In 1976, I was eight years old and ready for my first trip to the United States. I remember standing in the departure lounge at London’s Heathrow Airport staring at a beautiful blue and white Pan Am 707 through the huge terminal windows. As if it were only yesterday, I remember being greeted at the main cabin door by the Pan Am boarding music: “Pan Am; We fly the world, the way the world wants to fly!” (Played over and over again until it was permanently imprinted onto my brain.)
Standing at the door was a vision of beauty, undoubtedly one of Pan Am’s finest and most beautiful flight attendants. With a smile and an outstretched hand she read my mind and whisked me away to the cockpit. I could hardly contain my excitement as she introduced me to the pilots and I was given the grand tour of the flight deck.
Soon it was time for departure and the flight across the Atlantic was stunning from my windowed vantage point just behind the left wing. The flight to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport was smooth as glass and my only objection throughout the whole flight was my mother refusing me a can of beer of my very own! But I digress.
As we left our 707 behind and walked through the terminal at KJFK, I remember passing the flight crew: The captain was tall, distinguishingly graying and square-jawed. The first officer was young and handsome, and of course, the flight attendants each with legs longer than I was tall, were as goddesses as they drew the admiration of all in their wake.
It was a time when one dressed up to board an aircraft; flight attendants were beautiful, pilots were admired as role-models and there was a distinct pomp and circumstance to airline travel. Oh, how that time is so different from today’s $50 round trip airfares, scantily clad teenagers, mother’s neglecting their screaming (and embarrassingly spoiled) children and flight crews reduced to nothing more than bus drivers and waitresses.
From a pilot’s perspective, the 707 was among the last of the steam gauged, stick and rudder, fly by map and pencil, plink the fuel gauge with your finger so the needle reads properly, intercontinental airliners. By today’s triple redundant fly-by-wire, ring-laser gyro stabilized, sit and look / do not touch, glass cockpit standards, the Boeing 707 is undoubtedly a dinosaur. But in its hay-day the 707-320, one of the world's first international jet airliners, was a sight to behold.
The 707 built a strong character as well as it did a strong forearm. You flew it, it did not fly you. The flight engineer’s brain was your flight management computer and the only time you saw a moving map display was when the flight engineer spilled coffee on the map and waved it around trying to dry it off! Glass cockpit? Sure, the 707 cockpit had lots of glass in its cockpit…they were called WINDOWS!
Admittedly, my career as a Microsoft Flight Simulator Pilot has been in new glass cockpit airliners such as the A320, 737NG, 767-300, 747-400 and the venerable Triple 7. The opportunity to step back in time and recreate my first international flight in the same fashion as the handsome PAN AM flight crew from so long ago was too much for me to pass up. I knew that there would be quite a steep learning curve to transition backwards from electronics to steam gauges, but Captain Sim purports to deliver the most accurate rendition of the 707 aircraft available for MSFS. Of course, I would be hard pressed to pass up this opportunity.
With the challenge ahead of me, I am ready to take the skies as I did in 1976 in this review of the Just Flight (Captain Sim) 707 Professional.
Just Flight’s 707 Professional was delivered via DVD ROM. The files included on the disk total a whopping 1.48 Gigabytes of data. For that much data I was expecting to install a full motion simulator, complete with virtual reality flight attendants.
Just Flight’s DVD ROM disk spawned an auto run session and after the usual language and install directory prompts, I was met with a very confusing interface. The interface listed scores of demo software titles, apparently available from Just Flight. The problem, however, was that it is confusing whether I was continuing forward with the 707 via the install button, or I was installing one of the demo titles via the install button. As it turns out, if you do not highlight any of the demo titles, they will not be installed.
I am of firm belief that this option menu belongs at the END of the installation and NOT at the beginning, as one is generally focused on the installation of the main software title and not in the extras aimed at driving more business to the publisher.
The rest of the installation went without issue and it was time to take a stroll to my 707 flight deck to have a look around. Upon loading Flight Simulator, I was surprised to be greeted by a blue JUST FLIGHT logo in advance of my regular Flight Simulator 2004 startup screen. Just Flight’s startup logo is no more than a pop-up add for their company which I am forced to watch each time a start MSFS. This may be a small issue to most, but I can say, in NO uncertain terms, that I am not pleased with this unwelcome addition to my sim because this is not a freeware title supported by advertising!
A few years ago, I was introduced to the Wilco A320 Pilot-in-Command which forced one to utilize the virtual cockpit. I had not used the virtual cockpit prior to this and after experiencing a fully functional “VC”, I’ve not flown with the two dimensional panel since. My full intention was to utilize the 707 Professional “VC” without a thought to the 2D panel. Alas, it was not to be.
The 707 Professional does include a “VC”, however, it is not functional in the true dynamic sense of the word. There are click-spots for the radios and most main instruments but sadly none of the overhead or second officer’s panel, is functional. One cannot fly exclusively from the “VC” in the 707. At this stage in maturity of FS 2004 products, the “VC” is no longer an oddity, it is a must have for many virtual pilots who have the computing horsepower to utilize its enormous capabilities, as well as its superior spatial orientation offering. Furthermore, in all newer high-fidelity releases it simply is the status quo and is as, or more, functional that the 2D panel itself.
Still, a photorealistic panel does not a high-fidelity airliner make! The proof of the panel is in the functionality. Not only was I pleasantly surprised, I do recall a “WOW” escaping my lips when I realized that probably 99% of all the buttons and switches on the flight deck not only move, but are FULLY functional. So much for jumping in and taking off! I believe that the only things on the flight deck that Captain Sim didn’t render were circuit breakers that pop in and out. Very impressive!
The overhead panel has one hundred and two switches, the second officer’s panels over two hundred switches, gauges, and lights, and even the APU panel includes twelve working switches. All summed up, there are over three hundred working systems, switches and indicators to be monitored on the 707 Professional’s flight deck. I am quite certain that one can spend one’s time in the cockpit practicing procedures, never leaving the ground, and not be bored. I am also convinced that the 707 Professional, in true keeping with its title, could be used as a training tool for 707 professionals.
Switching between the different views of the 2D cockpit is performed via a detailed icon bar that be can hidden. I highly suggest utilizing this bar or one will have to remember quite a few keystroke combinations.
The final icing on the proverbial cake, is the functional weather / traffic radar complete with TCAS. Rendered in its true-to-life monochrome CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) fashion, it is a very accurate bit of detail and speaks to the level of research and commitment displayed in this add-on. If the weather radar is the icing of the cake, then the cherry would be the fuel dump gauge. The gauge is highly functional and triggers a visible fuel dump sequence that one can experience in external view.
Checking the panel lighting in the flight simulator night environment, I can say that I was under whelmed. Turning on the navigation lights bathes the flight deck in a warm red glow that provided too much illumination for a typical night flight. I think that the days of cockpit lighting slaved to the nav light switch are long gone, as is the inability to illuminate the logo separately. The myriad of lighting buttons on the overhead panel, while clickable, provided no noticeable customization of the light settings. There is also an auxiliary map lighting function which fully illuminates the cockpit. For typical night operations, which is performed in the dark except for the gauge backlights, the 707 was simply too brightly illuminated. I can honestly say that the panel and aircraft lighting are among the weakest points of the 707 Professional package.
One thing which I found a little annoying, was the inability to read most of the descriptions on the overhead panel. Again, while I enjoy its perspective, it is impossible to zoom in as you would in a virtual cockpit to get a better look. I found myself referring to the manual many times to find out what the function was for a switch or button because the wording above was illegible.
Despite some minor shortcomings, it should be quite apparent that this aircraft is not for the faint of heart and the term “RTFM” (Read The “Fun” Manual) solidly applies here. In short, you don’t read, you don’t fly. This fact is amplified by the fact that the 707 REQUIRES three flight deck crew members to fly the aircraft. In the 707 Professional there is only one; e.g. you. If it all becomes too overwhelming, one click of the working port-side window handle and the captains cockpit window slides open to let in some fresh air…or so you can jump out and run screaming out onto the ramp, whichever one prefers!
And speaking of RTFM, the 707 Professional does come with a professionally printed and bound manual that immerses you in a 707 crash course (no pun intended) in sixty-four pages. It does include some performance charts, a full illustration of the hundreds of switches, lights and gauges but it does not go into the total depth necessary for one to glean a 100% understanding of the aircraft and its systems. The manual leaves a sizable hole in one’s required knowledge base, even having read it from cover to cover. For instance, it was left out in the printed manual that the 707-320ADV is not equipped with an APU and must use the ground “huffer” for startup. While this was pointed out in the downloadable manual, it took me over an hour of searching for the APU to realize this fact! As a whole, I found the manual to be the second most disappointing thing after the non-usable virtual cockpit.
Recreating my first international flight from Heathrow to JFK was already proving to be somewhat of a bear and I had not even left the gate. Being the stickler for realism that I am, I actually had to delay the writing of this review to purchase high altitude enroute and trans-Atlantic maps and charts. If I am going to do it, I am going to do it exactly as they did it in 1976. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, the 707 Professional, mercifully, does include connectivity to the default FS 2004 GPS (heaven forbid), but I would consider its use to be abject cowardice under fire, punishable by death.
The 707 Professional package generously includes more than one visual model: 707-320ADV passenger and freighter, E3A AWACS, VC-137C, and 707-320B. There are also nineteen liveries included in the package with more available for free download at the Captain Sim website. In today’s charge by model and livery paradigm, I am pleased to see that some developers provide a “value add” for their customers.
The visual model is an absolute work of art! The attention to detail is absolutely phenomenal and I will say, without any equivocation, that the model is spot on from every conceivable angle.
The visual model looks and feels unmistakably like a Boeing 707 in every sense of the word and I would defy anyone to find a better visual model offered from any developer. Sure, you may find other beautifully accurate models, but you will find none better. For instance, at full throttle and reverse thrust, supplementary air input doors open around the circumference of each engine nacelle to suck in even more air than just the input nozzles alone. It simply must be seen to be believed.
I could find it easy to write this entire review on the external visual model alone and, like a beautiful woman, I found it hard to take my eyes off of her. So, since I am forced to move on I will sum her all up in one word: “spectacular!”
One of the most important senses that enhance our flight sim suspension of disbelief is that of sound. The vast majority of us have flown on various aircraft and the deep interest that we share means that we tend to internalize our experience. Granted that experience is from the main cabin, which tends to differ from that in the cockpit, however, it gives us a neural imprint that we try to mimic when we enter the virtual world of flight simulation.
The 707 Professional greets us with a cold and dark flight deck on startup. There is the distant growl of the APU cart, affectionately known as the “huffer” sitting outside ready to provide power to our old Boeing. From the flight engineer’s panel one can then begin to bring this old gal to life. This is done by connecting the ground power and transferring that power to the aircraft's external power bus. We are greeted with the sound of the electrical system coming to life with a hum. Additionally, tactile feedback from our switches gives us a solid “click” when selected.
Turning on the passenger signs gave me a distinctly different “ding” than I am used to with current aircraft. It is a harsher sound indicative of the almost ancient nature of this aircraft. The developers, again, spared no attention to detail by giving us the actual ding from a 707, not a recycled sound. I am sure the majority of us would not have known the difference, but the developer would not have been satisfied. Again, this shows the pure love put into this aircraft.
Assuming that this rendition of the Boeing 707 is equipped with the Pratt & Whitney JT3D turbofans, the developer immerses the user in the sound of these less refined brute force machines being awakened with jet fuel and flame. Modern jet airliners are equipped with turbofans which are designed with a high-bypass ratio, but the modern sources of thrust are two generations hence. The modern high-bypass ratio allows a significant amount of intake air to bypass the jet engine thus making them very quiet as well as efficient. However, the JT3Ds, which were retrofitted on the 707s in the early 60s from the original JT3 turbojets (gas guzzling, billowing chimneys of deafening thunder), are a first generation turbofan design and still produce a considerable amount of noise and smoke. The end result is a deafeningly loud, pollution generating engine that dispatches any hint of the subtlety that new generation turbofans gracefully exude. From the time the JT3Ds grudgingly come to life until they have stabilized and are prepared to deliver over ten thousand pounds of thrust each, the experience is totally convincing and immersive. And if one is brave enough to go to an outside view you will be greeted with the brutish whine that will ensure that your hearing ability is diminished forever after.
One of my biggest pet peeves when one tries to judge an aircraft is to declare: “it feels right or wrong”. Well, since there is no tactile feedback from the yoke (or joystick), no sense of motion and the vast majority of the community have not flown the respective aircraft in real life, on what basis is “it feels right, or feels wrong” based? Usually, that means it flies (or doesn’t fly) by the numbers. Well, in the real world the numbers become increasingly extrapolated the older the aircraft gets, and each aircraft has its own personality that carries with it certain quirks inherent to many airframes.
In the end “it feels right” is
about as accurate a measure as declaring that the sun revolves around the
earth because, at first glance, that feels
Lined up with runway 9R at EGLL, I gave the old gal throttles to the approximate takeoff EPR setting at which point the second officer would trim the throttles up to the EPR peg setting while the captain focuses on the take-off roll and rotation. From this point on, the second officer would take on the duties of manipulating the subsequent throttle settings for each mode of flight while the pilot flying would pitch the aircraft to maintain a constant speed setting. Auto throttles you ask? Sure, there are auto throttles, his name is Second Officer Bob.
Rotation at Vr was smooth as silk and with the light load for the flight to JFK, she had no trouble nosing into the night sky. Maintaining V2+20 was no problem as the pitch access was precise and crisp. I also noticed that the 707 did not fly like it was attached to rails. As we climbed into the British night sky, she responded to the wind buffeting her old body and positive control input was required to stay on heading.
Hand flying this first generation of intercontinental airliner was a real treat as we climbed to our initial departure level of 12,000 feet. She felt light, which was congruent to the light load for this evening's flight. She did not feel like a rocket but she didn’t feel like a 737 either and I found that a broad smile had crept across my face as we were given our final cruise altitude by ATC of FL 350.
Engaging the autopilot forces one to relearn what we know of modern-day avionics. The analog autopilot on the 707 handles pitch, bank and heading, however, there is no selectable VS hold, heading select, VNAV or LNAV. The pilot flying must pitch the aircraft to the desired angle and engage the hold at that point. To bank the aircraft, there is a bank knob which allows the pilot to select how much bank is required but he must also deselect the bank angle manually when the heading is reached and then engage the heading hold switch once close to the heading bug. It seemed to me that it took almost as much work to fly with the autopilot during departure and approach as it did to simply hand fly the aircraft! Still, aircraft reactions to the autopilot were smooth and predictable. There was a real sense of the aircraft responding to the commands of the autopilot and not being jerked around the sky.
As I settled into cruise I felt like I was flying a 707, right or wrong, I liked what I was experiencing and at the end of the day, that is why we bother with this hobby in the first place.
Descending into John F. Kennedy International took great attention to detail and the pilot load factor was the highest that I’ve experienced in any FS 2004 aircraft. Doing the work of three aviation professionals is no easy task and the Boeing 707 Professional package would do well to have a virtual first and / or second officer on board to fill in much of the duties. However, the sense of accomplishment in flying a manual Canarsie STAR into JFK was overwhelming.
So, what are the downsides you may ask? Yes, there are some bugs. Such as the never ending rain phenomena on the virtual cockpit windows and I also had problems manually starting the engines without CTRL-E even though I followed the manual to the letter. There are reportedly other operational bugs in play according to other forums and there is clamor for a patch of the current version. While there were no showstoppers in my time with the 707 Professional, I don’t presume to say what other simmer's tolerance level for bugs are, but know that there are a few that do exist (and this review will NOT be the forum to debate them). But, point me to ANY complex FS2004 aircraft that is absolutely bug free at this time. Of course, that is no excuse, but it is the reality of today’s FS releases.
At the end of the day, I absolutely enjoyed the 707 Professional. While it is not my cup of tea, preferring the new EFIS flight decks and modern airliners, those of you who demand steam driven, stick and rudder realism would be doing yourselves a great disservice if this title were not counted as one of the aircraft with a home on your hard drive.
The 707 is ground breaking in many respects and takes the 2D cockpit as far as I’ve seen in ANY title released for FS2004. The Boeing 707 Professional absolutely has the makings of an aircraft deserving of an Avsim Award. Unfortunately, the status quo for all new aircraft is a fully functional 3D cockpit (like them or not) and the Boeing 707 is lacking in this respect. Also, the fact that there is no true cockpit lighting controls, some of the 2D cockpit is impossible to see, and the lack of the necessary girth to the manual doesn’t allow me to make that recommendation at this time.
I acknowledge that
Captain Sim as a company stirs some varied emotions; from love to hate
and all in between. But there is pure love in the modeling of
this aircraft and it shows. There is heart and soul in every switch and gauge.
Love or hate the company, you MUST respect the work of an artist, and in
this reviewer’s opinion, the Boeing 707 Professional IS a work of art
(albeit a work of art in progress.)
|What I Like About the 707 Professional|
|What I Don't Like About the 707 Professional|
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