Pixel Plane - Day 1 - Almost (virtually) died

With my flight plan mapped out, I start the first leg of my coast-to-coast X Plane adventure. The weather looks dicey with overcast clouds and rain throughout the day, but conditions at the airport aren't bad. Visibility is ten miles with clouds at 9000 ft. The Warrior’s waiting in the general aviation area. I set it up cold and dark, going through the startup checklist to turn everything on in the right order.


Today's flight plan is a 60 nautical mile hop to Penn Valley airport via LVZ and KIACK waypoints.


After taxiing from the general aviation area to runway four, takeoff is straightforward with a muted sunset to my left.


I set up my Garmin with the flight plan, tune NAV1 to the LVZ frequency and NAV2 to the VORTAC near the destination airport. A brief fiddle with the OBS nobs to set up my headings, and then I’m in the air.  It’s pretty for a while, a bit misty, but there’s no precipitation and visibility of ground lights is good.


I reach my first waypoint without any fuss and turn into the second. Twenty minutes goes by quietly. Raindrops pelt my windshield as a Cessna passes within a mile of me.


It's still not windy as the rain picks up, but I see lightning flashes ahead. With little warning, the cloud bank envelops me. Visibility is abruptly zero with a disco strobe effect. I realize my anti-collision lights are making it worse and turn them off. Now it's just a haze of solid gray illuminated by my landing light, which I also turn off.


I pull up the map of nearby airports. Hazleton is ten minutes away, but in the direction of the storm. KAVP is fifteen minutes behind me, but has ILS approaches. I turn around. I'm flying blind in the cloud for a while, watching my instruments, tuned back into the LVZ VORTAC. I look up the runway ILS frequency I want to use at KAVP and tune it into NAV2. After a nerve-wracking span of time, the cloud breaks and I see city lights.


The wind hits me, tossing me everywhere. Even in a simulator, I am getting motion sick. Despite the aid of the ILS guidance, I miss the runway and do a flyby.  I try three more times before finally putting the plane down, too fast, and skid off the runway onto a taxiway. After a moment to collect my thoughts, I putter over to the general aviation area and go through the post-flight shutdown checklist.


Once everything is off, I flick on my flashlight and hop out of the plane. The rain patters on my face as I step off the wing and onto the apron. I'll get a good night's sleep and hope tomorrow's weather looks better.