I finally saw the Grand Canyon. It was cool. It wasn’t worth it.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been playing Microsoft Flight Simulator in bite-sized sessions, usually a route or two per day. Most of my flights have gone down at night—after work, and after the sun had set. Due to Flight Sim’s real-time telemetry, that’s limited travel to the other side of the globe, if I want to actually do any daytime digital sight-seeing. (Thanks a lot, hemispheres!) But last night, I learned that you can customize the specific time of day you fly, thus opening up a whole world—or, well, half of one—of possibilities.
I first flew over San Francisco at sunset, because obviously. Then, one of my roommates suggested I check out the Grand Canyon. It’s pretty cool, according to him and only him, and I haven’t had the good fortune to see it IRL. Given the nature of the pandemic, it might be a long, long while before I can.
First, I flew out of Sedona, partly because I knew it was geographically close to the Grand Canyon and partly because the airport’s Flight Sim listing literally says “Grand Canyon.” Partway through the flight, my AOA (I don’t know what that means and refuse to learn) started to inexplicably and relentlessly beep whenever I pitched above 0 degrees. In other words, to shut the damn thing up, I had to keep my nose angled down. I crashed.
Second try, I flew out of Sedona again, because researching—and thus learning all about the much closer starting points, which we’ll get to in a sec—is for the weak. At the speed I traveled, I figured the flight would last about 15, maybe 20 minutes. I lost my internet connection at the 10-minute mark. (To conserve precious space on my game-crammed Xbox Series X, I haven’t downloaded the offline mode for Microsoft Flight Sim.)
Third try! I learned you can zoom in on Flight Sim’s world map, showing countless more starting locations than the world’s major runways. Plus, you can pick a departure location and start flying without a predetermined arrival. Huh. Not a terribly apt simulation, but terrific for trying over and over again to complete a route. I took off from Valle, which seemed far closer. On the horizon, I saw a marker for an airport near Grand Canyon Village. A quick cross-check with Google Maps corroborated that, yeah, that’d be way closer—and a way faster journey to simply quit out and start from there.
On my fourth attempt—which, by this point, we’re talking about an hour from when I started trying to fly to the Canyon, thanks to all the fits and starts—I finally came across my destination:
I even felt inspired enough to fly my little prop plane like a Tie Fighter. And then this happened: