Fantastic News From PilotEdge


The long awaited Western Expansion is finally ready and will go live on December 27th. This will bring a massive increase to the coverage area, offering seven new towered fields (six continual, one on a rotating basis) to the service area and many hundreds of thousands of new square miles in which to fly. Just as important is that PE will offer enroute coverage through the entire limits of the five ARTCCs that make up the expansion area. This means you can depart one of the towered fields and fly with advisories to any non-towered field throughout the entire western third of the US. FANTASTIC.  Learn more about it here, and I’ll see you in the KSLC Bravo soon.

P.A.T. Fun On PilotEdge

A few PilotEdge users, led by Jiva, have arranged some pattern traffic together in the hours before controllers start manning their stations on the network (hence PAT – PilotEdge Afterhours Traffic). Today I joined the group a bit late at KDLO where we did pattern work, and then Jiva and I flew out Elizabeth Lake for a touch and go, and then to Bakersfield (which by then was manned by a controller) for landing. As always it was a learning experience, and it was a lot of fun flying from place to place as a flight. Here are some pics, and if you’re on PE, we’d love to have you join us. Watch the Fly With Me thread in the PE forums for updates.

Also worth noting in these pics: The hangars and airport textures of REX Worldwide Airports HD,  the wonderful haze and sky textures of As16/ASCA with the Service Pack 1 update, the fantastic textures of ORBX SoCal scenery, and the beautiful lines of the Carenado C 177 RG Cardinal II.

Ready To Go
Headed East
In Formation
A Flight To KBFL

The PilotEdge CAT-04 Rating

Yesterday I did the fourth PilotEdge Communication and Airspace Training rating flight, which is a Class D towered field (KSBP) to a Class D towered field (KSMX) with no ATC services in between:


Here’s the description from the PE briefing page, but the short story is that you:

  • Get the weather at San Luis via the ATIS
  • Contact ground to tell them our position and let them know we want to depart to the South
  • Taxi to the runway as directed by ground
  • Contact tower at the end of the runway to let them know we are ready to go
  • Depart via their directions
  • Contact Santa Maria tower about 10 miles out and let them know our position and that we’re inbound for landing
  • Follow their directions for entering the pattern and contacting them when there
  • Land
  • Contact tower when clear of the runway to tell them our position and request taxi
  • Follow their directions, including whether or not to contact ground

Note that each time we talk to a new controller we tell them our position and our intentions. This is a solid rule for any initial ATC contact: “Here is who I am, where I am, and what I wish to do.”

Also, this “inside / out, outside /in” pattern of communication was a good way for me to think about the handoffs in ATC service when I was learning the airspace system (originally I found the rules of who to contact when and where a bit confusing). When departing you start with the controller closest to where you are – ground – and then progressively work your way out as your position changes (tower, then departure, then center). Coming in to a region or to land, you then work your way IN as your position changes (approach, then tower, then ground). One exception is clearance delivery, whom you contact before you start with ground if you’re filing an IFR clearance, or if you’re at a field that has a local clearance delivery (that will be on the chart). The CAT-04 flight is a good, simple example of these outside / in, inside / out handoffs: ground, tower, tower, ground. We don’t talk to a departure, center, or approach because we don’t have “radar services” (also called “flight following”), which is asking ATC to track you between towered fields as a safety measure, which is something they only do for VFR aircraft on request and if workload allows. “Picking up” flight following en route is the subject of the next CAT rating.

So here’s the flight. It goes right according to plan until the very last second – and then the technology fates intervene! We do this flight in the Carenado C177 Cardinal over ORBX SoCal/Vector scenery and AS16 weather with REX textures. Thanks for watching.

The PilotEdge CAT-03 Rating

The PilotEdge Communication and Airspace Training ratings continue, this time with the CAT-03, which is three laps of the pattern at San Luis Obispo. I actually flew this twice. I forgot to hook up the mic to the GoPro in the first iteration, so I flew it again the next day to re-record the video. That flight involved its own set of interesting factors, not least of which was a hot mic on PilotEdge, which means I regaled the network with my narration for five or 10 minutes. Things happen, and I’m getting the stuck push-to-talk button on the Yoke fixed as a result. Nonetheless, here’s the flight video. I think it will be helpful to new PilotEdge flyers because it involves small variations on a standard pattern in each of the three laps (line up and wait, expedited landing, and an extended downwind). Thanks for watching.

The PilotEdge CAT-01 Rating

PilotEdge has come out with yet another wonderful service for pilots and simmers: their new Communication and Airspace Training series of training ratings. These replace the “V” series of VFR ratings. There were three V ratings, and while excellent, the CAT ratings provide VFR fliers with a larger number of rating missions (11 rather than three) and a more gradual progression from introductory to advanced airspace and ATC skills.

I hope to video all 11 ratings. The first is a flight between two non-towered fields, Oceana Co. and New Cuyana. In this VFR flight we learn basic CTAF call procedures for departure and landing. You may see the full description and set of briefing materials for the CAT-01 rating here.

PilotEdge I-01 Rating Video

Here’s the aforementioned run at the I-01 rating on PilotEdge, which is flying the 20R ILS approach into KSNA. Passed on the first try (although the intercept and landing are nothing to brag about, and in fact, the landing goes in my “Bottom 10” list!). But it was a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to trying out the I-02. The only big miss is I didn’t have the camera running when I got my clearance. The rest of the ATC communication is there.

Passed: PilotEdge I-01 Rating

Woo hoo! I passed my first IFR rating on PilotEdge, the I-01 rating. It’s actually a very simple ILS approach procedure into John Wayne, but still, I flew it, and I flew it without autopilot (which made it a bit ugly at times). Video to come …


Alphabet Challenge Leg 11: K (KKNB) to L (KLGB)

Yesterday I was able to carve out about three hours to complete the next flight in the PilotEdge Alphabet Challenge, Kanab (K) to Long Beach (L). This is one of the longest flights in the series, logging in at 345 nautical miles with the route I’d planned, a VFR flight of KKNB MMM LAS DAG POM KLGB. You can see the flight plan here:


To keep this flight a manageable length, I decided to fly it in the Carenado Cirrus SR22GTSX turbo, which would let me clip along at about 170 knots once I climbed to the 12,500 feet cruising altitude I’d planned. It’s a beautiful airplane in real and simulated life:


Even with all that horsepower it was going to be about a two hour and five minute flight as we had headwinds, some 20 knots, the entire way. I departed Kanab on the CTAF frequency, and then once I was at 12,500 I picked up flight following by calling the PE LA Center frequency. Things went along fine from there, but there were missteps and complications along the way, each of which had its lessons:

  • Equipment can get in the way. I spent quite a bit of time in the early part of the flight messing with the plane’s autopilot. With a long flight ahead I decided I wanted this one to fly itself quite a bit of the way. But for some reason I couldn’t get it to arm for either altitude or navigation / heading. The Carenado autopilots typically play well with Saitek gear, so this was confusing to me. Eventually, about at the outskirts of Las Vegas, I said to heck with it and flew manual the rest of the way. With the winds this was like riding a wild horse, and it was fatiguing. After doing some research I learned that continued trim input can cause the AP to disengage. I did have the aileron trim tab set, and will test today to see if that in fact was the problem.
  • Don’t forget to actually set the squawk code. I kept waiting to hear “radar contact” from Center but it never came. When I finally asked if they had me they said, “no” and told me to cycle the transponder. I saw I was still squawking 1200, and when I suggested that actually setting the code might help I and the controller had a laugh.
  • Equipment failures happen. On this flight, the display on the FIP that shows my wet compass froze. I futzed with it some then flew via only the G1000 glass cockpit on the iPad. But the buttons on the FIP still seemed to work. I use those to toggle the COM and VOR radios, and in pushing them to see what was what I unknowingly switched over to COM2. After wondering where LA Center was for a while I switched back over to COM 1 and asked if I’d blown through a transition. They said no, but that they’d been looking for me. The redundant system on this is the light on the attenuator panel. That’s not working, and I need to fix it just as I would in a real airplane.
  • There’s more to learn on airspace. As I approached the LA basin I started my descent, assuming that SoCal Approach would handle my transition of the LA Bravo airspace. Not true, as the controller got on to advise me that I should probably get down below the Bravo shelf altitude (7,000 feet there) before going further as they would “not allow you to transition there.” I had been thinking that with flight following they’d handle passing me into the Bravo, but in reality you can only transition the LAX Bravo in a couple of places, and that’s not one of them. So I had to make a circling decent, avoid the Ontario Charlie, then duck under the LA Bravo, all of which you can see in the flight path image below. Normally this is easy but …
  • wind and visibility are real complications. The wind was still howling on the descent, some 20-25 knots, and the plane was all over the place. And Active Sky 16 did a great job of rendering the haze in the LA valley, which limited visibility to about 10 miles. All told, it made for a very stressful, if still simulated, descent between holding onto the airplane, avoiding the Bravo and Charlie airspaces, and not being able to see very far. So distracting, in fact, that the aircraft got too fast and crashed, I think from exceeding the NTE speed. Good thing it’s a simulation, and luckily P3D quickly reloaded so I could continue (you can see this point in the flight path as the little jog in the line above the high 60 marker).


  • Controllers can make mistakes, too. The Long Beach tower first gave me one approach, then realized they had the wrong airplane, so they gave me another approach. I though I was too close to the field to make the left hand turn it would require, so I looped north to make the right base into 25L. This confused him, too, but he said no worries and told me to just to head to the numbers for landing.
  • And finally, high-performance aircraft are a different kettle of fish, even in a simulator. Once I was in descent everything in the Carenado seemed to happen very, very quickly. There’s a big difference between 100 or 120 knots in a Cessna 172-182 and 150 knots in the Cirrus, and this is more true on final where you’re coming in at 90 instead of 65-70. I landed the thing, but with the wind and the speed it was rough going. You have to really be ahead of the game not the let the airplane get ahead of you.


All told, the flight felt like a workout, and a very useful training session. The great thing about the sim and the software is that conditions can get quite real, and they can require real decision making. This flight had a lot of them, and I felt like my training brain was working nearly the entire time. I suspect that’s valuable as a student pilot. At least, I hope so.

The next flight is Long Beach to Montgomery Field. This will be my first flight on Pilot Edge into the San Diego area, and I’m looking forward to it. And here’s the challenge progress so far. 112 pilots have started the challenge, and only 59 have made it this far.



Stalls, Turns, And An Engine Out Over Bakersfield (On PilotEdge)

Recreating some maneuvers from a recent real-world lesson, using the PilotEdge network and ORBX SoCal scenery (Bakersfield). Stalls, steep turns, turns around a point, engine out procedure with go-around, and a return to 30R at KBFL.

Best moment of the video for me is when I say “flops” instead of “flaps.”

– Prepare3d v3.3.5
– Active Sky16
– Active Sky Cloud Art
– ORBX Global, Vector, OpenLC NA, and SoCal
– Piper 28-161 by Spike