Sunday, August 31, 2008

Phoenix - Los Angeles / Boeing 737-800 / IFR

This afternoon I flew a very successful flight that exactly duplicated Southwest Airlines Flight 1811, from Phoenix to Los Angeles, in real time. We both closed the doors and pushed back at the same time, and we both arrived in Los Angeles at the same time. I had to crank my cost index in the FMC way down to match the extremely Spartan settings of a real-world airline, otherwise I would have beaten the real flight to Los Angeles rather handily (most airliners aren't flown at anywhere near their maximum speed today, but I routinely put the pedal to the metal, so to speak).

Weather in Phoenix still had a lot of fluffy but dangerous clouds, with what looked like a thunderstorm brewing in the southwest, again. I missed the huge storm of Thursday (although I was tempted to crank back the time and weather in the sim to that evening just to see what it was like), but it still looks a bit stormy in Phoenix now. It's very strange for Phoenix to get so much rain and thunderstorms, although more rain would certainly be a nice thing in that desert town.

The flight was uneventful. I chose to take off from 8 because of the wind, but it looks like the real flight might have taken 26 or one of the 25s. However, I caught up quickly, and in fact I had to adjust the speed constraints in the FMC in order to get down to the 431 KTAS in the flight plan.

I made some mistakes, as usual. When I was handed off to ZLA, I reported my altitude as FL320, when in fact I had stopped at FL280 because I had set the MCP for a flight to Las Vegas instead of LAX. I also dropped slightly beneath the profile after being cleared to descend via the SEAVU1 arrival; ATC had to have me maintain 5000 up to GAATE. I was trying to follow the profile by hand, glancing at the plate and resetting the MCP every minute or two. The arrival was quite a handful of work for a single pilot.

I leave Phoenix from the same gate as the real flight, and arrived in Los Angeles and parked at the same gate as the real flight. I was told to follow company traffic on Echo (or maybe it was Delta) on the way to the gate, but since the other traffic had (probably) default scenery and I had an add-on, he appeared to be rolling over the grass (and I probably appeared the same way to him), and for the ground controller it must have been perplexing. That's one of the drawbacks of sims on a network, alas!

I didn't take any pictures because, even though I was in Southwest livery to everyone else, in my own sim I still had the default PMDG livery, because, for some reason, nobody has developed Southwest livery for the 737-800 (it's true that SWA doesn't actually operate any of the -800 models in real life, but still … I don't have any of the models they do operate on hand!).