This Blue Jay is one of five members of a family that spends its winters in Quebec City in our neighborhood. These birds visit us almost every day to get something special. And even when winter ends and food becomes readily available, they keep on stopping for a few minutes in the Russian Mountain Ash in our backyard waiting for the daily peanut. The photo was taken with a Canon 5DSr camera.
Takeoffs and landings on the Bugalaga runway (WX53) in Indonesia can be classified as being in the challenging virtual flight category. The runway is not extraordinarily demanding, due to its comfortable size of 1478 feet by 75 feet. But the approach still requires more skill than a standard approach, especially with the trees on final and the steep slope.
Today’s flight with the MSFS 2020 flight simulator consists of taking off and landing on this sloping runway. To add to the fun, the flight must be done during adverse weather conditions. Indeed, the thunderstorms programmed in the virtual weather system complicate the task of the virtual pilot, as he has to deal with gusty winds and mechanical turbulence. And to add to the fun, the Pilatus normally used is replaced by a Cessna Grand Caravan 208B. The photo above represents the Bugalaga runway in reality.
Above is the virtual graphic interpretation of this runway located at 6233 feet above sea level (MSL) with the Cessna ready to take off. Asobo (Microsoft) did a good job.
The visibility could be better, but it does not prevent the aircraft from taking off on runway 06.
As you can see, the margin of error is pretty small for this aircraft that is less efficient than the Pilatus normally used in reality.
Immediately after takeoff, preparation begins for the outbound procedure and the 180 degrees turn that will put the aircraft on final for runway 24. The surrounding mountains require the pilot’s full attention.
Acceptable visibility but strong winds characterize the approach to Bugalaga.
Runway 24 is now visible in the mountains.
The approach speed with flaps out is about 82 knots.
The Cessna Grand Caravan C208B is about to touch down. You can see the steepness of the runway, which gets even steeper towards the end.
Once the aircraft has touched down, the virtual pilot must maintain enough speed to climb the hill at the end of the strip.
A last screen capture shows the aircraft having crossed the last hillock at the end of runway 24. The flight is short, but requires your full attention. Good luck to those who will try the experience!
The challenging virtual flight is from Johnson Creek Airport (3U2) to the Lower Loon Creek Airstrip (C53) in the United States, using the MSFS 2020 flight simulator. The software map shows the type of aircraft chosen, a CubCrafters X Cub on floats, as well as the trajectory over the Idaho mountains.
The idea of using an amphibious aircraft for this flight is a bit far-fetched, but the goal is to make the pilot’s job a little more difficult by adding weight to the aircraft.
Johnson Creek Airport (3U2) is a creation of Creative Mesh. It is charming, with tents here and there planted near the planes. The runway is 3480 feet long by 150 feet wide. It is oriented on a 17/35 axis and still quite high at 4960 feet above sea level (MSL).
Given the departure altitude, one must not forget to adjust the air/fuel mixture so as not to lose power on takeoff, especially since there is a mountain at the end of the runway and the floats increase the weight of this small aircraft. The air is also thinner as the flight takes place in summer and at a high altitude; this represents another obstacle to the aircraft’s performance.
The mountains near the runway present a significant obstacle. The virtual pilot must use the best possible angle of climb without worrying about the route recommended by the GPS. The flaps are kept slightly extended during the initial climb.
Once at a safe altitude and back on the GPS suggested route, the view of Idaho’s spectacular mountains is more enjoyable. Throughout the climb, the air-fuel mixture and altimeter (“B” on MSFS 2020) have to be adjusted.
An altitude of almost 10,000 feet ASL makes it possible to fly over the mountains without risk of collision.
At the right moment, when the small surrounding airports and the river appear on the GPS, we leave our GPS road, until now in straight line, and we align in the valley to fly over the river until our destination, avoiding the surrounding mountains. In the photo above, the descent has already begun, with a necessary gradual adjustment of the air-fuel mixture.
We fly over a first small airport. The picture above shows the planes parked on the runway of Marble Creek airport (ID8), which dimension is 1160 x 20 feet. For those which would be interested in trying a landing there, the orientation of the runway is 03/21 and the altitude of 4662 feet MSL.
On the way towards our final destination, we also fly at low altitude over the Thomas Creek (2U8).
The mountains on either side of the river require close attention, as the poor performance of a small aircraft equipped with floats does not allow for easy correction of navigational errors.
By the time the runway suddenly becomes visible, the plane will not be on course but 90 degrees off the ideal course. It will be necessary to quickly turn left into the valley, make a fairly sharp 180-degree turn to the right to avoid the mountains, and then get back on course to land. It is only at this point that the landing gear will be extended.
The photo above shows the aircraft on final for the Lower Loon Creek dirt and grass runway (C53). It is located at 4084 feet MSL and is only 1200 feet long by 25 feet wide. Note that the approach should be made on runway 16 when possible.
As always, a stabilized aircraft on final makes landing easier, regardless of the conditions.
We park the plane and rest a bit. Today, there is no one else here. But that’s not always the case in real life, as this video of a landing at Lower Loon Creek shows it.
Click on the link for more challenging virtual flights on my blog.
This is the Key West Airport (KEYW) in Florida, as reproduced for flight simulation by FSDreamteam for the Microsoft MSFS2020 flight simulator.
There is a clear advantage to acquiring this virtual airport rather than using the MSFS2020 airport. Indeed, the FSDreamteam KEYW airport doesn’t come alone: the company offers two other sites in accompaniment and for the same price: Fort Jefferson and the Loggerhead lighthouse.
A small virtual flight with a Cessna C-172 on floats allows you to fly over these sites and land on the water when appropriate.
The Cessna takes off from Key West under ideal weather conditions.
Shortly after takeoff and established at 3000 feet, we fly over the Key West National Wildlife Refuge.
The Garmin G-1000 allows a stable flight during screen captures.
This is Fort Jefferson photographed as the Cessna flies at about 1500 feet ASL. The winds have increased slightly and foam is becoming visible on the waves.
A little further along the flight path is the Loggerhead Lighthouse. The beach is beautiful and gently sloping. It will be possible to do a water landing, put the landing gear down while on the water and then park on the beach.
The landing is done without too much difficulty.
With a little engine power, it is possible to get out of the water and park on the beach for a while. After turning off the engine, the MSFS2020 flight simulator allows the pilot to listen to the sound of the waves and wind in a realistic way. If there are birds in the area, it will also be possible to hear them.
For those who want to repeat the experience, it is only a matter of programming the starting point in MSFS2020 as KEYW and the destination KYW1 (Fort Jefferson). Once through Fort Jefferson, continue straight for a few minutes and you’ll arrive at the Loggerhead Lighthouse. Take a few moments to relax and listen to the waves before taking off again…!
Click on the link for more standard virtual flights on my blog using either MSFS2020 or FSX.
Today’s twenty-minute virtual flight is conducted using Microsoft MSFS 2020 flight simulation software. The virtual airport at Elk River (NC06) in the United States, modeled here by Pilot’s, is located at approximately 3468 feet (ft) above sea level (MSL). Its sloped 12/30 runway can accommodate many types of aircraft as its dimensions are still 4600 feet long by 75 feet wide. A golf course is located near the airport facilities.
In direct flight with GPS, the virtual pilot will have to climb at around 7000 feet msl to avoid the surrounding mountains. It is therefore important to adjust the air/fuel mixture during climb and descent for the destination. Also, don’t forget to adjust the altimeter (press “B”) as you move away from the point of departure. Near the summits, you will experience mechanical turbulence, which is normal.
The photo above shows the virtual airport of Mountain Air County Club (2NC0) with the MSFS 2020 flight simulator. The sloped runway is 2900 feet long and only 50 feet wide. A golf course surrounds this airport located at 4432 feet MSL. Since the winds are light, the approach will be on runway 14.
On final approach, it is easy to see the uphill angle of this airstrip, which is slightly more damaged than the one at Elk River.
As we continue to taxi to the end of runway 14, we notice the cliff that awaits the pilot who has not properly prepared his landing. No forgiveness!
An elevated view shows the threshold of runway 14 and the buildings associated with the golf club. A few golf loving pilots have already parked their aircraft to the left of runway 14. For this screenshot, I used the excellent X-BOX drone.
A final photo shows the buildings and flowers associated with the golf club. The bird recordings are easily heard, which enhance the scene. Flight simulation enthusiasts wishing to repeat the experience should do so under VFR conditions to keep an eye on the mountain tops during the approach.
Click on the link for more challenging virtual flights under MSFS 2020 and FSX on my blog.
Here is a last picture of the winter of 2022 before going into spring mode. We can see the MSC Maria Pia sailing through the ice on the St. Lawrence River between Quebec City and Lévis, with a temperature of -27C.
The container ship Maria Pia belongs to the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC). It was built in 1997 and flies the Panama flag. The ship passed by the Quai des Cageux at just the right time, as the very soft light of a late afternoon winter day is always more conducive to photography.
Click on the link for more photos of ships on my blog.
Vladimir Putin claims that he feels trapped by NATO. To improve his strategic position, he invades Ukraine and destroys most of its important installations, both civilian and military, killing and starving thousands in the process.
The great powers, and especially the dictatorships, find it infinitely difficult to think out of the box when they know that they have access to a military solution. Soldiers and bombs will settle a long-standing dispute.
By adopting a pattern of thinking from the Middle Ages, Vladimir Putin has created a rebound effect. Many neighboring countries now live in fear of an unwarranted attack. Rather than diminishing the military capacity of neighboring countries as he would like, Putin has only succeeded in strengthening their will to unite and rearm.
For example, Germany was to develop, in partnership with other countries, the next fighter jet to fly in the European sky. This would, of course, take years to design, but little thought was given to it. The country had clearly been on the path of pacifism for decades. The invasion of Ukraine changed everything. The Germans are ramping up the pace so much that they are now ordering existing aircraft already on the market. To hell with research, delays and especially the fact that the aircraft will come from the United States.
Russia will now have to redouble its efforts to monitor the skies over Europe for this powerful aircraft which is difficult to detect and capable of inflicting heavy losses in the event of a conflict.
It has also been noted that the majority of damage in Ukraine has come from air attacks. Because the Patriot missile defense system is only effective at short range, the Germans recently visited Israel to learn more about the Arrow 3. This defensive interceptor system is capable of destroying missiles at medium and long ranges, even those flying outside the earth’s atmosphere.
A nuclear-capable US stealth fighter for the German Air Force? A long-range missile defense system on German territory? The country was a long way from any of these discussions in early 2022. Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine have reignited the arms race for many countries.
Welcome to the second and last part of Tintin and the Black Island. The photo above shows the clouds almost completed. The yellow sky was a problem, because once on the canvas, the color became too dark as it dried. I had to find a recipe for a lighter yellow than the one on the original cover so that as it dried the color would get darker and match the color of the album.
The photo above shows the progression of the castle and the island, but this time with the birds as a bonus. Hergé drew a lot of black birds around the castle, which adds to the sinister look of the place. But he also thought of drawing two larger birds in the foreground, of which one seems to be heading towards Tintin.
The painting is progressing rapidly. I have already worked on it for about a hundred hours to get to this point. The sea has received all its touches of black paint to form the appearance of waves.
The picture above gives an idea of the size of the painting. The painting must often be placed on a table to paint the elements that require great precision.
In the background of the photo, a journalist from the Canadian news channel RDI is seen on television. He is commenting on the street blockage situation in Ottawa by truckers during the Covid-19 pandemic. The protesters fight for their rights, but do not respect the rights of the citizens of Ottawa who, for weeks, are trapped in their neighborhoods. The Canadian government finally put an end to the situation by invoking the Emergency Measures Act with the added bonus of a $306 million lawsuit brought by residents against the protesters.
Above is the completed painting. You will notice that the white tones of the boat differ on the back and side. There is white combined with black and a touch of yellow for the side of the boat, rather than the pure white required for the back. It took some experimenting with colors to finally realize the need for yellow.
The waves flattened by the boat are now just rounded bubbles behind the boat. However, on the sides, the appearance differs because the movement of the boat breaks the waves: Hergé therefore ensures a different treatment of the foam. He thought of everything, as usual!
It is now time to move on to another project. I am not sure yet, but I am thinking of “Blake and Mortimer” these heroes of Edgar P. Jacobs, a great master of the clear line style who initially worked with Hergé.
Glénat just published a book titled “Edgar P. Jacobs le rêveur d’apocalypses”, if you want to learn more on the subject…
In the photo above, you may have recognized Tintin dressed as a Scotsman as he faces the evil Dr. Müller. These two characters are from the comic book Tintin and the Black Island. A majority of French speakers probably read this album in their youth. And, even as adults, some of us (myself included) have revisited this work by Hergé to get a fresher look at the album.
The restrictions and confinement of the Covid-19 pandemic allowed me to devote more time to drawing and painting. I decided to copy the cover of the Tintin album “The Black Island” using acrylic.
The scale drawing of a Tintin album is close to a 2:3 ratio and so the 24″ by 36″ format was almost a perfect fit. Below, you can compare the difference in scale between the original book and the drawing in the making.
A 2H graphite pencil for drawing on canvas will require less dedication when it comes to erasing the most obvious strokes and laying down the paint. The one I used (HB) was too dark and required more work than expected.
Reproducing a Tintin album leads us to progressively notice the genius of Hergé, this Belgian creator. We linger on his editorial choices, the composition, the angles. Drawing the rocks of the Black Island and their shadows is, in this respect, very revealing.
In the photo above, Tintin is heading towards the Black Island. We can feel him anxious, hence his slightly forward-leaning posture. He scans the island straight ahead. Hergé could have drawn him straight on his boat, confident. He chose to position him as an observer of a problematic situation. Similarly, Snowy looks at us with a worried expression and we have to repeat his expression exactly so as not to change the atmosphere of the scene.
Still missing are the black birds around the island, one of which seems to be heading straight for Tintin. You will see them in the next article: they are numerous, black and do not seem very friendly.
The sky, meanwhile, is not covered with pretty cumulus clouds but rather with streaky, tapered clouds invading the horizon, many of them dagger-like. Placed obliquely across the cover for added dynamism, Hergé also gave them a slightly circular shape.
When painting the letters, one realizes the editorial choices of Hergé. Several of these features require attention, including the letter “O” which is not round but oval and leaning to the side. Also, Hergé aligns the two words of the title to the right and this has an impact when calculating the spaces between the letters.
In trying to reproduce a color exactly, one must make several attempts to discover the recipe. Often, three or four colors are combined to achieve a satisfactory result. And when we are satisfied with the tone, a surprise awaits us: once placed on the canvas, the acrylic paint changes color and becomes much darker as it dries. Trying to predict the result after drying is therefore a must.
(to be continued…)
Vladimir Putin‘s war against Ukraine has finally had an unexpected effect: Germany has woken up to its national security and its responsibility to NATO. The Germans have announced that they will now invest massively to equip themselves with military forces worthy of the name. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has spoken of spending around 100 billion euros over the next few years.
Russia’s unwarranted invasion of Ukraine has certainly brought back old memories in Germany. With Operation Barbarossa in 1941, Hitler had attacked Russia by surprise, despite having given his word, resulting in the biggest battle of all time. Millions of people died in this one conflict.
A non-aggression agreement between two countries remains valid only until one of the two partners changes his mind. That is as good as it gets. The Germans showed this to Russia in 1941.
With Russia invading a free country like Ukraine, Germany has realized that it cannot take anything for granted anymore. Today the country is in a vulnerable position and needs to increase its autonomy in the face of a potential attack, especially since most NATO members do not take seriously their responsibility towards military spending.
Moreover, it can no longer really count on the intervention of the United States. American foreign policy and its vision of NATO are now likely to change every four years, depending on whether Trump or one of his allies is elected. This is nothing to secure Europe. Putin put an end to daydreaming.