Sunday, March 14, 2010

Central Jersey Regional - John F. Kennedy / Beechcraft Baron 58 / VFR

The weather right now at John F. Kennedy Airport is terrible: rain, fog … and extremely high winds. The METAR looks like this:

METAR KJFK 132351Z 08035G64KT 5SM -RA BR BKN014 OVC021 09/07 A2949 RMK AO2 PK WND 07064/2347 SLP986 P0000 60033 T00940072 10111 20094 56026

If you're not familiar with aviation weather reports, this report says that the wind is blowing from the west northwest at about 41 mph, with gusts of up to 73 mph or so. This is terrible weather for a takeoff or landing, and real-world pilots aren't at all happy to fly in such conditions. But when it comes to weather, virtual flight is almost the opposite of real flight, because bad weather is something you take care to avoid in real life, but it's a challenge to which you are attracted in simulation.

This being so, naturally I had to make an attempt, at least, despite the “danger” that awaited me at KJFK. I had Scotty teleport a Beechcraft Baron to Central Jersey Regional Airport, about 15 minutes away from KJFK, and I set out to fly into KJFK. My route was simple: MABLE.NANCI.KRSTL at 4500. I dispensed with ATC and flew offline, since this was just a “training” flight. I flew solo, unwilling to put any virtual passengers at risk on a flight like this.

Things went pretty well along the way, in marginal VFR conditions, although I had to descend to 2500 to stay legal for VFR. I had a terrible headwind, around 35 knots. With the winds at KJFK, I picked runway 4L for my landing.

I set the ILS for 4L but didn't really use it. The visibility was actually okay as I turned towards KJFK, and I could see the field easily. The descent was delicate, and at times I was crabbing 40 degrees into the wind to stay aligned. Even so, it seemed that I was going to make it. But then, at about 40 feet, I hit some sort of windshear: up into the air again, and then suddenly slammed back down onto the runway from about 10 feet before I could do anything. The gear collapsed, but I survived.

Most real-world flights were diverting, although an Iberia flight landed successfully during this time. I don't feel so bad, since I absolutely would never attempt this type of landing in real life, and so there's no reason to be able to do it in simulation. Nevertheless, it's an interesting change from my usual flights.