AVSIM Commercial FSX Aircraft Review

767 Captain & Weather Radar

Product Information

Publishers:  Captain Sim

Description: 767-300 base pack, 767-200 expansion, Freighter expansion, Weather Radar.

Download Size:
767-300: 68 MB
767-200: 8.64 MB
Freighter: 10.44 MB
Weather radar: 3.05 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Tim Capps AVSIM Staff Reviewer - November 29, 2009

Introduction

Pretend you are watching Los Lucedores. In one corner is Level D Simulation 767, hair dyed a little too yellow to hide the grey, and a paunch that is not exactly state-of-the-art beneath his white spandex suit. Nonetheless, a hush falls over the crowd as he takes his place in the ring with practiced movements that belie his age. The exterior may be showing some age, but every motion suggests his cunning, his strength. He is indeed the champion-- no: a legend. No one questions his right to the title.

Suddenly, the worshipful silence is broken by balalaika music! In dances Captain Sim to boos from the crowd, his arms folded insolently, legs kicking alternately from a nearly sitting position. Hey! He is dressed in black Cossack garb, with an immense fur hat from which bats fly out. Very finely modeled bats, you notice. One or two in the audience have the temerity to cheer, but they wither beneath the venomous looks they draw.

If Captain Sim notices the boos, he gives no indication. With the assurance of a Sukhoi jet fighter performing The Cobra, he leaps into the ring to face: The Legend. If only he had stuck to the 757, he could have avoided this confrontation, but now, the release of the 767 makes a showdown inevitable. In a thick Russian accent, The Captain issues his challenge: “When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master.”

“Only a master of evil, Sim,” Level D replies with a touch of sadness.

So now that we have all that out of our system, let’s put such genre-mixing silliness behind us and get on with the review. Sooner or later, someone was bound to make another 767, and this one deserves to be judged on its own merits.

A point-by-point comparison with the Level D 767 could cut either way, not surprisingly, with systems detail going to Level D and graphics going to Captain Sim. In a way, each represents the farthest point in their respective directions. This is not to say that they hold no cards at all in their opposite’s strong suit, but that they represent asymmetrical interpretations of a common subject (not to mention different points in flight simulation history).

Captain Sim’s product is not a better-looking LDS 767. My quick advice to those completely satisfied with the LDS 767 is that they may want to take a deep breath before swimming through the corpus callosum from left-brain LDS fidelity toward the glowing vacuum tubes warming up on the right side of their brains. That is where your inner Captain lives, along with remnants of your freshman humanities course.

On the other hand, the Captain has not provided anything approaching a “lite” airplane. You may not be able to dump your fuel, but you’re covered for normal operations. It is a beautiful airplane, and a challenging one. Captain Sim is taking this seriously. One gets the impression this is their baby, their bona fides to the top tier of developers. That is a ticket this reviewer is happy to punch -- now. It was not always so.

The first draft of this review, based on the 1.0 was highly critical. When 1.1, then 1.2 came out, it was apparent that much of my review was destined for the recycling bin icon. It was that much better. Now we are at 1.3 and the freighter expansion has demonstrated Captain Sim knows how to correct the instability problems that annoyed some users.

That’s three major upgrades in four months, plus two expansions: the Transpacific 200 and the Freighter. Still to come are more upgrades and a 400... A patch was just released in advance of the next service pack to address an intermittent stability issue some users were reporting.

So who is the winner in the wrestling scenario imagined at the beginning? We are. Depending on your feelings toward the LDS 767, the Captain Sim 767 is either a nice alternative or a worthy successor, or perhaps, even an insolent challenger to a rightfully-beloved classic.

Is Captain Sim’s 767 the new heavyweight champion of the virtual skies? That’s what goes at the end of this review. Before we get there, we need to talk about The Mistress of the Atlantic: the 767.

Boeing 767 History and ETOPS

With Boeing already fielding a successful go-far with the iconic 747, you might wonder what role was envisioned for the 767. In the early 70s, wide-bodies were carried aloft by four engines, such as the 747, or three, as with the DC-10 (and, later, the most highly-evolved dinosaur of them all -- the MD-11).

With the proliferation of big twins these days, it is hard to remember that not so long ago traveling over water with only two engines looked like a dangerous stunt. (As late as 2006 Virgin Atlantic was trading on this idea to promote their A340-600 fleet: “4 Engines 4 Long Haul.”)

In 1972 Don McClean was serving up American Pie, Elton John was the Rocket Man., and 14-year-old Michael Jackson was the youngest soloist to have a hit single with “Ben,“ the theme song for a movie about rats. Boeing was designing replacements for both the 727 and 707, and initially envisioned another tri-jet for the latter. (The 757 and 767 were developed in tandem, so the similarities reflected in Captain Sim’s siblings are no more than what Mr. Boeing intended from the start.) With the success of the Airbus A300, the reliability and economy of twins was not lost on Boeing.

The Airbus operated under ICAO rules which permitted a 90-minute maximum diversion time. In 1985 the FAA and ICAO agreed on ETOPS guidelines that allowed for as long as 120 minutes, opening up the Atlantic no matter what the weather in Iceland was like.

ETOPS stands for Extended-Range Twin-Engine Operational Performance Standards or, according to some, Engines Turn Or People Swim. ETOPS actually relates to distance to a diversion airfield with one engine out, but, since ocean expanses conspicuously lack dry landing places, ETOPS has become synonymous with over-water routes.

The ETOPS transatlantic era was inaugurated in 1985, when the FAA approved the 767 for TWA’s St. Louis to Frankfurt route. Today, the 767 is the Mistress of the Atlantic, with more crossings than any other aircraft. In 1988 ETOPS range was extended to 180 minutes, making 95% of the Earth’s surface available to twins.

As you may have already guessed, ETOPS is also the answer to the question: “What epitaph is carved on the headstone of the big tri-jet?” Two engines per trip are cheaper to operate than three. Just how far can the 767-300 go? Aeroflot flight SU321 flew nonstop from Moscow to Los Angeles in 13 hours 10 minutes, that’s how far. 2 engines 2 go far.

With current orders for 767s in negative territory due to cancellations, the writing is on the wall for the soon-to-be classic. Boeing hopes the troubled 787 bounces back from delays and cancellations to become the 21st century twin of choice, even as they have already announced cuts in 777 production for next year. Tough times for the Seven Series, reflecting world economic woes that are hitting the Airbus competition, too.

Boeing has taken 973 orders for 767s over the years, and it is flown by approximately 92 operators chalking up more than 14.7 million flights.

Installation and Documentation

The base pack is the 767-300. The 767-200 and freighter are expansion packs that may be purchased separately for those who want even more 767 fun.

Test System

Dell XPS 430 2.5 Core 2 Quad
6 GB RAM
Nvidia GeForce 9800
GT Vista 64

Flying Time:
22.5 hours

Installation is unremarkable, with activation accomplished by pasting your emailed order number in the box. Documentation is almost identical to the 757’s, which means very well done, extensive and printer-friendly. While there are just over 300 pages in a total of five volumes, illustrations are plentiful and the prose is not at all dense.

Captain Sim’s 757 and 767 manuals (almost identical) are uncommonly readable, complete, and useful. The biggest problem I was able to find was that the thrust reference setting knob is still identified with a “6” in the diagram on page 86 of the Aircraft Systems Manual, which is apparently all you need to know, since the explanations stop at 5. (Forget about 3 and 4, because they’re so secret they’re just skipped.)

You can fly the airplane without ever touching those mysterious controls, since the FMC can handle de-rated takeoffs, but they could have done a better job for the 767 fanatics who want to master every last represented switch and knob. However, this sort of editing lapse is rare, and the Captain’s trouble ticket system seems to have improved.

Peer-to-peer support is also plentiful on their forum. Additionally, from fuel planners and take-off calculators to instructional material, there is a lot of 767 materials to be found on the web, courtesy of dedicated and knowledgeable LDS fans that have gone before.

There is still no tutorial. The operations manual is in the form of an extended checklist, and that, along with various fanware gouges on the Captain Sim forum, should see you through.

A load utility is supplied: ACE. ACE lets you load your airplane, but will not figure center of gravity. It does include a way to easily add and remove ACE-compliant repaints from your fleet, and options to improve frame rates and add winglets. No fuel planner is included, but there are freeware ones available on the internet that work just fine.

Captain Sim envisions users determining fuel from FSX’s own estimate as reported in a flight’s nav log. Add 55% to that and you ought to be good for relatively economical cost indexes. Once you accept that ACE is intended to work with FSX’s native fuel and load page, it is an easy, useful tool.

The good news is you don’t need to know about it to fly the airplane. Note frame rate saving options like eliminating window reflections and the cabin. Seating chart for loading.

Exterior

3D modeling and animation of the undercarriage and other movables is to the usual high Captain Sim standards. The paint jobs are crisp and slightly weathered. If you‘re wondering why Captain Sim airplanes look so darned good, consider that they spread their graphics goodness over three separate pages, where some highly respected developers use only one. It makes a noticeable difference in resolution.

Version 1.0 provided only four available carriers, none of them American, and two of which -- KLM and Air France -- no longer operate 767s. Between Air Canada and Aeroflot, the latter is the standout for novelty alone, and you can fly a variety of interesting routes in winged hammer-and-sickle style. (Surprisingly, Aeroflot still has the same Soviet-inspired logo, whether as a bit of retro cool or atavistic Commie pride, I don’t know.)

The good news is that McPhat has come through with Delta and Gulf Air repaints. There are some very nice fanware paints already appearing now that Captain Sim has released the paint kit. Mario Gors deserves mention for his extraordinary Aeroflot livery you have to see to believe, and also his beautiful Air Canada. Carl Hudson and John Littler should be mentioned in dispatches, as well.

There seems to be a small, but solid community gelling around this 767. The 200, being a newer release, is lagging behind of course, and there is only one paint for the freighter: a rather uninspired UPS. I am sure this will change. (Be sure to check the read-me files, as not all of these are ACE-compliant; but it is a simple enough matter to drag the texture folder to the proper place and cut and paste the relevant section into the aircraft config file.)

Spoilers deploy on landing by Aeroflot. Detail of undercarriage on Air Canada. KLM approaching in poor visibility.
McPhat gets into the act: Dave Sweetman’s Gulf Air. Another Dave Sweetman repaint. Delta climbing through some clouds, courtesy of Dave.

There are many external animations accessible via shift+3. Chocks, radome and radar, various doors and the ever-popular uniformed stewardess are just a few. Owners of Aerosoft’s AES are in for a treat: this bird looks fascinating when service vehicles are swarming over it, an engine cowling is open for a quick maintenance check, and other busy-ness is represented.

It would have been nice if 757 owners could have found one or two different animations such as stairs to go with that nicely modeled stewardess standing forlornly at the door (here again, AES helps), but the 767 offers nothing little new graphically. (In all seriousness, the 767 is similar enough to the 757 that you might want to check out that review, too.)

Interior

The big news is that the 767 interior does not end at first class like LOST’s Oceanic Flight 815 on a bad day. You will want to brush up on your control-shift-enter-backspace combos for those comforting (“who’s flying this thing? “) strolls down the entire length to the aft galley. There are all sorts of animations and little graphical touches like Guinness coasters, napkins and juice boxes. I am a sucker for details like this and stretching my legs during turbulence has not gotten old yet.

It is worth exploring, and gives a good sense of the size of this aircraft. If you want to go for broke and turn on bloom, you can enjoy interior lighting effects in the virtual cockpit and cabin, including something called “lavatory bloom,” which sounds like it would need bleach. Ducking into the lavatory and taking a look around reveals cleanliness, although the lack of reflection in the mirror is slightly unsettling. “Lavish” is an adjective I haven’t used yet, because I was saving it for the cabin art. If Captain Sim sets the graphics benchmark among developers – and they do – we have a new standard.

The full-length cabin can be omitted to save some frame rates if you wish. The sun shade is moveable; another example of Captain Sim’s graphic detail. The panel from a different perspective.
Low shot of the panel from behind the pedestal. Panel configured for landing. Captain Sim toned down the glary night lighting from the 757 to this beautiful glow.

Back in the cockpit, you’ll find the same well-worn glare shield you may be familiar with from the 757. Captain Sim did an outstanding job with the textures and animations up front. Highlights and self-shading really bring out the details on knobs and fixtures in the virtual cockpit. Animations abound, from the rotate-and-flip-up detail of the fuel levers to the Famous Swinging Jacket behind you. The virtual cockpit is a true work of art.

The PFD is also the same as in the 757, but cannot really be faulted as such. Some 767s have speed tapes; some don’t. There are many options for fleet managers. In this case, art imitates life, because as a line pilot those choices are not available to you. A more valid point might be made that when you are selling two very similar simulated aircraft to the same people, your customers might appreciate as many legitimate differences as possible.

Frequent drivers might be excused the occasional confusion as to which Captain Sim offering they are in this time. (Hint: if you see a rabbit behind you, you’re in the 757; if you can use the sun shade, you’re in the 767.) While those who do not own the 757 will enjoy much novelty, Captain Sim loyalists may find the act wearing a little thin. On the other hand, with many of us trying to stay competent on a ridiculous number of aircraft, there is much to be said for sliding into the same familiar cockpit for a different type of flight. Perhaps in recognition of this, Captain Sim has added a nifty, moveable sun shade, and, who knows, the upcoming 400 version might have a tape gauge.

You will find different upper EICAS displays for different engines: the compact display featuring N1 and EGT for GE engines, and the three-row display that includes EPR for Pratt and Whitneys.

Sounds

The engine sounds are impressive, and the start sequence worth listening to. There are selectable cabin announcements from the flight deck and attendants, and now we know why the middle digit was muffled in the 757: the sound set does double-duty. There are no call-outs or communication between captain and ground crew, as the LDS version has.

Operations

Many virtual 767 pilots will be satisfied with nothing but the most realistic and complete airplane consumer-grade flight simulation has to offer. Captain Sim provides a lot for normal operations, although, as mentioned before, you cannot dump your fuel. The LDS 767 boasts other esoteric features that Captain Sim’s version lacks, plus of course, a highly configurable failure system. But make no mistake: this is a serious and solid sim in its own right and superior to LDS in graphics.

Enlarge for a closer look at some of the items overhead that you’ll need to become familiar with to operate this 767. Here is what it looks like at start, with options included for ground service in lieu of APU. A 30 nm ring is set up around the arrival airport (UUEE Sheremetyevo, Moscow) so remind the pilot to be at 10,000 feet and 250 kts.
The Flight Management Computer in action again, this time for a Standard Instrument Departure’s altitude restriction. Here the altitude restriction has been changed. Check the VNAV page to make sure it has registered and it should be respected.

The flight management computer is fully supported by Navigraph and automated flight is possible from beginning to end. Complicated procedures including conditional fixes are supported, as are holds. You have full and easy access to your FSX flight plans through the FMC, and company routes are easily saved. (Bonus: 757 and 767 company routes are interchangeable.) This is particularly valuable for those North Atlantic Tracks using longitude and latitude. Step climbs are calculated and appear on your navigation display. The localizer and glide slope are captured decisively, and auto land is capable of bringing you in for a firm landing. (A competent pilot can make a gentler landing by hand.) If you use a utility to calculate your de-rated thrust, you are able to set that up through the FMC. Integrated weather radar comes as standard equipment.

Some have complained of rocking or porpoising in flight, and various fixes have been posted on the Captain Sim forum. I noticed intermittent, slight porpoising during part of the cruise. In other words, the airplane would sometimes pitch up and down a bit. However, Captain Sim has solved this problem with the freighter expansion and is working on cleaning up the flight characteristics of the base model, as well.

A patch just been released at time of writing that resolved the issue for me, but at the cost of an intermittently too-aggressive bank when the autopilot initiated turns. They are still working on the next service pack and another expansion is planned: the 400. Given the brisk pace of improvements, there is no reason to doubt Captain Sim’s determination to continue to work out the kinks.

The Captain has thoughtfully provided starting situations of cold-and-dark and cleared for takeoff.

All in all, this airplane is a challenge to operate, rewards study and is a joy to fly. I have mostly used Captain Mike Ray’s books to learn how to operate this 767, which should give some idea of how faithful the airplane is to the real thing. The last word in fidelity? To the extent someone with 40 hours in a Cessna Skyhawk is qualified to say, no. But neither is it a lite product or still less of a gussied up defaultish airplane.

It is aimed at those simmers that want to fly a realistic 767 under normal conditions and are not looking for a check ride simulator. My test flights have been mainly between London and Palma, and Atlanta and Moscow, and the all-important fun to frustration ration ratio has been very high. I stopped counting hours at 100 and I still look forward to flights in this airplane.

The 767-200 and the Freighter

Right now, the 767-200 liveries are limited to American and XL, but the first fan repaints are beginning to appear. Personally, I’m waiting for some talented soul to make the Spirit of Delta shown below. Between the 300 and 200, I prefer the looks of the latter, as somehow the shorter fuselage seems more balanced and aesthetically pleasing to me. The 200 is a very long-range version of the 767 designed for transpacific city-pairs such as Sydney-Los Angeles. Now, that role is filled by the 777.

The real Spirit of Delta 767-200 is being refurbished after retirement. XL 767-200 shows off some standard 767 animations: radome, dust excluders, engine canopy, service doors, stewardess and chocks. (Stairs not included.)

According to Boeing, a total of seven customers have ordered 82 767 freighters, which are based on the 300 model. The freighter offers a much different look at how the 767 is used. Not only is the passenger cabin replaced by a cavernous cargo hold, but you get two separate 3D loaders to operate yourself.

If you ever enjoyed playing with toy trucks when you were a kid, you’re going to love these. Load the ULDs (which are weight-configurable) one at a time, then drive the loader up to the cargo door, raise it up and slide it in. We may not be to the point where we can watch virtual passengers board, but we can now load freight into a 767, and it’s fun.

Performance

Due to Captain Sim’s products’ well-deserved reputation as gorgeous, but hard on frame rates, performance warrants a separate mention. Frame rates are similar to those of Captain Sim’s 757. On a mid-range, but up-to-date system, flying out of Atlanta KATL with significant AI traffic and other graphic goodies will make things choppy. Let’s go for broke and see what happens. At UK2000 Heathrow Xtreme FSX with 50% Traffic X frame rates dip below 10 and a pan across the flight deck is choppy. Things improve dramatically once up in the air.

If you are willing to give the 767 the spotlight she craves and dial down your expectations for other things, there should be no reason not to find an acceptable compromise. In any case, Captain Sim has for the first time made it possible to recapture some FPS by eliminating window reflections and the full length cabin.

My FPS is in the teens on the ground (with both reflections and cabin) at a big, busy airport, and in the twenties in the sky. I find setting my frame lock to unlimited helps tremendously. While one pilot’s frame hog is another’s beloved diva, I consider performance a non-issue on my test system. It is a fact of life, however, that Captain Sim is known for trading frame rates for graphical goodness, so I am willing to sacrifice scenery and traffic as needed.

Weather Radar

Weather Radar is a stand-alone product that is easily installed on any aircraft. (It should not be confused with the standard equipment on the 767, which is integrated into the navigation display.) It could hardly be an easier diversion on those long cruises, and might even help you avoid simulated weather dangers.

Installation consists of selecting a target from a list of your installed airplanes and clicking a button. “CS Weather Radar” will be added to your instrument drop-down menu. Modes include standby, test and of course, on. You can adjust brightness with one knob and signal gain with another, making it more likely to see fainter returns. Range can be selected from up-close 5 miles out to 320 nm with several stops in between. The Wx button will paint a picture of storm intensity in different colors. Hit the WxA button and the worst blots will flash red and black for extra urgency.

Air France 767 takes off in a thunderstorm. Lightning illuminates the flight deck during a storm. The pilot can avoid the worst of the weather, however. Note the good correlation between the weather outside and the threatening returns on the screen.

The knob on the lower right is where you get to exercise a bit of skill. Your radar dish sweeps back and forth beneath the big radome in the nose of your 767. (You can see it next time you are at the gate, using the animation panel to swing the radome to one side.) The tilt dial allows you to point your radar up to 15 degrees up or down.

This means you can peer down on storms slightly below your altitude, for example, so you don’t miss brewing danger due to over-scan. That’s really all there is to it. The purpose, of course, is to permit you to pick your way between the towering thunderheads with their dangerous winds and other hazards.

It works so well that it takes an effort to realize it is a programming illusion. FSX weather is somehow being translated into colored pixels in a 2D pop-up panel. There are no simulated radar beams picking up simulated weather. Nonetheless, there is a close correspondence between sim weather and the radar picture, and you can indeed use it find the safest path.

Summary

The 767 has long held a fascination for flight simmers favoring the more detailed side of commercial aviation. That is due almost entirely to the excellent LDS 767. However, the venerable LDS has been vastly surpassed graphically by Captain Sim’s 767, which does not sacrifice the details of normal operations. For most simmers, it will be challenging, satisfying and fun.

Captain Sim has laid out a feast of 767 models and at least one course remains to come: the 400. While the LDS remains a seriously fine product, this reviewer has a new favorite 767, and that is the Captain’s.

Certainly not everyone will agree. (Flight simmers don’t agree on anything except wanting faster computers.) That’s fine. The LDS 767 will continue to provide enjoyment to its devotees, and I look forward to whatever the future might bring from LDS.

But for now, in view of the aggressive improvement, the completeness of the collection, the graphical beauty, and the depth of normal operations; the Captain Sim 767 is recommended for AVISM’s Gold Star award. Maybe also because it takes a lot of guts to take on a legend, and you have to give them credit.

Whether that means the Captain is the new champion, a contender, or pretender can be debated in the forums. Or, we can take a break from debate and fly our airplanes!

 

What I Like About The 767 Captain

  • Graphic beauty: like the 757 before her, this one is a true work of art both inside and out.
  • Depth of automated flight operations, particularly the ability to follow complicated procedures and execute holds.
  • The completeness factor: after purchasing the base model, you can still look forward to the 200, the freighter, and the 400.
  • Extra touches just for fun, like the stewardess, the jacket that swings during turns, all the animations that make things more interesting at the gate.
  • Complete and well-written documentation.

 

What I Don't Like About The 767 Captain

  • Maybe this is more about what I don’t like about my computer, but flying this airplane with sliders well to the right and heavy traffic remains a dream for my system
  • Autopilot’s intermittently aggressive entry into banks when those users experiencing porpoising or rocking apply the current patch.
  • Captain Sim has not departed from its policy of not supporting key assignments or hardware, leaving folks that enjoy that out in the cold.
  • The lack of a tutorial. Fanware is nice, but better is to be able to do a walk-through right from the beginning.

 

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