Flight Journal: Journey across the United States part 2

Remember how I was doing a journey across the United States in Microsoft Flight Simulator with the Beechcraft Model 18? It took me a while but I have finally finished my journey flying all the way from Block Island airport, on a small island off the coast of Rhode Island all the way to Catalina Island of the coast of California. The United States is a massive country and there’s no way to see it all at once even in a cross country journey but I did get to appreciate the scale of the nation and the varied terrain and scenery along the way.

This second part started off in St. Louis, a natural middle part of the country, and then took me through to Texas and then on to California with a lot in the middle. The journey took me, in real time, from the end of July 2022 until January 2023 and I had lots of diversions to other flights and projects in between. There were some bumps in the road too that you’ll read about so… let’s go!

St. Louis to Little Rock

Kicking the tour back off, my next flight took me from St. Louis south to Little Rock, Arkansas. On takeoff I was sure to swing around and have a look at the famous Gateway Arch. Thus curved, 630-ft.-tall monument, is located in the downtown part of St. Louis and features museum too.

Storm clouds dominated the scenery for this flight so after takeoff the city began to disappear from view as I climbed up above some of the thicker clouds.

This was a largely uneventful journey down to Little Rock.

On arriving in the area I dove down through the clouds to setup for a landing at the airport. I regularly fly with multiplayer set to on so I get to see all of the cool and sometimes zany antics of other players and here I had the unique experience of being intercepted and briefly escorted by a F/A-18E.

After the Super Hornet afterburned away, I brought the aircraft in for a landing. Another flight complete!

Little Rock to Dallas

Setting out in some hot and humid weather most of my journey between Little Rock and Dallas was uneventful. This part of the country is defined by its flat lands, punctuated by roads and the occasional rivers that snake their way through the landscape. This is more breadbasket agricultural areas that are typical of this part of the United States.

The weather, owing to the humidity and heat, despite the early time of this flight came with some turbulence and successive waves of low cloud. Thunderstorms would be all over this area later but for this flight none were spotted.

Dallas came into view breaking up the endless fields and roads with a new look on the horizon – suburbs. Dallas is a large US city being the third largest in Texas with a population of 1.288 million. Like many cities in this part of the world, its spread out over a vast area and so I was flying over Dallas for a long time before landing was even on my mind.

Eventually I did bring it in for a landing at the large Dallas/Fort Worth International (KDFW) airport. Taxiied and parked. A big chunk of the journey was complete. Things were about to get a bit interesting so get ready for the next chapter!

Dallas to… disaster

I admittedly wasn’t looking forward to this next leg. I planned out a route that took me north from Dallas to Oklahoma City and then another hop that would get me to Denver. The route so far had been very scenic but after flying from St. Louis to Dallas via Little Rock, I was ready for some less flat terrain and some more scenic views.

Taxiing for takeoff from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (KDFW) I took off to the south, made a loop around admiring the scale and scope of the Dallas-Fort Worth area and then headed to the north west.

Climbing through 14,000 feet I thought I was well on my way but a momentary lapse in attention and a major mistake were about to cut this flight short. I allowed the speed to drop off too sharply while my climb angle was too steep for the thinner air. The Beech Model 18 stalled and went into a a spin.

I corrected it but it stalled and spun again. And again… and again… I tried everything I could think of in the moment, including dropping the gear, but it was too late! The aircraft plunged into a field just north of Dallas.

Fortunately, this is a simulation and no pixels were harmed in the making of this moment. I also learned a valuable lesson to remember to disengage the autopilot went something is going wrong. No matter what the issue is.

Wichita to Oakley Municipal

After flying the Beechcraft Model 18 halfway across the United States and suffering the mishap above, I decided to take advantage of the release of the Beechcraft Bonanza V35 and choose a new airplane to continue on my journey. At least for a little while!

I departed from Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, a major airport located within Wichita city limits and located not too far from the headquarters for the Beechcraft Corporation HQ. This wasn’t too far away (relatively speaking) from where my last flight ended so narratively speaking this was working for me.

After takeoff, I settled into a climb up to 12,500 feet and set the autopilot for a lengthy cruise.

As for scenery? The most notable landmark I passed was Cheney lake which passed by on my aircraft’s port side. This is a land of big skies, flat terrain and farms as far as the eye can see. It’s really quite something.

My first attempt at a destination was a small grass field airstrip outside of a place called Russell Springs. On arrival, I wasn’t able to visually spot it. With the sun getting low and the skies darkening, I decided to find a new location and picked Oakley Municipal airport (KOEL). I landed without incident.

Oakley Municipal to Denver

Departing from Oakley Municipal, I was excited to get to Denver because it meant that the long expanses of flat land were over and more varied scenery was ahead. Not to knock the wide open expanse either because the scale of this region has to be seen to be experienced and MSFS gave me a taste of it.

The flight took a couple of hours and I let the autopilot do its thing. Cloudy skies gave way to beautiful blue with scattered clouds all around me. Approaching Denver was kind of a special moment because this is when the scenery began to change from the flat areas with river valleys cutting their way into ground to something quite different ahead – mountains!

Denver to Aspen

My journey was delayed for several weeks before I had the opportunity to pick it up again and I’m glad that this turned into such a fun flight. I did go with a different paint scheme for the aircraft on this one so pretend that it was painted during the time off.

I picked a ramp at Denver International and took the long taxi down to Runway 17R. With clearance to takeoff I headed out and proceeded on an IFR flight down to Aspen.

The first part of my flight saw me climbing over the city of Denver. I’ve never been there but it looks like a place of contrasts with the sprawling city and flatlands to the east and towering mountain ranges as far as the eye can see to the west.

As I reached the western limits of the city I noticed a unique feature of Mt Glennon with its ridgeline running roughly north/south and cuts in the ridge making for ideal pathways for roadways and access routes into the mountains.

From suburb to mountain range in a relative short period of time was intensely cool to watch and for the rest of my journey I was over the mountains. Bathed in the setting October sun and an impressive high pressure system dominating most of the western part of North America at the time, the scenery was stark and beautiful and the elevation mapping here is impressive.

Finally Aspen airport pulled into view and I got a great look at the surrounding area. This is a fun airport to land at with rolling hills and mountains with hand crafted scenery. I landed at the airport and taxied over to one of the more unique buildings. A fun way to kick start the rest of the journey!

Aspen to Telluride

This was a really fun flight if you like mountains. Aspen airport has some great scenery both at the airport and in the surrounding area. I took off just behind a larger airliner and then soaked up the sunrise over the nearby mountain ranges as I headed for Telluride.

Beautiful mountain ranges with snow capped peaks. That’s what this area is all about and its one of the most impressive areas that I overflew during the whole cross USA tour.

Telluride to Monument Valley

This was another runner up for one of the most beautiful and sunning flights I’ve ever done in a flight simulator. One of the things that I love to see is the transition between one very distinct set of geological formations to another. In this case going from snowy mountains to a red-sand desert region and the world famous Buttes.

It was a simple flight in beautiful weather and the visual detail of the region tells the rest of the story. Take that in!

Monument Valley to Las Vegas

For this next leg, I decided that it was time to bring the Beechcraft Model 18 back into service. I figure handwaving some story about a miraculous restoration of my crashed Model 18 was sufficient to get back to the original vision of this project. I wasn’t disappointed in the choice as the Model 18 has a ton of personality – although so does the v-tail Bonanza!

Departing Monument Valley and admiring the local scenery (a great place to visit in MSFS BTW), I headed west and on towards Las Vegas. This was a very interesting trip for a number of reasons.

First, the scenery in this area of the United States is breathtaking. Its made better by the upgrades that the series has done to the digital elevation model and satellite imagery. It isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination but it is stunning.

Second, the weather interacting with the scenery was also breathtaking. Flying over flat terrain saw relatively even headwinds as I ventured closer to Vegas and some rainstorms that were in the area. Get into some of the hills, valleys, and canyons and the wind interacting with these areas would cause my aircraft to buffet, to rise and fall in altitude, and generally shake in the turbulence. So immersive!

The weather also began to cause me to reconsider if I was going to be able to make it. Rain clouds loomed ahead, slow packed the ground, and the outside air temperature reading was in the single digits on the Fahrenheit scale – well below the freezing mark.

I went through four separate waves of storms with each one depositing more and more ice on the windscreen and on the wings. I have had aircraft fall out of the sky in MSFS before due to icing and this was a legitimate concern on this flight. Was this trip out in the Model 18 going to be cut short?

Fortunately, the various heating implements in the Model 18 managed to keep pace and despite the visible signs of icing, I was able to make it through. Descending towards Las Vegas saw me get into some above freezing temperatures and everything melted off before landing.

A bit of a nailbiter of a flight but absolutely worthwhile to show off the weather, scenery, and aircraft all in one moment. Some truly jaw dropping scenes in this area.

Las Vegas to Los Angeles

After the harrowing journey of the last flight, my next one brought me into some more familiar territory in terms of my flight simming. The next location to visit was Los Angeles and the KVNY Van Nuys Airport that I had scenery for made for a logical stopping over point as my penultimate flight to this series.

Starting out in far clearer conditions than the last time, I still had to face some more significant weather challenges from the wind. High winds and stormy weather off the California coast meant for a clear but choppy flight particularly as we passed over from the flatlands near Barstowe California and into the scenic mountains of the Angeles National Forest.

I made a choppy landing into Van Nuys not not before taking in all of the beautiful scenery in this area.

Los Angeles to Catalina Island

For my last flight of this series I did a short hop from KVNY Van Nuys Airport (Orbx scenery) over to KAVX Catalina Island airport. The takeoff was brilliant with overall calm conditions and low clouds with a setting sun making for some stunning visuals.

Things got a little more interesting when I got closer to Catalina island. Stronger winds, more turbulence, fog, and low cloud made this a really challenging landing. Catalina Island airport is called the “Airport in the Sky” because of its elevation of 1,602 ft but in this case also because it was literally in the clouds.

Five rejected landings, some cursing, and the desire to finish this flight and this whole series, compelled me to make an absolutely terrible landing but one that got the airplane on the ground. You can understand the “get there itis” that sometimes affects real world pilots where here the only things on the line were a bunch of pixels resembling this beautiful Beechcraft Model 18.

Final thoughts

Crossing a whole continent in a relatively slow general aviation airplane takes a long time. The United States and the continent of North America is a huge place and so the journey definitely took me a while to do. I was psyched to begin it but began to slow down and do other things as the journey carried on.

I’m not sure if I’d want to do something quite so lengthy ever again but it was worth the experience crossing a lot of the continent and seeing a massive variety of scenery. The Asobo team have put together two world updates for the United States adding better scenery and detail each time and it is clearly one of the highest resolution locations in the sim – not the only one but definitely a top end experience.

Meanwhile both Beechcraft Model 18 and Beechcraft Bonanza were fun to fly on this journey. They are beautifully rendered visually and their systems offer just enough depth to make the journey a fun one.

I hope you enjoyed the screenshots and the brief stories from each hop. It was an interesting time!


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Pattle says:

    Great write up Shamrock. Really enjoyed that. How long in flying time did it take?


    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Thanks! That’s a really good question. I’m going to guess 18 hours doing a very rough calculation… just for part two. Maybe a bit less for part one?


  2. Pattle says:

    That’s dedication for you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kelly Hrdina says:

    I’m glad you finally made it to Catalina. You’re right that there is some really lovely scenery out there between Denver and Los Angeles.

    My cross-USA tour has also taken a lot longer than planned due to a mid-trip hiatus. Also, by the time I worked my way down the east coast to Florida, I took a detour around the Caribbean to South America. I plan to work my way across to Panama, then back up through Mexico to the SW USA. I’m currently stopped somewhere in Venezuela.

    Your images have me really looking forward to getting back up to the US.


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