Monday, May 12, 2014


Sitting there watching the smoke come out of the front of my Cessna was not the experience I had in mind.  The roar of the fire could be heard from inside the cockpit.  Panic set in as a brief expulsion from the cockpit was called for.   The smell of smoke reinforced the notion that the engine of my A2A C172R was on fire.  This was literally, “AS REAL AS IT GETS”. 

Aerosoft's freeware Catalina Island Airport (KAVX)

The day had started out quite differently.  The plan was to fly the remarkable A2A C172 from Van Nuys airport in California to Catalina Island.  This is a typical flight for GA pilots in the Cali area.  Upon gaining a PPL, they load up a rented C172 with the family and fly over to Catalina.  Unfortunately the rough, short, aircraft carrier like runway, can give many of these new pilots an unpleasant surprise.
   Orbx's freeware Van Nuys Airport (KVNY)

Flying from Van Nuys, over KLAX, to Catalina, and documenting it with pretty pictures sounded like a great idea.  This would make for a great post on the blog.  All the more I would use the free Catalina Airport from Aerosoft.  This would be supplemented with FTX Global scenery and the FTX Global Van Nuys airport (freeware).  Nothing I like more than good quality freeware.   Both Orbx and Aerosoft should be commended for their generosity in providing highly detailed freeware airports for FSX!

My VFR Flight Plan.

The final day of departure brought perfect weather conditions.  Previous flights to Catalina Island were peppered with constant wind and turbulence.  The flights in the C172 were jittery at best.  This bright sunny morning promised to rectify my previous suffering.  Van Nuys Metar reported 0kts of wind and Catalina reported only minor wind.  

Right wing checks.

My VFR flight plan was thoroughly prepared along with a review of the KLAX special flight rules.  I would pass over KLAX after leaving Van Nuys.  Then head south to be free of the class B airspace.  Once this was accomplished the C172 would be directed towards Catalina Island.   Everything appeared to be going my way as I prepped the C172.

Check to see if there is water in the fuel.

The one thing I love about the A2A products is the realism that Accusim brings.  This technology brings your aircraft to life.   It becomes a living breathing animal.  Its a simulation inside of a simulation, inside of a simulation.  Torture your aircraft with a rough landing in FSX, and you may find yourself suffering for it later.   Actions have consequences with Accusimed A2A aircraft.  Forgetting to do the pre-flight inspection of the C172 can be a bad idea.   Unchecked and weathered hinges can break causing control services to fail.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday.  

Taxing out.

Many of my flights were not done with a pre-flight inspection though.  Yet for this flight, everything was checked outside the aircraft, from the hinges to the fuel.  Once completed the C172 checklist was pulled out.  Before long the engine was started and purring away.  After some brief fiddling with the GPS, I was slowly meandering down the taxi-way.  A large jet could be seen departing off of Runway 16.  A selection of GA aircraft and helicopters stood on display as if saluting C172 F-GOAP as it passed. 

Heading out

Upon reaching the edge of runway 16L, I started my before take-off checklist.  The engine power was increased to 1800 rpm for the mag check.  This called for switching between the magnetos, making sure there was no drop greater than 150 rpm between them. Unfortunately that is exactly what I found when switching to
Mag 1.  The decrease when switching to Mag 1 was greater than the allowed 150 rpm!  This was not in the plan for the day.  My guess was that extra fuel was clogging the engine and spark plugs.   This was surprising though as the mixture had been leaned while taxing.

Going through the before takeoff checklist.

           The throttle was pushed forward and the engine came to life.  This should clean out the old pipes I thought.   After a few moments the mag check procedure was done again.  There was still a large decrease in rpm when switching to Mag 1.   Ok, well, I’ll fix this... as the throttle was pushed forward again.   I’ll run it a good long time now!    But the mag check still failed?  To make matters worse, the quick check of A2A C172 notes section showed the engine temperature was getting high!! (Red, Red, Red!!!).

Mag check.

In a moment of stupidity the throttle lever was pushed forward again…  Get-there-it-is was calling me. After a good long time, the already over heated engine still failed the Mag check.  With defeat in my eyes, the A2A C172 was turned around and slowly driven back to the closest GA ramp.  Going to have to shut her off and pop the hood, I thought.  

This can't be good!

As the engine shut off, the fireworks began.  My guess is that the wind from prop was keeping the over-heated engine from popping.   Once those blades stopped turning the flames started churning. Game over, as smoke started to billow out of the front of my C172.

A2A C172, A little "To Real"!

Once the flames were out, the C172 was brought into the hanger.  There a very unhappy story unfolded.  My engine had bad plugs, a fuel leak, poor compression, low oil, and even loose flaps.   
This took a lot of mouse clicking, trying to rectify each problem.  If I had done this in the real world, the consequences would have been great!   But in the virtual world, all I lost was my pride.   My Accusimed C172 begged to be treated like the real thing, with love and care.   Unfortunately she had only received harsh treatment and reacted accordingly.

This is bad, real bad...

Luckily, a lot was gained from this experience.   The plane should have been checked in the hanger before pre-flight inspection.   I barely ever checked the plane in the hanger even after logging a lot of hours.  The engine should never have been run up so high for so long.  Research should have been done to find out what "real" pilots do when a mag check fails.  As a penalty the virtual flight for the day was cancelled.

Score:    The A2A C172   1   :  DeskPilot 0

Some might find the Accusim features of the A2A C172 an annoyance.  Heck, who wants to worry about engine temps, water in fuel lines, and loose hinges?  Can’t I just overheat my engine?  I have to admit that at times these features can be an annoyance.   Yet on the flip side, there is a pride that comes from prepping and flying the A2A C172 correctly.   There is an acknowledgement that you have to take care of your Cessna just like it was real.  Real pilots know to have their plane checked in the hanger on a regular basis.   While I am not a real pilot, I revel in the ability to learn about aviation and what “real” pilots experience.   To us desk pilots, the A2A C172 is “as real as it gets”, and in my case, that is a good thing!


A2A C172 with Accusim

Aerosoft Catalina Airport (Freeware)

FTX/Orbx Freeware Airports including Van Nuys Airport for FTX Global users.

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