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hmsdreadnought

Flying Characteristics Observations After A Weekened With The Triple 7

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I waited until the service pack to buy this bird.  I've been fortunate to fly several hours in United's 777 simulator so I wanted to wait until the jet was polished and ready for prime time.   It was probably close to 9 years ago - but my memories are pretty sharp because I'm pretty sure I'll never get to do that again.  

 

Here are some observations, some good, some bad related to hand flying the beast. 

 

Also, before I jump in, I want to say, visually, the plane is stunning - a real work of art.  And the systems are really something to marvel at.  No matter what you think about the flight model, this is an extraordinary accomplishment for a product that average people can use with home computers.  I'm old enough to remember when simulators had tiny cameras rolling on model terrain (real models - like, on plywood like a model train set).   So, please don't take this post as flame - I'm in awe of the software engineering and feel like the money I spent on the bird is an excpetional value, even with its shortcomings.  But I do think the flight model has some shortcomings and it is reducing my pleasure in flying the plane.  

 

For the record, i'm not a pilot.  I've about two hours at the controls of one of my donors' Cessna 186 turbo and my two hours in the 777 sim.  Also, I don't fly the plane the way a lot of airliners do.  I don't use auto pilot until I'm well launched on climb out (often all the way to cruise) and I always hand fly approaches usually from TOD, but also from about 12 miles out.  I also hand fly at alttitude practicing trimming, level turns etc.  

 

I get bored, rolling, rotating, hitting a button, and sitting back for several hours turning a few knobs even though I know that many ailines train exactly that (mostly to save fuel I think).

 

My home sim: I have a new model PFC jetliner yoke, saitek pedals and I'm using my Warthog throttles.  My rig is driving FSX at 4.9 ghz - i2700 overclocked with off the shelf liquid cooling. I have few scenery addons - just ORBX Global and that company's north american products.  I fly with the main three displays zoomed out on separate monitosr, along with the FMC.  I keep the main display in VC mode so I can pan around the cockpit.  I don't buy airports because they bring my rig to its knees.

 

Here goes:

 

1. The full motion sim was ridiculously easy to fly - even for a non-pilot like me.  Like, arcade easy.  Basically, the plane went where you pointed it.  The computer PMDG sim is much harder.  For example, you really have to work to keep proper pitch angle in a turn - in the full-motion I don't remember having to think too much about it.  I will say that in fairness, this this feels true for most FSX planes. The RealAir V2. Duke seems to the best of this of all the planes in my stable for needing a realistic amount of nose up in gentle turns.  

 

2. Trimming is intuitive and not challenging on the real jet, at least in the situations we were allowed to perform.  It was pretty easy to establish a trimmed, steady flight state.  I'm finding it very difficult to trim the PMDG 777 even with the FBW bug.  The plane gyrates up and down and it takes a long time to finally get it stable.  I can trim out the 737, with no trim cheat, in far less time and with far less severe plane movements with consistency.

 

3. The plane does not jerk around or throw it's nose up suddenly - and I'm not a pilot so it had lots of opportunity on the take offs and a wind sheer  on take-off excercise we did to exhibit this kind of behavior. The full motion's behavior was very smooth and refined - even when it was being thrown around a bit.  I am having a devil of a time with a 3-4 hour load of fuel and full payload handling the PMDG plane on climb out with and without the FBW bug.  The FBW seems to be trying to catch up, then makes huge adjustments as you try to trim for the climb. The nose lurches up and down, often repeatedly. Turns seem to throw it off it's game resulting in far less predictable responses to pitch input.  I get nervous flying this plane every time I have to turn or accelerate or decelerate.  I really don't know how it's going to react.

 

4. Where the PMDG plane excells, I think, is on approach.  The instructor at United urged a lot of use of trim to make minor adjustments to keep the needles centered (he was the chief instructor pilot for the 777 at United at the time - hell of a nice guy to come in and let a couple of amateurs play in his very expensive toy). And it was so simple to do that even a non-pilot such as myself was able to land the beast three times with realtively smooth touchdowns close to the TD zone (once in a 20 knot cross wind - that wasn't so easy but not because of the plane, but because I don't have cross wind experience outside of MSFX).  They teach crabbing on final, transitioning into a wing down as you near the threshold, in case you are interested.  I think this is where the PMDG bird (the 200) is best -though trim is smoother on the jet and much easier to manage. I've had no trouble landing the PMDG jet with and without AT on. I don't have the 300 so I've not experieced the nose up behavior at flare.  In fact, in some ways it feels easier to land without autothrottle - i love the throttle response on the PMDG bird.  So smooth.

 

Overall it feels like the FBW is always catching up, is not smooth, kind of like its an early beta of the FBW system to see if the concept would work or not.  I'm sure some of this is due to the limitations of FSX and trying to model the flight of  450,000 pounds of airplane in motion in three axes in an ever changing medium. 

 

So, overall, no buyers remorse.  But, sadly, it's not as much fun as I'd hoped. 

 

Colin Ware

Seattle

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Colin,

 

This is a very well written, candid, and honest observation.     I agree with most of what you say, and although I have no buyer's remorse either, I also wish some things were done better (the FBW system in particular).     I personally find myself 'flying' the FBW instead of the aircraft because of the way PMDG has modeled a dual mode system (separate maneuver demand vs speed stability mode).     One must have a clear understanding of how the PMDG FBW system works compared to that of the real aircraft in order to interact properly with it and maintain stable flight.   

 

The real 777 aircraft trims like any conventional plane, intuitively and smoothly.      The PMDG 777 FBW seems to always remain two steps or so behind where you want it to be, and this often results in different quirks such as unpredictable pitch oscillations during approach and blowing past trim reference speed unless the controls are properly neutralized after a trim change (so speed stability mode can engage properly).     

 

I frequently get the nose up behavior when the PMDG 777 comes into ground effect during landing like others on here have mentioned and I've found a workaround, but it's just not realistic behavior and gets frustrating.     Everything else about the PMDG 777 is so perfect that I just wish the FBW was as refined as the rest of the sim.    

 

And yes, the PMDG 737NGX is now and forever shall be the high watermark of both sophistication and flight modeling for any desktop flight simulation; it's just so perfect on every facet.     The PMDG 777 may be bigger, faster, and have much longer legs, but it's still playing catchup to it's little brother, the prodigy NGX.   ^_^

 

-Steven Keaton

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Wait, are people allowed to criticize PMDG here?

 

Bearing in mind that Colin and I are both offering constructive criticism rather than vitriolic.    No one is trying to start a flame war or a PMDG-bashing thread in any way.      I firmly believe the PMDG 737 NGX is the greatest single add-on for FSX ever made, and this is quite a high bar to overtake, even with the newer 777.     -_-

 

No one is perfect though, with the possible exception of myself.     After all, I've never made a mistake in my life.  I thought I did once, but I was wrong.    

 

-Steven Keaton

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Wait, are people allowed to criticize PMDG here?
I think the PMDG T7 FBW us being criticized in a civil manner as opposed to a rant. The NGX observation is right on.

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