by Terrence Johnson
During a period when I was stuck at home with a cold, I downloaded a new flight simulator program and planned my first trip. In looking at the map, which the program provided, I was surprised to see that it only offered one other landing strip at the small town of Wimmoth. To get there, I had to climb in the clouds over the mountains visually and accomplish my let down the same over a large body of water, which was near my destination.
The flight was uneventful, with the exception of a short period when my navigation instruments went dead.
I had a navigation map, which updated my location, and showed me when to let down.
Shortly after regaining the view of the ground, I could see my intended landing strip, with a brightly lit building at its approach end. After landing, I taxied back, hoping to see if anyone was there. As I approached the building, I passed a hanger, with one of its large doors partially open. Proceeding further, I now realized that the lights in the building were no longer lit.
Maybe it had been an error on my part.
Seeing nothing else, I decided to taxi back and investigate the open hanger door. But upon arriving, I was totally amazed to see that now, the hanger doors were also completely closed. I may have been mistaken about the lights being on in the building, but I knew, for a fact, that the hanger door had been partially open.
In wondering how this happened, I decided to shut down my engine so I could look everything over and figure this out. The instructions for the program did not say anything about mysterious happenings. So I opened my canopy, and enjoyed the fresh air, and pondered my situation.
Just when I was about ready to fire up the engine and depart, the hanger door slowly started to open. I could see the hand pushing it.
This was definitely the strangest flight simulator I had ever operated.
As the door opened further, I could see a man's face and body, and soon I could see the others, as they slowly approached my plane. The man, who appeared to be their leader spoke first, thanking me for dropping in, as they always welcomed new members. They asked my name, and I told them Joe, and they invited me to have a cup of coffee with them.
Although I wanted to start the engine and get the hell out of there, I decided that would not be polite thing to do as they were all being very nice. I deplaned and followed them to the building, that now had the lights on. The building and atmosphere was warm and inviting. They asked me questions about my flying history and I told them about my experience in the Air Force.
During the conversation, one man, who I hadn't heard speak before, asked if there had been any events on this flight, which I could not explain. I answered not really, with the exception of my navigation instruments temporarily shutting down. They all looked at each other.
Glancing at the clock, I told them that I had to be getting back to avoid having to fly in the dark. Before leaving though, I wanted to ask them a question, why had they referred to me as a new member.
Everyone grew quiet, and then their leader Charles spoke up. Joe, why don't you have a seat and I'll explain it to you. That error in your navigation system didn't occur within your aircraft, that was where you flew into a mountain embedded in the clouds.
I shook my head and said, What in the world were you guys talking about, I shouted, I was only playing a flight simulator, not actually flying a plane in the air, so that can't be.
Well that's the way it used to be, said Charles. Then the master planner and we, all got together, and decided that the only way to make flying safer, was if you pilots started flying a simulator seriously, was to make flying a simulator like flying a real plane, where you were held responsible for actions, whether on the ground and in the air.
This was all bullshit, I wasn't going to die from a simple screw up in a simulator. I was going to get in my plane and fly the hell out of this crazy place. Other members voiced their complaints, but Charles, their leader spoke up and said, "Let's have Joe, learn by himself."
I ran all the way to my plane and fired up the engine, and soon I was on my takeoff leg with a big smile on my face. But as I passed over the departure fence, I realized that I was no longer departing, but on short final for landing. I tried every option, turning 90 degrees right and 90 degrees to left but always ended up on short final. With my gas running low and after numerous attempts, I put her on the ground and it took me a long time to resigned myself to my new life or death. This was where I would spend my eternity and I had the opportunity to meet many new members.
Always fly safe, in the air and on the ground.
Terrence Johnson. Dec 2016
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