AVSIM Commercial Aircraft Review

PMDG 744 Freighter

Product Information
Publisher: PMDG
Description:  Expansion to the successful PMDG 747-400 Queen of the Skies for FS2004.
Download Size:
74 MB
Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FS 2004
Reviewed by: Gavin Hendrie AVSIM Staff Reviewer - Aug 19, 2006

Introduction

Few aircraft are as instantly recognisable as the Boeing 747 ‘Jumbo’ Jet. The 747 family of aircraft has evolved over the last 40-odd years and continues to do so into the future with the advent of the -800 series. It is the -400 series which we shall be looking at here and specifically the Freighter variant.

Test System

Pentium P4 3.0Ghz 800Mhz FSB and onboard sound
1GB DDR3200
Windows XP Home
GeForce 6200 PCIx 256MB
17” TFT 1280x1024x32
CH Products Pro Pedals

Flying Time:
50 hours

The 747-400 incorporates major aerodynamic improvements over earlier 747 models, including the addition of winglets to reduce drag, new avionics, as well as a new flight deck. Furthermore, the 747 is the world's fastest subsonic jetliner, cruising at Mach .855. Along with earlier versions, 747 Freighters (over 250 in total) carry half the freighter air cargo in the world. Cargolux Airlines was the first to put the 747-400 Freighter into service in November 1993. In all, more than 90 747-400 Freighters have been delivered, including a record 18 in 2002 alone. The standard 747-400 Freighter can carry 124 tons (113,000 kg) of cargo up to 4,450 nautical miles (8,240 km) and it comprises two-thirds of the world's wide-body freighter fleet.

The -400F has essentially the same upper deck as the -200F but was revised to make room for two additional 10-foot-high (3.1 m) pallets on the main deck. Added to this airframe was the flight deck and wings of the -400 Passenger jumbo. Compared to the -200F, the -400F has an additional 15 tons of payload or can fly 840nm (1,556 km) farther. With fuel costs as high as they are nowadays, it’s of interest to operators that the -400F burns 10 to 16 percent less fuel than previous versions, due to more fuel-efficient engines and larger wings. The two-crew flight deck and reduced maintenance costs for avionics and engines provide further savings in direct operating costs over previous version which required a three man flight deck. The success of the Jumbo jet as a freighter is bound to continue well into the foreseeable future.

Installation and Documentation

The first point that must be made about installation is that you MUST already have the Passenger variant installed. For those of you that do not have it, take a look at Maury Pratt’s initial review. Installation of the freighter variant is very straightforward and will add a Cargo load manager to your PMDG folder and some extra .pdf files, including one which details the differences between the two variants.

Installing the free repaints is easy enough as they come as self-exe files and offer you the opportunity to install either the frame friendly DXT3 texture or the crisp but power hungry 32-bit textures. Each is between 6 and 7 Mb and available in an abundance at the PMDG website.

Load Manager

Panel

Apart from a totally new 3D model to reflect the different shape of the freighter, there have also been changes made to the panel in line with the real freighter variant. The main differences to the panel are the MCP readouts, which are now in a digital format. The EICAS displays now show correct read outs for each of the three engine variants, (RR, P&W and GE) and the analogue standby instruments have now been replaced with an all in one digital gauge.

With regard to the EICAS alterations, also reflected in your passenger aircraft, there is no more GE EICAS display regardless of what engine variant you were flying. The remote cockpit door locking button has also been removed from the COM panel, given that a Freighter carries no passengers and therefore doesn’t require a means of preventing unauthorised flight deck access. This just shows the level of detail covered in this package.

The cargo specific pneumatic systems have been modelled and the Stabiliser tanks have been removed (the -400F doesn’t have them) and as such, the reduction in fuel capacity and operational implications are also modelled. The Galley Electrical buses have been removed (no need for Galley’s in the cargo variant with no passengers to feed!) and a greater dependence on the AC Ground handling bus to operate the cargo doors has been implemented. This is just some of the differences to the panel, the EICAS displays in particular have been rendered by PMDG for the Freighter variant. You can be assured that this is definitely NOT just a repaint or an additional model.

The most obvious alteration from the passenger variant is the digital MCP displays. The difference in the older passenger variant is easy to see
The panel by night is still the same beautiful sight it was with the passenger variant with the same range of lighting options

Exterior Model

Modelled using GMax and with textures available in either 32bit or DXT3, you will be hard pressed to find a better 3D model anywhere. If proof were needed, this freighter version is not a repaint but an entirely new model as you can see from the two shots below. One is of the -400 passenger variant carrying the colours of Global Supply Systems and rendered as a Freighter (no windows), the other is of the -400F expansion in the same scheme. You can clearly see the jet on the left has the extended upper deck of the 400 passenger version.

This paint scheme was released by PMDG along with a couple of others to plug the gap in demand for a -400F up until they actually released it. You also get a version of the USAF Airborne Laser which is intended to be used as an anti-missile platform, the laser locks onto the missile, super heats it and causes it to explode. Well, that’s roughly what it does in the real world, but in FS it does nothing at all and I’m at a bit of a loss as to why it was included at all.

When all is said and done though, the freighter model is quite obviously up to the same exceptionally high standard as the previous passenger variant and there are no disappointments.

The PASSENGER version The FREIGHTER version
PMDG may well have to change their name from Precision Manuals to Precision Models!
Cargo loading comes to life at the touch of a button. Note the raised nose as seen from inside the VC.

Interior Model

The Flight Deck has been given a slightly more rugged look. The cockpit door has been replaced by a curtain and the upper deck has been replaced with a slightly more Spartan crew rest area. The Upper and Lower cargo holds have been modelled and, depending upon how much cargo you actually load via the Load Manager, will dictate how much cargo you actually see if you use something like Active Camera or Walk and Follow to view the cargo decks. This is a nice touch which adds a spot of realism to your cargo loading operations, but is an otherwise useless feature. It has however, got to be appreciated when looking at it from the point of view of PMDG pushing the envelope that one stage further.

There is no cargo deck on the ABL and the crew rest area has been replaced with an operating console of some variety, which is probably more for effect than mimicking reality in any way. As nice as virtual cabins are though, it’s the Virtual Cockpit where you should be spending your time. Here, the same functionality and fluidity of gauges exists as did on the passenger version. This is undoubtedly one of the most atmospheric and realistic virtual flight decks available and it makes me want to rush out and buy another two monitors, a Matrox TripleHead2Go and a brand new graphics card in order that I may immerse myself totally.

Cockpit Virtual Cabin on the -400F Virtual Cabin on the USAF ABL
Upper Cargo Deck Lower Cargo hold VC by night
VC Gauges are exceptionally crisp and fluid

Sound

Previously, you had one choice of sound set – General Electric. Now, you have three! With the release of the 747-400F, PMDG added two new engine performance models so that users would have actual engine performance, data and instrumentation reflecting the three engine types currently available on the 747-400 airplane. Upon release of the 747-400 Queen of the Skies last August, PMDG only included a single engine performance model (GE) and added the Rolls Royce and Pratt engine models for customers who purchase the 747-400F.

New sounds have been added which enhance the general ambient sound or flight deck sounds. This is a welcome addition and, although not quite worth the asking price in its own right, is definately a reason to consider purchasing this addon if you already own the passenger variant.

Flight Model

Put quite simply, the model is as authentic as it can get. Many enhancements have been made, but especially in the Autopilot logic and behavioural areas. This expansion makes the 747 the most authentic commercial aircraft add-on for Flight Sim I have ever come across. A full list of those improvements made can be found at PMDG website.

Summary

This add-on consistently performed well on my machine which as I’ve said before, is no super-computer. Maury’s original review gave the passenger variant 5 stars and, if we still used that grading system here at AVSIM then this expansion would get the same.

Despite it being a rather unique creature – an add-on FOR an add-on, it has actually IMPROVED upon the original (passenger) version and those improvements are automatically made to your passenger version when you install the freighter.

Is it worth the money for that reason alone? Only you can answer that, but I think it absolutely is. Yes, $54.99 for the base pack (passenger) and then another $29.99 for this add-on (freighter) amounts to a lot for basically one aircraft type (the 747-400) but then again, there isn’t an add-on developed yet which covers this level of detail in all respects. If you have the cash and the passenger variant already installed and want an improvement to it, then you have to buy it - Simple as that!

The improvements made to the sound library and the enhancements to the Flight Model make this a worthwhile purchase if you want the most detailed rendition of a commercial aircraft ever made. If all you want is a freighter, use one of the passenger textures that have been painted as a freighter and save your money for FSX as you blatantly won’t appreciate the extra detail which has gone into this product.

All in all, this latest offering from PMDG shows why there is a growing band of flight simmers who are calling for all future versions of FS to be “PMDG Compliant.”

 

What I Like About the 744 Freighter
  • The addition of two new engine soundsets
  • The cargo load manager is easy to use
  • The improvements it makes to the passenger version
  • The super-realistic flight model
  • The ability to program failures
  • Everything Maury liked in his review of the passenger version!!

 
What I Don't Like About the 744 Freighter
  • You must already own the 744 passenger variant, making this an overall VERY expensive add-on.

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