It’s a dilemma I face all the time. I need a place to fly and it needs to be quick. Like many flight simmers, I seem to always be pressed for time, or I sit down at my desk unsure of how long I’ll be able to devote to flying. I think that’s why VFR flights and GA aircraft appeal to me: they’re easy to get into the air without a lot of tinkering around. Load some fuel, passengers, cargo and maybe set up a failure or two and we’re flying. It’s also why I’m partial to flying in the Caribbean: there’s so much to see and the airports are rarely further than 30 minutes apart.
So, with that in mind, I bring you my top-five short flights (in no particular order).
1. TVSM (Mustique) – TVSB (Bequia)
I think this has been set as my default flight since FS98! It’s a quick island hop with some interesting obstacles and a great run for practicing STOL techniques. With a huge hill at the end of the short runway, Mustique is a disaster waiting to happen. It is the perfect place for practicing engine failures or any critical failures for that matter because the stakes are just so high. It’s almost always above 20 degrees celsius here so the problems with runway length and obstacles are compounded by hot, thin air. Grab a Twin-Otter, load it up and have fun!
Once in the air, it’s just a quick 10 minutes over to the next island north, Bequia. Bequia’s major settlement, Port Elizabeth is one of the only places in the world where whaling is still allowed, but it’s also the largest island of the Grenadines and second largest in the country (behind St. Vincent). Port Elizabeth is hidden from the south when flying from Mustique but, if you stay to the Atlantic side of the island and circle around to the north, the small port will reveal itself. Keep in mind that the detour will add another 5-10 minutes to the flight.
J.F. Mitchell Airport on Bequia is named for the ex-Prime Minister of St. Vincent, who held office during the 1990′s and early 2000′s. The runway is far from the obstacle ridden STOL strip on Mustique but it’s difficult in the sense that water surrounds three quarters of the strip, and a large hill lines the approach in to runway 30.
If this hasn’t peaked you interest yet, than I would suggest a quick touch-and-go at Bequia and a return flight to Mustique to try its more challenging approach. Coming into Mustique, it can be difficult to spot the runway as it’s hidden behind a large hill. Use the radio tower as a point of reference and keep the town to your right during your entire approach. Try to hit the runway right at the STOL marker or it might be time to consider a go-around!
2. CYZP (Sandspit) to CZMT (Masset)
Alright, so it’s a bit longer than the others on this list but it’s still quick if you’re flying the right planes.
I first flew this flight after a family member of mine took a trip out to the Queen Charlotte Islands to go fishing. With it’s close proximity to Alaska (a favourite flight sim area of mine!) I was very intrigued and headed off on my own FSX adventure. Needless to say, this flight has become one of my favourites. Sandspit airport is not a large place but serves as sort of hub for the surrounding airports.
Masset airport lies around 90km to the north and is the northern-most airport on the islands.Â Masset services the small village of the same name and offers helicopter service out to Langara island, a small island at the north west tip of the chain that is home to a number of recreational fishing operations.
There are not many surprises on this trip and the runways and airports are less than difficult to figure out but the real fun on this trip comes when you factor in the unpredictable weather that exists in this part of Canada. It can range from beautiful and sunny to cold, stormy and downright nasty. The weather can roll in quickly and there are few, if any, places to divert. So fire up some crazy weather and turn on some random failures and hope that you can find your way up the coast.
3. Anywhere in Tongass!
I believe this is the second post in a row where I’ve mentioned FSAddon’s Tongass Fjords. It’s no surprise either. There are just so many places to start from and so many things to see. You can come up with at least 10 – 5-30 minute flights just by looking at the coverage map. Ferrying people out to the multitude of cabins dotting the landscape is infinitely enjoyable.
The landscape is suited to almost any kind of flying you want to do. Want to put those tundra wheels to good use? You’d be hard pressed to find a better place. What to fly an amphibious type? Tongass has a huge variety of runway surfaces. My current favourite flight plan is to begin up at Shaft Creek Mine and work my way down to Wrangell (PAWG). There is a good range of flying conditions throughout this flight and it’s short enough that I can jump in and not worry about making it before being called away from the computer.
Shaft Creek Mine to PAWG also really gives you a great feeling of coming down out of the mountains. The elevation change is significant and there are plenty of very realistic situations that can be simulated with icing coming to mind as the best.
One of the best parts about Tongass Fjords is its versatility. It’s the perfect place for a five minute flight.
4. Raw Grit: PNG Bush Pilot
Pacific Island Simulations is quickly making a name for itself with its Bush scenery packages and it’s very well deserved. I’ve only flown around 50 per cent of the flights in the PNG Raw Grit package but it has already established itself as one of my favourite places to fly. I’m not sure there is a piece of add-on scenery that has done such a great job of introducing me to a part of the world I probably would have never considered flying before. Part of the draw of this scenery is that the flights are usually very short and very difficult. Perfect for just firing up FSX and getting in an entire flight in – quickly. Flights around the Missionary Freight Run include some especially harrowing approaches and departures from gravel strips as high as 8000ft.
This scenery has many striking similarities with Tongass Fjords because of the dramatic changes in elevation.
Preparation in this area is essential, understanding the length of the runways and navigational aids available will help you keep your plane off a mountain side and on the runway. This scenery, much like Sandspit/Masset is suited to almost any kind of aircraft you want to fly. One of my personal favourites for exploring the Missionary Freight run (especially ONG) is the default Maule – it’s versatility is perfect for the exceptional variety these short flights provide. There’s just something about flying around an active volcano that makes you just want to keep coming back!
5. TNCM (St. Maarten) to TFFJ (St. Barts)/TNCS (Saba)
With one of the most challenging approaches in the Caribbean, it’s no wonder St. Barts (by Fly Tampa) made this list. Getting a Twin-Otter into Saba is equally as challenging but it’s a slightly longer flight than to St. Barts.
The most challenging approach is runway 10 from the west into St. Barts. This will take you over the hill and, like Mustique, it can be difficult to spot the runway threshold from the approach. The trick is to line with the rocks south-west of the village and follow the line they create to the village/jetty and then right over the hill. Like Mustique, a go around is probably in the cards on the first few attempts.
The approach at Saba comes with a very different set of challenges. At an elevation of 60ft, 1,300 ft in length and with cliffs surrounding it on three sides, Saba is dangerous. The airport itself is very much like Bequia in it’s surroundings but it is much shorter and at 60ft elevation, you’re not going to want be fast and high, and certainly not short! It’s what make this flight continuously challenging and a pleasure to fly over and over. Save the failures for one of the other scenarios, this one’s tricky when everything’s working!
Your favourite flights
I’d love to hear about your favourite five-minute flight. What’s that flight plan you load up when you’ve only got a few minutes to spare?
Until next time,