Friday, October 24, 2008

Santa Monica - Phoenix / Beechcraft Baron 58 / VFR

This was quite a long flight. I first attempted it yesterday in my Cessna 182, but I got tired of constantly retrimming the aircraft every 60 seconds (the autopilot doesn't have any altitude modes), and the prospect of doing that for nearly three hours didn't appeal to me. So I decided to leave the Cessna in Santa Monica and take the Baron instead, which has a sophisticated autopilot and a ton of fancy avionics—plus it's significantly faster than the C182.

So I worked out a route for this flight, which was practically cross-country by my standards (around 330 nautical miles). Out of Santa Monica I'd turn east and join V186 to Pomona, then from there to Palm Springs, then Thermal, Blythe, Buckeye, and finally Phoenix. Although the Baron has a nice GPS and autopilot that could fly the entire route automatically, I decided to fly in heading mode and set the headings myself. I started out at 3500 to stay below the LAX Class B, then up to 5500 once I was out of it. Around Palm Springs I climbed to 7500 and stayed there until I was just west of Buckeye. Then it was down to 5500 again, and finally down to 3500 to stay below other traffic on the way into the Phoenix Class B. ATC gave me a left downwind to 25L, and landing proceeded uneventfully. I parked on the Cutter ramp on the south side. It was a really long and tiring flight, at least for me. My virtual passengers were happy, though, as we made the trip in just under two hours, whereas it would have been seven or eight hours by car. And we practically flew directly over Interstate 10 the whole way.

The Baron has such a heavy suite of avionics aboard that it slows down the frame rate, and the NT virtual DOS machine that the Reality XP stuff starts slows things down even further. After two hours the sim makes funny noises, too; I'm pretty sure that some add-on, somewhere, is leaking memory or something, especially during task switches. The clock runs slow in the Baron, meaning that the CPU is pegged when I'm flying this aircraft. But it's such a luxurious and pleasant aircraft to fly that I like it anyway. Great for IFR, with just about every instrument you could want to feel safe and cozy.

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