A Much Awaited Release
The Boeing T7, as it is also known, is an elegant and powerful airplane entirely designed by computers, competing for the airline market share with the Airbus A330/340 and allowing some of the longest commercial flights for the LR version.
A first 777-200 had been released by PSS/Just Flight for FS 2000 and patched for FS 2002. At that time, it was one of the very best FS add-ons available on the market. One must acknowledge though, that the FS9 scene is a lot more competitive for add-on developers. Therefore, it became much more demanding in terms of performance and realism since new products recently released keep pushing the envelope to a degree never imagined before in many areas. Long gone are the days when a forum moderator could afford a curt reply such as: “Dummy buttons cannot be switched because they are not functional, this is company policy” to a request from a customer who wished to flip even the dummies for the sake of going through his check list properly… Out of charity, I won’t tell which forum this was!
This PSS/Just Flight rendition of the T7 for FS9 is a totally new piece of software. Entirely redeveloped from scratch with a number of new features. Some of them contributing to the progression of our hobby to a higher degree of “virtual realism”. Let’s see what these are.
Just Flight must be complimented for including a comprehensive 128 page printed manual. A well documented regrouping all the information a virtual pilot will need to know in order to comprehend this complex add-on. One regret though: the printing quality of black and white panel photographs is such, that it is very hard (and smallish) to read. To make sense of the performance charts (page 18 to 22), I had to use a magnifying glass to figure what max payload I could board to be able to take off from Mexico City...
A tutorial, coming with a ready to use short flight plan file for FS9 and FSNav, from KBFI (Boeing airfield) to KLAX (Los Angeles), is also provided.
A Very Attractive Package
This Just Flight package offers the three 777 versions i.e.: 777-300 ER, 777-200LR, 777-200LRF (freighter) sold for a price of £29.99, €44.95, $44.99. Additionally, you will get a package of 27 liveries. An excellent value for money indeed.
After installing your software from the Just Flight DVD (follow instructions on the screen, it’s that simple), and upon your first FS9 start, you will need to go through the usual procedure of loading your proverbial default Cessna at your preferred default airport with engines off, but batteries and radios on (only if you have no FS hardware with the same commands), and select your Just Flight 777 Professional. You can then save this for future flights which will not require this initial loading procedure anymore. This will ensure that all the electrical and engine parameters will be saved properly. Although this recommendation may sound redundant to many experienced simmers (this action is recommended for many other add-ons), the number of threads initiated on the PSS and Just Flight forums by virtual pilots wanting to start the easy and fast way, pushed me to remind of this essential step.
Some Interesting Innovations
Weather radars started to be included and/or integrated in add-on panels, in particular in the Flight 1 Dreamfleet 727 and general aviation aircrafts. They are even included in freeware versions such as Alain Capt MD11 panel and Tupolev 154B2 of Project Tupolev. With this latest FS add-on product, the confines of realism in desktop flight simulation have been pushed further with the first full integration of the existing stand alone weather radar technology (FSWXR-2100) into the Navigation Display. Offering what so many virtual pilots had been asking for – so far unsuccessfully - from some other major developers, since the first weather radar add-on was launched for FS9.
Beside this great and major innovation, that will remain a milestone in FS9 already imitated by new add-ons, the developers created the most complete and user friendly setup utility for hardware users/cockpit owners, where all aircraft panel commands have a line on the very elaborate keyboard commands list that can be called from within the cockpit, then be copied to FSUIPC (registered). FS hardware/cockpit owners please take note, you can virtually “map” all your cockpit commands on your modules (chances are you won’t have enough of them), and everything works like a charm. I could, for example, implement and be able to use the fast and slow increments for the GoFlight MCP rotating buttons (I was only able to programme slow increments on other add-ons. The fast increments would always be very messy when used).
On the setup menu, you will find start-up options such as ground requests; external power – primary and secondary, and ground air, but no pushback command (many freeware versions are available in the AVSIM library). You have the possibility to select “pause at top of descent” if you wish (as on the Just Flight Airbus 330 and 340), set the ADIRU time to align, change various airlines specs, and a very straightforward fuel load utility from within the plane. This command will fill your tanks according to your request (in weights, or percentage as you prefer) automatically, however, you cannot intervene in the process (i.e. choose the tanks). Last piece of advice, make sure you select the refresh rate of your EFIS displays at 4 or a maximum of 6 FPS so as to avoid gutting your video performance (for the purpose of this review, mine were set at 4 FPS).
Another great utility is the check-list on the secondary EICAS, like on the actual plane, the pilot can click on each check to be performed.
Load Manager and Fuel Planner
The Just Flight 777 Pro has its own tools to calculate loads and CG, as well as fuel quantities. Both include the possibility to toggle between Kgs and Lbs, a welcome addition for Europeans sometimes feeling forgotten or lost in the conversion quagmires. The simultaneous use of both tools will complete your preplanning calculation and save the load status of your aircraft. Remember though, that your fuel will be loaded from the cockpit and take note of the fuel quantity, as well as of the CG% for your CDU input.
The FPS Minute of Truth
You will have a choice on the FS Aircraft Menu between the 2D cockpit only, or 2D + VC if your computer can take it. On this very point, be aware that the Just Flight 777 Pro is not any more demanding on resources than two of its major competitors (i.e. PMDG 747 after December patch and LDS 767 with February patch). I tested the three aircraft (VC and no VC) for 15 minutes each on the ground from cold and dark to taxiing, with the same livery texture, at the same airport (Heathrow scenery by Garry Summons), same gate (331), at the same time of the day (13.30) so as to make sure the AI traffic and the scenery textures would be the same, with the same weather (from AS6), the same traffic (FS Traffic 2005 at 50%) and the same flight plan loaded in the FMC (EGLL WSSS), the difference in FPS was slightly in favour of the Just Flight 777 Pro. For the sake of being precise here are the results:
In order to make another comparison with a much lighter scenery, here is the same test at Aruba airport with no traffic, no weather and VC only:
Video setup for the test:
Anti Aliasing x 4 and anisotropic x 8 on ATI Catalyst
Welcome on board
“ Stepping” into your cockpit will probably make you feel like “déjà vu” for those familiar with the 744 layout, since the instrumentation is similar. The 2D panels available are: the main panel (with a special and additional zoom bitmap), the overhead, the pedestal, the CDU, a radio rack, a chronometer, the switch panel for the lower EICAS and a separate setup screen already covered above. All panels have the precision and remarkable sharpness that PSS is known for.
To navigate from one panel to another, one has the choice between a clickable bar located at the top of the glare shield, or (after hiding this bar from the setup menu if you wish) using invisible (but easy to remember) hot spots.
The VC is well reproduced (the best VC PSS ever designed so far) and is “fully” interactive, a first for PSS. You can definitely fly the aircraft from the VC only, it is especially enjoyable if you have a good set of FS hardware, thus avoiding the wrong click spots when in turbulences, and panning too often through your cockpit. Needless to say, Active Camera is required if you want to really appreciate the experience. Using the VC upon engine start for example is a treat, as it avoids your going through three separate 2D panels. The same applies to taxiing, the ground visibility (pressing F12 to lock your mouse in 3D panning with Active Camera) is far better than in 2D.
At night, you will have a choice of two lightings commanded by one button located on the overhead. This is when you realise that the claim of a “fully clickable VC” stops short of the reality. In fact, you will find only one light button to click with two positions (difficult to identify at first), the others (dome, storm and master brightness) are dummies. Having said that, the lighting in the 2D cockpit is excellent and quite adequate for the VC during day or night. There are periods (sunset or sunrise depending of the position of the sun to your cockpit) when seeing the overhead in the VC can be challenging.
Going for your walk around
Now that you requested and have the ground power plugged in, set the batteries on and launched your ADIRU (Air Data Inertial Reference Unit), it’s time for your preflight inspection so as to discover, at the same time, the exterior model. The developers managed to strike the right balance between performance and livery details. Personally, I prefer this option giving priority to FPS. I am always amazed though by the amount of detailing that goes into landing gear and flaps when one looks at them up close. “Why on earth are all the doors open?” you will ask yourself when looking up to the cabin. Well, there is only one door command! Consequently, if you open “the” door, the eight of them will open… Not energy friendly is it? And as for realism…
Let’s go back on board it’s time to feed the FMC.
Programming the CDU
No challenge for those used to Boeing FMC programming on other add-ons. There is a tutorial in the manual for those who have to go through the learning process.
The loading of a flight plan is as easy as one can hope. Your FS9 flight plans are used directly by the Just Flight 777 Pro FMC, press “Route Request”, then “FS Flight plans” and browse on your list of FS9 flight plans saved. If you use FSBuild and/or FSNav, simply export your plan to FS9 and you’re done. The same intention to ease the CDU loading process is found on the PERF INIT page, press PERF INIT REQUEST and Gross, ZFW and fuel weights will automatically be populated (remember that you loaded your fuel from the setup menu shift+8). Don’t look for the CDU Fix page, it is not implemented.
At the time this review was written, there were still a few bugs to be corrected on the CDU. Such as, the departure runway identification appearing as the destination runway on the APPR REF page (as well as runway info of the departure airport), and on several occasions I had a frozen FMC after inputting the runway to be used from the DEP/ARR page for example, or any other new data. I could not open the INIT REF page anymore until I switched pages around. Another surprising issue, was the ETA's were calculated in a bizarre manner since (apparently) step climbs would affect the calculation, tremendously increasing the ETA on the LEG page as well as on the PROGRESS page. As an example, while flying between WSSS and VHHH, I was at FL 370 and at 100NM from DAMVO with an ETA of 00.50Z and an ETA for VHHH at 14.45Z, when in fact I was merely an hour and 42 minutes away from my destination.
Friendly warning: be careful to correctly input your CG on the TAKE OFF REF page, if you don’t want to become seasick while airborne.
Taxiing and Flying
On the ground, the 777 will teach you to anticipate, like any “heavy”. Should you taxi too fast your next turn will end up in the grass, and the modelling is excellent in this respect.
When arming your transponder before take off, you will not see the TA/RA on your ND, it is not modelled, only TA is.
This is when you will start enjoying your radar integrated in the ND. I did extensive testing of it in the Singapore area, once my real world pilot home, flying in and out of “Thunderstorm alley” for it is cluttered with thunderstorms virtually daily. Using AS6 and actual weather, the results were quite impressive indeed. One might argue that weather radars on FS9 may not paint embedded CB with precision – if at all - hence, it is pointless since a weather radar is truly useful only when one cannot see the potential danger out of the windshield. Quite frankly, I welcome this new addition even with its known limitations. It makes for visual realism the same way ambient sounds do, but of course this is just my opinion!
Talking of sounds, upon takeoff, don’t expect your co-pilot to call the speeds (unlike all elaborate FS add-ons released recently), you’re alone on board. Should you badly need a co-pilot then enlist your wife, kid or neighbour! The sounds audible from the cockpit are very subtle and well balanced during the flight, but there are none before you start your engines, no air conditioning in the ducts, no instrument buzzing, no button clicks – according to the developers - the 777 cockpit is dead quiet on the ground when the engines are stopped…(?!)
In flight, the model behaviour meets expectations. Hand flying is easy and responsive, the “feel” and inertia of a heavy airplane is there in all configurations tested. In particular, on the good old IGS 13 approach of the former Kai Tak airport, it's always a good place to test your hand flying skills.
When in flight at night, should you look at the exterior of your aircraft after turning off the unnecessary lights above 10000ft. You will notice that the logo lights are still on, not your mistake though; apparently PSS did not yet find how to correct this FS9 feature - or did not bother with it - as its main competitors did. A small detail indeed, but yet at this level of quality such items do make a difference between passion and apathy.
The occasional oscillation issue aforementioned during cruise and approach could be linked to the CG of the aircraft being wrongly input in the CDU or wrongly calculated by the software and to the resultant overreaction of the A/P trying to find, unsuccessfully, the best AoA through excessive trim. After twelve flights of different lengths, configurations and payloads on the three models, I did not experience this problem with the 772 (both versions), but several times with the 773ER during cruise and/or on final upon glide capture. For about thirty seconds, she oscillated significantly, the plane was stable on short final and the landings uneventful. On one flight with the 777 300 ER, when experiencing these oscillations, I immediately closed AS6 and cleared all weather with FSUIPC, the “bobbing” reduced significantly but did not disappear. I then closed FS9, and restarted the same flight with the 777 200 LR this time, with the same AS6 weather, I did not have the oscillations at all throughout the flight.
The A/P can be sometimes abrupt, for example, when on Autoland. With a 5 kts 80° left crosswind on final at Vancouver (Nigel Grant freeware scenery), my plane was madly rocking its wings to remain on the localiser as if it was fighting a 20 kts crosswind, and on another approach at Dubai (Fly Tampa scenery), the same wing rocking was far less with an 11kts 20° left crosswind but still present. And so it was at WSSS with Samsoft scenery with a 02kts headwind.
This could be caused by complex sceneries and video load since I did not notice any such problem on FS9 default sceneries. Altitude, glide and localiser interceptions were all smooth when done with relevant parameters and correct CG in all my flights, with the exceptions already mentioned above for the 773 ER. Another occasional autoland problem occurred when approaching the runway at an altitude of 150ft. The VS would suddenly increase from 700ft/mn to 1200ft/mn, using the replay several times to check what went wrong, I could not identify one single item to explain this, since the parameters were all perfectly adequate and the plane stabilised on its approach path at VREF+5kts all flaps out. As I uncheck “aircraft damage” for my tests, the landing rollout went on normally after a heavy nose impact (no flare) that would have, in real life, destroyed the nose gear.
Landing the 777 manually is relatively easy once you are used to heavies. I was very satisfied with the performance in the deceleration phase from touchdown to runway exit, brake efficiency, spoilers and reverse do their job adequately.
With such a long hauler, many simmers will want to use the FS acceleration. On several tests, I could verify that up to x16 there would be no major deviations unless your route includes nasty weather and/or sharp turns, in which case your plane is likely to go off track and will move about its set altitude for a while. But ultimately, it will get back on its parameters after complaints from the AP alarm (you better put your sound off anyway).
When flying the 200 LRF, I made a point to take off from MMMX with the max payload allowed by the altitude (7316ft) and my relatively short hop to Lima, Peru. Should you want to try it, in spite of the 15442ft of runway 5L, your palms will get wet when looking at the distance remaining to lift off. The same tension will remain while climbing on a heading of 145 to clear the mountains lying south-east of the airport. This is where your two GE90 with their 110000lbs of thrust are welcome to get you out, a great feeling.
The cargo doors are all modelled both for the upper and lower decks and the load manager will help you in your cargo dispatcher job.
this new product worth acquiring? Undoubtedly for all “heavy
iron” lovers the answer is yes, but… just not yet! In my books,
there are too many defects. In particular, in the flight dynamics department
and CDU that may spoil, from time to time, your virtual flying pleasure. All
the known issues are to be resolved by a patch to be released “soon” according
to the developers. I say “from time to time” because you may be
very lucky – as I was on several of my flights – and never experience
any of those defects, actually when I wrote the very first version of this
review, none of the major defects happened to me…
I am of the opinion that once three competitors introduced what simmers would now consider as new standards – see the “details” list below - (as the weather radar will undoubtedly become for future products), a new top add-on cannot ignore those standards and should offer them (I do not include the cabin interior in this category of new standard features).
In fairness, none of the missing “details” will prevent you having a jolly good time at the yoke of one of the most sophisticated airliner plying our skies today… that is after the patch of course. With only some extra efforts and willingness, Just Flight/PSS could make this plane part of the top FS league where it ought to belong.
|What I Like About The 777 Professional|
|What I Don't Like About The 777 Professional|
Defects found on the finished product released on CD
Note: Announced patch has still to be made available, so this review is based on the product released last month on CD only without the update
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