I read recently on an online forum about the adventures several flight-simmers have been having flying their A2A Simulations B17G Flying Forts’ up in the cold, cold north in FSX. I thought to myself, why not? I had, until this time been flying in sunny USA, hopping from airport to airport, mostly from the mid-west, through to the west coast; flights lasting no more than maybe 1-2 hours at most.
So one day, I found myself based up at Prince Rupert airport, in the wonderful British Columbia. Up ’til this point, my ‘Fort had been running well, save for a few oil leaks on two of its engines, and the odd minor repairs here and there, landing gear, tyres, etc, etc. My plane was mostly running well and so it should be, with less than 50 hours on the frame.
Those oil leaks have, in the past, snuck up on me; on one of my previous flights, I found at least one of those affected engines running out of oil so I’d shut it down and fly her on three, or even two. OK I’ll be completely honest, I had just overhauled number one due to crankshaft failure. So consequently, I decided for this flight up to Alaska, I’d make sure all my engines were in tip-top condition to keep ol’ Murphy and his law at bay. With all the nagging oil leaks fixed, and fluid levels topped off, I decided it was time.
Fuel in the tanks, air in the tyres
And so the fateful evening finally arrived. It was about 5.30pm on a calm day in FSX when I fired up the old Joker after having just completely checked her over for the last time. She was loaded with around 10,000 pounds of 91 octane, and the crew was rearing to go.
We set off just as the sun was setting over the horizon, transforming the skies into a golden spectacle of beauty and awe. The higher we climbed, the longer that sun appeared to just float on the horizon, never seeming to disappear completely. Oh, but eventually that sun did vanish, and I was left with the just the dull droning of 36 cylinders of raw horsepower (well, 35 maybe, as one cylinder on engine three has no compression!) drumming their beat through the metal airframe of the aircraft.
The flight through the night was a fairly uneventful one. The ‘Fort flew flawlessly, never missing a beat, for the 4+ hour flight, with me making extensive use of the excellent C-1 autopilot to hold correct course, using the various VORs to guide me along the way. My eventual destination was Nome, in Alaska, but seeing as that was well over six hours away, I decided I’d make a stop-over in Cordova-Smith first, and take things further from there.
Are we there yet?
A good three-and-a-half hours or so later, we were in sight of Cordova-Smith! When I say “in sight”, I mean, there was the usual pitch black landscape, with a faint dot of runway lights in the distance on the horizon. I was clearly in uncharted territory. It was well and truly night by now, and I was flying on instruments. Thankfully, I had the assistance of the air traffic control to guide me towards the airport, and in the darkness I could faintly pick out the ominous shape of the mountainous Alaskan landscape. Thankfully, the runway was dead ahead, and the mountains seemed mostly scattered safely to my 3-o’clock. With just 100 gallons of refined Texas tea left in each tank, I flew on towards my final approach…
Just as I obtained final clearance from the tower to land, and with the runway lights filling up my canopy glass, all four engines suddenly decided to quit! In a panic, I didn’t have time to check just what the trouble was, and I didn’t feel like trashing a 4+ hour flight and starting over either. Deciding I could make it, I took the plunge (pun intended) and glided the heavy bomber in for a triumphant landing while all the engines coughed and spluttered away, providing no real power. With the flaps fully dropped, I concluded the glide at around 100mph as the wheels finally came down on the tarmac, a little harder than normal (granted, I was panicked). But apart from the groan from the crew, things were no worse for wear. I braked the plane to a stop and took time to check out just what had gone wrong: the mixture controls had saw fit to move themselves into ‘Idle Cutoff’ and wouldn’t budge no matter what I did with my hardware mixture controls. I put it down to a glitch in FSX, but no matter, I was home and dry (and my heart was pounding). I’d made it to Alaska!
Welcome to Alaska! So what’s it like up here? Well, the weather stays at 0C all day, unless you’re lucky enough for it to be raining, in which case you’re blessed with a few more degrees on the temp gauge, but generally, it’s COLD. Being an old WW2 four-radial-engined bomber, the B17 doesn’t do too badly in the extremely cold temps, thanks to its built-in engine oil dilution system. Diluting the oil is a must after every joy flight up here, and you’ll soon learn why. Without the oil diluted, it’s almost impossible to get those huge 9-cylinder radial engines started. I could switch to a thinner oil, but things seem to be going OK on the “all weather” 1100 grade oil.
I have included a video (below) of a typical start-up in the cold weather. You will see just how difficult is can be to get this old bomber going when it’s -5C outside…
Where to from here?
From here I want to continue flying the cold weather environs of Alaska until I reach Nome, (in Alaska); still several hours flying away, mind you. Then I’m outta here. Uh huh, you heard right folks; I’ve had enough of this cold weather!
Below are some screenshots of the adventure; mostly of the plane as it sits now at Cordova-Smith airport in Alaska, but there’s also a few action shots of the mountainous beauty that is Alaska. The cockpit with UV gauges all lit up during my night-flight en route was a sight to behold (at least for me).