Flight Journal: Journey across the United States part one

The concept for this journal came at me all at once. I was excited about the release of Local Legend #4 – the Beechcraft Model 18 and I was also interested to see what the United States was looking like with World Update X: USA. This second world update for the United States further improves the country with new imagery, better elevation meshes, and even more airports and custom points of interest. It seemed like this was the right time for a cross country journey!

Setting out

I have a beginning and end to this story planned. My starting airport, at Block Island, and my planned endpoint at Catalina Island are both airports that Asobo have included in the world updates. And they are both islands on each coast near a major city. So there’s a certain kid of circularity with this journey. I like that!

My rules were simple. Fly point to point across the country in the Beechcraft Model 18. Real time weather and time of day so whatever was out there in simulation land was what I was going to fly into. Storms? Heat domes? Derechos? The weather has been wild in North America for the last few years so I was going to take it on… the virtual version of it anyways. And now onto part one.

Block Island to New York JFK

My starting point was, as mentioned above, Block Island, New York. This is a new handcrafted airprort that comes with World Update X so it made for a good place to start. There are animated flags and service vehicles that drive around to help make it feel like a lived-in airport. It’s a quaint and quiet feeling and it fits the historic Beech 18 perfectly too!

With bright sun and few clouds, I taxied out, backtracked on the runway and then took off.

The Beech 18 requires a bit of effort on the rudder to get up but once speed is sufficient, it tends to leap off the ground.

After takeoff I surveyed the area and soaked up the nearby scenery. It seems like a beautiful spot located off the eastern tip of Long Island.

Turning onto the flight plan I then flew at 10,000 feet along the coast of Long Island. First I was on the southern coast before then making a turn to the north. This then set me up on a series of waypoints for my destination – JFK airport in New York City.

By this point the weather was getting cloudier with bug puffy clouds and darkening skies in the late afternoon sun.

I also noticed a ton of traffic in the New York area. Airliners surrounded me descending from their cruise altitudes into the major airports of the NYC area. In the distance the outline of the iconic skyline of New York rose up – only partly shrouded by cloud and shadows.

Then it was time to make a turn in towards the runway at JFK airport. Following the approach pattern I found myself a little too high at first and then a little too low closer to the end. I’m sure ATC wasn’t too happy with me about that but I managed to get the Beech 18 onto the runway successfully and then taxi off and find a nice parking spot.

JFK to Reagan

That first flight was so much fun that I decided to take the opportunity to do a second flight that came up later in the evening to fly from JFK in New York to Reagan airport in Washington DC.

Before leaving the area, I had to do an overflight of Manhattan so I could get some choice images. And here they are!

Departing the busy airspace of New York, I headed south along my assigned IFR route that took me along the coast of the New Jersey shoreline. Philadelphia was only distantly viewable in the distance and in my immediate surroundings I could see the imposing imagery of the Atlantic ocean, its majestic shoreline, and the surprisingly natural areas just in from the coast that were dotted by small rural buildings, fields and forests.

Then it was time to turn towards Washington DC which gave me a beautiful view just off of our course of the sun setting. Leaving the shoreline behind and a bank of thick cloud in the distance we headed into the open air towards DC. Streetlights dotting the landscape ahead.

Firmly into blue hour, I began my approach to Ronald Reagan airport on the banks of the Potomac River. Rising up in the distance is the famous Washington Monument. No time for sightseeing, however, as the focus was on landing.

This one was better than the last and I put the aircraft down not too far off the centerline. Taxi to a finish, shut down, and hop out of the airplane in the relative darkness. That’s enough flying for one day!

Reagan to Willow Run

A high pressure system has been dominant over the last few days and that was in full evidence setting out from Ronald Reagan airport. Clear blue skies as far as you can see in the sim (which is pretty close to reality) and a pressure reading over 30.15 inches of mercury.

After takeoff, I made a small deviation (something I’m sure you could not do in real life) and overflew some notable landmarks in the DC area. The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Smithsonian, and the United States Capitol Building were all on display. These have seen updates in the latest World Update so it was interesting to check them out.

Then I was off to the north west and on with the journey.

There’s a lot of flat terrain, suburb, and mostly typical eastern United States terrain on display in this area as I roughly followed the Potomac River north. Then things get interesting as you get into the Appalachian Mountains. From the air you can see the ridges upon ridges as they weave their way to the north and south. These don’t have the elevation of the Rockies and are a much older range but they are a notable feature of the central and northern US. I’ve travelled them extensively so it was fun to see from the air!

Next up there was Pittsburgh. A major city center and 20th century industrial powerhouse as well as a site for art and culture. It sits at the intersection of three major rivers: the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers. That’s very much in evidence from the air.

Then another break with more farmland and on to the Cleveland, Ohio which has some pretty nice photogrammetry to go along with it. This is yet another major city center with industrial and financial power. It’s a key port as well with access from its industrial areas to the Atlantic via the St. Lawrence.

Then I was out over Lake Erie. The shallowest of the Great Lakes and the only one to consistently freeze over during most winters. This is the only point in my planned route that takes me over Canada and here I was treated to clear views of Point Pelee and Pelee Island – the southern most point in Canada.

Then we were over the City of Detroit. Former industrial powerhouse and still the spiritual and sometimes still practical home and headquarters of the United States “big three” automakers.

I decided to land at the famous Willow Run Airport. Willow Run was a farm that became a factory out of necessity during 1941 and the start of World War II for the United States. Ford was approached to produce components for the B-24 Liberator bomber project before ultimately getting permission to construct entire bombers at the massive facility. The airport today is a general aviation, freight and corporate airport.

Willow Run to O’Hare

The next leg I was particularly excited about. One of my earliest flight simulator experiences was flying in and out of Meigs Field in Chicago in a Learjet. The airport is no more (although expansions can return it to the sim and its glory days) but I was excited to do a flight into Chicago.

Setting off from Willow Run I once again appreciated the detailed photogrammetry in the region. I even flew over what looked like on of those premium outlet malls with the tree lined parking spots. Very cool details! Then it was up to 16,000 feet for cruise altitude in one of the low altitude IFR routes.

The weather was clear in Detroit, however, radar and weather reports showed storm activity near Chicago and sure enough it was evident on the horizon as I approached the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Towering clouds and rain-showers were showing up on the live weather. Their positions not too far off from what I was seeing on the live radar. I will always appreciate the work that went into making live weather a thing. Doing a cross country tour helps show off how impressive the feature is and how changeable the weather can be.

Before too long it was time to setup on approach. Chicago has some good looking photogammetry for the downtown and surrounding suburbs. As I joined the approach pattern for O’Hare International’s runway 28C I could see the near constant stream of airliners also entering the pattern.

Then it was my turn as I configured the Beech 18 for landing and put it down on the runway.

O’Hare to St. Louis

The next stretch of this journey is a long haul trip from Chicago to the southwest and then down into St. Louis. This major city, located along the Mississippi river in the state of Missouri is known among other things for the 630-ft. Gateway Arch. It was late in the day so it seemed likely that I’d arrive in the city after the sun had set but that was ok.

Chicago by this point was covered in heavy cloud and it took a few minutes of climbing to get through the cloud layer. Above, was a beautiful landscape of puffy clouds. High temperatures seem to have alleviated any concern for icing as the outside air temperature remained above 32F or 0c (indicated by a gauge on the headliner of the aircraft) until we were above the clouds.

Then we settled in for what should have been a long cruise. There was a problem, however, as the autopilot did not want to engage. I tried everything while hand flying the aircraft for a while. But it seemed to be problematic so it was time to make a diversion. This seems to be a bug with the aircraft although it was not easily repeated.

I ended up landing at Greater Kankakee Airport in Illinois. Ended my flight, went back to the menu and restarted. Then, I was back in the air and climbing back to cruise altitude of 16,000 feet. The dense clouds began to fall away behind me and ahead were clearer skies.

I watched as the sun set very smoothly and convincingly in MSFS’s rendering engine. No stutters or sudden changes to the lighting but rather a gradual fall off as the sun went down. Very impressive to me even after flying this sim for a long time.

The lights of St. Louis appeared on the horizon and got closer. Some were obscured by low cloud and a rainshower on the northern part of the city before I made a final turn and approach to the St. Louis Downtown Airport. I landed, parked the airplane, and captured that screencap you see of the famous Archway.

Part one complete

That was very fun doing the first part of this journey over the last few weeks. I’ve seen a lot and had the chance to experience the size and scale of a good chunk of the United States. Many of these areas I’ve travelled to myself in the real world so that made it all the more fun.

I’m going to be continuing a south western track taking me down to Dallas. Then I will be working my way across other sections of the country where I suspect I will probably make a turn to the north and Denver, over to Las Vegas and then on to Las Angeles and my final destination at Catalina island. Exact route could change if I find interesting places to stop at.

Stay tuned for part two!

5 Comments Add yours

  1. CanadaOne says:

    Very cool. You’re getting a master degree in geography while flying.

    Do you listen to anything on those long flights? I like to have history lectures playing when I fly like that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Yeah usually I have some music going, sometimes a podcast (I listened to Sergio and Jorg talk about helicopters in MSFS on one of the flights).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. butcher75 says:

    Something about that Beechcraft Model 18 that just screams adventure.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I agree! It just fits the mould somehow!

      Liked by 1 person

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