Sunday, September 6, 2009

FSX Global 2008 for fs2004-fsx

FS Global 2008 For FS2004 And FSX
By Andrew Herd (1 May 2007)
SX brings fundamental changes to the virtual landscape we know so well, chief among which is that FS world is no longer flat and that the accuracy of the mesh has been improved. That's the good news. The bad news is that the improvement isn't uniform and that some areas have been treated better than others; I am sure it will come as no surprise that these are parts of the world where significant numbers of Flight Simulator purchases are made. The previous high quality US mesh is still in place, but FSX uses 76 meter resolution Shuttle Radar Topography (SRTM) data to cover Europe, Japan, Australia and part of the Himalayas - the rest of the world has to make do with 612 meter mesh, with the result that the landscape rarely looks even semi-realistic. FS Global 2008 is an FS2004 and FSX addon which rolls out enhanced 76 meter SRTM mesh to the FS world lying in between latitudes 60 degrees north and 60 degrees south..
First of all, what is mesh? Flight Simulator, and it doesn't matter which of the more recent versions you are talking about, creates its landscape by laying terrain texture tiles across an elevation mesh, which forms the mountains, valleys and plains. As I remarked above, the accuracy of the mesh varies from one part of the world to another, which means that the scenery in the Grand Canyon is much more convincing to fly over than say, Malawi. This has annoyed simmers since the wire-frame scenery days and if you want to see what the virtual world looked like only half a dozen years ago, follow this link and take a look at the screenshots from FS2000. As you can see in the screenshot pair below, even when you are using FSX, quite a bit of Asia still looks like it did back then and we have a lot to thank the early pioneers of mesh addons for.

FS Global 2008 is available in boxed format only - for good reason, because installing it gobbles up roughly the same amount of hard disk as a full FSX installation does, which is around 13 Gb. The box contains four DVDs - note not CDs - two of which are for the FS2004 installation and two for FSX. The reason for this apparent duplication is because FS2004 and FSX require different data because of technical differences in the way they treat mesh, not least the fact that in FS2004 the world is flat and in FSX world it is round, which means that if you want to use FS Global 2008 with both versions of the sim, you have no choice but to install it twice. Gulp.
The installation process was trouble-free, but as I am sure you can imagine, 13 gigs takes a looooong time to transfer, even with a 16 x DVD-ROM drive. Paper documentation is restricted to a fold-out slipped in among the disks, but there is a four page pdf which goes into more depth on the first DVD and I would suggest reading this before you get going. Just about the only gotcha is that there is no way to do a partial install, so if you don't have enough free disk space, you won't be able to install the product; and it is worth mentioning that the second DVD in each set is double-sided, so at some stage in the installation you will be asked to eject and flip it. Most DVD drives should be able to handle this type of media, which has been around for as long as I can remember.

The first thing to say about the product is that the days when mesh addons transformed the entire FS world are gone, because the default mesh is more than acceptable in the 'high res' areas I mentioned at the beginning of the review. This isn't to say that FS Global 2008 doesn't make a startling difference - it does, but as you can see in the screenshots above, it is only the case in the low-res areas. During the review I set up FSX to show the mesh at its highest possible quality settings, saved a flight after taking a screenshot of the default landscape, installed FS Global 2008, reloaded the same flights and repeated the screenshots, so the only differences between the pictures are accounted for by different placement of clounds. The top pair of shots show the view on departure from Jalalabad in Afghanistan, the second row show the King Air flying out of Tribhuvan International, over the Himalayas, and the final row show a departure from Redding in California towards Mount Shasta.
In each case, the default FSX scenery screenshot is on the left and the same shot with FS Global 2008 installed is on the right. The changes, as you might expect in high-res areas like the US and the Himalayas, are quite subtle, because in each case we are looking at the best mesh FSX has to offer, but the interesting thing is that even in this (rather harsh) test, the FS Global mesh is noticeably better. The only reason I can put forward to account for this lies in the way the SRTM data has been dealt with - it looks as if the FS Global post-processing has generated more intersections than Microsoft's team did. This efffect is more obvious when you are flying across the landscape than it is in the screenshots, but suffice it to say that mesh junkies will notice the difference.

As evidence of this, I offer the bottom pair of screenshots. As befits Northern California, we have a lovely sunny day, courtesy of Microsoft on the left and FS Global on the right. But hold on a second, where have those islands come from? Yep, even in a high resolution area of US scenery, FS Global does make a difference, and it is hard to fly for any period of time without noticing it. Go outside the FSX 76 meter mesh area and you can imagine what sort of changes you will see - whole ranges of hills and even mountains appear that FSX forgot. Look again at that top pair of shots - vast areas of the FSX world look like the screenshot on the left, when FS Global can make them look like the screenshot on the right.
Needless to say, there are disadvantages to installing third party mesh into Flight Simulator, but these are less of a problem with FSX than they are with FS2004. Using addon mesh in FS2004 improves the landscape at the expense of creating a lot of elevation problems around airports - the reason being that FS2004 uses 'flattening' codes to make the area around runway complexes, er... flat. As long as you stay with the default mesh, the vast majority of airports sit neatly on the terrain, looking as if they belong there, but install a new mesh and the flattening codes are liable to conflict with the mesh data. This can be problematic in mountainous areas, because the coarse grained mesh which FS2004 uses may put a piece of land within an airport boundary dozens of feet below or above where it should be - a problem which is exacerbated by the fact that many runways have a slope in one direction or another and Flight Simulator likes 'em level. So if you install a new mesh in FS2004, you are likely to encounter quite a few airports sitting on mesas (not so bad, as long as you don't undershoot), or in depressions, which makes approaches considerably more challenging. FSX, on the other hand, has the mesa/depression problem built-in, thanks to the change from a flat to a round world. Install a new mesh and all that happens in FSX is that you get a different set of airports at the wrong elevation.
Much the same comments apply to roads, lakes, rivers and coastlines. Because some FSX and FS2004 lakes have been set to the wrong elevation, you can end up with some strange effects after installing an addon mesh and it was no surprise to come across a few of these when I installed FS Global 2008. Your mileage will vary in this respect, depending on whether you use FS2004 or FSX. In the high resolution FSX areas, the problem is hardly noticeable, because the default mesh is already quite accurate and the road and river data combines with it well - but when you put addon mesh in areas which were 'low resolution' in Flight Simulator, anything can happen. In FS2004 especially, but also in FSX, you can expect to see the occasional lake half way up a hillside, roads flying through thin air and the occasional mismatch at coastlines. Given the thousands of rivers, roads and lakes represented in Flight Simulator, it just isn't practical for third party developers to do anything about this; and who can blame them, when Microsoft have left FSX cursed with the same problem as it comes out of the box?
FSX being the beast it is, I am sure that readers will be keen to know what FS Global 2008 does to frame rates and the answer is that it doesn't have a noticeable impact, unless you are used to flying in areas which are low-res in the default FSX installation. In this case - and the same applies to FS2004 - you will see a drop in frame rates, as Flight Simulator has to spend more effort generating more detailed terrain. But apart from that, if you are planning on flying outside the high resolution areas of Flight Simulator's mesh coverage, there is no downside to FS Global 2008 and the product is definitely worth a look.

Andrew Herd


add-on fs level-d 767

This is a review of Level D’s 767-300ER by Jessica Bannister-Pearce.
There can be few aircraft that can rightly be called a ‘Workhorse’. The DC-3 springs to mind, along with the Boeing 757. But when it comes to an aircraft that can serve both long haul and short haul destinations with ease and without out complaint, the Boeing 767 is the top of the heap. The design hails from the 1970’s and yet the same basic airframe is still in production and demand today. (Yes, the 747 has been there a lot longer, but lets not nit-pick.) Demand is so great that second hand examples are almost always picked up from the deserts within a short while. By far the most successful variant has to be -300 series. And thanks to Level D simulations, we get to see what all the fuss is about.
Welcome Aboard
What’s in the box
As is common these days, the aircraft is available either as a download or as a boxed product. Downloaded copies come with a digital certificate that can be used to reinstall the software if problems arise. All this is handled via Flight One’s Purchase system, which simplifies the whole process quite well. Once installed, various items can be found on your start menu in the ‘Flight One’ Folder. You get the PDF version of the Flight Ops Manual, The Configuration utility, an option to check for updates and a repaint manager program to help you install the various free liveries available online. For those who prefer to read the FOM before flying, but don’t fancy the hassle of printing out the 400 page plus document, a rather nice, leather bound copy can be purchased at a rather reasonable cost.
Starting at the beginning
Before the 767 can be taken anywhere, she needs to be loaded as required. The load manager will take care of this. Loading it up gives you various options. There are tabs to select the type of flight, Long Haul or Short Haul. This will help set a basic level of fuel for your flight. Next is a button to switch between the cargo load screen and the passenger load screen. The former displays the load in each of the five cargo holds, which of course you’re welcome to change, alter and generally mess with at your discretion. The latter displays the cabin layout. You’re not able to add individual passengers here but using one of the three buttons below, you can choose from an empty ferry flight, a random amount of passengers and cargo or a full load. I usually stick to random just to keep it as close to reality as possible. (Who has 100% load factors anyway!)
The only other thing to set is the fuel amount. This goes from 0 to 160000lb. Setting it for your trip will mean that you’ll have all the load out figures you’ll need later for the FMC.
As a side note, if you’re like me and have trouble knowing how much fuel you’ll need for a particular flight, then I suggest you try Blushing Sheep’s Excellent Dispatch Planner X (see my earlier review) or you can download a simple utility that is specifically written for the 767-300ER just to work out the amount of fuel you’ll need. Go to to download this simple utility.
Once you’re done here, click ‘Save settings’ and the next time you load FS to fly the 767-300ER the load figures will be added.
I do suggest that you either make a note of the important figures like ZWF and %MAC/T.O. Trim setting before loading up, or leave the window open on a second monitor if you’re rich enough. Either way, the data will come in handy later.
Loading up has never been so easy. Just remember to make notes!
Painting by Numbers
Before we head off to FS with our crib sheets ready to go, you should really give some consideration to the airline of your choice. I assume to save space on the download, Level-D only provide the three 767-300ER engine Variants (GE, P&W and RR) in house colours. So if you want to fly your favourite airline, you’ll need to use the repaint manager and download some new paint schemes. First, you’ll need to visit Level-D’s Website to download the paint scheme of you’re choice. You’ll note that repaints from Level-D come in two flavours. The DXT3 models are less clunky and heavy on the system whist the regular repaints have a more polished feel, but will strain the system. I recommend the DXT3 repaints, as they look just as good as the regulars to me. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to unzip the files into the right directory. The readme file will give you all the general information you’ll need. Now all you need to do is load up the repaint manager and click on Add Repaint. From there, just click on the repaint you wish to add and click install. You can also remove a repaint if you wish and you can upload a repaint you’ve done to the Level D website. If you’re chosen airline isn’t there, you can always download the paint kit and have a go yourself.
This is just one of the great repaints available. Best of all, they’re Free!
Let’s Get to the Airport
Once we’ve loaded up FS, then selecting the 767 of your choice is as normal, but you will have to read the text, as there are no livery pictures of new downloads. Level-D provide instructions and with a little work you’ll have no problem finding the airline you want in the future. Once loaded up, however, the fun really begins.
The Level-D 767 is a complex simulation, and as such, there are extras and features included that normal add-on aircraft don’t have. Clicking on the Add-ons menu in the main menu bar reveals two new choices. The first is Level-D simulations whist the second is B767 Specific. Clicking on the former brings you five new menu choices. The first is Custom controls. Here you can set buttons, key presses and such to be used by the sim. The next menu is the Preferences. This lets you set things like ‘A/T inhibits manual throttle’ as well as the settings for the crew voices (British, Canadian, American and even an Australian ground Crew are available.) You can also set the first officers duties during the flight, to help make your job easier.
The next menu is the Instructor menu. Again, you can select the voice set as well as several options for training.
The last two menus are Level-D specific and are not worth mentioning here.
The B767 Specific menu is where the action is. From here you can import or export various panel settings, from cold and dark to fully running. You can also define the default panel settings (Cold and Dark. Go on, you know you want to). Next you get to define the failures on this particular flight and the next one down allows you to repair the failures after they’ve happened.
Below that is the ground requests menu, only to be used once you’re ready for pushback, whist the realism menu is where the real power is. In here you’ll be able to set the various settings that will bring you closer to the real 767. Some seem a little strange, (Hydraulic Fluid needs refilling for example) to the really useful, (Battery discharge and such).
The final Menu is the quick tips section, which is great if you’re really stuck.
Detail is everything
This isn’t Kansas anymore!
As you can imagine, it’s rather daunting to sit down and prepare for a flight in an aircraft that is more complex than the FS defaults. Fortunately, Level-D have provided us with several tutorials, all found within the missions section. Don’t expect any rewards for completing them though, as Level-D say they haven’t finished exploring the limits of the mission section.
There are several tutorials to go through, from the short hop from Vancouver to San Francisco, through to the long haul, Atlanta to Brussels. But for me, the star of the show, and something I think that Level-D have done well in providing, are the last two missions. These are failure missions. The first places you in the cruise at 35000ft only for a failure to happen. The second throws a failure at you at take off. Both offer a real insight into how a real aircrew train in the simulator for just such emergencies. Bravo.
Calling the Ground Crew
At the Gate
The first thing you’ll notice at the gate is a menu screen that pops up to help you load the aircraft. Option one loads the aircraft automatically with the settings you saved in the configuration utility. Option two offers you the choice of lbs or Kg’s; whist option three gives the chance to manually load the aircraft. Selecting option one does the job and so we’re ready to pre-flight. For such a complex aircraft, the 767 seems remarkably easy to navigate. The overhead isn’t too cluttered whist the MCP is easy to understand. Only the FMC can cause problems, but even here it’s not too difficult. You’ll have to program your own route, though, as you can’t import the route from FS itself. This is fairly easy, though, and requires only a little time. From there you can then set the ZWF and trim using your crib sheet as before.
Once you’re set, you can request a pushback from the ground crew. Clicking on the ground call switch on the O/P brings up a menu to help you. If you select pushback, you’ll then be taken from the cockpit to a separate screen where you can choose to not only push back, but you can choose how far you can push back, whether you wish to push to the left or right, (which really makes some of the taxi routes much easier to start from) and finally you can select to ‘push and start’. Whatever you select, you’ll be treated to some real speech between the captain and ground crew, with instructions for the pushback. Once you’re set, started and pointing in the right direction, be careful when you advance the throttles for taxi. One thing to look out for is a starting bug found only with users of the FS Acceleration pack. For some reason, the engines will spool twice before starting up. Strange, but in no way detracting from the overall product. The 767 is a very powerful aircraft and as such, very little power is required to move and it’s quite easy to exceed taxi speed limits without much difficulty.
The Virtual Cockpit is a joy to behold
Here we go!
Taxiing out brings the captain to announce that the cabin crew prepare for departure (again, scripted but all part of the immersion experience). On takeoff, though, the high quality sounds are really shown off as the engines spool up to full power. The rich sound of the P&W engines, or the RR or the GE versions sound exactly as they should, whist the amount of power produced is nothing short of frightening. Rotation and V2 comes quickly and soon we’re in the air. A nice touch is the first officer who, if asked, will handle the flaps and landing gear for you. Once we’re up, however, things become more relaxed as we hand off to George and let the aircraft do its thing. The cruise prompts more interaction between the crew as well at the descent. It’s the landing, however, that shows the next Level-D trick. Auto land can be engaged once the ILS has been attained, and by selecting all three of the autopilots, the 767 will gracefully set herself down on the runway. Just remember to operate the reverse thrust to slow down.
Down safe and sound
There really are not enough superlatives available to describe how good this aircraft is. It’s not just the aircraft itself, it’s the little touches that add up to make a package that really is more than the sum of it’s parts. The interaction between the flight crew, flight attendants and ground crew all help to immerse you into the cockpit. The options available mean it’s flyable by anyone, and the use of tutorials to learn how to deal with failures all mean that this is no ordinary add-on. If I had to pick a fault, it would be frame rates. All this complexity will hit the frame rates, especially around built up airports like LHR or SEA. Still, it’s a fair price to pay for the chance to fly such a graceful lady. If you haven’t thought about the 767 until now, this is the package that will make you take notice. If you haven’t bought it yet, where have you been?


PMDG MD-11 fsx add-on

It’s sad, isn’t it? When we think of the great aircraft of the world, we probably drift to the 747, A380 and such. But for every aircraft that springs to mind, there are more than a few that are forgotten about. The Trident, The BAC 1-11 and the VC-10 to name a few. The MD-11 Is just such an aircraft. I admit that I knew very little of the MD-11. I did know that it was an evolution of the DC-10, and, uh, that’s about it really.
Introduced in 1990, the MD-11 was the culmination of a 4-year development program. Sadly, the MD-11 never really set the world on fire. There were problems with range and efficiency on early models, which led several airlines to cancel passenger orders. She did, however, find success as a freighter and found a home with Fed Ex who put them to work with their existing DC-10’s. These days, there are more freighters flying than passenger aircraft and with record fuel costs this summer, time may be short for the iconic tri-jet.
That of course doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy the MD-11 well after it’s retirement. So, with out further ado, I give you PMDG’s MD-11.
A new addition to The Air Canada Fleet!
Reputation is Everything
PMDG had a reputation. Anyone who has flown their 737NG or 747-400 for FS2004 will know what I mean. These aircraft are usually the basis for many home cockpits. Knowing this should give you some idea of the level of complexity available. As always, though, we’ll start with what’s in the box.
What’s in the Box
You know, I may need to rename this bit. As is common these days, there is a download version and of course the boxed version.
Installation is easy and the aircraft can be found in the FS aircraft menu. You will notice that you only get the PMDG house liveries, but don’t despair as there is an extensive choice of liveries available from the PMDG website including airlines that never flew the MD-11! (Virgin and Air Canada are two such liveries). Installation of these extra liveries is simple as they are self-extracting files.
Loading up
Getting Started
Like many of the big heavies, before you fly you have to load up and in common with others, the MD-11 comes with it’s own loading program. The usual options are there. Choices of empty, 1/3, 2/3 and full for passengers and cargo alike as well as my favourite, the random function. But to display the depths of detail that PMDG have gone into, there is a choice of configuration for the passenger cabin. From a standard mixed configuration to a full, all economy high-density layout, this allows for different capacities on different routes, from High Density for some Chinese and Japanese flights to the standard configs for the transatlantic routes.
As always, the load out figures are provided below the aircraft diagrams and I recommend that you make notes on ZWF, ZWFCG, MTOW and MTOWCG, plus passenger total. Once done, you can save the load out to open when starting FS. You can also leave the screen open and once you’ve started FS you’ll see a note on the load out screen ‘FS Status: connected’. If you then load up the MD-11 that status changes to ‘MD-11 loaded’ you’ll also note that a new option button has popped up. Clicking it sends the current settings direct to the MD-11. This is a great option for second monitor users or for those who have various legs to fly on. From here, it’s off to the airport.
‘Lit up like a Christmas tree’ was written for this OHP.
Failure is always an option, along with sound, fuel…
Before you get going, there’s yet more options to set to your liking. As with other add-ons these days, the Add-on menu selection is in the main FS menu section. There you’ll find two choices. The first is PMDG Sound. This is a fairly simple menu for setting the level of sound you want from the MD-11. The real fun begins when you delve in to the PMDG main menu. There, you’ll find selections for ‘options’, ‘aircraft fuel’, ‘performance tuning’ and ‘keyboard commands’. Some of these are self explanatory. The Options menu let you set things like units of measurement, display options and such. The Performance tuning menu lets you set the level of detail for both the 2D and VC. Great if you want to gain a few extra FPS. Below this is the Panel State section. Load or Save a panel state for the those who want to get going quickly or those who want to go through the pre-flight step by step.
Below that is the Failures menu. Go here at your peril. If you do dare enter, however, you’ll find options for setting failures at any time during the flight. In fact there are so many things to fail, you could spend all day in there.
Last is the usual About PMDG selection.
Basically, you set the aircraft to you personal taste. Customisation is certainly a key principle.
‘I’d Just like to Say, Good Luck. We’re all counting On you.
At the Gate
Make no mistake, the MD-11 is a complex aircraft. In fact I’d have to say it’s probably the most complex aircraft I’ve ever reviewed. And as such I would normally recommend printing out the manual. However, that is not a great option here, mostly because there are at least 4 manuals to choose from. First, there’s the FCOM, then the Systems Manual, then the FMC manual, then the Quick Reference Manual (a personal favourite at 250+ Pages) as well as the introduction and finally, the tutorial. This gives us a grand total of 1200+ pages to review. However, all is not lost. I recommend printing out the tutorial (a mere 87 pages) and worry about the others later. If the thought of printing out the entire lot strikes fear into your poor little printer’s print heads, don’t fret. For the first time, PMDG are offering the complete set of manuals, printed and bound for just $169. You can also get a handy cockpit familiarisation poster to help you find your way around.
For those wishing to get a free ride. The Refugee space. Just watch out for the U/C
Into the Lion’s Den!
McDonnell Douglas may have finished producing the MD-11, but the cockpit is pure MD. For those who fly either Boeing’s or Airbus, the cockpit is similar but different. The controls are advanced even by some of today’s standard. The old DC-10 was a three crew bird, but when MD designed the MD-11, they cut one seat. The old FE is still there though, he’s just more computerised that’s all. The automatic FE helps control the Air and Fuel Systems, cutting the workload dramatically. You can control both systems manually, but be it on your head. The fuel system itself is a complex system of wing tanks, centre tanks and trim tanks, all of which must be balanced to maintain the C of G both prior to and during the flight. So it’s best to set the system to auto and forget about it. (You know it makes sense.)
With such a high level of automation, you’d expect the aircraft to be easy to operate. In a word, NO.
As I mentioned, the cockpit is pure MD, and nowhere is this more evident than the autopilot panel. For starters, it’s a lot less cluttered than you’d expect. In the centre of it all is a lovely large button marked ‘Autoflight’ You can probably guess what that’s for.
For those of us who are used to the ‘VNAV’ and ‘LNAV’ buttons, well, tough luck. The ‘VNAV’ becomes split between ‘FMS SPEED’ and ‘PROF’ whist the Nav button operates the ‘LNAV’ control unless a heading is input and you override the FMC. Also on the same panel are the controls to alter the various Nav Screen controls such as Increase, Decrease range, VOR, Approach, Map and TCAS selections, as well as the barometer set controls. This, at least, is familiar to those who fly the 737NG.
From there it’s fairly simple. Normally I fly using the VC, but for the first time ever, I’ve found the 2D cockpit easier to navigate, with discreet clickable areas available to bring up every panel via a left of right mouse click. The forward view is excellent and allows me to make approaches with ease.
‘Cabin crew doors to Automatic’
Getting Going
To get started you’ll need to get your head around the FMC. Again, this is not like the standard Boeing or Airbus type. Both the ‘route’ and ‘init ref’ buttons are combined into one. As are several other functions.
Also found in the depths of the FMC are options for Doors, both cabin and cargo. There is also a menu for ‘Pushback’ Controls. More on that later. I recommend using the tutorial to give you a basic grounding in the FMC, but to get the most from it you’ll need to read the FMC manual.
Engine starting is fairly simple, although you will need to Monitor the N² numbers as letting them get too high without turning the fuel on will result in engine damage.
You’re now ready for pushback. Now one of the things I liked about Level D’s 767 (see review) was the use of scripted speech for the ground crew and such. Well PMDG have also thought about this. Contacting the ground crew results in the marshaller talking you through the pushback procedure. Unlike Level D, however, PMDG have thought about how it sounds outside. So, when the Ground crew talk back, you’ll hear the jets whine through the mike, whist the captain replies with relative calm. All this adds to the atmosphere and helps you to suspend disbelief for a little while.
With a complex aircraft come complex displays and just like the newer Airbus aircraft, there’s a forth screen to monitor the Engines, Air system, Fuel system and Hydraulic systems. This also displays the various warnings that’ll crop up from time to time. ‘Seatbelt sign off’, for example, to ‘ENG_MALF’. Be warned, though, if things do fail in a big way, you will need to refer to the FCOM for the severity of the alert. Every problem and alert that can happen on the real aircraft CAN happen here.
Also tucked away is a ‘Consequences’ screen that offers some solutions should something go wrong. Perhaps the most important screen of all is the ‘Config’ screen. Making sure everything is good to go here lets you get ready for taxi.
I love the retro look. Perhaps BA should consider a few aircraft painted up.
Dial ‘F’ For Flaps
One of the curious options onboard the MD-11 is the ‘dial a flap’ selector. Checking the throttle quadrant reveals the standard flap lever. To it’s bottom right is the ‘dial a flap’ wheel. Selecting the appropriate number here prior to taxi means that instead of cycling through the various settings in order ‘1,2,5,10′ and so on you can simply move the flap lever twice to select the required flap setting. ‘22′ for example. Simple but effective.
Now, assuming you’ve set everything up correctly, a small green box will appear in the third display. If it’s there, you’re ready to go.
Remember when I said be careful with the N² figures.
Takeoff comes quickly and smoothly. The engines sound simply fantastic. Top marks to PMDG for some top quality sounds.
Once you’re up, though, the MD-11 is a pussycat to fly. You’ll need to forget speed ratings for normal twins. The EASI does a fantastic job displaying all the information you’ll need, including flap/slat settings and gear up/down speeds. Engaging the ‘Autoflight’ computers leaves George to fly. George is a fantastic pilot and is fully capable of landing in Cat IIIb without so much as spilling a drop of your coffee. If you feel the need to land yourself, then be warned that the MD-11 is somewhat tall on her gear, so be careful not to land with the gear collapsing as you drive her into the ground. Like Betty Grable, she has long legs, and they’re worth a fortune. So don’t break them.
If you do get a chance in the middle of the cruise, take time to have a look at the exterior of the aircraft. The detail of the model a fantastic, and if you do install the extra liveries, they have a really high quality look. The other views available are just as pretty. (My favourite is the refugee view in the front wheel well.)
Fly by night
Earlier I said that PDMG has a reputation to protect. So I guess the big question is, is it safe? The answer is Yes. Without a doubt yes. The MD-11 is an aircraft that you’ll need months to master. And that has to be the best reason to get it. An aircraft that can be mastered in a weekend or two is fun. But an aircraft that will challenge you for months at a time is a real joy. To nitpick, and it would have to be a nitpick, the tutorial has a few areas that could be written a bit better. Also, it would be nice to have a few girls up on the flight deck for those captain and co-pilots voices. But that’s really more of a general gripe of my own.
The MD-11 only made it to 200 in terms of production, which is a real shame, as she’s a great aircraft. So I have no problem in recommending this to anyone. Forget Boeing. Forget Airbus. Tell your family, tell your friends. The MD-11 is the third way.


757 Captain Add-On for FSX and FS2004 (PC DVD)

Captain Sim 757-200 ReviewThere are two types of simmer in this world. One who enjoy the eye candy, the visual effects, and the stunning animations. Then there are those who prefer a more smooth, and realistic experience of simulated flying. Depending on which of those you are, you may very much enjoy the Captain Sim Boeing 757 package.Now myself, with a fairly low spec computer (Intel Celeron 2.4ghz processor, 1.5GB RAM and a nVidia FX5600 128mb graphics card), am used to getting dismal framerates when it comes to highly detailed aircraft and scenic addons. So, I knew that when I installed this B757 package, rumored to be the most complex model of its type on the payware market, I wouldn't be getting a stunningly smooth flight when I took it up for a test.The route I had chosen to fly, was from RNZAF Base Ohakea (NZOH) to Avalon (YMAV) in the Rolls Royce powered -200 series, with the Royal New Zealand Airforce paint scheme.Now first things first, before I even loaded up the sim, I used Captainsim's ACE Tool (Aircraft Configuration Editor) to adjust the aircraft model to my personal specifications. With this, I was able to choose whether or not to include a virtual cockpit and winglets, whether to have a cabin view or a winglet view, and the amount of passengers and cargo I was to load up.I choose to have the wing view in the VC mode, because as impressive as the entire virtual cockpit is with its cockpit, galleys, lavatories, and first class seating, my poor old processor would display it like a slideshow, so I picked the mode with fewer polygons. Next I loaded up a limited cargo, and a small handful of passengers (Some representatives from Boeing and the Airforce to answer any questions I had in flight), then it was time to rev up the sim and get airborne.Sitting on the tarmac at Ohakea, I received my IFR clearance from the controller, taxied into position and slid the throttles forward. The custom 757 sound pack roared to life, giving me a nice surprise, and making it feel quite exhilarating to be rolling down the runway- something no other addon has accomplished for me previously. I reached V1 and rotated, switching from spot view to the 2D panel view- a little more complexed than the default fs2004 B737 one that I am used to when I fly with instrument flight rules.When I was instructed to climb up to 12,000 feet, I found myself having quite a bit of trouble turning the animated dials to increase my airspeed, altitude and heading on the autopilot panel due to the lag that produced a few seconds pause before taking affect after clicking my mouse buttom. Because of this, my rather simple departure climb into cruise was all over the place and left me feeling annoyed as I am usually able to accomplish this maneuver perfectly with my other installed heavies.Eventually, I leveled out at 34,000 feet over the Tasman Sea, and experimented swapping between a few different views to see which I preferred the most. The VC was fun, with a clickable cabin door that swung open giving way to the wing views, yet even with 0% AI, limited status clouds overhead a huge empty ocean (no autogen in sight), and no other applications running in the background, my computer could only achieve 5-7FPS, which made flying unbearable. This was replicated in both the 2D panel and exterior views as well, due to the fact that so many custom animations were on display in the highly detailed model. You must also bear in mind that this was in the "lighter' version of the two VC modes available. I could have turned the VC off completely, but doing so only gains one or two extra FPS at max, and wasn't worth it in this test flight. If I had a higher spec system, I would have definitely used the full cabin mode, so I could actually sit down in a first class seat, and watch out of the window of the cabin like a real passenger. This would have been fun, but now I think about it, as I have never traveled in first class in my life, I would have preferred to take a seat in the economy section for a more realistic experience, yet the cabin ceases to exist after the first class partition.This made me wonder by Captain Sim only included the first class cabin, and why not build the whole thing right down to the tail section. Sure, it would cause a big lag on lower end machines, but it seems pointless only going half way and having lag anyway!I couldn't bear cruising for the next two and a half hours with the constant stutters, so, for the first time in many years, I opened up the fs2004 map window, and placed my aircraft a good 1000km away, just above off coast of Victoria, Australia, so I could get straight onto the descent and approach into Avalon. ATC cleared me down to FL200, then 12,000ft, 6000ft and eventually 2000ft as I crossed the city of Melbourne, and banked to 177 degrees to make my ILS approach into runway 18. The stutters were bearable at this point, and I was able to set the aircraft up for a pretty good landing (although not dead on the centreline thanks to a slight crosswind), using a combination of autopilot and manual controls. I flew the final few hundred feet just with the five ciruclar Cessna-style gauges on my screen (accessed in the 2D panel mode by "CTRL+W' pressed two times) which gave me better visibility and more frames back when I was on finals. I found it very easy to control the power on this aircraft, after having a lot of practice on the POSKY 737 and 767 models, making it easy for me to idle the throttles over the threshold, and slow down to a halt in plenty of time. During an instant replay of the final few seconds of my flight in spot view, the animations from the wing flex, engine reversers, flaps and spoilers that I had missed from the panel view because apparent and really pleased me. I guess the saying "you get what you pay for" is true, because I have never seen this level of quality in the exterior views of any of the freeware heavy airliners that I have installed.Once I taxied to the ramp and switched off all my systems, I had a play around with the animations control panel, which allows you to activate or deactivate certain exterior moving parts, rather than have to remember the thousands of key combinations. (273 custom 3D animations in the VC, 97 custom model animations, 40+ 2D systems pop-up panels) Finally, I opened up the first class cabin doors for my VIP passengers to disembark, but as there was no jetways at Avalon, my passengers had no way to leave the aircraft. I thought this odd that Captain Sim had refrained from including some animated, or even static, air stair animations that many other models on the market have.I then shut down the sim and had a scroll through the screenshots which I had taken during the flight, only to confirm my worst fears. The RNZAF textures appeared over sharpened in flight, with the windows, vinyl's and textures appearing grainy in spot view, unless completely zoomed in. I don't know if this is a Captain Sim issue, or if it is just my old graphics card, but the unwanted effect had been captured with my printscreen key as you can see above and below.Another thing that I had noticed on my screenshots, just as I have seen in real life, is that the nose shape of the B757 reminds me of an airbus. Most of Boeing's fleet tend to have a more pointy nose and stocky body, yet this aircraft looks like a half American- half European hybrid, which Captain Sim's modelers had captured perfectly, giving it a very graceful look in the virtual skies.Now after I have finished writing this article, I am able to summarize my opinions of the Captain Sim Boeing 757, from the viewpoint of a low-end computer user.What I did like:• ACE Tool to tailor settings for your own system• Awesome Sound Package• Amazing visual animations, both in the exterior and interior• Huge range of liveries included in download• Great wing flex effect• Easy to control switchboard for animations• Fuselage shape looks exactly right• RNZAF textures were just the right color (compared to other models which have it wrong)What I disliked:• Awful performance with low FPS• RNZAF textures appear over sharpened• Cabin VC did not extend for entire length of fuselageWhat I would like to see improved:• Addition of air stairs• A low performance model for low spec computers • A 10 trial version made available so that you can test it on your machineOf course I am biased, but lets face it, in the world of increasingly cheapening technology, most people can afford to run a better rig than me, so the points I have highlighted are properly not as valid as a year or so ago when my system was top of the line.My final verdict would be to score this aircraft 2.5 stars out of 5, purely because it is so very detailed, but runs so poorly on my system. I am sure that to a good 90% of you with decent computers, this product will please your socks off. No matter what sort of simmer you are, the eye candy lover or the smoother realistic experience sort of person, this aircraft has the potential to satisfy you in both ways.


PMDG FSX 747-400

PMDG 747-400X for FSX - Review By Scott Hickey

Dial-up users please note, loading times will vary depending on connection speed. Please be patient.

Overview & Background

There is a good line I like out of one of the videos on the Boeing website, that says “I don’t think there is a person today that would fail to recognise the Boeing 747”, and that that is very true, it is and will remain for a long time to come a defining presence of the aviation world. However I don’t think there is a flight simmer today that would fail to recognise the PMDG Boeing 747-400.

This has probably been one of the most wanted add-ons' for FSX since it’s release over a year ago, and there have been some that have got a little impatient with the team at PMDG as to why is was taking so long to “convert” the product from FS2004. Well it was absolutely worth the wait! They didn’t just convert it, they revolutionised it!

Visual model

From a first glance it looks similar to something like the Posky 747, but when you zoom in and take a good look at PMDG's model you see it is a whole lot more. There is a very accurate feel to it, like driving a European car, it just looks and feels like it is stuck together well. The flaps roll nicely out of the wing and things like the spoilers and control surfaces move smoothly rather than looking like they are on a ratchet. When you zoom into the wheel wells and engines you can see the detail right down to the rivets in the aircraft and the inner workings of the landing gear. This is one of these aircraft that make you actually want to do a walk around before each simulated flight. I think one of the coolest features of this 747 model over any other is the doors. They ALL open! Every passenger door, the cargo doors and the upper deck doors, I for one didn’t even know the upper deck doors could open unless it was an emergency, I have been proven wrong! Even the cockpit door and toilet door open in the VC.

On the Freighter it is the same story, apart from the advanced exterior animations that are a bit better with things like air stairs being able to be called to the aircraft and a tail brace/support being positioned under the tail. You can even call freight load vehicles to all of the cargo doors. And let’s not forget the iconic opening nose, which is also modeled in great detail, you can see the cargo inside as well as all the other cargo hold details. All of these door functions are controlled by an easy to use interface that is accessible by pressing the alt key when the sim is loaded up and clicking on Addons/PMDG/Keyboard Assignments

Overall it is a very simple conclusion, this is the BEST 747 model out there.

Panel and VC

For some this is what they would buy the PMDG 747-400X for, the most realistic 747-400 panel available. I have spent a lot a time looking around this panel, I hardly ever read a manual and just learn by using it and finding out things, in this case I knew it quite well from the FS2004 version though. One key difference with this panel is that in conventional panels to turn a knob or dial out you would move your cursor until you get a plus or minus sign, which can be kind of tricky finding the right spot. I think PMDG have solved this problem, in the 747’s case a left click is “numbers down” and a right click is “numbers up”. After that I am not sure what else to say, it is by far the best 747 panel and I think one of the pest panels and VC's out there. Similar to the LevelD 767-300 the PMDG 747-400X features a full push back sequence from when the captain contacts the tug driver to when the tug is disconnected, this is all done through a small window at the bottom of the radio stand. As well as key combinations to open up the pop up panel windows there is also click spots for all of them located in a window of there own above the panel.

Now onto the Virtual Cockpit, and I have used this phrase countless times now and I will use it again, the best out there. When compared to some of the other current payware aircraft available, The PMDG 747-400X VC beats them all hands down. Everything is modeled in 3D, and needless to say that everything that is clickable in the 2D is also in the VC as well, and the view from the virtual cockpit really feels like you are on top of a giant.

The FMC (Flight management computer) is very advanced and if you are not familiar with the Boeing style of these it can take a bit of reading and a fair amount of time to work it out. However if you have had experience with other Boeing sims it won’t take you as long because 90% of the systems are the same across all Boeing aircraft

Like most advanced products these days they PMDG have modeled a “cold and dark” set up which requires you to go through the entire process of starting the aircraft up from turning the battery on and aligning the IRS. Although this may take a lot more time to do, it is a rewarding feeling at the end of the flight to know you have worked it from the word go.

Finally PMDG have even gone to the detail of having a different panel for the 747 Freighter (as per real life) the only difference I noted was that the analogue backup gauges in the centre of the panel have been replaced with a digital display, as is the case on the real aircraft.

Flight Model, Flying the 747

I have a few hours flight time in real aircraft, of course nothing this big, but it does help to gauge “Does it feel like it’s flying or just bouncing through the air”. There are not to many aircraft for Flightsim today that have bad flight dynamics, naturally there are some that are better than others but they are becoming hard to differentiate between the higher end ones. The PMDG 747-400X definitely has a lot going for it though especially on rotation with a heavy load, it requires all the runway that a real one would. The only qualm I had was that I found on taxi that a lot of power (close on 25%) was required to taxi, and that was on a small load (15-20% fuel and a few passengers and cargo), however this may be real as I have never flown a 747 before. When she is fully loaded or even reasonably light I have found her a hand full in the air (as you would expect from 300,000lb’s of flying metal). I have found my self putting the autopilot on soon after departure and leaving it on sometimes even for a full autoland. Overall though she fly's like the monster of an aircraft she is.


This really is the FSX version of the aircraft that we have come to know and love. It is one of the greatest Flightsim aircraft available, and the fact that it was tested by 747 pilots will be one of the reasons that there is nothing that I can say that didn’t look, feel or work correctly. Everything works like a Swiss watch on both the freighter and standard passenger versions. Helped by the fact that the FS9 version could be considered as a BETA so all the bugs were worked out by the time the FSX version came along. This is a true heavy metal lover’s aircraft and you get the real benefit from flying long haul in it, it is not one of those aircraft that you just jump in and go, every flight requires time and effort just like flying the real thing. But the combination of everything from the Visual Model to the panel and down to being able to talk with the pushback tug driver make this the 'Queen of the simming Skies'.
Like LevelD's 767 already reviewed on this website, the PMDG 747-400X is one of those landmark products developed that truly start to realize the potential of the sim they were developed for. At the time we said we did not believe the LevelD 767 could be beaten, we were wrong. Built from the ground up as a true FSX simulator of this extraordinary aircraft, the PMDG 747-400X 'Queen of the skies' is a must have addition for those who enjoy heavy metal flying, and the level of detail and systems accuracy this package provides. The only thing users will need to consider is the price tag, at around NZ$75 this may be a little steep for an add-on, having said that the download does come with the 400F included, so at around $35 an aircraft that's not bad going for the quality. We give this package our top X rating, the 'Golden X'.