Thursday, July 30, 2009

My expanding fleet

Over the past few days I've been checking out some new additions to my vast fleet of aircraft. I now have 35 airplanes in the fleet, scattered at various airports throughout the United States (mostly in the Great American Southwest). They range from very large aircraft to very small aircraft.

At the large, “big iron” end, I have two 747-4AA aircraft. There really isn't any domestic 747 service in the U.S. today, with the airlines' bizarre business models, so I usually fly these as my own private aircraft. Flying a 747 is like being on an ocean cruise. It's very relaxed and there's a lot of automation.

I have two Boeing 767-3AAR aircraft, which I sometimes fly on long- or short-haul routes, occasionally mirroring real flights, but often just on my own. The 767 is also a very nice aircraft to fly, although the avionics on the 300 aren't as fancy as those on the 747-400.

I also have two 737-8AA aircraft. These I fly most often to mirror real-world flights, mostly Southwest Airlines flights, because they have frequent flights all over the U.S. to choose from.

The 747s and 737s are PMDG models; the 767 is a Level-D model.

At the other end of the spectrum, I have a variety of small general-aviation aircraft. The smallest are new acquisitions, three Cessna 152 aircraft. I have five Cessna 172s, and seven Cessna 182s. All of these are Carenado models except for two of the 172s, which are Flight1 (and kind of hokey, so I don't use them any more). I also have three new Piper Dakotas from Dreamfleet, which join my six Beechcraft Baron 58s and five Beechcraft Bonanza A36s from the same development house; they are all beautiful aircraft.

Finally, to fill in the middle range of bizjets, I've acquired three Cessna Citation X twinjets. The learning curve is steep on these, and Eaglesoft, which developed the models, is still working on the FMS, so they aren't quite ready for production service yet, although I've been practicing with them without using the FMS lately.

So that's nine different types of aircraft overall, enough to keep me pretty busy. The check-out flights I've been doing lately are not “official,” so I haven't been logging them, but I'll start logging some “real” flights soon enough.

It's quite a challenge to try to remain current on all these aircraft. The bigger they are, the more systems they have to memorize. There's not much to worry about on a Cessna 152, but the jets are a handful, and right now it looks like the Citation is the most complicated of the bunch, surprisingly.

The variety spices up flying. One day I'm dozing off on the heavily automated flight deck of a Jumbo Jet, the next day I'm struggling to climb out of an airport in a Cessna 152 that doesn't even have a full IFR suite, and I'm wondering just exactly who managed to get the prototype 152s to their published service ceiling of 14,000+ feet when I have trouble getting 500 fpm at sea level.