Friday, June 02, 2006

Following Saint-Exupery's route

I've been reading a bit of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, namely his Wind, Sand and Stars. Those who know this author solely for The Little Prince may not realize that he wrote a fair bit about flying. He's not a pilot's writer exactly, because he doesn't give a lot of specifics about the airplanes (such as make and model) when he writes about them. But inspiring writing nonetheless.

He writes a bit about how he flew a route from Toulouse to Dakar, Morocco. This got me thinking about trying something like that in the simulator. The whole route would take too long for my available time. So I planned instead to fly from Toulouse over the Pyrenees to Spain. I don't know what airplanes he flew this route with. I did see one photo showing him with a medium sized two-seater biplane. A quick search on Avsim turned up what I thought was a reasonable stand-in, a Fokker CVE biplane created by Jens Kristensen, a prolific freeware aircraft designer who specializes in early aviation.

I flew in the Golden Wings version of FS, and started out at dawn with the "Cold Fronts" weather theme. The flight went fairly well. The weather challenged me with a quarter headwind, but otherwise was not any trouble (I sort of hoped for more of a challenge). I gradually ascended to the necessary altitude (about 12000 feet) to clear the mountains. They didn't look too scary with the default terrain mesh. Still, it was nice to cross over and ease into the descent into Spain.

Then I ran into a problem Saint-Exupery never had to deal with. The computer completely froze (after more than an hour of flying). Pretty frustrating. So I gave up, rebooted, and tooled around local scenery in the Piper Cub.

It occured to me later that I have a pretty good idea of where I was when the (computer) crash occured, so it should be pretty easy to set up a flight that will resume at that point. Hopefully in the next post I can give you the result of that effort, and maybe a picture or two.

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