Hampton to Pago Pago Leg 8 - Antalya, Turkey to Aqaba, Jordan
As I mentioned above, my current strategy is to choose an aircraft registered in, or belonging to the military of the country where the leg originates. “OCD much Hangar200?”, I hear you say. Maybe…a little bit.
Starting in Antalya, Turkey I decided on a Turkish Air Force F-4E. (Later I found I had two more Turkish registered planes, but I had already taken a day to set up my TM Warthog HOTAS so…F-4E it is.)
This is the Milviz F-4E. It is a pretty good visual replica, outside and in, and the flight model “feels right”, like a heavy fighter when you get slow but a nimble rocket at high speed. I decided to use TACPACK with this flight, not because I wanted to shoot somebody down or drop bombs, but because I’m not sure if stores jettison works without TACPACK started. …and truth be told, if I’m low on gas and there is a Piper cub ahead of me to land, he’s going to eat a Winder.
Also as mentioned, I took about a day to go over the Milviz YouTube tutorial videos, then shoot a couple of approaches. For @Troll ‘s edification, evidently Viggens aren’t the only fighter I put into the dirt during pattern work.
A word about my route for this leg, and how I worked the navigation. As initially planned, the flight / mission was to be a high-low-high profile. I thought it would be fun to scorch down Lebanon’s Bakka valley at low level. I would fly over Turkey, drop down to skim the Syrian coast, to northern Lebanon, then shoot over to the Bakka Valley. When I got to the Sea of Galilee, I’d climb back up for the trip down the Jordan river valley and the Dead Sea, before descending for the approach to Aqaba (OJAQ). To navigate this route I used the INS and TACANs. In my iGMapHD, I edited the flight plan to substitute the TACAN channel instead of the VOR three letter ICAO code, so I would have to look it up from the frequency while airborne.
The morning of the flight I wake my new WSO. Crew rest is important but he can catch a few cat naps along the way.
The start up was going fine until I accidentally dumped the INS alignment. Whether a sim-ism or real, once dumped, you pretty much need to go shut down and start again…which I did. With a good INS, and everything else working it as time to taxi out.
At the end of the HABs, there is a large apron. Military transient parking? There are a couple of Forest Firefighting planes there.
There is also a Mi-8 Hip. For a second I thought it might be my Hip from DCS, but I soon saw that it wasn’t…the tail was still attached…after I land my DCS Hip, the tail is rarely still attached.
My taxi clearance was to RWY 18C. I really didn’t feel like taxiing all over the airport, so I made my way over to RWY 36C. FSX controllers only care that you are at a hold short for the active, not which end you are at. Winds were 176° at 9 kts, so a bit of a tail wind. Nothing my two J79-GE-17s can’t overcome in a few seconds.
I got cleared to take off, pulled on to the runway, stood on the brakes, ran up the engines to 80%-gauges were good-off the brakes and selected AB. Airborne with plenty of room.
Once airborne and cleaned up, I pulled the throttles out of AB, and set 100% mil power for the climb.
My cruise altitude was supposed to be 30,000 ft MSL. I got to 26,900 ft and found I couldn’t go higher with out going back into burner. The economy cruise figures I had looked at were for a 30,000 ft cruise…that was not going to happen.
I decided to call it “TOC” and settled in at that altitude.
Takeoff had been about 800 lbs under max operational weight. The jet was evidently still heavy. I figured the decreased cruise efficiency difference from a 4,000 ft lower altitude was probably less than spending a minute or so in AB. In hind sight, I should have picked a lower initial crime altitude until I burned off some gas. Even at 95% power I was still just making 250 KIAS. True speed was 386-ish but the plane felt too heavy until it lightened up.
The flight over Turkey was scenic but uneventful. I took the oportuity to have my “wingman” take a close in of myself and WSO.
Off my right wing I could see the northern part of Cyprus, including its long, thin eastern peninsula.
The Turkish / Syrian coast came into view.
A few miles from WP3, I initiated my dive to about 5000 ft.
I went back over land near the Turkish town of Arsuz, with in the “corner” of the eastern Mediterranean.
After a quick hop over the coastal mountains…
I was back over the sea…
… paralleling the Syrian coast.
I passed over Latakia, a major Syrian port.
Passing Tartus, I could see the Lebanese mountains up ahead.
Flying low over the foothills…
…the climate changed from lush mediterranean to arid semi-desert.
The road junction in the Lebanese town of El Qasr was my next waypoint. I needed to visually acquire it as I had already set my INS Nav Computer to the following waypoint, in order to have a reference heading from the turn. I hit it spot on and banked for a sharp turn.
I first was introduced to Lebanon’s Bekka Valley (or just “the Bekka”) way back in 1987, during a deployment with VF-32 on USS John F Kennedy (CV-67). At the time a few Americans, and a British “negotiator” named Terry Waite had been kidnapped by extremist groups in Lebanon. It was decided that the US needed a presence in the East Med. So off we went to “Bagel Station”, centered on 34N 34E, about 70 Nm from Beirut, and I did a month or so looking at bad guys and looking for air defenses in the Bekka Valley. Fun!
Here I am, over 30 years later, skimming over a much different Bekka Valley. (The default FSX scenery is way too sparse and too arid.)
At the end of the valley, I pop up to a higher altitude, but not too high.
At issue is fuel. Just before I got to Syria, my external wing tanks went dry. Now my center external is just about out. Given the distance I still have to travel, I am pretty sure that 10,000 lbs will suffice. So I head in over northern Israel at about 2,000 AGL, settling into about 5,000 ft MSL.
My WSO locked up a bogey ahead…
…looking…looking…I don’t see it.
Approaching the Dead Sea, I want to try something over the water…
…roll inverted and pull towards the deck…
…pull out at about 200 ft AGL…
…and sure enough, I’m flying below sea level!
OK, not that hard to do considering that the Dead Sea is 1412 ft below sea level. Still I have always wanted to do this, in a way recreating something I saw in 1993. During a port visit to Haifa aboard USS Guam, I took a USO tour to Masada (near the Red Sea). While there, I saw a couple pairs of IAF F-16s flying a similar low-level over the sea. They were approximately at eye-level to me on a hill so 200-500 ft AGL over the water. (Years later–2008–I had a moment of deja vu when in England. While visiting Hadrian’s Wall, I spotted two USAF F-16s flying a low-level in the valley to the north, again just about at my eye level as I stood at the wall.)
The south end of the Dead Sea comes up pretty fast at 350 kts. I pulled back up to a more modest altitude.
And ran into haze. OJAQ has an ILS but I’m not on an IFR flight plan (necessary in FSX to get clearance to fly an ILS approach). I take a quick look and my divert, the IAF’s Ovda air base which is at 1492 ft elevation and should be out of the haze. I change my TACAN from The Aqabar VOR to the Ovda VOR, CH 88X. I keep the Nav Computer on the Aqabar Waypoint. Of curse just after I do this…
The haze is gone. OJAQ is evidently VFR. The only other thing is the air traffic on radar.
I never see this bogey either. After a while, it is time tor shut down the radar in preparation for landing. The Master Caution light has come on for low fuel (under 4,000 lbs…I need to see if that can be adjusted). Still, rather use the fuel for a normal pattern approach, I decide to shoot a strait in visual for RWY 19.
Slow down. At 250 Kts , Gear and Flaps. Looking for “5 Doughnuts” Check. Landing Light. Slowing to 180 kts. Setting AOA and using power for glide slope.
I often forget to take screen shots during landing…I need to map it to a button. Regardless, the landing was good–AOA and on speed. Touched down, put the nose wheel on the asphalt and popped the drag chute.
The obligatory F-4E cool screen shot.
So as the drag chute goes flaccid so does my…um…“excitement” from flying the landing. I turn off the active…
…and taxi to parking.
The airport scenery is by Mahmoud Fadli and the VATSIM Jordanian FIR. It a fair mix of default and custom buildings that gets the job done.
Shut down, climb out and button up.
From here I’ve got two choices for my next flight but both are Royal Jordanian Airlines wide bodies…hmmm…what to do…