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Friday, 12 July 2013

Panama Air Rally 2013: Colon to Rio Hato

Today we will do the 9th leg of the Virtual Pilot Association’s Panama Air Rally 2013 leg #10.
Our flight plan has as departure airport the city of Colón and as arrival the Rio Hato airport. Upon departure we will do a 7nm DME arc procedure during climb prior to heading to the coast. The plan was filed as YFR, that is starting IFR at Colón with a cruise altitude of 4,000 feet (westward) and then at DAMAX we change to VFR rules at 2,500 feet. I will be using FSX as usual and remember, whatever is described here is not meant for real life navigation!

The Aircraft
PA34-VPA-LEG10-2013-jul-12-001As I have done in most of this tour, I will be “flying” the very nice Piper Seneca II (PA34-200T). It is an excellent product by Carenado I will review on this blog later on.
We will be cruising at about 120 knots at 4,000 feet with this beautiful twin propeller aircraft. The flight plan estimates a fuel usage of about 12 gallons but I will load it with 50 gallons.
Yet again this flight has been tailored to practice some IFR procedures, while the a/c has a Garmin GPS I will be “flying” it by instruments.

Departure – Colon airport
We will depart from the Enrique Jimenez airport (ICAO: MPEJ) in the city of Colón, province of Colón - Panama Vibes in Panama. The scenery is an alpha version of Lord of Wings Flight Simulation’s MPEJ crudely based on the original airport. In real life it is being fully renovated with a new terminal building and runway suitable for a 767 aircraft.

After going through all the Piper Seneca pre-take off checklists we taxied to runway 36 with lateral winds. Take off took place at around 12:24 local time (UTC-5).

From the picture on the left you can see the Seneca II climbing while beginning to intercept France Field (FNC 109.00 MHz) outbound R-126 for 7 nm. After take off checklist was completed and began adjusting the aircraft for cruise, this required tuning the mixture and setting the propeller RPM according to the checklist.

NAV1 tuned to FNC active and TBG (110.00 MHz) standby, NAV2 with TBG active. The heading bug was set to runway heading (360 degrees) and OBS1 to 126 degrees so that we could easily start intercepting R-126.

The screenshot on the right shows the aircraft as I was doing the 7 nm DME arc around the FNC VOR/DME. The arc started at outbound R-126 and ended at R-191. For this I monitored the DME to maintain the 7 nm as much as my dexterities allowed and periodically adjusted the OBS1 at intervals of 10 degrees starting at 126 in order to do the DME arc. At the end of the arc we would be again above the Gatun lake.

Now as we completed the DME arc at 12:50 we have our instruments set to start heading out on FNC R-191 towards MULPO intersection. MULPO is 15.7 nm outbound FNC.

Have got to love this Piper Seneca for IFR, it’s just a pity the large engine cowls obstruct much of the side views.
Reached MULPO at 12:56 local time. In this leg I set OBS2 to Taboga R-259 since I had tuned TBG VOR/DME on NAV2.

Well our next leg on the same course is NEMER intersection 27nm outbound FNC R-191 but it is also intersected by TBG T-259. That means that when I saw the CDI of VOR2 aligning, I was reaching NEMER. I should have been some 32nm from Taboga but I was slightly off course to the west.

Skies are clear and there is no turbulence, what a beautiful day though for simulation purposes a bit of thunderstorms would have been nice. Now we are heading 153 without any VOR to help us to/from. The only help here is that I had the ADF tuned to TBG (311.00 KHz).

Well actually we were now heading towards DAMAX intersection above the Chame gulf near Punta Chame. In preparation for the turn I set OBS1 to 236 degrees as NAV1 was already with TBG active.

PA34-VPA-LEG10-2013-jul-12-008And the moment came, at 13:14 reached DAMAX intersection which is 15 nm outbound TBG, it marks the beginning of Victor airway V19 (FSX). At this point I turned right heading 236 (already in OBS1) and descended to 2,500 feet because my flight plan was filed as switching to VFR at this waypoint. [Editor's Note] It is actually recommended (see comments) to climb to at least 4,500 feet due to the proximity of two high hills/mountains. FSX default mesh is very poor at depicting Panama's elevation profile and even though I use an improved mesh (freeware), it seems to lack some. The actual leg from DAMAX flies above Chame Hill which Google Earth reports with around 1,600 feet.

PA34-VPA-LEG10-2013-jul-12-009A few miles past DAMAX we overflew the Chame airport, this time with an update from Lord of Wings Flight Simulation as well.
Chame airport is located in the province of Panama - Panama Vibes, the 2nd province we overfly in this flight. The stock airport in FSX is very disappointing, this update makes it a bit more like the real thing but not quite because the Panamanian police does not allow to take pictures of the airport buildings even though the law says that such prohibitions should not take place unless there is a law that says that, but well, that is Panama.

After DAMAX we continue tracking TBG outbound R-237 towards UKATI intersection, again we reach UKATI by tracking the TBG radial and monitoring the DME.
Also remember, UKATI intersection is just off the side of the Rio Hato airport, our destination.

All right then! the weather is good and visibility is excellent. There are no navigation aids at Rio Hato (MPRH) in the province of Cocle - Panama Vibes, Panama. We overflew the airport in a crosswind leg and the screenshot shows the Piper on the downwind leg with the Rio Hato airport. Yet again a better rendition in Panama Lite X based on the airport’s glory times by Lord of Wings Flight Simulation. Here you can also appreciate the rocky island just off Rio Hato which serves as a good reference point for our visual approach.

Currently this airport is also undergoing a complete renovation. It will finally have a passenger terminal building, a runway as long as the original for international flights and the Panamerican Highway will go underneath in a tunnel rather than crossing the runway right through its midpoint. It is not known (everything is secret in Panama) whether there will be navigation aids added to this airport.
PA34-VPA-LEG10-2013-jul-12-017After the downwind leg I set the heading bug to 90 degrees for the base leg and turned in that direction keeping an eye on the altitude and the visual references. The approach checklist was completed and as I turned into the final leg the aircraft was in landing configuration.

The virtual aircraft was landed safely on Rio Hato’s runway 36 and proceeded to the apron and then close the flight plan. This was flown online on the IVAO network but unfortunately (and almost as usual) there was no live virtual ATC coverage anywhere in this airspace. I guess next time I will just use the FSX crippled ATC.
After the a/c was on blocks the shutdown checklist was completed, the Carenado checklists have a few omissions. The a/c was again in its cold & dark configuration ready for the next flight. We used up 11 gallons of fuel against the estimated 12 gallons.

You can also watch the video of the approach to Rio Hato (base leg onwards) on You Tube.

If you are a flight simulation enthusiast using FS9, FSX, Flight Gear or X-Plane and you like to “fly” in Panamanian virtual airspace, we invite you to join our (closed) group on Facebook called “Aviacion Virtual en Panama”. But do remember that conversations are on topic only! Add-on scenery (in progress) by Lord of Wings Flight Simulation’s Panama Lite X.


Ichi said...

Nice entry Didimo. It seems there's little left for you to learn about basic IFR jeje.

I just can't avoid to mention that after DAMAX i'd rather climb to 4500 instead of descending to 2500. Why? Cerro Chame and Cerro Campana are nearby and 2500 we'll put you below them. The passage between those two mountains can get tricky, specially in the dry windy season.

But anyways, you were flying VFR and it was SKC.

Happy landings.

Kat op 't Dak said...

Thank you very much for the remark Ichi it is greatly appreciated. I had my doubts about 2500 but I appear to have gone past them to their left, in spite of the better DEM it still leaves a lot to be desired. In any case better safe than sorry, will take it into consideration for next virtual flight.