Today’s sim challenge is a race from Riverside, CA (KRAL) to Santa Monica, CA (KSMO), with stops along the way at Hawthorne (KHHR) and Fullerton (KFUL). It’s a quick trip—and you’re going to make it even shorter. The goal is to fly it as fast as possible, without getting a call from the virtual FAA for a pilot deviation. Or running into a virtual hilltop.
Practicing fast challenges keeps you thinking ahead of the airplane. When ATC asks for “best forward speed” you’ll know what you can offer, and you’ll be confident doing it. Well, at least in your sim airplane.
Stuff will happen quickly, so build a binder in your favorite EFB with the following procedures: Riverside Two (KRAL), LOC Rwy 25 (KHHR), VOR-A (KFUL), and the RNAV Rwy 21 (KSMO). Note that space constraints prevent us from displaying any of these charts. But, the overall route plot to the right should give you the big picture you’ll need.
You’ll also get two Tower Enroute Control (TEC) routes. These are in the Southwest U.S. Chart Supplement. We’ll give them to you (or your controller will) but you should know where they are. They’re also available as routes in ForeFlight et. al.
Fill your tanks and put yourself on the ramp at KRAL. Configure the sim for real-world weather. Because this might be clear and a million, make sure you have a preset view that’s just the panel and your avionics. This is your “hood view.” This sim challenge is in the PilotEdge service area, so if you subscribe you can fly this with ATC. That means you can ask for shortcuts, and that’s fair given the realistic workload of communication and potential air-traffic delays.
Oh, and fly the fastest airplane you can handle. Autopilot? Nah. It’s placarded “Inop.” You’re on your own to handle all this.
Start Your Engines
At KRAL, get an IFR clearance to KHHR. The TEC route contains both route and altitude. It’s simply PDZ PDZ270 at 3000. That means the Paradise VOR (PDZ) and then the 270-degree radial to … where? TEC routes can serve multiple airports so local departure and arrival instructions ultimately connect the dots. Here, you can expect the Riverside Two to PDZ, then R-270 outbound to intercept the final approach course for the LOC Rwy 25 at KHHR.
Start a timer when you receive the takeoff clearance and go. Fly the departure as specified in the TEC route clearance until ATC says otherwise if you’re flying on the network. If you’re playing without ATC, cross PDZ and track R-270 outbound. You won’t land at KHHR, so fly the LOC Rwy 25 as fast as you can. However, you must reach MDA before the MAP. If you want to substitute the RNAV Rwy 25 for vertical guidance, that’s fine.
Go missed. If you’re flying on PilotEdge, you can request the next approach as soon as you’re ready. If not, fly the missed approach all the way to 3000 feet at LIMBO (so aptly named) and then proceed direct WILMA for the VOR-A at KFUL.
Getting vectors to final is legit if you have ATC. Otherwise, you’ve got an awkward procedure turn. Keep your speed up to the MAP at JUDLO, but not so much that you can’t circle and land on whichever runway is in use. The moment you clear the runway, stop your timer. Real-world weather means low clouds or fire smoke might preclude a landing. If you’re IMC at the MAP, fly the missed to SLI and stop your timer there. Pause the sim and relocate to the ramp at KFUL as if you had landed.
An interesting bit about TEC routes: You don’t need a flight plan on file. From the ramp at KFUL you can ask for “Tower en route to Santa Monica.” Be prepared to copy a full route, or to look up a route code in the chart supplement. Santa Monica is only 25 miles away, but that’s directly over LAX and—spoiler alert—the TEC route is not direct. It’s SLI V8 POXKU V363 BAYJY V186 DARTS at 6000. In the best of racing traditions, this route is all left turns.
Start the timer again when you start programming your GPS if there’s no ATC. If you have a controller, start the time before you readback the route clearance. Don’t bother pestering that controller for a shortcut after takeoff. They know this routing isn’t your first choice and you might be offered a short cut. Feel free to take it. Without ATC, fly the whole thing and give yourself an approach clearance 7 NM from DARTS to cross at or above 5000.
Fly it fast as you can to LPV minimums if you can, or LNAV MDA and the visual descent point if you’re non-WAAS. Just ensure you still have time to reconfigure and land. Stop the timer when you clear the runway. Don’t have GPS on your sim? Your penalty for that is using the VOR-A, also from DARTS. Next time get a real sim.
Many of the routes and procedures we pick for these Sim Challenges have something interesting about them. You’ll need to thoroughly brief the procedures so you can identify those challenges.
We’ve also heard that these Sim Challenges are too difficult. That’s deliberate to help you improve your skills. As our editor recently said, “You can’t expand your comfort zone from within it.” Go ahead and give it a try (when nobody’s looking if that helps).
1. How did you do the climbout from KRAL? How high did you climb on the Riverside One departure?
2. Did ATC scold you (or did you scold yourself) for anything on the approach to KHHR?
3. How did you handle the stepdowns at KHRR? Or if you flew the RNAV, how did you like that glidepath?
4. Did you get any terrain warnings? How’d you handle the power and configuration?
5. How’d you make the procedure turn at SLI? How did you circle to land at KFUL?
6. How’d the landing go at KSMO?
7. How did you prepare your avionics in advance for multiple destinations?
8. How did you adjust your usual performance profiles for the faster speeds?
9. How fast will you go when ATC asks for “best forward speed?”
10. Did you improve your time on the second try?