Saturday, October 25, 2008

Las Vegas - Seattle / Boeing 737-800 / IFR

This was a simulation of Southwest Airlines flight 570, from Las Vegas to Seattle—a flight of about two and a half hours, which is really long for me. There was substantial traffic at KLAS and one harried controller serving all of ZLA at times, and it took a while for me to get my clearance. I finally got it and taxied out to 25R, but I was about 20 minutes late on my scheduled departure time (which was the same as the real flight, of course).

Nevertheless, I picked up time in the air, and landed at almost the same moment as the real flight. I always manage to get places faster than the real flights. It must be due to a combination of things, as I've seen no glaring differences between my flight procedures and theirs. I fly more lightly loaded, but I maintain the same airspeeds. It could just be traffic and congestion in the real-world skies, which can delay things a lot, especially at departure time.

I also got direct Coaldale (OAL) shortly after departure, plus an uninterrupted climb to my cruising altitude of FL400, which helped my time a bit. I don't know if the real flight had either of these. There could be differences in winds aloft, too, although ActiveSky tracks winds pretty well.

I had a bit of excitement on landing, as I had been cleared for the ILS runway 16C approach, but since I was coming in fast (due to a 210-KIAS restriction to the outer marker imposed by Seattle Approach), I was overtaking a United flight in front of me. At the tower's request I slowed to Vref, but that took time, and ultimately I was asked to side-step to 16L, which I did by disengaging the AP and autothrottle and firmly grasping the controls myself. Taking over the throttles manually on the sim is delicate, because the sim doesn't move the throttles physically in response to autothrottle commands (the real aircraft does, however). So you have to reposition the throttles physically to where the autothrottle was holding them, and invariably this makes it difficult to hold a speed initially. I drifted somewhat below the glide slope while struggling with this but I got back to the slope shortly thereafter. The landing was bumpy but okay. In the excitement I had failed to check where the real flight was parking, so I just found an empty gate and pulled up to it.

Some of my cabin crew noticed the departure from the glide slope (or rather felt it) and made oblique comments on it after landing. Passengers didn't know any better.

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