Friday, July 31, 2009

Vance Brand (Longmont) - Brush / Cessna 172 (N8210V) / VFR

I haven't been logging many of my test flights since my fleet expansion, but this one was interesting enough to log.

My first problem with this Cessna 172 was that I couldn't get the radios to work properly, and as it was nighttime, I couldn't find a switch to turn on the panel lights. Apparently Carenado designed this aircraft for FSX and then just hastily ported a version to FS9 as an afterthought, and some of the avionics don't work. I spent more than an hour working on the aircraft to get the avionics working. Finally I was ready to try a flight, although one set of radios still doesn't work quite right (the tuning knobs tune the active frequency rather than the standby frequency).

I started out in the evening from Vance Brand airport (KLMO), destined for Brush Municipal (7V5). This was to be a nighttime VFR flight via pilotage. I plotted a simple direct route beneath the Denver Class B on my TAC and sectional. I figured on a heading of 075 for 73 nm. The only real issue was dealing with wind drift.

The aircraft has an annoying tendency to gradually roll to the left, like so many small aircraft, and there's no autopilot on this airplane, so I had to regularly press a bit on the yoke or hold it to keep the aircraft on course. If I looked away at charts for more than a moment, I found myself in a shallow turn to the left. That was annoying but there isn't any way around it. I climbed to 7500 feet (the floor of the Class B went no lower than 8000 along my route), and managed to level off, although I had some trouble maintaining my altitude precisely. There was quite a bit of turbulence and I was regularly blown up, down, and sideways, although it wasn't as bad as some test flights I had done the day before in Arizona in one of my Cessna 152s.

After flying for some time through mostly darkness (there were buildings and things on the ground but nothing immediately recognizable), I started to have doubts about my real track over the ground. The aircraft has no DME, so I couldn't use that to find my position. I finally just plotted the radials from Mile High and Akron that intersected above my destination, set the two VORs appropriately, and tried to fly towards the needles, still maintaining mostly a heading of 075.

I was still not very comfortable after more minutes of flying, so I looked all around outside the aircraft for a body of water. There were several, including one that appeared to be right below me. That matched the Bijou 2 Reservoir on the TAC, and the other two bodies of water (Empire Reservoir and Jackson Reservoir) were in the right places. This put me only a few miles north of my planned track. I could also see the lights of an Interstate up ahead, and its path matched that of Interstate 76. The charts said that this Interstate would pass just north of my destination, and so I just followed the highway.

According to these charts, the Interstate would turn north as it passed the airport. I found the northerly turn, but not the airfield. The airfield is poorly lit. I decided to just head in the direction I expected the airport to be and wait. Sure enough, after a few minutes, I spotted a dark gray strip on the terrain, and as I got closer I knew that this had to be the airport.

Winds were really gusty on the way down. I landed a lot faster than I normally would just in case. The wind calmed just above the surface, though, so I was able to make a smooth landing.

It was an interesting trip.