April 14, 2004

Restaurant Talk

An hour of simulator time on John’s Elite at his house in Berkeley. Before starting, we walk through the cold down to Lola’s on Solano Avenue to get something to eat. I mention to John that I’m doing interior photo shots at Cugini literally straight across Solano for a client; he tells me that John (yet another John...) behind the counter here at Lola’s -- the Boss -- used to work for Cugini before starting Lola's with his wife. Small world. They're not really in competition (Lola’s is far hipper, much smaller, and basically a take-out only place) but I’m not going to ask whether John and the Cugini (who are acquaintances of mine) still talk -- from long personal experience, the East Bay food world is incestuous and riven with bitter feuds and populated by drama queens... (OK, thanks for asking: I'm mostly affiliated with Mezze and (in the early days) Bucci's. No more restaurant shoptalk here, I promise).

JRE's Elite Simulator, Berkeley 2004Anyway, I do OK on the simulator, but nothing better than OK. Towards the end I have that familiar feeling that my brain's about to explode -- I can always tell this by the fact that I can't answer even the simplest of John's questions. At one point as we're heading up the Bay he asks me a question about radial intercepts that I could normally answer without much thought while flying a “real” plane in VMC. I could barely work out what he was asking this time, let alone give him a plausible answer. Oh well.

This time the sim feels realistic in roll and yaw, but really unstable and “wrong” in pitch (pitch trim was unusable for me; I need to work out how to use the fake trim on this). I blunder about the simulated skies losing a few hundred feet here, a few hundred there, without always noticing. At least I keep the heading within about 20 degrees of what it should be for most of the flight. I almost lose control of the "plane" a couple of times, but nothing that would cause a real emergency. At least I always knew I was rapidly losing altitude or whatever.

I'm starting to get a better feel for positional awareness now. At one point John magically moves me a couple of dozen miles without telling me while we're paused discussing something. I pick it up when we resume -- OAK VOR is suddenly 15 NM Northwest of me instead of a dozen miles south. I didn't cope too well with the change, but at least I noticed....

On the way back John gets me to fly the OAK VOR / DME 27L approach, but without me knowing this is what we're doing. I slip and slide all over the place, horizontally and vertically, and at one point misread the altimeter and level off at 2,600' rather than 1,600'. Urgh. At least it wasn't the other way around.

On short final into Oakland's 27L I get so frustrated by the weird response of the sim I deliberately try to roll the plane at about 100' AGL. No such luck -- the poor thing predictably just noses into the ground at a high rate of knots. This isn't like 36B, I guess.

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