HINTS AND TIPS FROM OUR READERS
You're ready to turn in your scarf and flight goggles. During flight training, you've managed to crush a Cessna's landing gear, demolish a Lear jet. and drive an F-14 Tom-cat off the end of a carrier's runway and into the Pacific.
Don't despair. You don't need pilot's training to fly a flight simulator. You just need a firm grounding in the fundamentals of flight—before you find yourself firmly grounding another plane into the tarmac.
Before you take to the skies, check your program manual and find four vital instruments: the airspeed indicator, which shows if you're traveling fast enough to stay in the air; rate of climb/descent indicator, which will let you know whether you're about to make a gentle landing or feel a sense of oneness with the runway; altimeter, handy during landing and while trying to avoid mountains; and, most important, the artificial horizon, which indicates the attitude of the air craft relative to the ground.
To take oil, advance your throttle slightly and point your plane straight down the runway. When you're lined up, go to full power. When you've reached takeoff speed (about 70 knots on a prop, 150 on jets), pull gently back on the control slick. The airplane will begin to climb. Watch your airspeed—if you're flying an F-16, you can climb straight up with no problem, but a Cessna will lose speed, stall, and plunge toward the ground if you climb too sharply. If your speed starts to drop, push the stick forward a bit.
Climb to 3000 feet and level off. Push the stick forward until the artificial horizon is centered (you'll see equal amounts of ground and sky on the instrument) and throttle back to about 70 percent. Once your speed steadies, you may notice you're still climbing. Don't push the plane's nose down to slop the climb. Contrary to instinct, you use your plane's throttle to control climb and descend. Reduce your throttle setting slightly until your plane is flying straight and level.
Fly straight for a while and practice using throttle and pitch to adjust your speed and climb. If you want to speed up, point the plane's nose down slightly. You'll notice your airspeed picking up, but you'll probably see your plane start to lose altitude, too. Compensate for the altitude loss by increasing your throttle setting.
When you're ready to attempt a landing, push right on the stick and begin a 180-degree turn back toward the airport. Don't bank too sharply, or you'll find yourself losing altitude. When you've completed the turn, it's time to start your descent. You'll be doing a visual landing.
Reduce power, but keep the plane's nose up. When your speed drops to about 30 knots over stall speed, lower your flaps one notch. Adjust your throttle to maintain air speed. At about six miles out, begin your descent by gradually decreasing your throttle. Watch your rate of climb indicator and maintain about a 500-foot-per-minute descent.
Your goal is to touch down near the threshold (where the runway starts). There's an easy trick to doing this. Line the threshold up on the bottom center of your wind-screen. If it appears to move up the wind-screen, you're descending too fast. Add power slightly until it seems to stay in one place. If you can master this little trick, your plane will practically fly itself onto the runway.
As you enter the last leg of your approach, make sure your landing gear is down and keep a close eye on the altimeter to make sure you have enough altitude. Make shallow turns until you're directly aimed at the runway. Use your rudder pedals for minor course adjustments.
The final landing procedure is called the flare. At about 30 feet above the runway, begin pulling back on the stick slowly. Your goal is to be flying straight and level just before you touch down. Your plane will begin to slow, and as it does its nose will drop. Pull back on the stick to keep your plane flying a foot or two above the runway. Your plane should lose speed until it's no longer able to fly, and it will stall and touch down. Once you're safely on the ground, cut your throttle and hit the brakes. If it doesn't look like you have enough runway to stop, gun the engine, take off, and go around again. An aborted landing isn't as embarrassing as driving your plane off the runway and into a lake.
If you have game tips or shortcuts of your own, we'd like to hear from you. Send your tip, no matter how brief to COMPUTE! Feedback, P.O. Box 5406, Greensboro, North Carolina 27403. If we publish your suggestion, we'll send you a gift.