Report of Interstate 8

Krefeld, Germany, November 23rd - 24th 1996

Report by Simon Hradecky in SimPilot Forum, November 26th 1996

The photograph shows the winning team of Interstate 8 at Krefeld
(the unofficial European Championship of Flight Simulation)
after flying 12 sectors within 24 hours.
Background left to right: Urs Wildermuth, Simon Hradecky, Richard RAC Cook;
foreground left to right: Steve Garry, Steve Kelly, Maria James and Tonny Koops.

First of all, many thanks for all the congratulations that arrived already both here in the forum as well in e-mail <vbg>.

Let me start the report with a big, big "Thank You" to the Interstate organizers, lead by Mathijs Kok, who did a brilliant job organizing that event. I also want to point out, that the new scoring system being used worked out nicely, and we got a fair evaluation of our skills, although at some stages some of us thought a better rating would have applied better <g>.

And of course, don't forget about the other team members of ATP team, namely:

Richard RAC Cook, captain
Steve Garry, captain
Steve Kelly, captain
Urs Wildermuth, Senior First Officer
Tonny Koops, Senior First Officer

Teams were assigned as (first name being pilot in command):

Richard/Steve Kelly
Steve Kelly/Urs
Steve Garry/Tonny
Simon/Steve Garry

The briefing shortly before the competition started told us following route:

Frankfurt- Stockholm- Glasgow- Paris Orly- Madrid- Rome Fiumiccino- Athens- Vienna- Amsterdam- Nice- Salzburg- Innsbruck- Duesseldorf. Two speedlegs were assigned to be Paris to Madrid and Amsterdam to Nice.

Understand please, that i was pretty busy with tasks of flight preparation and crew coordination, so i could not follow closely those flights, i wasn't on the flight deck. So i ask the pilots to jump in and describe their legs <g>.

Richard and Steve K. took the honor to open the competition on our team, taking the MD-83 from Frankfurt to Stockholm. As usual with Interstates <g>, the first leg experienced quite some problems of technical nature, this time the network having troubles, so that ATC did not see all planes. Therefore that leg was flown without evaluation, and all teams earned 15 points on this. In addition, because of the delay, the speed leg Amsterdam-Nice was cancelled.

At about 6pm, 1 hour late because of the technical problems (being solved at this time finally), i took control of the aeroplane together with Urs to get it from Stockholm to Glasgow. It was an easy flight. A crosswind component of about 3 knots on takeoff, about 10 knots on landing. No problems enroute, except a slow climb to FL 350 - we made the last few thousand feet with just 500 fpm, as we just had the weight limit to climb 350). But i thought, i had screwed up the flight even before getting airborn. As our terminal position (apron G - freight apron) was quite bad to reach runway 01, i decided to taxi quite fast via taxiway X, and did not take the turn onto taxiway Y as i should have, but continued straight onto Y5, suddenly realizing the runway ahead of me. I managed to stop the plane from our 40 knots taxi in time (thanksfully), and turned back, then taxied slowly until i reached the runway. Having gotten more nerveous by this taxi incidence <g>, i decided not to take any risk. Shortly after getting airborn i engaged the autopilot and did not disengage it anymore until full stop at Glasgow (yes, i did a fully automatic CAT3 approach <g>). Urs provided an excellent, helpful job to me, so that a few inconsistensies, i showed due to the nerveousity, could be compensated and corrected in time. So we took the lead by half a point (16.5 points).

Next leg from Glasgow to Paris was flown by Steve Kelly with Urs. I was just taking dinner, when i heard, that our poor MD-83 had experienced an explosive decompression (Mathijs, i'll charge you the repair costs! <lol>), so that they had to do an emergency descent and divert to London. After having the plane inspected, they got airborn again and continued on to Paris at low level flight. This leg got the absolute record score of 22 points (usual score would have been 16 to 17 points) of the whole competition - excellent job, Steve K. and Urs.

Now Richard/Steve K. took over the plane with the task to bring it to Madrid as fast as possible. In the preparation of the leg it was determined, that FL 310 would allow optimum time, and cruise at 0.84 mach would be called for (normal cruise 0.78, MMO being 0.86). And again, this leg was won by the ATP team, enhancing our lead quite significantly.

Steve Garry and Tonny Koops then took the burden (late night already) to fly to Athens via Rome. I heard, that I8O was trying a few bits and pieces on Satan on this leg, causing some lockups of our master computer. This caused some further delay on our side rebooting the machine and getting us back to the last saved mode file. When finally setup again, the machine locked up again 8-( (all in all 4 times), so that we got delayed by another hour or so, and now flew far behind the last FS5 team. Nonetheless, Steve/Tonny scored second place on this leg, and enhanced our lead further, as our direct competitor at this time scored even worse <g>. On the way to Athens Steve/Tonny scored third place, but again picked up a few points to our lead.

Now it was again my and Urs' turn to get to Vienna. We were asked by I8O to speed up turn arounds and fly as fast as possible in order to get back to flight schedule again, as the competition had to end Sunday on time. So we hopped into the cockpit (with more than two hours delay - i just wonder, why i got up 5 am! <vbg>) after a very serious flight preparation and briefing, needed about 5 minutes to set the cockpit up. Urs was still programming FMC and tuning navaids, when i taxiied already to runway 15L. We had filed a route taking us basicly straight up north, west of Belgrade, close to the no-fly zone of Bosnia, further up to Graz and then inbound Vienna. However, ATC gave us another clearance, so Urs started to reprogram the FMC like mad, while i aligned with the runway <g>.

After takeoff, having flown the initial departure procedure (which is quite some nice turning <g>), climbing as quickly as possible above 10.000 feet, ATC put us on vectors and recleared us directly to Thessaloniki (to speed us up, as we were about one hours behind the other teams). In the meantime, while Urs was hacking again into the FMC to get the new direct sorted out, i went through 10.000 feet, lowered the nose and speeded up to 340 knots (and later to 0.84 mach), before continuing climb to FL 310. Further we went to Topola, and then were guided straight toward Vienna. About 60 miles ahead of Vienna we started descent, figuring, that a MMO/VMO descent would bring us down quite nicely to enter the TMA at correct altitude.

Within 20 miles we were down to 10.000 feet (at 4.500 fpm), and needed another 20 miles to get rid of our speed <g>. We were advised to use NDB approach 29, as runway 34 (which we would have preferred because of wind) was closed and ILS for runway 29 was inop. We could hear the other teams being spoken down on SRE approach. A lot of go-arounds and missed approaches, and the skies were stacked with planes waiting for the next attempt. So when we came close, we were told to expect an approach delay, and were advised to descend to 4000, expecting to hold at Solenau. However, we found just the right window and went straight in. NDB approach ruled out autopilot, so it was clear, it was going to be a manual landing, with quite some crosswind (if i recall right, 18 knots from 010).

So we broke clouds (still on autopilot). When we got visual, i flipped the autopilot off, and landed it manually in a typical crab landing (still not being too confident about myself, i decided not to try the slip landing), got it down quite nicely and, as it is typical for a crab landing, had to do some quite sharp correction to align the aircraft with the runway after main wheels touched. Jurors found, that this was not a good landing ... <g> Anyway, this leg was ours and we enhanced our lead to 16.5 points, meaning, we could now even afford a crash and still remain in lead!

You could see all our team members smile at this time ... <vbg>

Now it was the turn of Richard with Steve Kelly to take the plane to Amsterdam. I don't know exactly what happened, but when i started to watch the flight, i saw, that apparently there was a problem on autopilot, airspeed had dropped dangerously, and the airplane was way too high to make it to the runway. Steve wanted to initiate a go-around immediately, while Richard carried on and almost managed to land the plane - he got down to 30 feet, but reached that height with just about 2000 feet of runway left. Go-around. So he came in 4th place, and our lead was reduced to 12 points.

Next leg, now Richard with Tonny, was flown from Nice to Salzburg (repositioning from Amsterdam to Nice). Of course, what else. Salzburg circling approach was chosen by weather ... So the plane came in overhead Salzburg VOR, at 5000 feet. Well, usual procedure for circling approach is to do an ILS approach to runway 16, but do not descend below 2700 feet. Overhead middle marker turn left, and visually fly a tear drop procedure back into runway 34. ATC put them on radar vectors, but didn't issue a descent, nor cleared for ILS. So they found themselves about right position to start the turn back into 34, but were way too high. Richard desparately tried to get the plane down after he finally got approved for descent, but had to realize no chance. Go-around. Back to Salzburg VOR, and another try. This time at 4000 feet, descending to 3000 before turning in. However, this time he flew the turn way to tight, and ended up unrecoverable. Next go-around. Back to Salzburg VOR, descending to 2500 feet as advised by ATC. I couldn't look anymore and had to turn away - our famous, good old fortress on top of Mönchsberg would be gone at this altitude! He apparently managed to avoid the GPWS warnings and get around the fortress, and turned into the runway, and landed, finally ... 9 points lead still.

So it was my turn now to bring the plane to Duesseldorf via Innsbruck. Urs was copilot to Innsbruck, while i chose Steve Garry to be my copilot for the last leg, most difficult leg (as we anticipated a whole bunch of problems <g>) - i had already flown a couple of hours on big sims with Steve <vbg>.

Okay, Winds in Salzburg indicated still a departure on runway 34 - very much to my disappointment. I had anticipated a circling departure on 16 <vbg>. Innsbruck winds enforced runway 26 anyway, so we tried Localizer East approach via Rattenberg. Having no problem whatsoever on takeoff and cruise (shall i really say cruise? <vbg> - FL 110 for about 5 minutes!), the approach into Innsbruck got quite tricky. Low broken clouds were the least of our problems. When we came overhead Rattenberg NDB, i switched off the autopilot and continued manually. We wanted to capture localizer, but we didn't receive any signal. Urs had already dialed in Absam NDB (which would be our missed approach point, too). We were at minimum safety altitude (9500 feet), with no reliable LOC.

What to do? I decided to turn in onto Absam NDB and fly the heading i would have done on LOC. However, i did not descend and advised Urs to announce a go around to ATC. Urs turned back on me and told me visual contact to Aerodrome. I looked out and identified Schwaz or maybe Wattens, but truely not Innsbruck, advised again for go-around. At this time, 14 miles ahead Innsbruck Urs suddenly announced Localizer alive! Whew! 1000 feet high (as i still didn't descend), but having a guarded glide path now, i pushed the aircraft down and managed to get onto glidepath (which we had to track on Jeppeson chart only - no glideslope indication as in real life!) at 8 miles DME. At 4500 feet we passed Absam NDB, got visual contact to runway in time, so that i could continue the descent. I turned away from the localizer to align with the runway and landed successfully at about 150fpm sink rate. This leg we were second, in total we extended our lead again to 10 points.

So the last leg was going to happen. Innsbruck departure via Rattenberg on runway 26. What a nightmare ... <g> Takeoff visually, do a tight turn right after takeoff to the left to turn about 210 degrees, get onto localizer east and fly reciprocal on this loc out of the valley, turning north overhead RTT NDB. So it happened. We passed Absam NDB already at 6000 feet, and reached RTT at FL 150 (i had already accelerated to 290 knots), missed the turn a bit and overshot the outbound slightly. Again, ATC gave us a different route very much to the pleasure of Steve, who had to reprogram FMC again ... <g>. After the FMC had been reprogrammed, ATC cleared us directly FFM (didn't we know in advance? <vbg>). Next problem: FFM didn't work in our scenery as it should have ... Well, we managed to get there at least with the help of the navigation display, and went inbound to Duesseldorf. On descent the right engine failed while idle - very nice! <vbg>.

While preparing for landing we also spotted, that we had no slats and flaps ... Now, this was going to be a really nice story. We declared emergency. Cabin Service Director was called to prepare the cabine for emergency landing, emergency equipment was ordered to stand by. We figured our Vref to be 213 knots. So again, i had to switch off the autopilot and handfly that approach. Still being in clouds i intercepted the ILS, heard that Steve was struggeling with ATC who wanted us to slow down to 180 knots (impossible!), and broke clouds. On Visual, fully aligned with runway and on glide, with left rudder applied to compensate for the asymmetric thrust, the plane suddenly started to drift off to the left. What's going on, i thought. "Steve, something is wrong, check the engines, please!". I had no choice but to step into the right rudder and drop the right wing as well. Steve came back telling me, that engine 2 was dead, engine 1 running as it should. I figured, that we probably had an unforecast wind shear, so that the crosswind changed direction.

Anyway, maintaining glide path i managed to get back onto extended centerline of runway 23L and performed an incredible smooth landing (i guess, it was about 30 feet per minute) onto the TDZ markers, at 213 knots. Autobrakes jumped in at full strength, and the aircraft stopped about 1000 feet short of the runway end. As #2 had cooled down, and fire alarm was gone, we did not evacuate, but stopped for a quick inspection. Only then we taxiied to the apron ... When i stepped down from the cockpit, i couldn't suppress quite a few "Whews!" <vbg>. I had never tried such a highspeed approach before, and would have never expected a greaser ... So i was extremely happy about that performance - more happy even than about winning the Interstate <vbg>.

You can imagine, that every of our crew members was laughing and jumping for joy. Even Mathijs came over to congratulate for that landing.

So finally, we won the whole competition with quite some 12 points advantage. When we got the cup, Mathijs also announced the first prize ...

So he handed me over some box, containing the floppy version of FS5.1, sponsored by Microsoft. I am sure, that sensational photograph will be uploaded to SIMGAMES shortly ... <lol>. Anyway, a boy (maybe 12) approached me shortly afterwards, whether i knew some source, where he could get FS5.1 from. Well, i knew ... So that boy went away with that first prize ...

A funny side story. On the way from Stockholm to Glasgow a German TV-Team of WDR (ARD) approached me for an interview - and i gave that during cruise. Urs later told me, that he almost fell off his seat about my replies to the questions of that team. I remember one of the key questions being "Could you go into the cockpit and land a real plane". And i told him: "Yes, technically no problem, but i doubt, that the nerves would hold." That interview was transmitted Sunday evening. <lol> Reportedly they filmed some boy afterwards (not being participant of the race, crashing the plane twice on an exhibitor's desk) ... <lol> Pity, i couldn't see that report 8-(

Let me express finally my sincere thanks to Steve Garry, who brought his cockpit rig the long way from Dublin to Krefeld with a lot of unforeseen complications, thus enabling us to use a professional environment in the competition. Also my thanks go to LAGO, who sponsored us with pilot's dresses (await the photos to be uploaded soon <g>). And finally, we ended up with tons of food and drinks (5 liters of juices per person <vbg>) being catered by Mailsoft.

And another achievement was made on this weekend. You surely recall the stories about the pizza, Steve Kelly and Stamatis were planning to have together for more than 2 years already. Finally, that pizza came together. However, that restaurant had just one pizza for both ... Boy, that is a photo, too! <lol> These two struggeling for the pizza.

It broke the heart of the waiter, and somehow he managed a second pizza for Stamatis ... <lol>

Final conclusion: it didn't really matter to win. Participating and showing good performance was important. But it was fun, too, and that was the most important. And we had tons of fun ... It has been an amazing weekend, a weekend, none of us will ever forget!