Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Bug, Part Trois: Let's Plan a Trip!

Yes yes yes, it's better to have road-clogging, motivation-sapping ice and snow storms on a weekend when I don't have to drive, but still... it's getting repetitive.

I'm stuck in the house again, playing with flight sims. I tried my hand at making a short Discovery Channel type of documentary, but I'm not super enthusiastic about the results. If nothing else, I found pretty good resource for researching this particular aircraft: the PDF manual that came with the download of the simulated plane. It continues to amaze me that they run regular sales on these things, so I typically get them for $15 each. Amazing!

So, here are some snippets regarding the plane that I selected for my first (and perhaps only) documentary: the Messerschmitt Bf 109 K-4:
One of the most well-known fighters of WWII had humble beginnings. When first imagined in 1933, just as a new political party rose to power in Germany, few people could have imagined that this early interceptor research project would result in over 30,000 production examples serving throughout Europe in roles ranging from ground attack to reconnaissance, and providing a mount to most of the world's leading fighter aces. 
The German air arm had already been secretly working on military aviation throughout the 1920s and early 1930s. Bomber and fighter designs were disguised as civilian aircraft. The earliest plans that eventually resulted in the Bf 109 were shrouded in the same secrecy. Hermann Goering, freshly appointed Reichsminister of Aviation, in an October 1933 letter to Theo Croneiss, a man recently appointed to lead a little-known aircraft manufacturer Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (Bavarian Aicraft Works), wrote of an impending design competition for a “high-speed courier plane which does not need to be anything more than a single seater”. BFW began preparing to build a fast civilian single-seater that could be converted into a fighter when needed.
These sims are typically developed overseas, where there seems to be some reluctance to provide certain details. I'm going to hazard a guess that it was the Nazi party that rose to power in Germany. Aircraft design in the 20's and early 30's was done in secret because the Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany from having an Air Force. Obviously, it happened anyway while a war-weary world averted its attention in favor of policies of appeasement. As is often the case, the wages of appeasement were harsh as the vacuum of leadership was filled by those with differing agendas. This is a lesson that is forgotten generation after generation, and to a frightening degree it appears that it has been forgotten again.

Time will tell.
The "courier plane" needed to have a top speed of 400 km/h (250 mph) at 6,000 m (19,690 ft), to be maintained for 20 minutes, while having a total flight duration of 90 minutes. The critical altitude of 6,000 meters was to be reached in no more than 17 minutes, and the "courier plane" was to have an operational ceiling of 10,000 metres. The powerplant was to be the new Junkers Jumo 210, but the proviso was made that it would be interchangeable with the more powerful, but less developed Daimler-Benz DB 600 powerplant. 
The new airplane was to be armed with either a single 20 mm MG C/30 engine-mounted cannon firing through the propeller hub as a Motorkanone or, alternatively, either two engine cowl-mounted 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns, or one lightweight, engine-mounted 20 mm MG FF cannon with two 7.92 mm MG 17s. It was also specified that the wing loading should be kept below 100 kg/m2. The performance was to be evaluated based on the fighter's level speed, rate of climb, and maneuverability, in that order.
That's a lot of fire power for a "courier plane," no?

The history goes on, with the end result being the K-4 variant. While there were many revisions made during the war years, there was one that remains to plague me today:
As with the earlier Bf 108 transport plane, the new design was based on Messerschmitt's "lightweight construction" principle, which aimed to minimize the number of separate parts in the aircraft. Examples of this could be found in the use of two large, complex brackets which were fitted to the firewall. These brackets incorporated the lower engine mounts and landing gear pivot point into one unit. A large forging attached to the firewall housed the main spar pick-up points, and carried most of the wing loads. Contemporary design practice was usually to have these main load-bearing structures mounted on different parts of the airframe, with the loads being distributed through the structure via a series of strong-points. By concentrating the loads in the firewall, the structure of the Bf 109 could be made relatively light and uncomplicated. 
An advantage of this design was that the main landing gear, which retracted through an 85-degree angle, was attached to the fuselage, making it possible to completely remove the wings for servicing without additional equipment to support the fuselage. It also allowed simplification of the wing structure, since it did not have to bear the loads imposed during takeoff or landing. The one major drawback of this landing gear arrangement was its narrow wheel track, making the aircraft unstable while on the ground. To increase stability, the legs were splayed outward somewhat, creating another problem in that the loads imposed during takeoff and landing were transferred up through the legs at an angle.
The manual contains another 100 pages of in-depth detail about the history, design, and operational aspects of the plane, but perhaps you would rather just watch my efforts to fly it. If you know how to do it, this is really spectacular in full screen HD:

Note that the only way I was able to get it off of the ground was to enable a pair of "cheats" in the simulator. They didn't help with the landing, of course.

While that filled a couple of morning hours quite well, my thoughts soon turned to "real" flying. It's March now, so I can start to allow myself to think about the upcoming flying season. I've pretty much decided not to do Oshkosh this year, so I will have a few days that I can use for a lengthy trip, something I keep promising myself that I will do pretty much every time March rolls around.

For the first on what may or may not become a list of potential trip itineraries, I sketched out a trip down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. This is intended to be a leisurely trip of 5 - 8 days, depending on weather issues.

Here is the first sketch:

Leg One is Columbus to Owensboro, Kentucky for a fuel and lunch stop. Note that any actual airports named as enroute stops are really placeholders until such time as I did in and research things like fuel prices and restaurant options. I may also be on the lookout for interesting touristy things.

The zig-zags are precise - they are intended to make sure the total mileage allows for some periods of detouring to follow the river.

Leg 1 mileage: 282 nm.
Total mileage: 282 nm.

Leg 2 is the afternoon flight, and the goal is to reach Memphis, Tennessee. I'm thinking this is an overnight stay, and potentially a two-night stay, depending on the forecast.

Leg 2 mileage: 261 nm.
Total mileage: 543 nm.

There is an interesting photo op about halfway through leg 2: right around Cairo, Missouri, the Ohio River merges with the Mississippi River:

I will be much lower than this, but this is what it is likely to look like:

I have West Memphis selected as the overnight, but that could change as I hunt around for a cheap place to stay and determine the need for a rental car.

Leg 4 is a straight shot down the river. I don't have any real goals for that leg, other than to get a few pictures of Natchez, Mississippi. I have no other reason for that than having read a bunch of Greg Iles' novels, but if I'm flying down the river anyway... might as well. He goes on about the river front and the Antebellum houses, so maybe those would be worth seeing from the air.

Leg 4 ends with a fuel stop at (randomly selected) False River.

Leg 3 mileage: 288 nm.
Total mileage: 631 nm.

Leg 4 gets us to New Orleans.

As much I have tried to avoid Class B airspace because of the unpredictable nature of air traffic controllers, there is no choice at the destination. There is, however, a 'get out of jail free' card in the form of an aerial crosswalk for getting through without having to be subjected to a lot of routing, etc.

This corridor will more than likely show up on my Skyview screen, but I want to plan it as a waypoint anyway. Prior to the most recent release of the Skyview firmware, this would have been difficult. Now, though, I can just set up a virtual VOR waypoint right at the entrance of the corridor. That will be cool!

Leg 4 mileage: 51 nm.
Total mileage: 682 nm.

The snow is still falling, so it's still too soon to go out and let the snowblower bully me around in the driveway, so I guess I will start researching the airports that I have select thus far, or.... I could do a documentary on the other infamous German WWII fighter: the Focke-Wulf FW-190.

I can actually land that one,

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