. I logged 4.0 of jet SIC that day. I drove back home to North Myrtle Beach that evening sure that TPT Aviation would want nothing to do with such a nervous wreck of a pilot that obviously had no business flying in anything faster than 140 knots or so.

To my great surprise, a few days later, Terry called and offered me the job. I was floored. For the next two weeks, I worked out my last days at Ramp 66, wrapping up students as fast as I could, finding them new instructors, and flying some additional single engine freight runs in the company Lances and Bonanzas.

On May 14, 2017 I officially became a corporate pilot at TPT Aviation.

But back to the X-Mas flight - we are taking a short and ambitious hop from Squamish, CA up to a backcountry strip at Chilko Lake Lodge (CAG3). This isn’t a trip you’d ever see a Citation doing…but hey, this is why we fly sims right?

The Carenado Citation II is pretty nice for X-Plane. It has some systems wrong, but overall it gives a very nice Citation feel. I need to update mine though because I did have some weird issue where my HSI CDI needle in FMS mode was flipping back and forth (it might have been related to my GTN integration in the panel).

A gloomy day in the Pacific Northwest again (imagine that!)…

Going to want to use all of the runway at Squamish and use a second notch of flap setting (I can’t remember what that is in the II, in the Ultra it is 15 degrees)…

Setting up the autopilot to capture 16,000’ for the short hop up to Chilko Lake…

The latest update to SkyMaxx Pro is looking pretty good actually…

This is that lower resolution World Ortho that I was talking about a few days ago. It actually looks pretty OK most of the time and loads very fast and has almost no performance hit…great for enroute flying…

The interior of the Carenado Citation II is a near spitting image of the one I flew at TPT Aviation (N758S)…

Of course, the Carenado panel is much more modern though. The II I flew had old Sperry steam gauges, a Trimble 2000 GPS (no moving map), no FMS, and no EFIS instruments…

This is what our Citation looked like, with that wonderful Sperry ball ADI that I’d later also fly in King Airs…

The Reality XP GTN 750 is an awesome box and looks great in the Citation panel. Unfortunately, it isn’t clickable in the 3D pit, so you have to pop it up to a 2D representation. I don’t know if anyone has fixed that integration yet…

The weather at Chilko Lake is reporting a couple thousand broken, and with no instrument procedures, I take advantage of spotting the south end of the lake early and descending down to follow it up to the field rather than risk getting caught on top…

Some speedbrakes to help in the descent…

In the Chilko Lake valley…very scenic!

Even at relatively low altitude, the low res ortho is OK enough to get the job done…

250-ish knots under 10K right?

At the north end of the lake I spot the dirt strip at Chilko Lodge…

Dirtying up to get down to a reasonable approach speed. I WAG the weight and guess at a 100 knot Vref…

Starting to rain a bit on short final. Wow that looks narrow!

The strip widens out on the south end, but constricts quickly…so “centerline” discipline is paramount here!

Down and the thrust reversers out. Definitely make sure they are idle reverse if not stowed completely by 60 knots or you could FOD the engine here for sure…

Used around 2,000’ from touchdown and had some room to spare at the end…

Taxiing back and checking out the wingtip clearance. Not much…maybe seven or eight feet per side…

Ready to do some fishing!

The 3D path in…

Starting with TPT Aviation marked a new and exciting part of my flying career. Their fleet was an interesting mix, the flights we did were a mix of corporate business and pleasure, and there were some very really challenges that would build my skill quickly. I am forever indebted to Terry for giving me the opportunity at such an early point in my career, and it opened a huge door that would eventually land me where I am today.


Don’t ask me how or why, but the story’s your telling with your AAR’s do a fantastic job of making a guy miss flying for a living (as a crew member), and question his career choices all at once. :rofl:


Well, I am happy to report that first Citation I flew (N758S) is still flying (apparently) and registered to Max-Viz corporation…although oddly it looks like it is registered as an “Experimental” aircraft. Looks like Max-Viz is an enhanced vision hardware company…


Mitch Glenfiddich was having a bit of a stressful day already. He had awoken well before sunrise, restless and preoccupied. Then when going to put on the coffee, he stood with bare feet into something the dog had done. In trying to avoid waking up his wife, he had tried to quietly open the door of the cupboard that contained all the cleaning implements, but everything in there was so interdependent of the next article for mutual stability that when he moved the disinfectant bottle, all the others tumbled out with a great clamor. Of course, he got a corresponding admonition.

He left without the coffee.

At the base, things were not much better. The new helicopter, because of some items and operations that were not yet contained in the OPSPEC, needed several amendments to the certification. There was that, and none of the pilots had any experience on the new type. He had to check out at least one today. For the moment, the helicopter could not perform any rescue missions…

Airbus H-145. Huh! Not what comes to mind when you hear the name of that particular industry. Anyway, why waste the flight just checking out the pilot? He decided to familiarize two of the rescue crew with the machine. He randomly selected them, and asked them to join him. They seemed happy enough with it.

Well, first thing. It was raining, and there were storms off in the distance. Then, on board during the before start checks, Mitch noticed that the standby compass was out by 90 degrees, and there appeared to be no way to regulate the card. It would need swinging, no doubt. He jotted the information down. There was so much to do that if he did not, he would forget…

Start up, despite the guide, was initially a bit confusing for his student, Eddie, but he managed eventually.

“See, you have to feed in a bit of throttle, too.”

“And don’t forget the switch guards in place.”

Then there was the airborne hovering taxi. His student was only recently rated to helicopters from fixed wing, and it showed. He was having a bad time with the collective, alternately soaring up into the sky, then plummeting towards the ground, complaining all the way in both directions. The two crew members were also showing alternating moods, verging between exhilaration and terror at the newbie’s antics…

“Okay, when you figure out your issues, we’ll take a run up to Palm Beach. Go out to sea a bit.”

“Yes, sir!”

“Here we go!”

Once he was moving forwards, Eddie seemed much more at home…

The weather really could have been better for training, but you have to take what you get. This is a rescue outfit, after all, thought Mitch. Out over the sea, they turned north up the coast. That compass was very disturbing, and hard to get out of mind with its faulty indication. They were reliant on the PFD heading information only…

But there were other things to try.

“Ready to try the super duper flotation device inflation?”

“Sure,” said Eddie, enthusiastic as always…

With a “pffff”, they were inflated, giving the rescue crew another jolt…

“You okay there, Bobbie Jean? You look a bit pale.”

“That was great!” Eddie exclaimed. As they flew along, Mitch saw something up ahead…

“Investigate that, Eddie.”

“It looks like an oil rig, sir. Are there such things around here?”

“Unless we are seeing an industrial age version of the Flying Dutchman, obviously there is one here, right now,” Mitch laughed, but was also puzzled. It must be clandestine, but who would do it? And built so quickly. He could not remember ever seeing it before.

“Land on that heli-pad, Eddie. It will be good practice for you,” there was an audible groan from the crew behind them…

¨Okay, a bit close to the edge, but we’re alive," Mitch got out after they shut down, and went to talk to the rig workers. Eddie and the crew watched from the helicopter. When he came back, he was looking even more bewildered.

“I don’t know. Khamsin. Never heard of that oil drilling company,” he shook his head. “And they are not getting any oil out, either. They have some papers, but I’m reporting this anyway. It is fishy. Let’s go.”

They continued cruising north, and Eddie decided to try out the thermal imaging goggles…

“Ah, cool!” he was craning his head around, scanning. Then he stopped, with his gaze fixed in one direction. “There is a source out there, on the water.”

“Let’s check it out.”

As they neared, they saw this…


“What an idiot! What does he think he is doing out here?”

The crew were looking at him, too.

“It is probably that guy who was on the news flash the other night,” Bobby Jean said, her voice metallic over the intercom.

“The Cuban World War Two bomber guy?”

“Yeah. Coast Guard did not ever find him.”

Mitch thought for a moment. He could not really do a rescue with the helicopter still not certified. But it was his job to save people.

“We will pick him up. Gives us a chance to try out the flotation device.”

They were treated to some more of Eddie’s hair raising hovering flight while he positioned himself…

But he was eventually successful, and shut down. The sea was a bit rough, and they were bobbing around precariously…

“Well done,” said Mitch off handly, then motioned for the crew to bring the man adrift in. Soon they had him on the stretcher, through the clamshell doors…

“Nice,” Mitch said. “Now, here is what we will do. We will declare an emergency. Set 7700 in the transponder, and let’s go straight to Palm Beach. Get to it, Eddie.”

It was time for white knuckles again as Eddie started up. He could not stop the helicopter from twirling around as the rotors started turning.

“Hey, cut it out. This is not an automated soup stirrer.”

However, they got away without further event, and Eddie was happy in forward flight once more. Mitch asked the crew how the rescued man was.

“Dehydrated. He seems to be somewhat catatonic, too. Suffering from shock, but he is stable.”

They buzzed the homes along the beach on the way in to Palm Beach. It seemed Eddie was living something he really wanted to do, and felt like letting everyone in the neighborhood know about it…

Mitch radioed in advance for a medical crew. Finally Palm Beach. He sighed with relief…

“Land in fornt of those blocks there.”

“And let’s deflate the flotation device, while we are about it.”

The crew handed the man over to the emergency medics, who immediately loaded him into an ambulance. He was beginning to respond to the saline drip feed and attention, and looked up at the crew.

“Where am I?”

“You’re safe,” Bobbie Jean said. “And the next time you pull a stunt like that, I’ll hit you with this.”

“Now go and recover. You’re lucky.”

They walked back to the helicopter, and Eddie was still in a state of uncontainable euphoria. His first rescue!

Note: I was looking for something more like a Sea King for this post, but this freebie turned up…

…and fitted the requirements more than perfectly, for the post in mind.

I do not want to sound cheesy, and this is a feeble tribute, but I cannot help adding…

While writing this, my thoughts were going out to all who fly to actively save people’s lives. It is a selfless commitment of those crews who go and get out mountain climbers, swamped yachts crews, and a whole host of other mischief and pickles certain sports get thrill seekers into, usually in the worst possible meteorological conditions imaginable.


@chipwich What a classic! Love it. :+1: