For this leg, I've decided to try a new twist. I thought it might be interesting to see if I couldn't combine this ATWC leg with a Cargo Pilot flight.
After some fooling around, it turned out to be not all that difficult. I did have to throw the cargo-generation dice three times before I got a cargo
from KFFA to KSTL, but eventually one turned up and I've accepted it. After all, if I'm going to fly for over five hours, I may as well try to get some
credit for it.
So, with no further ado, join me now at KFFA, Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina, site of the Wright Brothers' first flight(s) in 1903 and current home of a
museum and a monument commemorating that historic occasion.
We've been informed that it will be some time before we can depart anyway, as there's a 747 on the strip. It's being dismantled and trucked away
as we speak, so we'll have to kill a little time before the runway is clear for our departure.
We'll be setting off on a leisurely walking tour of the site, taking in some of the highlights of this historic place before departing on our flight to St.
Louis. Now, if you'll follow me, please...
Martyn has already shown you the monument from the helicopter - great photos - so we'll skip that part.
To pick up the tour where he left off, here's the house. It seems someone has misunderstood. This is the WRIGHT house, not the WHITE house.
That big presidential-looking Boeing was supposed to have landed at Andrews, you see.
Here we have the original sheds - arguably the first hangars ever. Very historic indeed, but not up to the studly standards we've all seen in some
recent shed posts on a famous flight-sim website. Hmmm, I wonder how these would look in bright blue?
Next are a series of stone markers, set out to illustrate the actual distances flown by the Wrights on that historic December day almost 104 years ago!
You can see that the engravers used the popular Almost Legible Bold typeface for the stones. The longest of the 1903 flights was less than the
wingspan of the behemoth that's being slowly dismantled on the nearby airstrip.
Finally, we come to the museum. Please feel free to spend some time browsing and shopping - as much as you like. Taking a 747 down to truck-
size pieces does require some considerable span of time.
While we're waiting for our departure clearance, let's review some of the inevitable paperwork associated with a cargo flight, even such a
minor one as this.
First we'll look at the company generated flight plan. You'll notice on the manifest list near the bottom that we have only two items of cargo
for this flight, one of which is rather unusual. It seems that the shipper has requested special handling for this one, at great added cost. This
must be a valuable item indeed! As such, it will travel on the right front seat.
Weight and balance being so important, the remainder of the cargo is distributed with both longitudinal and lateral CG in mind.
Next are our route notes - in my own hieroglyphics. These were scanned after the flight so most of the waypoints are already scored out. The
scoring stops where ATC vectors for the approach began.
Here's our aircraft, a rather nifty little beast, if a bit dated. She's all ready for loading and pre-flight inspection. Contrary to what you may
have heard, it cannot change directions in mid-flight. The Skymaster does have the reputation of being a very safe piston twin; an engine failure
doesn't cause any asymmetric thrust. In a crash however, occupants of the cabin have a tendency to become the meat in an engine sandwich.
We'll try to avoid that.
The obligatory line-up shot. As you can see nothing remains of the Boeing - a massive truck convoy is on the road to Washington DC carrying it
to Andrews AFB where all the king's horses and all the kings men will attempt to re-assemble it.
A short run along the beach before climbing... I just missed a shot of a lady waving a bikini top - you should have seen it.
This is some of the most picturesque geography in this part of the US, the North Carolina barrier islands.
Once we turn west into Virginia, the scenery gets to be miles and miles of miles and miles. I won't bore you with many enroute shots of this
part of the flight. They'd all look a lot like this one.
This is a favorite though...
We were initially filed for 16,000 ft, however that proved a stretch for this non-turbocharged aircraft. Upon reaching that altitude and taking a
couple of ground-speed and fuel-burn checks it was apparent that we'd encountered severe headwinds and couldn't make St. Louis unless
something was changed. The TAS advantage of being this high was doubly cancelled by the degraded engine performance and the effect
of the headwinds. Since Cargo Pilot looks unfavorably on enroute fuel stops or just hitting the fuel and payload menu for a few extra gallons
(resulting in the dreaded Simulation Penalty), something else is called for.
After a quick call to Washington Center requesting a lower altitude we were promptly cleared to descend to 12,000 feet and found both
better performance and vastly more favorable winds for the remainder of our flight. Our fuel state the rest of the way was "nervous", but
proved to be sufficient.
Our route of flight takes us across the southern part of the state of Virginia, passing some distance south of Washington DC. Eventually we
cross into West Virginia, then northern Kentucky. We travel just south of the big hub at Cincinnati, WKRP, bringing us almost directly over the
airport at Lexington Kentucky, site of a fairly recent fatal air-carrier crash. You may recall that a commuter flight was making a pre-dawn
departure. After transiting an area where the taxiways had recently been re-configured, he mistakenly took off on an incorrect, too-short
runway and crashed in less than a mile. You can read the details here: played by Loni Anderson. I couldn't resist slipping in a reference to it.