Greetings once again fellow simmers.
This update focuses on the South Pacific part of the tour, a region that has been somewhat underexplored by yours truly in the virtual sense.
My last post saw me at Auckland, preparing to make the long trek across to Tahiti. Well, what a saga that turned out to be. P3D crashed twice on me, once just after departure and once at the parking spot. It was with some trepidation that I launched a third attempt, but thankfully got to Tahiti courtesy of some time-compression and an…ahem…visit from the WWV mid-air refueling service. I prefer to fly real time, real weather, real badly etc…but at 7hrs+ trip time, I had to take a shortcut for the sake of practicality, not to mention my crook back.
A nice, visual circuit into NTAA was followed by a gentle touchdown.
Next up was another long trip, this time to American Samoa. This region received the Orbx treatment a while back. The current 47% off sale made it a little easier to open the wallet and add it to my collection.
We copped an almighty amount of ice enroute. I think my FO forgot to turn on the windshield heat. It's hard to find good help these days.
The approach into NSTU was 'sporty' to say the least. After more than 4 hours in the air and with my back screaming at me to get out of the seat, I needed to get us on Terra Firma pronto.
A very tight right circuit to 05 was the result, providing yours truly with an excellent lesson in energy management. As in, keep some in reserve you moron! Anyway, lovely Orbx scenery here.
The next day saw us flying from Pago Pago to another wonderfully-named place - Funafuti International Airport (NGFU) in the tiny nation of Tuvalu. Fun fact about this joint: because it doesn't see much action and space on the island is limited, the locals are allowed to use the runway for recreational pursuits in between 'movements'. A 'movement' is announced by the fire engine sounding a siren, giving people time to piss off before being mowed down by an aircraft. I'm guessing that the pre-landing checks involve an additional action - "Runway clear of kids riding their pushbikes - CHECKED."
The enroute forecast for the trip to NGFU was not promising. Thunderstorms in the area, with an expected vis of just 500m at the destination. I had planned to fly a RNAV approach to runway 03, but it ended up more like an improvised visual to runway 21. And by 'improvised visual', I mean I improvised being visual with the runway, and just closed my eyes and waited for the crash. The end result wasn't pretty, but it was effective at testing the pavement strength.
The next flight to Fiji provided me with yet another lesson in humility. I decided to ditch the FS2Crew FO and go it alone on this leg. Of course, this meant adherence to checklists would be vital. Which naturally is why I overlooked several key requirements, including the gear pins. After 30 mins preparing for departure, I took off, raised the gear and…well, it was going to be a looooong flight with the gear down the whole way. End flight; start again dopey. Thankfully, everything worked beautifully the second time around. Lovely weather enroute and the approach in Suva was definitely respectable, if a little long.
The following day we headed to New Caledonia or 'New Cal' to those of us that speak Strine. This ended up being quite a long flight, with strong headwinds for the entire journey.
The weather gods decided to extend our journey even further by laying on some rather ordinary weather on approach, necessitating an ILS approach.
I let the 'Q fly itself most of the way down, taking over with about 1000 feet to go, followed by a buttery smooth touchdown in the rain. #pureluck
Next up was a late afternoon flight to Port Vila, Vanuatu. Lovely conditions enroute. Landed just before 6pm local with a visual approach to runway 11.
Elevated terrain on final made for some interesting altitude callouts, but otherwise a very stable approach was enjoyed by all.
Life got in the way (as it does…) for a few days, necessitating a longer-than-expected sojourn in Vanuatu. Having consumed far too much of the local Tusker beer, I managed to crawl my way into the right seat of the 'Q for the next leg of the tour up to Honiara in the Solomon Islands.
Feeling a little under the weather, I was hoping for a short-ish flight time, but alas, SimBrief didn't have good news for me. 40 knots on the nose would result in a flight time of around 3 hours. Bugger. At least it would give me time for a decent nap. At 6am local. Like I said - too much of the local brew.
I can't recall most of the flight, having spent the majority of it in the comfort of my reading chair asleep; however, the approach was quite a ride with my lack of coordination transforming the 'Q into an airborne rodeo horse. Some days I'm glad this is just a sim. In real life, one would be invited into the Chief Pilot's office for tea and bikkies without the tea. Or bikkies.
This marks the halfway point in the tour. It's been quite a long journey for the Q400, but it has performed admirably throughout. The pilot less so, but…what's new.
Anyway folks, that's the mid-tour update done. Catch you again at the conclusion of the journey. Blue skies to all!