Angle of Attack is no stranger to the flightsim community as many would be familiar with their popular 767 and 747 Training DVDs. This time AOA steps up their instructional videos with the release of the PMDG MD-11 training series. These training videos are in a vastly different format to the training previous customers would have been accustomed to.
First of all, there is no systems section to the training as all systems are covered during the three (3) featured flights and procedures section. This allows for a more practical approach to learning since you are able to see how it all works in an actual flight setting. Secondly, these videos are beefed up to HD format with stunning video editing with the aid of TrackIR and EZDok. Added to this is the use of FSX as its training platform. Finally, the professionalism of these training videos is highlighted in the detailed use of FSbuild and TOPCAT for the flight planning portions.
The order in which the training contained in this product is delivered are in 4 phases:
2. Procedures – Covers procedures ranging from ground operations to engine failure, fuel dump, VOR tracking, ILS approaches, Difficult approaches and Go around procedures.
3. Flights 1- Heathrow to Palma
These flights are jam packed with information and are crucial in order to learn both the various systems of the MD-11 and how they are used on a day to day basis. These flights are further broken down into individual sections that cover flight planning, cockpit preparations, takeoff, climb and descent for landing.
4. Extras – The final phase contains additional information and downloads that will be useful to the viewers including saved flights which allows users to “follow along” on all of the flights.
How were these training videos produced?
Well I had the opportunity to ask Nick Collett over at AOA a few questions related to the production of their new training series. To summarize the process, it involves countless hours of research on the aircraft, reading of PMDG manuals, scripting and video editing.
Also amazing is the fact that all of this was done without the aid of a real world MD-11 pilot. This was quite a surprise given the fact that the narrator spoke as though he himself were an MD-11 pilot. While various other sources were used to gather information on the aircraft, the hard work done on the part of PMDG cannot be overlooked as the documentation they provided served as the basis for some of the instruction given throughout these training videos.
Who are the target customers for the MD-11 training?
Nick Collett gives us the answer – “We're aiming this product at anyone with the interest, to put it simply. We have people on board who don't even own the PMDG MD-11, but were just interested to see how she works. We also have people with a LOT of knowledge and background in aviation. The key target is the person who doesn't want to read the 800 page manual, but still wants to learn the aircraft better than they might by following written tutorials or simply by 'teaching themselves'.”
Now that we have a bit of background information on how and why this product was created, let’s examine these videos in greater detail.
The first section we will examine is the “Getting Started” portion. This is the section where you are able to download the AOA customized MD-11 checklist. This checklist features high quality graphics and an easy to read layout of checklist items. Also provided in this section is a repaint of the MD-11F (Since MD-11F is more commonly used today, this is the aircraft that is featured throughout the training).
As would also be expected, this section provides some very insightful information on how to setup the MD-11 with its various options and customizations. All of the information presented here is very useful and some of it is essential in order to benefit from the training to come, so pay close attention and don’t overlook this area!
Next we will look at the procedures section of our MD-11 training. This sections starts off with a study of the MD-11s ground operations. Why should we be interested in ground operations in a flight instruction video? Well, the MD-11 isn’t exactly an easy aircraft to taxi since its nose gear is located aft of the cockpit. This section teaches not only how to taxi, but also instructs about airport charts, runways crossing, low visibility and runway incursions.
The next video features normal take off procedures which everyone will find informative. It is from this point that most of the videos get very in-depth and educational. Some of the topics to follow cover low speed abort and high speed abort on takeoff. These sections are very exciting since they show not only how dangerous these procedures can be but also how PMDG has spared no effort to ensure that the MD-11 is as true to life as possible. One of the amazing highlights of this section was the rise in brake temperature over a period of minutes as would be expected in real life.
Continuing with the procedures phase, we are now introduced to Asymmetric takeoff and fuel dump. There is nothing more terrifying that encountering an engine failure after V1. Why? Well after V1 you are basically committed to takeoff unless in an extreme situation the aircraft just won’t fly. This section teaches you how to take command of the MD-11 while fully loaded and powered by only 2 engines.
Naturally, in order to make a safe return to the field you need to get down to MLW (Max landing weight) and this is where you are also taught what there is to know about the fuel dump system. See? We really didn’t need a Systems section at all because now we have learned how to use one of the MD-11’s many systems in a practical setting. This type of instruction really helps you to retain what you have learnt.
Delving into a bit of the navigation aspects of the MD-11, we are also introduced to VOR approaches into Zurich. This section focuses a lot on how the MCDU is setup for VOR approaches and the basics of flying inbound and outbound legs with the aid of the auxiliary panel. I for one especially appreciated how viewers are also able to learn how to read approach plates which is a very important part of flying.
Moving on to the next video we are introduced to Localizer approaches which I must say was one of my favorites. This section teaches 3 ways to fly the DME ARC with a spot-on localizer approach into Hawaii Rwy 8L. Other videos cover topics such as Visual approaches with emphasis on hand flying, difficult approaches into Kai Tak with NDB navigation and perhaps one of the most challenging, a hand flown ILS approach to minimums into Amsterdam 36C.
Finishing off the procedures part of the training is the CAT III Autoland with detailed information on the MD-11’s autoland systems and finally the all important “go around” procedures which is truly a high work load maneuver.
Overall, What I find amazing is the fact that after going through all of these procedures and learning how to correctly perform them, you are at the same time learning a great deal about the various systems on the MD-11. I applaud the teams at AOA for this new and intriguing method of instruction which takes a step up from the 747/767 training.
At this point, after you have viewed the Procedures phase of the training, your appetite for learning is left with high expectations for the next section we will discuss which are the Flights!
The flights phase of our training seems to be one of the most important aspects of this produce. This is because most of the MD-11 systems and procedures are again explained in a way that shows the viewer how they are used on a daily basis by real world MD-11 pilots.
Each flight starts off with a comprehensive explanation of the flight planning process using programs such as FSbuild and TOPCAT. If you are the proud owners of these products you will be more than happy with the detailed use of these products throughout this training series. If you are unfamiliar with these products you can check them out here:
FSBUILD website – http://www.fsbuild.com/
The first flight takes us from Heathrow to Palma with the aircraft parked at the gate with a cold and dark cockpit. This is the only flight that allows you to see the full preflight procedures that are required to power up the aircraft from a completely dormant cockpit environment.
Some of the items covered during the preflight include the requirement for parking brakes to be off when loading of offloading the MD-11F (I never knew this before). It is important at this point to note again that all flights covered in this portion of the training utilizes the freighter version of the MD-11.
The narrator continues to take us on a journey deep into the MD-11 systems which includes how the aircraft is powered by external power from the MCDU, Flight deck lighting and the practical uses of the APU power on the electrical panel verses the APU start/stop switch. Time is also taken to explain in great detail the bleed air systems and the IRU system.
One of the portions I especially appreciated was the thorough explanation of the MCDU which covers basic setup and a line by line explanation on virtually every page of this unit along with manual entry of our route information. Continuing with the preflight procedures, the hydraulic and fuel systems are explained in sufficient detail to leave viewers feeling less overwhelmed by the complexity of the MD-11s automated systems.
While all of these systems and procedures were being explained, I couldn’t help but marvel at how useful a tool TrackIR really is! The ability to zoom or position yourself to various parts of the cockpit is a tremendous benefit in carrying out some of the “read and do” items on the checklist. One of the items I had previously missed was the ADG (Air Driven Generator) which is a small handle near the first officers to the side of the center pedestal. The use of TrackIR really opens up a new perspective on virtual flying and I for one will be adding this to my arsenal of FS hardware.
While we are on the topic of TrackIR, it is also important to mention that unlike previous training videos from AOA, all of the training is done from the virtual cockpit and I am now convinced that this is perhaps one of the most effective ways of flying this aircraft.
After all of the preflight procedures are done, its now time to start the engines. As with most of the procedures, our narrator, who most of you would know is Chris Palmer, continues with an explanation of the engine start sequence. After pushback, viewers are shown how to taxi the MD-11 and are given a comprehensive takeoff briefing which mirrors what we might expect in a real world setting.
Throughout the takeoff and climb, Chris walks us through all of the procedures to be followed which takes place quite rapidly. While in the cruise, the MCDU is looked at once more with further explanations of the performance and progress pages.
After a few hours have elapsed, the MD-11 is now approaching its TOD (Top of Descent). Before going any further we are taken back to the TOPCAT program to show how our landing performance data is retrieved. This is very important and a good practice for anyone who wants to add a truly professional touch to their virtual flying.
Other items covered are the Approach plate procedures with a very nicely summarized explanation of the approach plates. This is done by using the well known F.A.C.T.S acronym which basically means Frequency Altitude Course Terrain and Safety.
Another acronym which is commonly used is the A.I.R.B.A.G checklist which means ATIS, Install, Radios, Briefing, Approach/Descent Checklist and Go around (Missed Approach). After all of these procedures have been carried out one would imagine that there will be moments where there is nothing really to say. During these low work load periods, viewers are given stunning views from the cockpit using TrackIR which highlights the amazing detail of the MD-11 virtual cockpit and of the scenery below courtesy of Aerosoft.
After landing, the aircraft then taxis to the gate which it is shut down once more to a cold and dark cockpit environment. This is not normally the case in the real world since power is required for offloading the aircraft. This complete shutdown is done purely as a matter of demonstrating how it is all done.
Now it’s time for our second flight. As with the first flight, we start off with a preflight which takes into account a reduced takeoff thrust and step climbs during the flight. Our second flight takes us from Anchorage to Memphis which is a very common route for the MD-11 Freighters.
Upon entering the aircraft we find that the cockpit is powered to the point that a crew would expect to meet it. This includes external power on, packs on and IRUs off. Given the fact that the aircraft was already powered up, the setup is much shorter; starting with the MCDU setup with an introduction into how step climbs are programmed into the MCDU. To quicken the pace of our setup we are also introduced to preloaded flight plans and how easily they can be selected. As mentioned earlier, since this is a reduced trust take-off, Chris takes the opportunity to explain a little bit about the FLEX settings.
Much of the remainder of this training flight follows the same pattern as the first; therefore I will only highlight some of the major differences. During the climb out of Anchorage, the step climb initiation is explained along with various other details of the MD-11s performance capabilities.
During the quiet moments of the flight, we are again provided with spectacular views from the cockpit of the mountainous regions of Alaska and the MD-11 cockpit using TrackIR. Another feature which was highlighted during the flight is the cockpit lighting which would be very important given the fact that we would be landing at night.
At our TOD, we follow the same procedures with regard to TOPCAT landing performance data along with our approach briefing. Since no STAR is selected for our approach, we are given greater insight into our NAV radios, VOR tracking and intercept for final. After a hard landing in Memphis (The MD-11 capital of the world) Chris gives us some very insightful information on the MD-11 with regard to the 3 min or 1 min waiting period before shutting down the engines.
All in all the second flight though short, was equally as entertaining and informative as the first. While this was an average flight for the MD-11, we are now going to look at another common route for this aircraft that is bound to make us all seasoned MD-11 pilots.
This is a bittersweet moment in the MD-11 training. While this is the last flight, it is also one of the best and most intriguing of all. The MD-11 wasn’t designed for short 2-5 hour flights. This bird was made to go the distance and go the distance we shall on our last flight from Hawaii to Sydney.
As one would expect, the flight planning for a long haul flight can be quite extensive. The first video once again covers the flight planning process using both FSbuild and TOPCAT. From the very beginning, it’s clear to see that this will be a high work load flight across the Pacific since we have to perform 3 step climbs. After the flight planning process was completed, it’s off to the aircraft where we meet the cockpit already powered up with external power and air connected to the aircraft.
This flight is not only different to the previous two in terms of its length, but this time we will perform all of our procedures and be expected to communicate with ATC every step of the way. This being the case, some of the items covered in our preflight are the Communication radios and how we should communicate with clearance delivery. The MCDU setup is basically the same with the exception of more altitudes for our step climb and further explanations of the weight initialization and fuel page. After all the necessary steps have been completed it was time for pushback and taxi. All of this is done with ATC at our disposal and this is very useful for those of us who fly on the VATSIM or IVAO networks.
Throughout the take off, climb and cruise I really appreciated how Chris explain a lot of the details of VOR tracking, ATC communication, position reporting and various other aspects of the MD-11’s complex systems. If I were to touch on just one item that I found interesting, it would be the extreme nose down pitch on the stab trim noticed on the instrumentation during cruise. The explanation of this being tied to the tail fuel tank and overall reduced drag and fuel burn showed just how much homework the guys at AOA have done on the aircraft. It was also amazing to see how on descent the tanks later balance themselves automatically thus attaining a higher center of gravity. PMDG has truly out done themselves and I am sure they will continue to do so as they release more and more complex aircraft simulations.
The final point I will touch on as a highlight for the third flight would be the introduction to secondary flight plans. During the descent planning we learn how to use the secondary flight plan page in the event of having to switch our approach to a different runway. Added to this was the use of speed brakes in flight and various ways of slowing the aircraft in flight.
After our landing in Sydney, Chris gives the viewers his final thoughts on the MD-11 and the process of creating this amazing training series. He also mentions the reasons why AOA has taken a new approach to training and has decided to not have a dedicated section for the aircraft systems. Rather, they have decided to teach the viewers all of the aircraft systems during actual flights where it can be better understood how they work.
I have found this method to be extremely effective myself since I have had the opportunity to also view AOA’s 747/767 training series. If you are the owner of the AOA 767 or 747 training DVD, I can safely say that the MD-11 training is by far the best training video available and you will be satisfied with this product and its many improvements.
Now that the training was over, the only logical question I am sure anyone would ask is “Did I really learn anything worthwhile?” The answer to that question will vary based on your experience. I have flown the PMDG MD-11 for over a year now and I honestly felt quite competent with the aircraft. After viewing these videos I will be humble enough to admit that I really didn’t know what I had and how great an experience I have been missing out on by going further in depth into the operations of this aircraft.
After many hours of viewing and making personal notes I was left determined to get the mastery over this aircraft and to improve my overall experience by utilizing products such as FSbuild, TOPCAT and TrackIR. These addition products are not a must have, but if you are a serious enthusiast and you have the money to do so, I would honestly recommend one or two of these products, especially TOPCAT.
On a final note, one can’t help but appreciate AOA’s insistence on not only learning aircraft systems but also learning to be a good airman. This involves getting to know your aircraft and using good judgment while operating it. One of the key points that stood out was the strong encouragement to fly by hand instead of taking the easy route by applying autopilot after gear up as I am sure many are accustom doing. This allows us as virtual pilots to BE PILOTS! There is nothing more rewarding that hand flying an ILS approach with near zero visibility and these training videos will give you the confidence to do just that!
The extras portion contains extra information or additional downloads such as panel states and other saved flights which allow the customer to “follow along” on each training flight. The most generous of extras, are files associated with TrackIR and EZCA that allows customers to have the same stunning visual experience at home that they experienced throughout the training.
Over all this is a fantastic gesture on the part of AOA to provide these additional files and it certainly seals the deal on this amazing product.
Summary / Closing Remarks
I have had the privilege of reviewing the PMDG MD-11 in the past and I have always enjoyed using this aircraft as it is perhaps one of the most unique jet add-ons available today. While in the past I took the time to go through the manuals (which are quite extensive) I am honestly floored at how much I missed after looking at this training video. I really didn’t know what I had or the extent to which PMDG has gone to provide a product that is worth more than its weight in gold.
These training videos made me reminiscent of my flight training days and it really felt like I was in a classroom or simulator training session with an instructor giving one on one instruction on nearly very aspect of the aircraft. This is truly a valuable training tool to anyone who owns the PMDG MD-11 or anyone who is contemplating whether or not they should purchase this aircraft.
In all honesty, I can’t imagine someone not purchasing the MD-11 after viewing these videos. I can safely guarantee that after looking at these videos, your confidence in operating this aircraft will shoot straight through the roof.
Price wise, the Angle of Attack MD-11 training is well worth its price of $44.00 USD considering the time and effort that has gone into creating one of AOA’s best training videos, both graphically and educationally. Added to that, Chris and Nick are continuing to sweeten the deal so to speak by adding extra downloads to the customers. For these reasons and more, I think this product deserves the Avsim Gold Star award."
If we were to use the MD-11 training as a basis of what to expect for future products, I for one will be eagerly awaiting the next training series in the pipeline which is the 737 NGX Training. Throttle on!
What I Like About MD-11 Training
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