Take-off: Turaif Domestic Airport (Saudi Arabia) – ICAO: OETR
METAR OETR 182200Z 24006KT CAVOK 12/11 Q1018 NOSIG (decode)
Landing: Arar Domestic Airport (Saudi Arabia) – ICAO: OERR
METAR OERR 182200Z 18003KT CAVOK 12/12 Q1018 NOSIG (decode)
Active Sky Next (ASN)
We have a new toy! So far we have flown with FSXWX as our weather engine and it wasn’t bad, not at all, but today – after hearing a lot of good comments – I purchased and installed Active Sky Next. This add-on is a full-blown weather engine, which should bring more realism into our World Tour. It takes care of cloud transitions and positioning, air effects, weather ambient effects and real time live weather. You can also simulate certain weather scenarios, but that’s not the plan for our tour, because we want to experience the actual real-world weather.
The purchase was fast and easy (spending money should be more difficult… 🙂 ) through Steam as add-on for FSX Steam Edition. The Steam add-on was – in my home country Belgium, at the time of purchase – with a price of € 22,99 / $24,48 about €13,3 / $14,15 cheaper (!) than the purchase price on the website of software company (€ 36,29 / $38,63)… yes, all amounts VAT included. Weird, if you ask me, maybe I didn’t see something right, but beware and compare before you buy!
Installing went smooth and fast… not. The setup was straight-forward, configuration seemed perfect from the start, no changes needed, so I went ahead and started FSX to continue our tour around the world. However, when loading my saved “world tour” file, FSX crashed when trying to load the weather… bummer. Second try, again crash. Reboot computer, start FSX, again crash. Crap… what now? Next, we try to load a free flight at Turaif Airport in Saudi Arabia, our latest location, with the same plane, starting at the GA-SMALL parking. FSX started loading … and all went well. Pfew! No man overboard, we start where we last ended.
My first impression of ASN: Well… in a desert with CAVOK conditions (see METAR: +10km visibility, no clouds below 5000ft, no significant weather fenomena)… it’s uhm… very hard to uhm… evaluate weather and clouds, no? *sigh* The wind conditions and temperature were on point, so that’s already something. I didn’t want to load a different scenario only to evaluate the add-on, because we’ll have time enough to observe the weather conditions in later legs. I’m sure we’ll encounter some very interesting weather phenomena on our way around the globe, so keep reading/following to get some insights.
Sand, sand, sand
Following all crashes, once my blood wasn’t boiling anymore, I could sit back, relax and get ready for the next flight. This time it’s a short 45 minutes IFR flight over the mainland of Saudi Arabai, from Turaif to the city of Arar. The direct route follows almost the same path as highway 85, which connects both our departure and destination city.
Turaif is an uncontrolled airfield, so when I filed the IFR flight plan, I was given a “clearance void 30 minutes from now”. Having no clue what this meant, and curious as I am, Google – my good friend – directed me to a good explanation:
“Clearance void 30 minutes from now” is the way how ATC issues a clearance when you’re at a non-tower uncontrolled airport. Once you receive clearance, you have to switch frequencies (to UNICOM) to announce taxi, take-off and departure. When you change frequency, the air traffic controller isn’t able to contact you, so they give you a time window of 30 minutes from clearance to getting airborne, so you can contact them to “activate” the flight plan. If you don’t get in touch with them within time, the flight plan is cancelled.
Yeah! We learned something new… love it! 😀
So, back to our leg, we filled the fuel tanks at the end of our previous flight, so we can immediately start to taxi and take off on runway 10. And then… it got really boring. We climbed out to our cruising altitude of 6300ft and the scenery showed only sand… lots of sand… sand, sand, sand and a little more – you guessed it – sand. Oh, and dunes of course. I guess that’s what you can expect when you fly over a desert… But what does a man do when he gets bored? No, you don’t dump your wife. I requested ATC to cancel the IFR flight and changed my altitude to fly low above highway 85. I waved at some of the locals, flew an imaginary slalom, had my 5 minutes of fun and eventually got back to higher cruising altitude to plan my approach.
Our G1000 glass cockpit GPS had a VOR/DME approach to runway 10 (runway has same orientation in both airports) at Arar airport. On final, the autopilot took a bit of a weird angle and was off course, so I switched it off and took the wheel myself… I mean, joystick (our C400 has a joystick, not a yoke). After some corrections, we succeeded putting the plane safely to the ground. Not a perfectly smooth landing due to the off course approach, but practice makes perfect, so we keep practicing! After clearing the runway, we went to the fuel station and parked the plane.
Hopefully, our next flight brings us a lot closer to the Persian Gulf, so we can get the sand out of our eyes and shoes.