This morning I got up early, eager to check out the Panama Canal. Last night, I have already flown over it, but since it was dark, I really did not see anything, so I decided to go back today and fly over the whole length of the canal before setting the course for Colombia.
Panama City is very close to the Panama Canal, so it was not too big of a detour. First, I flew at the low altitude (1-2,000 ft) from the Pacific towards the Atlantic side of the Canal so that I can closely inspect the gates and other things, and then on the way back, I went much higher in order to see the whole Canal. I have compared the (virtual) canal locks to the real ones (pictures from the web), and the level of the detail was amazing. They obviously look cartoonish in the screen shots below, but the features are all there. After the close inspection of all three locks, I did 180 over the Caribbean Sea, climbed to 12,000 and went back for a high level view of the Canal.
After that brief tourist detour, I have set the heading to 152, direct course to Cali, Colombia. Again, I was glad this was only a simulation, as it is very unlikely I would have chosen to go to Colombia in real life.
After the initial excitement and sightseeing, the rest of the flight was rather uneventful. I was flying over the Pacific Ocean some 30 miles west of the coast of Panama and Colombia. Last 100 nm my route took me over the Colombia coast, and then the Andes. That was the end of the low altitude flying for a while I guess, as the Andes are really high and I will have to carefully pick my route so that it does not require me to go above the ability of my little 182.
Approach to Cali was interesting. First you have to fly over the high ridge, then turn to heading of 180, fly parallel to the valley below, lose altitude, make 180 turn, and then fly approach to the runway 1 while losing altitude very fast. Also, there was quite a lot of other traffic, so that made it extra challenging. Landing was OK though, despite me bouncing two times.
Miraflores locks, the Pacific side
Pedro Miguel locks
Panama Canal from 1,000 ft
Gatun locks, the Atlantic Ocean side
Pacific entrance, Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks
Approaching the coast of Colombia
Final approach to Cali
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