Ah, the good old 737. The back bone of most of the world’s airlines. It is the most popular aircraft on the planet. It is said that a 737 will takeoff or landing every 5 seconds! There are on average 1250 737s in the air right now! An amazing feat by Boeing. Back in the young days many 707 pilots called her the ‘baby Boeing’, but little did they know she would go on to be bigger than the 707 and have many times the sales the 707 had, but she wasn’t always as popular as she now is.
When the 737 entered service with Lufthansa in 1968 there were very few orders for the 737. Boeing was considering cancelling the project, but when the 737-200 was launched it quickly built up a product backlog. There were 1114 737-200s that rolled of the product line. After the success of the ‘original’ 737 Boeing looked to the future and launched the -300, -400 and -500 series of the 737. The -300, -400 and -500 are often referred to as the ‘classic’ 737s. It was to be a major revision of the 737 while still maintaining commonality with the ‘original’ 737s.
The all new 737s featured state of the art CFM56 turbofan engines which were more fuel efficient and quieter. The wing incorporated a number of changes for improved aerodynamics and was extended by 9 inches. The flight deck was given a radical overhaul with all new semi glass cockpits. The cabin incorporated improvements from the 757 series of aircraft. This new breed of 737 was formally launched in 1980.
Wilco is simulating the ‘classic’ versions of the 737. As of the date of writing this review there are currently no other payware ‘classic’ 737s available for FSX, so it is Wilco or nothing. I am an avid 737 fan and so I was looking forward to this release. Wilco markets this aircraft as a full on simulation of the 737 ‘classic’ and the product is apparently tested by real world pilots. Now it is time for me to give it a good bashing and thrashing!
Who is the add-on for?
Well, I don’t blame you for asking this question. On the Wilco webpage they say it is the most advanced 737 classic simulation ever produced, not too difficult to make that claim considering it is the only payware 737 Classic I know of. If you know of any others please email me with a link to the product. The Wilco 737 PIC Evo is not as complex as the PMDG product or as simple as a ‘lite’ product, it is an in-betweener.
It is by no means a simple add-on, but also not a super complex one which will takes 6 months to master. It will have enough simulation depth to suffice most hard core simmers while not overloading them with systems. I have never used the original version of the add-on so I won’t be able to compare it.
Installation and Documentation
The product installs using an automatic installer. Installation was painless for a majority of the time. You just open the .exe file, select your language and press next. Then you see the welcome screen and you just click next again. You then will have to read the EULA and agree to it before continuing. Then the confusing part comes, entering your license key but I can hear you say that you only type the numbers and letters and press next. Well in the Wilco installer it isn’t quite as easy as you think.
You first have to enter the first 3 parts of the key and then go to the first chunk of the key and delete it from the box and do that for all the boxes until there is no piece of the initial 3 chunks of the key left. Then you enter the remaining the chunks of the license key and if you managed to pull it off just press next and you will be greeted with your FSX location which the installer finds automatically. Finally when you click next installation begins.
I have another grudge against the installer, when you launch it you get this big background that covers your entire display with an image the 737 Pilot in Command Evo and if you close it you also close the installer. Wilco do you really need to stick an image of the 737 Evo in my face when I have already purchased it and I’m installing it? I ask them to get their installers in order.
The manual is called ‘737PIC Evo Pilots Guide’. The manuals have this ‘cartoony’ pilot called Captain Mike who apparently loves airplanes. Everything is said comically. This is not what I expected in a manual. That being said, I’m not familiar with Mike Ray and his style of presenting flight sim information.
I have nothing against the manual, it is just that I don’t like its style. On the plus side, it will teach you how to do everything properly and you will be able to fly the 737 like a pro once you’ve read it. It is very clear on what to do. However, I did find that the style of the manual grew on me over time, I began to like it. Your experiences may differ.
The aircraft also comes with 2 documents. There are named ‘Checklist 1’ and ‘Checklist 2’. They are checklists and thank goodness they aren’t written in the ‘comical’ style the manual is written in. The file ‘Checklists 1’ is in a PDF format while the file ‘Checklist 2’ is in a .JPEG image. I wonder why they did the second checklist as an image?
Configuration Manager (Setup Utility)
Also included with the product is a Setup Utility which, as the name suggests, is a configuration panel for your 737 classic. In the manager you can select to have digital or analogue engine gauges, prevent nose wheel turns above 40KNOTS, change the units of weight, pause FSX 20nm before decent, select how many passengers and cargo you want loaded, the text rendering and other visuals, autopilot setup, type of engines, weather radar, IRS drift, keyboard shortcuts, gauge refresh rates, weather radar, panel load state and the volume of the sounds.
I am sure there are some options I missed. This little nifty utility comes in real handy when loading your 737 or just customizing it for maximum performance and realism. The shear versatility of the options for the cockpit is amazing, you can fly the aircraft as it was originally designed or opt for a retrofitted semi glass cockpit. Overall it is a very nice little utility.
The virtual cockpit will not set the benchmark for 2012; this was expected as none of Wilco’s previous releases featured anything ground breaking. The original version had no 3D graphics in the virtual cockpit. The new EVO version has a 3D cockpit. The scale of the cockpit seems correct in my opinion. Just about every single switch is modeled as a 3D object.
Having an almost complete 3D cockpit adds greatly to the realism factor of the product. It can be the difference between a good product and a bad product. Most switches and knobs are modeled accurately according to real world images I have seen. Wilco markets the product as having high definition textures. Many people’s illusions of ‘HD’ textures are that they will have all the dirt and scratch markets but they don’t, even though they are ‘HD’ textures. The bland lifeless textures are in a ‘HD’ resolution but not the ‘HD’ we think off.
I searched the entire cockpit and didn’t find a single spec of dirt or even a scratch. The textures are not the worst I have seen but they are in need of a desperate face lift despite the Evolution being a brand spanking new product. A person at Wilco told me it is still possible for an aircraft to look clean after many years of service, well I would like an image of one because I have yet to see a 737 classic that doesn’t have a scratch in the cockpit or a piece of dirt. Perhaps my expectations were set to high. I have seen better freeware textures.
The night lighting was mediocre to say the least. It isn’t what would be expected of a new FSX add-on but it gets the job done. It didn’t have the immersion factor. I found flying at night was a very harsh experience. The lights often didn’t do much to make text or switches more visible and readable. It is not what I expected from an FSX add-on. The lighting only has 2 options; on or off with no staggered or brightness settings available.
As I panned around the cockpit I looked up and saw a nice array of 3D switches on the overhead panel. All the modeling is accurate and the switches are connected but the textures are nothing short of dreadful. All the switches have bright white textures as if they have never been touched. Not even some wear and tear effects. I dare say some default textures look better and the defaults also have nice wear and tear effect, opinions may differ.
When it comes to handles or levers which are black, they look like a large un-textured lump stuck on. The overhead panel is very badly done. It looks as if the product has been rushed to get it out the door. When we move down to the lower pedestal the texturing improves marginally. While the throttles, flaps and speedbrakes levers are textured nicely, the trim wheel is a solid black circle with white stripes. It has a plastic and cheap look to it.
Overall, I have a mediocre feeling about the virtual cockpit. It isn’t the worst nor is it the best by a long shot. There is also a wing view from the virtual cockpit which means that if you move your view position in FSX you will be able to see the wings from the cockpit. More and more developers are deciding to implement this feature and it is nice to see that Wilco have done it too. The nose of the aircraft can also be seen for the cockpit which is a neat feature for TrackIR users as it gives them a much greater sense of realism. I did notice that the nose was a light grey color instead of white.
The gauge resolution is poor, I often found myself squinting to see them at a zoom of 0.40 or less. It is a real shame the gauges couldn’t be of a higher res as it is really easy to do. The analogue gauges are a disaster. They aren’t actual 3D gauges but mere 2D flat image gauges which have no form of immersion whatsoever. I must admit that the analogue gauges on the default FSX 738 look better.
The gauges would often be blurry with a zoom of 1.10. The back-up artificial horizon looks as if it is 8-bit color and looks flat instead of a round 3D ball. I did find myself preferring to fly with the analogue gauges as they were easier to read. The engine EPR gauges where decent however they were very low res and became blurry very quickly. It is very disappointing gauge work in my opinion. The smoothness of the gauges was average. You can adjust the smoothness of them in the 737 Setup Utility but even then they can jump and are nowhere near as smooth as what other 737 developers have done. Wilco cold have done much better if they decided to put the effort in.
The aircraft’s yokes are textured to a standard so low it looks as if they came from FS2000. They are solid black with no reflections, dirt marks or any wear and tear effects. Wilco really needs to pay attention to the details as well as get the basics right. I have never seen a perfectly clean yoke in my life, nor a yoke that was a solid black color despite being in a brand new 737 from Everett, the yoke still had an old look to it. I will leave you to look at the screenshots and decide for yourself if the virtual cockpit makes your quality expectations.
I have mixed feelings about the external model. All the fine details such as the electrical wires which run down to the gear have been modeled as well as several other little details. The basic 3D model is very good and is a good representation of the real 737 classic series. It lacks the variety of choosing winglet and non-winglets versions of the aircraft.
The aircraft also features very nice cut out windows with nice glass reflections which adds a touch of class to the model. I really liked looking through the windows and seeing trees through them rather than boring black textures which some payware companies still think is acceptable.
The models features wing flex which I saw flexed accordingly to the weigh and speed of the aircraft. This is a great touch and adds a nice effect during turbulence. I also noticed the pilots moved their heads which is a slight ‘gimmicky’ feature which wasn’t really necessary in my opinion. The external model isn’t perfect however.
I found the liveries were very clean and fresh looking as if they were just out of the factory. I have yet to see a clean 737 classic, if you do see one please take a picture of it and send it to me. I found the clean liveries a major blow to the external model, but otherwise it is a very nice model. I think the visual model could do with some shiny textures to give it a more realistic look. I found that because the model had a matt finish to it, it had a feeling of plastic. Without the shiny textures the model will not look its best despite all the detail put into it.
Your opinions may differ and I do prefer dirty textures but not everyone thinks the same. I feel dirt marks add a degree of immersion to the product instead of looking at a plastic toy out of a toy shop. I personally feel it wouldn’t be too much bother for Wilco to fix it now that the product has been released. Unfortunately I don’t expect anything to be done about the poor textures.
The choice of liveries was not great even with the deluxe edition. I found many major liveries missing. The Air New Zealand livery was not there despite it being the last operator to receive a 737 classic. Wilco also missed out many southern hemisphere airlines and African carriers. Thank goodness Wilco released a paint kit for the army of repainters to fix this. The liveries also lacked any real detail. They got all the airline liveries painted correctly but Wilco didn’t add any rivets or dirt effects to the liveries. There isn’t even a smoke stain from the APU which, for me, makes this great model look not so great.
The cargo variants of the aircraft have passenger windows. Come on Wilco, it is a cargo plane not a passenger one. All the cargo liveries have simply been painted on and you can see seats through the windows. It is a very big mistake. You can even go to the passenger cabin and look out. There isn’t even a cargo door on the aircraft. When I am paying almost £42 for a product I would expect it to have a cargo model instead of a livery on the passenger model.
The Wilco 737 PIC EVO add-on also includes a detailed passenger cabin. While I find passenger cabins fun for about 15 minutes during cruise, I soon get bored and go back to the virtual cockpit where I like to spend my time while flying. I was initially surprised by the detail put into the virtual cabin. It doesn’t have the very clean and sterile look of the virtual cockpit. All the seats appear to be nicely detailed and I particular enjoyed moving my view point to look out the window at the clouds going by.
The cabin does not run the full length of the aircraft sadly. This was probably done to keep a smooth frame rate on most systems. All the seats were nice and looked as if they had a lot of polygons in them. There are windows on either side of the cabin which was a relief as some developers only put windows on a certain side of the cabin and the other side has none.
The night lighting is nothing to get excited about. When flying at night us virtual pilots like to be able to see everything in the cockpit so we can carry out the essentials tasks quickly and easily, but with the Wilco 737 you will really struggle to do many things in the virtual cockpit. The night lighting in the 2D panels was far superior to that of the virtual cockpit. The lights in the virtual cockpit will merely light up the gauges and the text. It does make night operations very difficult.
The night lighting on the external model is similar to the virtual cockpit; it isn’t going to set the world alight. While the basic lighting of the tail and gear is correct everything else is subpar to the standards of 2012. The lighting in the cabin starts on the sixth passenger window which looks very odd. The external lights also seem to be slightly off the aircraft depending on your view angle. The lights can look as if they are floating in the air which is very weird.
The 2D panels are a dying breed. More and more developers are choosing not to include them in their products. I feel as if the 2D panels look better than the virtual cockpit as they have a very nice photo realistic look. There are 2D sub panels for just about every part of the cockpit. The quality of the 2D panels should not be sniffed at just because of the lackluster virtual cockpit. All the panels look like actual photographs, something which can’t be said about the virtual cockpit. If you are one to fly with 2D panels you will really love this set of panels and probably enjoy the aircraft too.
A Test Flight
I decided to take the Wilco 737 PIC Evo for a quick test flight from East Midlands Airport, UK to the Vienna Airport, in Austria. This was once a typical route for a British Airways 737-400 aircraft a few years ago. They would have flown daily into Vienna. I did this flight using my own knowledge without reading any manuals and using FSX’s real world weather.
My virtual flight begins at Gate 8 at East Midlands which is typically a gate for Ryanair 738s, however it is ‘my’ simulator and I don’t have to fly realistically. I began by starting the engines and programming the FMS, which was a bit of a challenge as it will take you a few days to master it. Now having configured everything for pushback I got ATC clearance and called for pushback.
I quickly began taxiing to runway 09. I must admit taxing was never my strong point, so please don’t give me angry emails if I am slightly off the center line. After a few short minutes of taxing I held short of the runway. I contacted ATC for take-off clearance and taxied onto the runway. I checked that the Auto brakes were RTO and Flaps 5. I commenced my take-off roll and began hurdling down the runway. I did the 80 KNOTS cross check, then V1 and eventually hit Vr where I pulled back on the yoke and lifted off into the air. I retracted the gear and began accelerating extremely quickly.
I was rather surprised at how quickly I accelerated once airborne. I went to the external view and waved goodbye to East Midlands as I roared airborne. I was at 800ft already just above 200 KNOTS, I found myself spooling back quicker than expected. Upon reaching 1000ft I engaged the A/P, A/T and activated LNAV. The aircraft began banking to the right to intercept the programmed flight plan. I had set a bank angle limit of 25 degrees. I set my A/P climb rate to 2500ft per minute as that gives me a good balance between vertical and horizontal speed. I retracted my flaps when reaching an altitude of 300ft. The nose of the aircraft pitched up rather sharply to compensate for the lost lift, which to me seemed unrealistic but within a few seconds came back down to a normal pitch angle.
When a reached an altitude of 10,000ft I reduced my vertical climb speed from 2500ft down to a lower 2000ft per minute. Once reaching 15,000ft my speed had begun to get slow even with full thrust, I was struggling to maintain 250KNOTS, my airspeed had slipped down to a rather slow 225KNOTS. Shortly after that I began my final accent to a cruising altitude of 27,000ft. My speed began rapidly increasing at my climb rate slowed to a measly 1000ft per minute. I eventually reached my cruise altitude with a cruise speed of Mach 0.81; it may be a bit fast.
Before I knew it I was heading out over the English Channel. I soon found myself looking out at FSX’s borings landscape for this 2 hour cruise. Can life get anymore boring? I patiently waited for my decent to commence. So you don’t go insane while I am in-cruise here are some screenies to keep you amused.
I began my decent around 140nm from the airport. I always like taking my time when descending as you can’t go down and slow down but you can slow down and go down. My decent speed was 300KNOTS with a decent rate of 1200FT per minute. I realize that my decent speed is fast, but let’s face the facts that after talking to several real world pilots they say the 737 is a slippery plane.
I turned the fasten seatbelt sign on at 20,000ft. At around 13,000ft I had to begin to rush my decent or I would have had to declare a go-around and I am sure no pilot, real or virtual, likes doing go-arounds. I leveled my decent at 9000ft as ATC had requested. While at 9000ft I lowered Flaps to 5 to help keep me on the straight and steady path. I stabilized at a decent speed of 220KNOTS for the rest of my decent into Vienna. At around 50nm I began to go down to an altitude of 2000FT. As I neared the airport I began to make several turns so I could line up with the runway.
I was going to fly the approach manually to get a feel for the aircraft and what its handling characteristics were like. By the time I got to 5000ft I had completely drained my center fuel tanks so I was left with full wing tanks. My calculations proved it was more than enough to do the approach and divert to an alternate airport if I needed to. When I was 20nm from the airport I lowered my speed to 200KNOTS and deployed Flaps 10 and set my auto-brake to 1. I put down my gear at 2600FT as I had the runway in sight. ATC assigned me runway 16 in Vienna, which meant I flew over the city. I calculated that my landing speed would be 148 KNOTS; I am not sure why it was so fast. I hastily completed my before landing checklist and I took over controls from the A/P.
I left the A/T engaged. I found the controls stiff on short final for a weird reason, but I am sure it is due to me doing something wrong. I very soon began hearing the Approaching Minimums and the Altitude callouts and before I knew it, I had made a lovely touchdown in Vienna. My spoilers deployed and I activated reverse thrust. I began my taxi to the gate.
*Test Flight was conducted with the Wilco 737 Pilot in Command Evolution v1*
The sounds can add greatly to the immersion. If you are flying a 737 which sounds like a Cessna 310 it can often be annoying at the best. I view sounds as something just as important as system simulation depth. I was left with mixed feelings about the sounds included.
The sounds in the cabin and virtual cockpit are very nice. They bring back the feeling on flying on a 737. The external sounds are rather lame. There seems to be no rumble or whine from the engines, all I can hear is a moan getting louder or quieter with no great effect. They lacked the clarity and quality of some of the high end products available today. I would strongly recommend you purchase the TSS 737 classic sounds package to add to the immersion. I was able to bear the sounds but if your budget stretches I would certainly recommend you purchase some add-on sounds for it.
The flight dynamics of an add-on aircraft are what will be the deciding factor for many FSX flyers. Nobody wants to fly an aircraft which flies like nothing compared to its real counterpart. We all aim for realism in our hobby. I was talking to a real world 737 classic pilot and from what he told me the flight dynamics of the package seems very realistic.
Wilco claims they were tested by real world pilots. The pitch and roll was rather slow and unresponsive which is realistic and to be expected of an aircraft of that era. You will find yourself having to plan ahead as you should or things can become very messy. The flight dynamics were also realistic when flying with one engine as the other one had failed, it did yaw significantly to the left and I had to apply rudder input to correct it.
The programming of the auto-pilot is realistic and it will only engage if the wings are level. The FMS or flight management computer is also fully replicated along with an advanced electrical and navigation system which all operate according to the real world. You can also simulate IRS drift. You could fly this aircraft by reading the real Boeing manuals albeit the really complex stuff isn’t simulated or dumbed down. Its simulation depth isn’t up to PMDG standards but none the less it is a complex add-on.
You can load a default FSX Flight Plan if you don’t have time to spend 20 minutes getting everything setup. I did however notice that there was no gear off position, it was either gear down or gear up which isn’t realistic at all. I greatly enjoyed this area of the product and I feel it is something Wilco have paid attention to and did well.
The frame rates of this add-on were supurb considering its complexity of systems. I managed to achieve a fluid 20FPS in the virtual cockpit while at Heathrow with the scenery UK2000 Heathrow Xtreme. I can see the developers over at Wilco have put a lot of effort into achieving a smooth frame rate experience and I am more than ready to accept a sacrifice in quality for a smooth visually experience. The frame rates of this aircraft are comparable with the PMDG MD-11X or the Captain Sim 767.
This is an area with lots of mixed opinions, some people think it is dreadful and avoid purchasing Wilco products while others think it is just alright. I should note that anytime I contacted Wilco support I always got a reply within 72 hours that helped me and wasn’t useless. They always were able to help me or explain things to me while I was doing this review. All I am going to say on this matter is that it is improving and I would like to congratulate Wilco on this but so it is time we stopped stereotyping Wilco for dreadful support because it isn’t actually that bad and it is improving. So well done Wilco!
My feelings of the product have been mixed. It has many positives which should not be looked down on but at the same times it has some serious flaws which can detract from the experience of flying these old birds. I will always judge a product by how much enjoyment I got out of it, we may deny it but we fly for the fun of it.
There are some of us who want serious systems and others who want to experience flight by taking off and exploring. This product falls into both categories as you can choose to program the entire FMS or load a default flight plan. I would definitely recommend this add-on to a die hard 737 fan who can forgive some of its foibles, but for the rest of us short haul simmers who aren’t too much in love with the classic 737, I think we should all wait for something else to come along.
It is not a bad product, but it could have been better. You may just come to love the Wilco version of this venerable bird as I did despite some glaring issues. I did find the product grew on me the more I flew it. I feel that at €40 the price is a bit on the steep side. If the product was €5 cheaper I could perhaps recommend it to some other users.
I liked the way the product included models for the whole 737 classic product line and this definitely added significant value to the product. I will leave you to decide if the product is for you.
What I Like About The 737 PIC EVO
What I Don't Like About The 737 PIC EVO
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