x+s+r // new england byways

340 hdr

It’s nice to buy new scenery files. It’s even nicer to have time to use all of them. With that in mind, let’s look at iBlueYonder’s latest for X-plane and see if we can integrate them with a couple of other good airport files. The idea? To make an interesting series of GA flights utilizing some really good scenery files – and that don’t take all day to traverse.

At the end of our review of IBY’s Minute Man & Plum Island, we mentioned another airport file in the region, 1N2 , a recently released file by Nimbus that’s located way out on Long Island. One more came to mind, KBID Block Island, an interesting looking file by PilotPLUS that we’ve been meaning to take a look at for some time. Yup, sure enough, these four map-out as a very doable half-day’s flight – one that just happens to pass some very interesting points along America’s historical byways.

On the map below, we’ve laid out the basic route: 1N2 – KBID – 2B2 – 6B6 – 1N2. Okay, there are a couple of extra “doglegs” on this map, so what are they? Well, from Block Island you can head to Martha’s Vinyard (the red star), or you can head to the VorTAC at Otis AFB (FMH 115.8) and along the way pass right over Woods Hole and the Oceanographic Institute (the light blue star). From Otis AFB you’ll pass directly over the Cape Cod Canal then, a few minutes later, pass almost right over Plymouth Rock (yellow star). Finally, you’ll pass Boston and Logan International off to your left (about where the purple star is), and you’ll need to be at 500 AGL out there. You’ll need to use your Mk I eyeball to locate 2B2, and yes, you’ll need to stop to use the porta potty there, too.

From there, make the short hop over to Minute Man for your Thousand Dollar Burger(!!!), then make the long haul back to 1N2 in New York. If you were doing this trip in the Cessna 340, please note that at current fuel prices you’d have spent well over a five hundred bucks on fuel (and associated amortized costs…), so yes, this is one expensive hamburger.

And this is just one more reason why X-plane is one helluva training bargain!

There’s another “dogleg” on our map, one out to Nantucket, and this was added for one reason. iBlueYonder has modeled the airport out there for FsX/P3d – so my assumption is we’ll see it in X-plane sometime in the near future. I certainly hope so, as it’s one very nice airport, and their file looks better than great. Let’s just say we’re looking forward to this one…

New England Circle GE

Let’s start out on New York’s Long Island, at Nimbus’ 1N2 – and this may well be, perhaps, the oddest scenery file in X-plane to date. It may also be the FUNNEST file you’ll buy this year. Or maybe even next year, too…and if you know of a funkier file, please let us know…

1N2 hdr

What we have here is an airport that looks a little like a halfway house – for airplanes – that maybe just got out of rehab.

This place reeks funky. It’s kind of grimy looking, too, and, at first glance, it looks just downright weird – not at all like your average GA airport. There are frumpy looking homes in various states of disrepair along one of the runways, while a wrecked Cessna sits under a nearby tree, and about that time you see a barefoot man walking along a dirt road over to the pizza shack across the highway.

That’s when you shake your head and wonder if you just stepped out of X-plane, and into the Twilight Zone.

Because this place kind of looks like the end of the line, folks, like maybe this is the place old airplanes go to die…yet maybe this is where some old plane is just waiting to give one more lucky soul the ride of a lifetime.

You never know what kind of magic can happen at a place like this.

Some dude named Bart ran the RV and Airplane repair shop, and it looks like he took in the odd sick boat from time to time, too. Anyway, I reckon he was the head honcho around these parts. His shop still sits on the highway, but the back of his old shop opens out onto 1N2 Spadaro, the airport named after him. Sand-covered taxiway, cracked asphalt runway, a bunch of run down Pipers tied down here and there…you know the kind of place I’m talkin’ about.  Ain’t no diner at this airport, not even a Coke machine. Like I said, the end of the line.

1N2 1

Funny thing, though. This place was near the Hamptons, so a lot of folks, folks with Money, flew out here on weekends. Famous people, as a matter of fact. Famous folks who like to fly. So yeah…weird. Not what you were expecting, I take it.

340 landing 1

1N2 2

The two images above? That’s the grass strip at Lufker Airport, aka 49N. It’s been around a little longer than forever, too. Back when bi-planes were the norm. Interesting history, if you care to read up on the place. I won’t bore you with the details, but it’s a fun story.

1N2 Spadaro is right across the way, right behind those trees on the right in the image above. It’s the one with the asphalt runway, the one in the image below. The two airports have different identifiers because, well, they’re different airports – so, go figure.

1N2 3

Across the street? You name it. A little bit of everything, a little slice of America, everything, perhaps, but a tattoo parlor and an adult bookstore. Who knows…maybe they’re around back…? Never can tell.

1N2 4

It seems these days all the action is over on the grassy side. Ole Bart passed and things just kind of fell apart over on the asphalt side of this equation, but somehow things keep hoppin’ at Lufker. Grass gets kind of worn down in places, but no one seems to care much.

1N2 5.jpg

Both airports are hard as hell to see until you’re right up on ’em, though, oddly enough, the grass strip seems easier to see – unless it’s getting close to suppertime.

1N2 6

The shifting sands around the asphalt strip makes for good camouflage, too. Most old hands here suggest making one or two patterns with one of ’em before you try to come in on your own – just so you get the landmarks down pat.

1N2 7

Being stupid and stubborn, I decided to use the 340 here; if only because I don’t have a week to fly 200 miles. Departing Lufker is a nail-biter in a medium twin…kind of an open question whether I’d take out a few trees on the way out, that is. It was close. A really hot single – with STOL capability – would be my choice next time. A Kodiak, maybe? Oh, these two airports are located at the arrow in the image below.

1n2 departure340

Heading east for Block Island, you’ll pick up VORs as soon as you’re a few hundred feet AGL. You can skirt the north coast of Long Island until you pick up the Block Island VOR (SEV 117.8), with Groton and New London, Connecticut off to the left. OR, you can take off and head east, right over the middle of Long Island (HTO 113.6 until you pick up Block Island); you’ll pass over KMPT on this route, and spend the least amount of time over water.

Below, passing Montauk Point, at the tip of Long Island. Take comfort in the notion that the highest concentration of Great White Sharks in the NE Atlantic congregates in this area, and don’t forget to check your fuel gauge right now. You DID remember to fill up at the pumps behind Bart’s, right?

Montauk Pt.jpg

Ah, well, maybe it’s time to fill up after all?

Good thing that’s Block Island dead ahead. Beyond the armada of cruise ships…

APP KBID

This is an airport you literally can’t miss. It’s right in the middle of a tiny island, but the runway is a little on the short side. Still, small jets DO land here. Somehow.

The terminal building in this scenery package is sweet looking, and the surrounding details are all well executed – aside from some of the trees. They’re a little too dark (compared to the auto-gen variety on the rest of the island) so tend to stand out a little. Besides that, I enjoyed excellent framerates here, and while the clam chowder wasn’t bad the waitresses were a little fresh.

KBID 1

There are static aircraft here when objects are dialed up, including a little 172 that taxis around the ramps – providing a little visual activity. Nice touch. Nice restrooms too, if you can find ’em (I couldn’t, and ended up using the bushes).

KBID 2

This is one of those gray shingle with white trim kind of places, too. Classic New England. So anyway, we gassed up but failed to make proper use of a head. We’ll be squirmin’ by the time we hit Plum Island…

KBID 3

So, off we go. Tune in the VorTAC at Otis AFB (FMH 115.8) and pretty soon you’ll come up on Martha’s Vinyard. The rocky headland just over the nose? That’s Gay Head. I know, I know.

APP MVin

Next up, The Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute near Falmouth, Mass. That’s it just over the tip of the left tip-tank (below), with Falmouth to the right a little.

Woods Hole.jpg

After passing the VorTac at Otis you’ll change course, and I’d recommend using the GPS on your aircraft at this point so you can go direct to 2B2. Doing so, the next landmark you’ll pass is the Cape Cod Canal. No locks on this canal, just a cut made so traffic could pass from Massachusetts Bay into Buzzard’s Bay, cutting off the blustery passage around Nantucket. The problem here? When the tides change there’s slack water, but when the tides reach full force – jetting through the canal – tidal speeds reach more than 6 knots. A sailboat making 5 knots will, in effect, go backward here, so rapid transits of the canal are a must. No problem in the 340…

C COD C

A few minutes later you’ll hit Mass Bay, and off to your left, Plymouth. Yeah, Puritans, the Rock, all that stuff…it all went down right out there. Massachusetts is full of History, and Boston a great place to base from if you want to see some of it.

PLYM.jpg

And, speaking of…there she is, off to your left…just a few minutes after leaving the Plymouth area. Boston, aka Beantown, after Boston Baked Beans (the musical fruit). That’s the Prudential Center to the left, then downtown, then…on a clear day you can just make out the control tower at Logan. You’ll be at 500 AGL here, or F16s will be coming for you…you’re skirting the ADIZ out here, remember?

KBOS

And, after you’re “feet dry” around Salem (yeah, the Salem of Witch Trial fame) the next thing you’ll run across is the sandy beaches on Plum Island.

Plum Isl.jpg

I popped up to around 1000AGL before I got here – and cut back speed to about a hundred knots. Below, by the time you’re indicating about 2 miles out on the Garmin you ought to have dropped your speed for final approach, added flaps and dropped the training wheels. You can see the airport below – once you have the landmarks dialed in. If not, you’d better prepare to make a hard left over this village, get your flaps all the way down and settle in about 10 over stall… Remember, this is that SHORT runway with all the mad farmer’s junk blocking the undershoot area?

2B2 APP 1

Junk…as in a motorhome and a bulldozer…and a pissed off farmer on the front porch – probably with a shotgun. Oh yeah, turns out that waitress at the airport diner was his daughter (gee, Dad, what did he mean by that…).

2B2 APP 2

So, get on the brakes – hard – and pull up to the Porta-Potty – and for heaven’s sake – DO NOT go into the diner this time.

2B2 ramp

So, after two pieces of peach pie ala commode it’s time to hit the head – again – then beat feet…’cause we’re gonna fly OVER Minute Man this time – on our way back to The Hole in the Wall – as we’re running out of daylight…!

340 2b2 dep

So, westbound at 2500AGL, then turn right over 6B6 Minute Man, because when we did our first recon run we discovered something useful…

340 6B6 dep

On the direct, GPS course (sorry, no airways), right after you cross Long Island Sound you’ll pick up Highway 51 at Riverhead, and, you guessed it…

app 1N2 0

…this highway leads you right to 1N2 Spadaro. That’s it, below, just beyond that circular offramp, and the Highway 51 continues to lead you right past the grass strip at Lufker. You can’t ask for better VFR landmarks, as that offramp sort of looks like a bulls-eye.

340 App 0.1

As you make your way onto your Downwind, start picking out points where you want to turn Base and Final…

340 pattern

…such as those two inlets over the left engine (below)…and that housing development off to the left…

340 pattern 2.jpg

The street below the right tip tank is my landmark (image below), and the 340 is at 700AGL and 90 knots here, gears and flaps (all the way) down. But note…there are major obstacles to clear on this approach. Not just a tractor and a motorhome…no, we’ve got tall trees on either side of the threshold, and medium height trees lining the highway just before the runway threshold…and wires…lots of powerlines…

340 landing final 2

So, you’re really threading the needle here at Lufker. The trees and the orange hazard balls give you lots of warning, but there’s not a lot of runway – so if you come in too high or too fast…You. Will. Not. Make. It.

340 Landing final

It’s not a superhuman task, it’s just a matter of maintaining a precise approach speed and rate of descent.

340 landing 4

And once you’ve cleared the trees it’s bleed speed into your flare and settle on the mains, then get on the brakes…hard…keeping in mind this is a grass strip, and they can be damp.

340 landing 1.jpg

Here’s another angle. There is a crowded commercial highway under those wires, too.

340 landing 2.jpg

And a better angle, showing just how close to the trees you’ll be just before your flare.

340 Landing final 1.1

And another angle, again, just before starting your flare…and you can see the undulating nature of the runway here.

340 landing final 1.11

340 landing flare

Once down, I used up about 85-90% of the runway. I think I was a little high (above) and my mains should have been down about where that red and white Cessna Cardinal is parked, but I was just about into my stall on touchdown and that worked in my favor. Still, not a lot of runway left, and I hoped I could have done better. But…that’s the nature of practice, and why files like this are so good to have.

340 taxi.jpg

Once down there are lots of (insert drum roll here) campsites to park at. It looked like, from a distance, campfires and tents and even campers mixed in among the houses and mobile homes. Like I said…weird, or maybe just – eclectic. Kind of makes me want to pitch a virtual tent, and start a virtual fire in a virtual stone fireplace, cook up a few virtual burgers, maybe toss back a few virtual Budweisers…

Or, what the heck. Shut down the PC and head to the ‘fridge. Maybe it’s time for something cold, ya know?

Anyway, a few conclusions. First, I started this “circle” thinking I liked 6B6 Minute Man the most; turns out it was the least interesting to me. It’s well done, but it’s also not a challenge. Plum Island IS a challenge…first to find, then to avoid Farmer Brown’s camper and ‘dozer (and let’s not even mention the Farmer’s Daughter…okay?). The Porta-Potty is convenient, too, but what interests me most is the idea that for some reason a challenge is either desired or is simply considered “fun.” I wonder if you have an opinion on the idea? Is a challenging airport more desirable to you, or so outstanding graphics mean more. (I know, both are good, but really, is one more important to you than the other?)

Block Island is a nice addition to this circle, and I hope we see more from this developer. If iBlueYonder gets a Nantucket file to us soon, well, so much the better. Besides, there are much better opportunities for foul limericks at Nantucket than at Block Island. Nantucket direct to 2B2 will be fun, too, but I can see using the Block Island file a lot. If you have a Piper Cherokee, guess what? You can use it on the commercial run from Bloack Island to Warren, RI. No foolin’…look it up on Wikipedia!

The real winner here, to me, was Nimbus’ 1N2 Spadaro/Lufker. You want a challenging approach? Try this in the Baron or 340. You want to turn this into a piece of cake? Try the Kodiak. You want to practice your GA landmarking skills? Well, this is the place. Just pull out the C172 and shoot touch and goes until your joystick cries “Uncle!” The neat thing…I bet you’ll have a smile on your face after a while. This is “that kind of file.”

Just out of curiosity, I ran patterns in the Thranda Kodiak, the default C172, xpfr’s Ercoupe, and the new JustFlight Piper PA-28R Arrow III. The Thranda Kodiak takes off like a rocket but lands a little long; the C172 takes off quickly and lands in a short distance. The old Ercoupe has no flaps and I think the motor runs on peanuts (or whatever you feed squirrels); it was a near disaster. The Piper took it’s time getting airborne but landed easily and – subjectively – took up less runway than the Cessna. The Cessna beat it, barely, but the Piper just felt better. None, by the way, felt better than the Carenado Cessna 340 on this approach, though it eats up the runway coming and going. I think this is one of Carenado’s better flight models, and think I’ll be using the Just Flight Piper on more single engine test flights at new scenery files. It was responsive, yet smooth. No big difference in framerates here, too. With all setting high (and textures at MAX), all were around 20-25fps.

C172 land 2

Piper land 1

For a longer flight like this circle, I think a fast single is in order – or a 340/Baron class twin. AND consider this: you can use these four (maybe soon…five) airports in a network to work on all kinds of basic piloting skills. Using intersecting radials to pinpoint 2B2 and 1N2 will keep your skills sharp, while relying on a Garmin will help you work on landmarking skills or honing IFR confidence.

Me? I think it’s time to pitch the tent and light a fire. We’ll see ya around the campfire, and Happy Trails.  -C

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