Take-off: Haifa International Airport (Israel) – ICAO: LLHA
METAR LLHA 161750Z 09004KT 8000 NSC 20/18 Q1008 (decode)
Landing: Turaif Domestic Airport (Saudi Arabia) – ICAO: OETR
METAR OETR 161900Z 15012KT 9999 SCT030 14/14 Q1012 (decode)
Just a few days ago, a terrorist group (that I’m not even gonna name, because they’re not worth it) did some horrible things in Paris, Iraq and Lebanon. I wish it was just a simulation like this flight, but this was for real… Maybe it’s not the most appropriate place, but I thought that I should mention it between the flight logs, because of the enormous severity. It’s a coincidence that this flight barely crosses the Southern border of Syria, the land where lots of people are oppressed by these lunatics without conscience. We’re lucky this is just a virtual flight, but my thoughts go to all people who are – in one way or another – victims.
Planning with Plan G
Before taking off, I did something different from all previous flights. Because I wanted to avoid going over any (real-world) war zones, as much as possible, I had to plan my route more precisely. Last week, I was watching some YouTube videos about the A2A Cessna 172 (payware) aircraft (which has a very realistic flight model), when I discovered some freeware software, used by Matt Davies in his video: Plan G (currently v3.1).
Plan G is a flight planning software, which can print (makes you feel like a real pilot with a printed flight plan in your hands 😀 ) or export flight plans compatible for Flight Simulator X. The best part of this application is that it gathers all
information straight from the FSX scenery data itself. So, even with the outdated data of FSX, Plan G will still show the exact data as it’s used in FSX. Although Skyvector is also a very good web-based flight planning tool (with probably more up-to-date data), the data doesn’t always match the more outdated data of FSX, so Plan G can help you with finding the correct routes, based on waypoints that actually exist in FSX (to ensure that you don ‘t have to plan everything all over when you can’t find a waypoint).
Knowing that, instead of choosing a direct GPS route, we study the various airspaces, prohibited, restricted or military operated areas and try to plan a route avoiding those areas. It’s not easy and it increases your flight time a lot, but I had some spare time, so I enjoyed myself going all out. I don’t know if I actually succeeded planning a route that’s more or less realistic and acceptable, so if someone can judge this, feel free to let me know with a reaction at the bottom if I did well (click thumbnail on the left for full size flight plan).
So, time to fly! We take off from our last landing spot in Haifa (Israel) for an IFR flight, over Jordan, and land in the north of Saudi Arabia, at a small airport in Turaif. The weather is good in the north of Israel, but winds will get stronger when we land in Turaif. We take off around 3:15 PM (virtual time) and will land around 5 PM, when the sun sets, so it’s a race against the sun. Out of curiosity, I looked it up on Google and it closely matches the actual real-world sunset (sunset at 4:36 PM in Amman, Jordan). Cool!
The color of the grounds below quickly changed when leaving Israel and changed from a mostly greenish scenery to an (also beautiful) brownish sandy scenery, very different – of course – from what I saw until now flying across Europe. We turned right and go south over the Sea of Galilee to skim the southern tip of Syria and enter northern Jordan. We spot the city of Irbid and a little later we pass Amman, the capital of Jordan (don’t worry, I didn’t know that either 🙂 ). Almost an hour after our take-off, we turn east and go straight for Saudi Arabia. This last part of the route goes mainly over deserts (so it seems) and it’s a race against sunset.
The airport of Turaif has no landing aids and has an elevation of 2.801ft, so we will need all of our “novice” landing skills to get our bird down safely. We come in a little bit high, but make it on the runway with 6kts of crosswind. Not my best landing, but the aircraft is in one piece, it didn’t bounce and I’m happy to have finished another leg. Next time we plan to go further East over the mainland of Saudi Arabia, staying close to the border with Iraq, and try to get a little closer to the Persian Gulf.