The CFI’s guide to flying an approach in X-Plane
Hi! It’s Randy with X-Plane again. A couple days ago, we talked about finding a virtual version of your favorite aircraft on the Web and adding it to X-Plane. (If you missed that email, you can read it online.) This is the second email in the course you signed up for about getting the most out of X-Plane.
This time, I’d like to help you fly a final approach to an airport, so you can both keep up your stick-and-rudder skills and practice some tricky situations (like landing in a crosswind or a storm). In fact, we know a number of certified flight instructors who recommend that their students practice just like I’m going to show you before coming in for a flight review—it saves the student money, and it saves the instructor time that they can be using with other students.
Choosing an airport
If you’ve been following this series of emails, you probably choose your airport using the Quick Flight Setup feature. However, this isn’t the only way to do it. In fact, using the following method, you can select not just which airport you go to, but also where in that airport you start.
So, move your mouse to the top of the screen (causing the menu to appear), then click Location, then Select Global Airport. Just like in the Quick Flight Setup window, you can search for an airport either by name or by ICAO identifier. Unlike in the Quick Flight Setup window, though, the bottom half of this window displays rows of “quick start” buttons. The buttons in the “Takeoff” column (on the far left) will transport your aircraft to the specified runway—we don’t want to use these right now. Instead, to the right of the Takeoff buttons are the “Final Approach” buttons. Clicking one of these will transport your aircraft to the specified distance away from the runway on the button’s left.
So, let’s fly a full final approach. Search for KSEA (the default airport), and click one of the buttons labeled 10 nm. X-Plane will put your airplane 10 nautical miles from that runway, at a decent altitude. Note: If your aircraft is moved to an area that does not have any scenery installed, you will see nothing but water and maybe a small runway. Since the demo doesn’t include the global scenery (which is only available by buying X-Plane 10), you probably want to stick to the default airport in Seattle (whose identifier is KSEA), where you do have scenery installed.
Changing the weather
For your first approach, you probably want to stick with nice weather without much turbulence. In the future, though, you can set the weather to all kinds of nasty conditions! For a detailed breakdown of how the weather in X-Plane can be controlled, check out the section titled “Setting the Weather” in the X-Plane 10 manual.
Flying the approach visually
At this point, you should be 10 nautical miles out from the airport, in line with whichever runway you chose. Your goal is to slowly descend down to ground level, while keeping your airplane lined up with the runway. If you’re in a small, general aviation airplane (like the Cessna 172SP), you want to keep your speed a bit above stalling speed. (For the 172, stalling speed is about 65 knots, so aim for 90 knots or so, lowering your speed as you get closer.) By the time you get to the runway, you want to be right at stalling speed, with your power at zero and flaps at full. Follow a shallow glide path in to the runway—that is, point the nose down between 3 and 5 degrees. Right before the craft reaches the ground, raise the nose up to about 7 degrees for a gentle touchdown.
Did you make it?! If not, just reload your approach (using the Select Global Airport dialog just like before) and try again!
Flying on instruments
If you’ve gotten the hang of the visual approach, you might be interested to try an instrument approach. You can find all the details in the portion of the X-Plane 10 manual titled “Flying an Instrument Approach in X-Plane.”
Until next time…
I hope you enjoyed this flight. In a couple days, I’ll send you a guide to flying some awesome situations in X-Plane—flying gliders, performing carrier operations, and re-entering the atmosphere in the Space Shuttle!
If you had trouble with your approach, send me an email at [email protected] and tell me where I can improve this guide. I’d also love to hear about any topics you want to see in future emails!
Until next time,
X-Plane Customer Support
P.S. At this point, you might be getting tired of the 15 minute time limit on the demo. If you want to remove that limit (and get the whole world worth of scenery, too), you can buy X-Plane 10 Global from our web site.