In 2004, when the Boeing 787 program was launched and offered to airlines, Airbus, its only remaining and fierce competitor, already took over the coveted No. 1 spot in commercial aircraft sales. However, amidst recent delays in the A380 and A350 programs, and scandals shaking the European consortium, Boeing seemed poised to regain the No. 1 spot in 2006. 2007 looks even more promising for Boeing as the next generation of twin aisle, twin-engine airplanes is about to take to the skies.
According to Boeing’s official web site:
“ The 787-8 Dreamliner will carry 210 - 250 passengers on routes of 8,000 to 8,500 nautical miles (14,800 to 15,700 kilometers), while the 787-9 Dreamliner will carry 250 - 290 passengers on routes of 8,600 to 8,800 nautical miles (15,900 to 16,300 km). A third 787 family member, the 787-3 Dreamliner, will accommodate 290 - 330 passengers and be optimized for routes of 3,000 to 3,500 nautical miles (5,550 to 6,500 km).
… the 787 will provide airlines with unmatched fuel efficiency, resulting in exceptional environmental performance. The airplane will use 20 percent less fuel for comparable missions than today's similarly sized airplane. It will also travel at speeds similar to today's fastest wide bodies, Mach 0.85. Airlines will enjoy more cargo revenue capacity. Passengers will also see improvements with the new airplane, from an interior environment with higher humidity to increased comfort and convenience…
… as much as 50 percent of the primary structure -- including the fuselage and wing -- on the 787 will be made of composite materials
… 36 customers have placed orders and commitments for 456 airplanes from five continents of the world, making this the most successful launch of a new commercial airplane in Boeing's history. ”
For airplane enthusiasts this will be an exciting year. We can look forward to the first flight of the 787 as well as the first revenue flights for the A380. For the flight sim enthusiast, we can expect SP1 for FSX and DX10 rewrite. Things will start looking different in the virtual skies as well.
Unlike the big airlines, flyers of the FS2004 and FSX skies are not burdened by the rising jet-fuel prices for their rigs. Flight sim folks also don’t have to worry about the threats to the industry from the low cost competitors and lunatic terrorists (while virtually flying, of course). We do have our own problems, however.
If you have priced the new DX10 cards and latest processors needed to run our newest version of the sim, then tried to justify that to your “governing board” - be it your spouse, your parents, or whoever-signs-the-check - you’ll see the type of headaches real world airlines are facing. The rising costs of upgrades, be it software or hardware, and incompatibility issues we may encounter while transplanting our favorite add-ons to the new FSX platform, can be on some micro-minute scale compared to what the real world of aviation is going through. Exciting!
In the real world of airlines and aviation industry, they have the real planes and strict rules for flying them. On the other hand, they don’t have the small perks and luxuries we enjoy. For example, when you purchase the “Fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner” from ABACUS you will get both the FS2004 and FSX version. Sort of like XYZ Airlines getting the 737-400 and -700 from Boeing for one low price - well not really - but you catch my drift.
Installation and Documentation
I was provided with the download link straight from ABACUS, and my personalized serial number. There were two executable files, one for each version of the sim. Double click on the file, enter the registration info, and the installer does the rest. Very simple, quick and efficient.
After the installation, the read-me file comes up. The information consists on how to load the pre-made flights and how to certify the new gauge in FSX. Nothing to it, very simple and an effective way of letting the customers know about the new FSX gauge trick. It also provides the link to ABACUS' tech support, and I will have more on that later.
The first time the FSX loads the 787, it will display the message about the trusted gauge, you click YES and off you go. Nonetheless, before I went flying, and wanting to be as thorough as I could, I decided to look at the provided documentation that came with the software. Click on START/PROGRAMS/ABACUS/FLY the787/ and you will get several PDF files for your reading pleasure.
The first one I opened and printed was for the ABACUS-own simplified FMC system. Easy to read and easy to follow…a little too easy to be in the same sentence as the word FMC. Next, I thought I would open up some aircraft systems or tech spec’s file, but to my surprise there weren't any. The only other manuals that came with my installation were the PDF files for several VA’s. These PDF’s describe the VA’s history, operations and destinations, nothing about the 787. “Oh well,” I thought “it must be hidden somewhere else”. Unfortunately, there are no other manuals that I was able to find on my computer. Hmmm? Not a showstopper for me, but it seems rather strange for this payware airplane.
For me, one of the most important aspects of flying an airplane on the computer is the immersion you get from the fluid motion of the sim while taking flight. Yes, the eye candy is important, as are all other aspects such as flight modeling, scenery, little moving cars (remember the FS2000? I always got the kick out of flying around Meigs and seeing those tiny lights zoom about on the roads), but if I get stutters and Rocky-Choppy Horror Picture Show, half the fun is gone (did I mention FS2000? Or was it the FSX?).
Keeping frames in mind, the first thing I checked out on this airplane is the performance I got on my computer. Using the spot view in FSX, the ABACUS bird actually faired 4-5 FPS better then the default 737-800.
The exterior of the plane is modeled based on the drawings, since the real plane is still some time from being “glued” together. If one compares the artist’s renderings of the Boeing from their official web site, to what you get in the flight sim, the exterior model is spot on. It actually looks better in FS then it does on the Boeing Co. web site, but that is my opinion, yours may be different.
All surfaces are nicely textured, and while the windows did seem a bit large at first, the real Boeing will have the largest windows of any airliner in production today. In addition, the flaps, ailerons, stabilizers, gear and doors all open or move as you would expect, but the spoilers seemed to move quite abruptly when deployed. One nice bonus (but unfortunately undocumented) you will see in spot view, is that if you use the wing fold command your airplane will be surrounded by ground handling vehicles and baggage carts. Don't forget to open your cargo doors though, since those conveyor belts enter inside once you ask for this service.
Overall, the exterior is very well done and designers should be congratulated on their effort. The plane comes in various color schemes, and Virtual Airlines are well represented with some great liveries. Real airlines should take a clue from virtuals. On the other hand, only two real world airlines are represented, ANA and Iceland Air, in addition to Boeing’s own factory color scheme. That should not be a problem though, since ABACUS included a white, non-painted version, also known as paint-kit.
Finally, there is the wing. It is bent upwards, and it looks unique on Boeing renderings and definitely resembles some of the most gracious feathered fliers from nature. Dihedral on this thing is so enormous that the wingtip is actually over the top of the fuselage when viewed from the side. Whether this will actually make the production remains to be seen, but again ABACUS designers have done well to model what BOEING is yet to manufacture.
On the inside, ABACUS' model comes with everything you would expect from an FS airplane today. There is a 2D cockpit, Virtual Cockpit, and passenger cabin. ABACUS used the new camera system in FSX wisely to place additional views on the inside and placement of the cameras outside is also well done. In FS2004, you will have to use the free F1 view utility from Flight1 to move in the back, or if you have it, Active Camera will do. There is, however, only one model, so you do not get the VC or non-VC wing-view only options. No problem though, since this plane is extremely easy on frame rates.
The 2D panel looks a bit different in the two versions and here is where things get a little bit, shall we say, disappointing? In FS2004, the gauges are big yet they belong to the FS2002 era if not older. Hardly a way to treat a brand new plane. The MFD is stock, and the ND is one of those Vector Gauges that are well done and still look good, but lack some of the unique functionality we come to expect with payware airplane.
What is most disappointing is that ND does not display the route in FS2004, and you have to rely on your default GPS 500 for your magic magenta line. EICAS is opened by pressing an icon and covers up the ND, although it is off a few pixels and not placed well. Moreover, if you like to spread your panel over additional monitors, the EICAS does not size well and has a huge black background.
You can forget about undocking the EICAS and moving it to your second or third panel. That is unless you are willing to play with the panel.cfg, but that is beyond the scope of this review. The info on EICAS is generic and limited to what you would get in the default 777 (FS2004), just as on all other instruments. The 2D panel bitmap should have been done better, and while looking somewhat like the BOEING in artist’s pictures, the whole “feel” of the panel is very basic.
There is also the overhead pop-up panel, and while most is original, it offers only the limited systems manipulation on par with the default FS2004 airliners. The throttle control panel is next, and it sports wood grain handles for spoilers and throttle, but not much else.
In the FSX version things are different, but not necessarily better, although again the panel is not FPS hungry. The MFD and ND are borrowed from the 737 and the EICAS comes straight from the CRJ. Here, however, you do get the magenta line, as you do in the default airplane. But I dare you to figure out how to display only certain elements such as VOR’s or intersections - no labels anywhere.
To finish it off, there is also a Heads-Up Display that is permanently on and is part of the main 2D cockpit panel. The info displayed on the HUD is the speed, altitude, heading and artificial horizon with bars. You cannot adjust the brightness, nor can you move or remove it. I did find the HUD useful in VC and have grown to like it on final approach, but again, it left me wishing for more functionality or adjustability.
The Virtual Cockpit
In the FS2004 VC, the HUD frame is there but there is no display on it. After examining the panel.cfg in notepad for both FSX and FS2004, I realized that one section of the VC was missing in FS2004. I copied it from FSX to the FS2004 panel and got back my HUD in VC in FS2004.
I contacted ABACUS tech support about this and other issues and they responded promptly. They also informed me that since this is a new product, they are planning an update (no dates yet) in which some of my concerns might be addressed. In FSX, the HUD works in VC just fine.
All buttons are clickable and adjustable, although the overhead needs a better 3D appearance for lights switches. The switches are just too flat and you cannot tell whether they are on or off. There is also no EICAS display in VC, so you will keep switching between the 2D and VC to check the trim numbers for example.
Some love them, some hate them, and I just wish that real cabins would be as empty when I'm on a real flight.
In FSX, thanks to the new camera system, you can quickly get there and look around, order a drink, look over the wing, and admire the spaciousness of Ffirst Class as well as Economy. If the real world airlines make their cabins so roomy, I will never fly anything but the 787.
Seriously now, the cabin is there, not too detailed, decent, but also not too demanding on your system. It also ends abruptly right after the mid section bulkhead.
If you still remember the Flight Assignment A.T.P. by subLogic, you may recall a 737-200 and a 767 modeled in there. In the manual, authors pointed out that the 767 had its performance tuned for economy unlike the spirited gas guzzling “guppy” (why do I remember that?). If you flew that sim by the numbers provided, you could really tell the difference between the two models.
The same could probably be said for the 787 vs. the airliners of the 80’s. I found out that if you load the 787 to its Max.-Take-Off-Weight, it will take some time to get up to speed. You can forget about those 5000+ fpm climbs we sometimes saw in 737’s. Designers at ABACUS could only guess here and I found that the performance is different from the default airplanes and requires some planning.
BOEING says that the plane will fly at Mach .85 which I have achieved, but only after the fuel was burned off, and I was able to climb to flight level 370. I liked the flight model overall, but also had some concerns about slow speed climbs, and due to lack of any info from BOEING and ABACUS, could have only guessed the final approach speeds.
The super-duper wing also created extra lift on approach, which caused me to float, and float, and float…but that is what the wing is supposed to do. If they just gave the virtual pilots some numbers to fly by, this flight model could just turn out OK – otherwise it's a guessing game. And yeah, since I was not testing the real plane, I had a go and tried to do a barrel roll ala Tex Johnson in the dash 80 (707 prototype), which due to my inadequate experience, lack of sufficient height above the ground, and a myriad of contributing factors, resulted in an unfortunate encounter with Mother Earth - several times over.
Panel - Take two: the ABACUS simplified FMC
If you enjoy programming the FMC and entering all the info manually prior to the flight, then adjusting, monitoring and fiddling with it during the flight is not for you. If you like to read pages and pages of the manual dedicated to just one of the functions of the FMC, then this one is also not for you.
You can enter the flight plan manually in this FMC as well, but why? The “simplified” ABACUS FMC comes with a nice user interface that resembles the real thing. It also requires you to enter some limited info, but this instrument is geared more toward the “lets-go-flying” portion of our well-diversified community. One nice thing about it is that you can load up the MSFS flight plan with only a few clicks, and you are ready to go.
Not very realistic, but simple and not overwhelming for some of us who don’t have the time, the patience, or just the sheer will to learn how to operate yet another gadget. You can also turn on the autopilot from the interface and monitor the distance and time to each of the way points, as well as activate any leg of your flight should the nice controllers let you go direct.
You cannot, however, set the altitude crossing for each way point, so the VNAV capability of this unit is limited to what you have set as your generic altitude. Of course, you can change it on the FMC during the flight, but you can also do it on your autopilot panel as well. There are no speeds, weights and runway conditions, nor are there any N1 settings, so you are on your own and reliant on your autopilot panel settings.
Unlike the default GPS unit that comes with the sim, you cannot load the approach as you get closer to your destination, and sometimes when you make changes on the FMC, the autopilot heading/GPS gets disconnected. Always double-check your autopilot annunciator lights. I flew from Milan, Italy (great ISD freeware airports) to Tokyo, Haneda in Japan to check out this plane on a long haul flight, and the FMC kept the plane on course with no problems even at 16X acceleration. However, during the final phase of the flight, I just switched to the FS standard GPS unit since it provided me with more information.
In my opinion, ABACUS has the right idea about the simple FMC, but a few more features are sorely needed in order for it to be called the FMC. If the FMC is kept “simple”, but allowed for better VNAV (such as setting the speed and alt restrictions for different legs), fuel/weight monitoring and V-speeds, this might win over more fans. Also, as previously mentioned, the ND in FS2004 does not display the route that is entered in FMC. So maybe a better gauge integration should be implemented in future updates.
Have you ever heard a sound the 787 makes while taking off at full throttle? Do not feel left out, no one has yet, but ABACUS made sure you don’t think it is a 737 (or your hair drier). I like the sounds of the engines, as they are unique on the outside as well as in the cabin. When the throttles are reduced or applied, you will definitely hear the engines change the tone from a low hum to a more high-tech, hi-bypass whine. That sound makes you realize you are not driving something that came aliased to the default 737.
On the other hand, there are no unique GPWS sounds in FS2004, and this 787 borrows default GPWS sounds in the newest sim. It would be neat if the FSX 787 had a gauge to turn off the GPWS on final approach though.
While the designers took full advantage of the new FSX camera system to provide us with great views throughout the plane, same cannot be said about the docking system and the new active gates in FSX. The plane simply does not interact with jet-ways or the loaders, but the tech support at ABACUS informed me that they are looking into it as one of the possible options in the future updates.
Some of us like complex airliner add-ons that are as close to the real thing so that even a certified pilot has to use the manual to start it up, let alone fly it by the numbers. Some of us prefer to just go flying and find joy in other aspects of this great hobby. And for some of us, it just depends on the day of the week and the mood we are in.
The ABACUS "Fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner" is not a complex add-on. In all fairness to the creators, there simply is not enough information out there to make a Boeing 787 with all the systems, flight characteristics, and matching technical specs to warrant comparison with the “real deal”. However, this is a payware airplane, and some things such as the basic manual, modern panel gauges and better panel bitmaps should have been there from the get-go.
If you are looking for a nice visual model, and don’t mind changing or customizing the panel gauges, this could be your ticket. Furthermore, if you are in the market for the next generation airliner that looks and sounds good, includes a simple but fully functional VC and cabin, and does not eat up your precious frames, this just may be the add-on you are looking for.
the contrary, if you are looking for a detailed FMC and panels
simulation, and would like to contribute to
global warming by printing the BIG manual (shame on you…),
you better save your cookie money, add it to the price of this
plane, and purchase something more to your liking in future.
|What I Like About The 787|
|What I Don't Like About The 787|
Tell A Friend About this Review!
All Rights Reserved