PMDG 777 has a reputation of being among the best planes for FSX. What is it that makes it so good? Learn from my huge review. Today: #1 First Impressions.
“Manuals” – plural. There are several documents that add to almost four thousand pages. That is the biggest manual I have ever seen for a Flight Simulator aircraft. 3979 pages include manuals, checklists and tutorials. Come back to C-Aviation.net tomorrow – my next text will cover the manuals and explain how to use them.
PMDG planes are managed through the Operations Center. It’s an external application for aircraft configuration and update. It’s also used to download and install additional liveries and improved sounds.
I especially like that I do not have to go through aircraft.cfg files to add new liveries. With this simple app I can easily choose from tens of liveries and get them installed in my FSX in the matter of seconds.
Multiple variants one click away
The configurator allows me to choose the exact version of Boeing 777 that I want to fly. By default only a PMDG livery is installed for each model I have (777-200, 777F and 777-300). At first I selected the liveries of airlines that I like – Air France, Delta, KLM, Qatar, Air New Zealand, BA, El Al for passenger model, Fed Ex for freighter and Lufthansa for both passenger and freighter model. OP Center automatically downloaded the liveries from PMDG servers and installed them into my FSX.
I have already studied the real world 777 manuals and I feel like home in this cockpit – I can focus on the impression it makes. It’s beautiful! I am very sensitive to all tiny defects that some FSX planes have and I can not find a single flaw here. The model is very accurate, textures are sharp and all texts are clear and readable. I have already got used to FSX displays that are a little pixelated and I am surprised how fine the lines and symbols on 777’s displays are.
When I was configuring my EZDOK camera I moved my eyepoint around to find good positions for several views I set. I could not find a point where the view would be spoilt by model defects – even in places that are usually neglected by aircraft developers.
PMDG 777 represents a fairly new plane but there are already little signs of use. This is consistent with my idea of the 777 – it’s a modern aircraft and it’s highly automated. Scratches and visible damage would not correspond with it’s image. In a few years this may change – plastic parts wear and some amount of dirt may collect in places that are hard to clean. I will expand on this in the part focused on the cockpit in a few days.
PMDG designed mouse cursor that changes color and shape depending on where you point your mouse. With different shapes of cursor-hand the aircraft tells what knob or button the mouse is over. It’s very handy in dealing with selectors that are grouped together. Like the heading selector that has an outer ring for selecting bank angle limit and the SEL pushbutton on top – the shape and the color of hand tells me which one am I pointing at.
Unlike the real world pilots – I can not operate all the switches and knobs with my hands so it is very important for me that the plane is easy to operate with the mouse. Thanks to different cursors – it is very easy in 777. Closed hand – I grabbed something and I can pull it out. Open hand – I can turn the selector. Left mouse button click turns the knob left, right – right (or clockwise). Scroll works intuitively – up – increase or right or clockwise. Down – decrease… Just as it should be… but a recently tested aircraft of a different developer shows that is is not always the case – I never knew how to click a button or a switch. In this case I have no doubts. The cursor changes it’s color if there are two selectors grouped together. It is white for the primary selector and gray for the secondary.
Functional design goes further – if I click on the screen – it opens a 2d panel. Again – it is almost a standard solution but there are exceptions in other add-ons. Fortunately – there are no exceptions here.
There is another “standard” solution that is not that common as I think it should – keyboard input into the CDU scratchpad. Useful – isn’t it? I remember how I struggled with Avro RJ’s CDU keyboard trying to enter the route. In PMDG 777 a single click on a scratchpad allows me to use my own keyboard to enter waypoints or data. That is nice!
I like the datalink feature of FMC – it is very efficient (I plan my flights in PFPX).
Back to the clickspots (I sorry if you find this text a little chaotic – it follows my notes with only minor changes to give you my real first impressions). The clickspots – there are a few hidden clickspots that give access to buttons that are hard to reach – for example a screw on the glareshield serves as AP/AT disconnect button and TO/GA button (depending on how you click it). Clever.
When I hover my mouse over this screw – a tooltip shows up explaining which button I need to click to get the result I wish to see.
Similarly to other advanced FSX add-on planes fuel, payload and additional options are managed in an aircraft menu (do not set it with FSX fuel and payload menu). To access it I have to use CDU’s MENU button. To enable it in a cold and dark aircraft – press and hold MENU button for a few seconds.
Apart from fuel, passengers and cargo settings the menu gives the following options:
- external connections
Pushback screen offers a choice of direction, distance and turn angle. Pilot can also select voice or text communication or both. Ground crew requires interaction so listen to what they say carefully.
From the outside
The first impression is great and then it only gets better. This is my first serious interaction with PMDG planes and I was a little surprised. I expected good looks but I thought that in such a large plane the quality has to be a bit lower. Not here – 777 is excellent.
When I look from the distance it is the livery what catches my eye. It is well designed and has great shades and specular lighting. When compared to other planes available – the differences are subtle but noticeable. That probably explains why the 777 is such a popular plane among screenshot artists.
The closer I get the more details come into view. Small parts of brakes and flap mechanisms can be easily distinguished. Red glow was apparent when I looked at brakes after emergency braking at rejected takeoff.
If you look at them from both sides the engines show the parts that would be visible in the real ones.
When in flight the plane is very sleek – as it should be – after all it’s a highly aerodynamic aircraft. The work done by PMDG shows much better at the gate – when the cargo is being loaded or passengers board. All doors and cargo doors can be opened. All the external connections (electric power, compressed air and air conditioning) have suitable carts, cables and hoses modeled.
W remark about the screens I show here – cargo loaders and transporters belong to GSX add-on – not the 777.
How it flies?
Before I finished this text I have flown from Poland to Madeira twice and I have completed several flights across the Caribbean and two from Europe to Tanzania. I have also flown a few training flights around several airports to get used to 777’s navigation and autopilot.
You can fly this plane practically without touching the yoke. Theoretically if you set the FMC on the ground – the autopilot will guide you to your destination and will land this plane (provided the airport is sufficiently equipped). I flew like this once – it’s boring… But the plane handles like it should.
I often change my route when flying – like I was vectored by the ATC or I was allowed to fly directly to a different waypoint that I had programmed as my next in FMC. If you have done it in any other plane with a modern FMC – you will find it quite easy.
The most interesting part of flying this plane was hand-flying it on approaches and departures. It’s a pleasure to fly! Shooting approaches manually or flying circling approach is quite easy if you have some experience. But keep in mind that it is a large plane and there will be a huge difference between an empty 777-200 and fully loaded -300 model. In the last case – you should really pay attention to what is going on around you.
I still remember that when I first saw the 777 on TV they were showing it’s wings and demonstrating how flexible they are. Now I have a 777 in my FSX and I can clearly see the wing flexing when I turn or begin ascent.
Soon in parts 2, 3 and 4
Part #2 focuses on the manuals – if you do not know how to use the 4 volumes of 777 manuals – read it. I will also expand the description of Operations Center.
Part #3 covers my impressions from the cockpit.
Part #4 deals with startup process and it’s simulation.
That is not all. Currently eight parts of this review are completed and I am not done with this plane yet.
Add-ons you can see in this text: