28. Niigata to Komatsu - 29-30 June 2004

  Leaving Niigata
  Initially close to coast
  Western edge of Iiyama, nestled in hills
  Approaching Matsumoto
  Climbing out of Matsumoto for 12,500 ft
  Descending over Komatsu

Another longish flight (160 nm) which I broke into two inland (and mountainous) legs rather than one coastal (and flat): Niigata to Matsumoto (122 nm) and Matsumoto to Komatsu (74 nm).

Initially, I didn't plan to land in Matsumoto, just turn there, so I set my altitude for the whole flight at 12,500 ft, knowing I would have to clear a tall (10,800 ft) mountain range 50 nm east of Komatsu.

I tracked a VOR radial from Matsumoto, noting cities as I passed: Sanjo, Nagaoka. For the first 50 nm or so of my southward journey, I was within easy sight of the coast. By the time I reached Iiyama, though, I was in a mountain valley. To my surprise, the Olympic city of Nagano, which is in the same valley, does not have an airfield.

At this point I was tired, so I decided to put in at Matsumoto for fuel and rest. When I got there, a Lockheed Vega was doing traffic patterns.

After resting (in the real world -- no time passed in the virtual world), I took off and turned west for Komatsu and the coast, circling first, though, to gain some altitude: Matsumoto is already at 2,200 ft, but I needed to clear 10,800 ft. I kept the Mooney's engine at full throttle until I crested the peaks and kept climbing for 12,500 ft. This was probably wasteful, since I needed to begin my descent almost immediately. But there were still mountains ahead before I reached the coast, so I couldn't be too leisurely about it: I would need to clear the mountains and then make an accelerated descent as I neared the city. That's what airbrakes are for.

Visibility plummeted as I got down to traffic pattern level, but not so much that I had trouble seeing the airport. Still, my pattern and landing were not satisfactory. I am misjudging distances and altitudes.

After clearing the runway, I waited to watch the DC-3 behind me land; by this time, though, I was listening to ground control rather than tower, so when the Douglas aborted, I didn't hear why.