Commander’s Briefing 5

Good morning, Commanders.

For those of you who got up early enough to attend the briefing, there is fresh coffee by the door…..

So. You’ve killed a few cans in the simulator. You’ve completed your first few trading runs and made a little bit of cash but you’re still being turned into a floating wreck by half of the other pilots you meet.

Before we start, I want to see a show of hands. Who tried docking last night and made a complete hash of it? Don’t deny it, I saw you….

“Docking – still too hard?”

Right – let’s go back to basics. I’m going to assume that you managed to listen to the supercruise instructions, you survived the interdictions on the way in and have arrived at the right part of space.

Look at the mini radar. Not the big platter sized one, the little saucer sized one with a single dot. If the dot looks like it has had too many pies, your destination is in front of you somewhere. If it looks like a supermodel lying down, it’s behind you.

Turn until it’s in the middle and looking fatter than a Lakon. Somewhere in space up ahead, probably shrouded in shadow, you’ll see the station. Most probably at 20k.

Look REALLY carefully. It’s spinning.

Which side is the door?

Well – in the absence of being able to target it yet, and given that you most probably can’t see the door yet, here’s a hint. It spins anti-clockwise if you’re staring at the letterbox. Which means that if the near face is rotating downward in your vision, the door is on the right. Upward, it’s on your left. If it’s going left to right, spin your ship or work it out….

Some stations have advertising hoardings in a cone or circle outside the entrance – they’re a good hint.

Other stations have other ships docking…. that’s also a hint.

You want to be flying towards the face that has the letterbox hole in it. Don’t come in too close to the station or whilst you’re yawing about trying to face the door, some space jockey in a Cobra will boost out of the station and play space billiards with your new toy.

As you approach, and NOT whilst you’re boosting toward the station itself, look left, go to contacts, click the Coriolis station and ask the docking controller for permission to land.

The clock is now ticking. If you’re nervous, or driving something the size of a pregnant hippo and trying to squeeze it into something the size of a Sidewinder’s cargo scoop, I recommend not doing this until you’re quite close.

Right. The trick now is to line up with the letterbox and to do it quick enough that you won’t be rammed from behind, in front or crash into the toast rack.

Not all stations have a toast rack – they clearly prefer healthy things like fruit and muesli for breakfast. Not to my taste, but each to their own.

Also – if you weren’t in Alpha, you didn’t meet Zelda. You still won’t, but as I said yesterday, she has been training the docking crews in the other stations.

No response to the request? Try again. Try 4 times. Keep an eye out because some times they rescind your permissions just as you’re entering the letterbox. That turns you into a moving target for the station gunners and they don’t tend to miss.

I’m going to assume that you’re about 500m to 1k out, you’re facing the letterbox and have been told to proceed to the right pad.

This is where thrusters are handy. Back in the day, you used to have to fly and aim anywhere but AT the letterbox until it all straightened out. These days, you can just use your thrusters to get square on.

A hint for all of you. As you approach the station, you’ll see the star structure at the back of the station become visible. That’s the middle.

If you use your thrusters to put that in the middle of the letterbox, you’re straight. Down the middle.

Start rotating in time with the station. Hum the Blue Danube if you want.

Move towards the station at steady throttle settings. Heroic boosting into the port will kill you. As will speeds of 200+.

As you approach, you’ll see the lights around the docking port. Some are red, some are green. For the colourblind pilots out there, take a guess. The green one is ever such a little bit lighter than the red one.

Bit like with your radar – green means “not going to kill you”. Red is “you’re toast”.

With a sidewinder, you’ve got enough space that you can go through at almost any angle and if you’re vaguely straight, you won’t hear moaning and groaning and get a repair bill.

In a Cobra – don’t forget you are wider. Get it right.

As you pull into the letterbox, the station’s rotational correction will take over and you won’t have to waggle the stick to stay straight.

The next thing you’ll see is that the little saucer radar will jump to show you where your pad is. You’ll also see a giant heated towel rail and a HUGE number over some of the pads.

You can’t miss which one is yours. Line up with it using thrusters and throttle forward towards it. Point your nose at the control tower for your pad and approach SLOWLY.

As soon as you can no longer see the big glowing number, deploy your landing gear. You DID put it on a button, didn’t you?

As soon as the control tower have woken up (please, don’t make them upset by approaching at speed and clanging off the tower – it’s that kid of behaviour that means they keep reallocating our pads), your radar will change to a series of concentric rings. In red.

Using forward and reverse thrusters, you’re aiming for the bullseye. The radar will change colour.

Try and get your ship parallel with the floor.

GENTLY use downward thrusters until docking control completes the final part of the landing for you. Go to station services. Repair your hull and your systems and refill all your toys.

Now – here’s an important step. This one is written in big letters on my notes. Pull back the throttle. To 0.

There is a good reason for this. You can have a minute to think about it.


+ + + + + + + + + + + + 



Taking off is easy. Ask nicely. The lift will disco.

You’ll see a ramp lower in front of you then you’ll hear the docking clamp disengage. At this point you want to use vertical thrusters to raise yourself level with the exit.

Get straight. Go for green. Raise your landing gear. Do NOT forget that the second the static hum happens in the letterbox, rotational correction is off and the toast rack will try and julienne your hull.

Keep an eye out for incoming ships. If they’re bigger than you, back the heck away from them and be patient. If they’ve not got their lights on, feel free to gesticulate wildly with the universal one-handed “you’re flying like a chimp” action. Or flash your lights. You haven’t got a klaxon, so you can’t do that.

Get clear of the station quickly once you’re outside. It will prevent you jumping and to be honest, there are a few pilots out there who are waiting for you. Silently. With guns.

There are NO police out there yet and the ones that aren’t there…. won’t protect you.

Right. Coffee. My head hurts. Later we’ll be talking about flight controls and combat.


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