Crosswind landings in X-Plane

I’ve spent several hours practicing pattern work, but I’ve always done it with clear weather and no wind. Lately, I’ve attempted to add crosswinds to the mix to simulate more real-world conditions. It hasn’t gone well.

I set up a 6 kt 90 degree crosswind at Aurora Muni (KUAO) and took off in the X-Plane default Cessna 172. Take-off and flying the left-hand pattern went relatively well, but when I came in on final and entered the glideslope, things seemed to get wonky.

My approach was made on runway 35 so the wind should have been directly from my left. The windsock showed this to be true. However, my plane seemed to be drifting to the left. I attempted a forward slip with a little right aileron and a small amount of left rudder, and things went wonky even more.

It was crazy trying to get the plane lined up with the runway, yet the wind was only 6 knots, with no gusts configured. I gunned the engine, raised my flaps, and conducted a go-around.

As I was flying the pattern again, I paid close attention to what the wind seemed to be doing to the aircraft. At pattern altitude of 1,000 feet AGL, it seemed to be getting blown to the west. That’s incorrect — the wind was configured to be blowing from the west. I turned onto the base leg and the groundspeed slowed, again indicating I had a headwind from the east. When I turned onto the final leg, once again I had fits getting a line on the runway.

I’ve heard that X-Plane 11 has notoriously inaccurate ground effect winds and handling. This seems to be the case. When I got my wheels on the ground, I turned my ailerons fully to the left, to the west and the direction the windsock indicated the wind was blowing, and got shot far to the right and onto the grass.

I can’t confirm it, but it very much acted like the wind was blowing the exact opposite direction the windsock was indicating (and the weather configuration specified).

UPDATE 01-29-2018: I have confirmed the wind and windsock are behaving correctly in X-Plane. It’s operator error on my part.

Writing at my day job

I’m not just an author, I’m also a project manager and senior web developer. That’s actually how I pay the rent, so to speak, but fortunately for me I get to spend a fair bit of time writing at the office. In addition to being the senior project manager, I’m also the writer and editor of the corporate blog.

eRep, Inc.
Learn about the CVI at www.erep.com

The company I work for is eRep, Inc. When people ask me where I work and what we do there, I say, “We sell happiness.” This always generates a fair bit of intrigue and interest because it’s a vague answer that begs for further explanation.

Erep is entirely focused on the Core Values Index assessment. It is a psychometric assessment that measures and defines a person’s innate unchanging nature. It is your personality’s DNA, as I like to describe it.

The CVI is your personality’s DNA.

The CVI assessment starts with an online test that usually takes 7-10 minutes to complete. When done, you are given a score that represents how much of four separate personalty types you possess. It sounds simplistic when I describe it that way, but the number of combinations of those four types is in the trillions.

Personality Types

The Core Values Index assessment is made up of four core values, based on power, love, wisdom and knowledge. These go by the names of Builder, Merchant, Innovator, and Banker, respectively. When you take the CVI, you are given a score between 0 and 36 in each of these four energies or core values, with a total combined score that always sums to 72.

It is your particular combination of these four values that represent your CVI score. Your core values represent where you are the happiest, whether it be solving problems, building relationships, acquiring knowledge, or taking charge and leading others.

The best way I can explain this is to describe my own CVI score. I am a 27 points Innovator and 17 points Banker. My Builder score is 15 points and my Merchant score is 13 points. In the parlance of the CVI, I am an Innovator/Banker.

This means that I value solving problems more than anything, and value knowledge—both its acquisition and dispensation—secondarily. Innovators are all about being the wisdom in the room. Solving problems is their passion, and they don’t believe there’s a problem they can’t solve with enough time. Bankers value knowledge. This combination of core values lends itself to me being naturally and innately drawn to project management and product development.

Merchants find their happiness in the relationships they form with other people. They like to motivate others with their emotional energy and enthusiasm, and they excel at forming consensus among groups. They tend toward being team leaders or team motivators.

Builders are the power in the room. They take charge and get things done. If Innovators can be described as “get it right” kind of people, Builders are “get it done” kind of folks. They love checking things off of lists and earning that strong sense of accomplishment. They are all about action, sometimes to the point of saying, “Get out of the way, let me do it.”

As you can imagine, Builder/Merchants or Merchant/Builders tend to find themselves in positions of power and influence.

These are highlight explanations and don’t do the core values justice. The best way to learn more about the CVI is to read the blog at eRep.

Or better yet, take the free CVI and get your own score. I highly recommend paying for an upgraded CVI. For $49.95 you get a full 17-page report describing your individual CVI profile in full detail. I’ve yet to meet someone who took the CVI and got their upgraded report and regretted it. In fact, they invariably become strong advocates of the assessment, motivating their friends, coworkers, and family to take the CVI.

To Fly or Ride

Back in June, 2012 I rode my 2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650 to Colorado and back, a loop trip of 5,000+ miles over 15 riding days, passing through 10 states. [You can read my riding blog here.] Once I began learning to fly in my home flight simulator, it became my goal to simulate that trip as closely as possible in a virtual Cessna 172.

The trip in my flight simulator has been ongoing since late June and is nearly complete. I only have one leg remaining. My plane is currently parked at Grant County Regional Field [KGCD] in John Day, Oregon, with my final destination of Troutdale, Oregon.

Throughout this trip, I have attempted to mimic the actual route I rode on my motorcycle as closely as possible, following primary waypoints at major junctions. I have also landed at the nearest airport to the places where I stopped each day for lunch. This means that each day’s simulated leg entailed at least two take-offs and two landings.

Recently, I experimented with early morning take-offs to see what lighting conditions look like in X-Plane 11. The results are amazing, but I noticed that in cities with custom scenery (Ortho4XP), the lights are nearly non-existent. Only stock scenery has the great lighting effects.

I flew from Red Lodge, Montana up and over Beartooth Pass and across Yellowstone Park to land for my mid-day stop at West Yellowstone. I took a screenshot of my cockpit.

The cockpit of a Cessna 172 during an early morning flight over Beartooth pass, Montana

I landed at Butte, Montana. The following day, I took off from Butte and flew to Grangeville, Idaho. I simulated real-world weather conditions and barely survived the landing. I had a constant cross-wind of 12 knots with gusts up to 21 knots. This shot me diagonally across the runway, coming to a stop on the adjacent taxiway. Suddenly a gust of over 60 knots hit my plane broadside and flipped it into the air and over onto its top. It’s my only crash of the entire trip so far.

Morning take-off in a Cessna 172 from Grangeville, ID

The take-off from Grangeville the next morning was stunning. I left a few minutes before sunrise and the scenery and lighting was very life-like.

From there, I mimicked my bike route to Oxbow, Oregon along the Snake River at Hells Canyon, then over to Baker City where I landed for lunch. The day ended at John Day, Oregon.

This trip has been an excellent learning experience. The airstrips and airports have been diverse. Flying in Colorado was a special challenge because of the high elevation airstrips and numerous 14,000+ mountain passes. Some take-offs required circling like a bird to gain enough altitude to move forward.

Flight logs

Logbook
Printable logbook

Back in 2012 I took a solo motorcycle trip from Oregon to Colorado that spanned 10 different states in 16 days (Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Wyoming (again), Montana, Idaho, and back to Oregon). One of my goals after setting up my flight simulator was to take that same trip virtually in a Cessna 172.

I began that virtual trip a few weeks ago and am currently parked at an airstrip in Durango, Colorado. I have mapped the trip to include takeoffs and landings at the same towns where I had overnight stays on my original motorcycle trip, and I even have landings and takeoffs in towns where I stopped for lunch. I’m trying to mimic the same route as realistically as possible, just in the transportation medium of flight.

One of the aspects of this trip I have implemented is detailed flight logs. I started by making notes in a spiral notebook as I flew, writing down flight date, departure airport, destination airport, and a few minor details along the way such as waypoints and altitude. I refined those notes to include more detail, then decided to use a formal flight log form that I fill out for each flight.

I used a spreadsheet to create a printable form that I put on a clipboard and fill out as I fly. I make notes every time I change course or altitude, with timestamps. About the only thing I don’t write down is my airspeed.

So far the logs have worked great, and I have really enjoyed the detail-oriented aspect of the process. Flying, once you’re at cruising altitude, can be somewhat boring, especially if you use autopilot. Making notes as you fly keeps your brain occupied, and gives you a reason to pay attention to your gauges and the other aspects of the flight, rather than just zoning out and getting bored.

You may download a printable PDF version of the logbook here.

The original Excel spreadsheet is available here [XLSX].

The Delta column is for denoting changes in altitude or bearing. I often use < or > to show changes in course for left or right, respectively, and up or down arrows with X fps or -X fps to show changes in altitude. For Altitude, I write the altitude I was at when I began the delta.

The Best of the Western Slope

Why go from A to B in a straight line? How boring! That’s not how an adventure tourer rolls. Recently I had to travel from Sandy, Oregon to Diamond Lake, Oregon. There is a boring A to B way to get there, and there is a route more appropriate for a Two-wheeled Astronaut.

My goal was to travel along mostly Forest Service roads along the western slope of the Cascade mountain range. After poring over topographical maps and consulting Google maps, I picked a route. I would stay one night at Diamond Lake, then retrace my steps back home.

To start, I rode on highway 224 from Sandy to Ripplebrook ranger station, then south on NF 46 to Detroit, OR. Familiar stuff. The air was getting thick with wildfire smoke, some from as far away as British Columbia, but the most was from the nearby Whitewater fire east of Detroit in the Jefferson wilderness.

After getting gas and a snack in Detroit, the next leg took me along highway 22 into Sisters, Oregon. I stopped at a Chevron station for a quick break. The station was busy, and had nearly two dozen bikers on cruisers, revving their engines and blasting their stereos. The next leg would take me on highway 242 up and over McKenzie Pass.

This was new territory for me, and I regret not having ridden it before. The scenery was incredible! High, jagged lava rock walls lined the narrow road. The road itself was narrow and twisty in parts, especially on the western slope of the summit. At the summit itself was an incredible view of the Three Sisters.

The western slope of highway 242 winds its way down through primeval forest, with many switchbacks. It was 2nd gear heaven.

Highway 242 merged into highway 126. I stopped in the community of Rainbow for a snack before catching the Aufderheide Drive (NF 19) headed south. This road memorializes a beloved Forest Service manager that passed away in 1959. It follows the western shore of Cougar Reservoir before heading up into the forest. The road had excellent pavement, wonderful curves, and more trees. It is a fantastic riding road.

NF 19 ends in the small community of Westfir, which lies a mile west of Oakridge, on highway 58. I pulled into Oakridge and got gas, then ate lunch at the very busy Dairy Queen next door. The temperatures and wildfire smoke were both high so it was nice to get inside and enjoy some air conditioning.

The next leg was my biggest concern for the trip, as I had the least amount of information about the route. I took NF 21 south along Hills Creek Reservoir, a familiar pattern before heading up into the hills. The road was in good shape and the scenery was nice (mostly forest), but the route itself wasn’t as clear. I saw some signs that indicated it was the Diamond route, or something. NF 21 turned into NFD 2145, and began to climb elevation. Once I was over 4,000 feet, the pavement ended.

The gravel road was covered in washboard ripples that got deeper and more aggressive, jarring my bike’s suspension. My GPS was unsure where to take me, and after stopping to consult my topographical map, I realized I likely had 60 or more miles of that nasty washboard road to go before I hit highway 138 north of Diamond Lake.

At this point I had ridden 34 miles into the wilderness after leaving highway 58 in Oakridge. I could press on with an uncertain outcome, beating myself and my bike to death on a gravel road with worsening conditions, or I could backtrack and take the paved and safe but long way around.

It was already after 4 PM, and I didn’t want to get stuck on back roads with an uncertain route after dark. I erred on the side of caution and backtracked to Oakridge. There, I caught highway 58 east over the Willamette Pass, then highway 97 south. I gassed up in Chemult and chugged a bunch of water, as I was getting dehydrated from the long, hot day. A dozen miles down the road brought me to Diamond Junction, where I rode up to the lake and my rest for the evening. I didn’t get there until 6:30 PM.

The next morning, I left Diamond Lake at 7 AM and rode into Chemult where I had an unappetizing breakfast at the Pilot gas station and adjoining Subway sandwich shop. At least the trucker coffee was good. I backtracked up 97 and then 58 to Oakridge, where I filled up my gas tank. I headed north on NF 19, the Aufderheide Drive.

The air was getting thicker by the mile with wildfire smoke. It became apparent that the fire was nearby. I came around a bend and saw a fire crew truck with two firefighters in reflective gear and hard hats, stopping traffic. The young man told me the road ahead was blocked by fire down to the pavement and they wouldn’t let me go through. I could either backtrack or take a gravel detour up into the hills.

The firefighter was nice enough to give me written directions for the various Forest Service road junctions, but he cautioned, “It may take you an hour.” He wasn’t kidding.

I left the pavement and headed up into the hills along some steep gravel roads. I was standing up on the pegs the whole time, and rarely got into second gear. The smoke was thick, but soon I was above it. The wildfire smoke settled half-way up the valley, and once I was above it, it looked like a field of white snow that I could have walked across. It had its own beauty … when I wasn’t trying to topple off the narrow, jagged rock road.

I eventually made it back down into the smoky valley floor and back onto pavement. After looking at the map back home, I estimated I’d made a four mile detour that took an hour to travel.

Back in Rainbow, I stopped for gas and a much needed snack break. This time the air was clearing a little bit. I headed east, past where 242 branched off toward McKenzie Pass, and continued north to where highway 126 merged with highway 20 and then highway 22 north to Detroit. The further north I travelled, the thicker the smoke became.

I stopped in Detroit to top off my gas tank, and then boogied up NF 46 toward home.

The first day of my trip, I rode 434 miles and was on the bike from 7:45 AM to 6:30 PM. That had been my longest riding day ever, in terms of hours, and maybe even in terms of miles. The second day was 356 miles, but I was only on the bike from 7 AM to 3 PM.

My bike now needs new tires, a new chain and new sprockets. It’s covered in dust and is resting comfortably in my garage.

It was a tiring trip, and I’m thankful I stayed upright and never got lost.

Adventures only suck while you’re having them.