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The Ring of Fire - Leg 1

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So, I have this A320 home cockpit that I'm building, and I'm sat there on a Sunday night, trying to decide where to fly. Generally on a Sunday's evening, I'll venture onto Vatsim, and with any luck, enjoy some quality ATC. The thing is, it's kinda getting a bit boring. I've flown to most major airports in Europe, and the A320 needs a shakedown. Enter the Pacific ring of fire. 
The Pacific ring of fire is one of the most active volcanic and seismically active areas of the planet. Stretching from New Zealand to Russia, Alaska down to Argentina, the ring is simply huge. With that in mind, I thought the A320 would benefit from a change of scenery and I'd love to go flying somewhere new. 
An hour after the idea, Plan-G and I had been busy and I had a collection of 54 routes taking in airports all along the ring. With leg 1 plotted, my little A320 and I headed south to Argentina to start the trip.
Leg 1 - SAWH to SCBA, Ushuaia to Balmaceda 
The route is simple enough and on of the best things about this kind of trip, is that I have no idea what to expect. Ushuaia airport is about a far south as I can take the A320. Needing on average 2000m of runway to takeoff, Ushuaia is perfect to start this ridiculous trip. The first thing I notice is its cold down here. Forgetting the Southern Hemisphere is currently enjoying autumn. So the weather isn't great. The view from the apron however is stunning. Sitting near an inlet on one side, the whole airport is surrounded by mountains. Is all rather pretty and very moody.
There isn't much to see at the airport, but it is graced with an apron, something that a few of my airports along the route can't claim. The temperature outside is cold and the wind means I'll be departing on runway 07. It's a straight out departure for a few miles before we turn back, overflying the airport above 8500 ft and on over the mountains to Chile. 



There's no ATC down here so I get the engines running, route installed and get out to the runway. Without much ado, I open the throttles and we're off.  









As it stands, this was a bad move. From here the flight begins to go downhill. My first constraint tells me to be above 4500ft but the aircraft is struggling to climb quick enough. Moving from managed mode to selected (switching from the FMC to pilot input for Boeing drivers) I clear the constraint just in time.




The problem continues however and the aircraft seems to be struggling to climb. Indeed, reaching my second constraint, I'm not quite at 8500ft with the engines running at full blast.




This continues for quite awhile and I end up having to disconnect the auto throttle and hit TOGA just to get the aircraft up to FL200. This has a knock on effect to my fuel. Having put plenty in the tanks for the flight, the low altitude and full throttle has drained my reserves and left me in danger of not making my destination. 




An hour later and there's no way I'm making it to Balmaceda. The MCDU tells me I'll have 400kg left on arrival, but looking at the fuel left, there's no way I'm making it the 300nm I have left to travel. I've no choice, I have to divert, and quickly. 
Along the route, I'm lucky to spot SAWC on the ND just 60 miles away. It's not in my aircrafts database though, so this will be all manual. 
With the fuel dropping below 600kg, I'm descending like mad and frantically looking to see if I can find some charts. On the horizon, there's nothing but grasslands.




Thankfully a large lake appears dead ahead and the airport is located along the shore. I'm in luck to discover that the runway is over 2500m long, so I can get out once I get in. 



With just 200kg left, I'm on final and after an uneventful landing, I taxi back and park off the runway next to the tower. The tanks contain just 120kg left as I shut down the engines.




So what went wrong. I'm not sure but i suspect there was a calculation error with topcat. I'm guessing that the Flex temperature figures were wrong, leaving the engines underpowered for the flight. At any rate, the next leg to reposition to Balmaceda will tell me something. 




Not bad for a first leg. See I knew that shakedown tour was needed.

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Love it Jess and good to know your nerves were jangling when the kilograms were shrinking in the fuel tanks.

Maybe petrol and not avgas in such cold conditions skywise next time my help in wringing out some more pounds of thrust. :)

Mind you still need the winter woollies on in that area of the world..

Anyway you could always throw your passengers out to get light next time..  :D :D


Looking forward to the next leg..  :thum:

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Hi Jess,


Great idea! I'll be keeping an eye on your progress. Sorry I can't offer any solution to your fuel problem. Gimly is a long way from Argentina, so keep watching those gauges.


I've actually (as in Real World) flown out of the airport at Ushuaia. Took a Piper (PA28-181) for a spin with one of the local pilot instructors along to make sure I stayed out of Chilean airspace. I gather they're still a bit fussy about that. Beautiful scenery along the Beagle Channel.

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