An Aspen Approach with FSX

It was love at first sight.  The Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia turboprop lifted off gracefully from the runway.  I had never seen such a graceful thing before.  At that moment, I knew the Brasilia was going to have an important place in my virtual hanger.

And the Brasilia is available for FSX thanks to the Eagle Rotorcraft Simulations group update to Erick Cantu’s EMB-120 model for FS9.  Version 1.1 adds the default King Air 350 virtual cockpit, which isn’t entirely accurate, but beats flying with a 2-d panel.

So, with a vacation to Colorado not too far away, I decided to visit Aspen.  Not only is the approach to KASE an interesting one, but the surrounding scenery is stunning.   So, Aspen was the destination.

But where to depart from?  Why not where I grew up, Phoenix, Arizona.  Since KPHX is a pretty busy airport, I decided to use KIWA, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway. This would make the flight just under 500nm, so the Brasilia would be a good choice. Here it goes:

We left Phoenix-Mesa Gateway mid-afternoon and climbed to FL200.  The weather was breezy but clear.  With relatively little air traffic and a pretty barren scenery below us, we quickly learned to anticipate the arrival of the Rocky Mountains.  The cabin crew delivered coffee and shared a few jokes to pass the time.

Descending north of Aspen

Once the Rockies appeared on the horizon and their jagged peaks and valleys added some interest to the view outside our window, time seemed to fly by and it was time to start our descent and prepare for approach.

Turning to left base over Aspen

With a slight haze reducing visibility, we pass directly over Aspen and prepare for a left base approach to runway 15.   Just then I received a call from tower reminding me of noise abatement and not flying over populated areas.  Well… too late now.

Looking down at the airport I couldn’t help but notice the lack of traffic.  Sure, it is July, but Aspen is a beautiful place all year.  With an open ramp, navigating the taxiways was not going to be a problem.

Turning to approach (note the King Air wingtip)

As we turn to approach and enter the Roaring Fork Valley, I run through contingency plans in my head while monitoring the instruments.  The approach to runway 15 is offset and there is a slight breeze with some gusts. Challenging, but beautiful.

Touching down, really late!

We are cleared for landing and I put the gear down, throttle back and gasp at the awesome peaks that now loom above us.  The runway rushes towards us.  The illusion of descending into the valley, the tall trees and gusty winds all do a very good job at distracting the pilot.  Still, we turn slightly late to course and touch down more 1/3 down the runway.  The late touchdown is a tad embarrassing, but at least the ramp is not packed with onlookers!

We were immediately cleared to the gate in the late afternoon sun.  The sun dramatically lit the ridges around us, mother nature’s way of reminding us of our place on this earth.

On the ramp at Apsen

With the engines shut down, the cabin crew cleared, and the ramp crew giving the okay, we opened the passenger door and started offloading luggage.  The fuel truck arrived and gave us a few hundred pounds to get us back east.

With that, another FSX flight comes to a close.  A brilliant Brasilia landing in a beautiful location in Microsoft’s latest simulator.  Life is good.

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