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teropa

PMDG MD-11 - initial impressions

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For anyone more interested in what it's actually like than in what it costs, here are a few initial impressions from someone who mostly uses the Level-D 767X and the PMDG 747X:Good points:1. Depth. This model has clearly taken on board as much of the detail of the real thing as is sensibly possible for a desktop simulator - with one exception (see "Weather" below).2. Difference. The aeroplane is sufficiently different from the more familiar Boeings to give us something meaty to learn; but it is sufficiently familiar for us not to have to start completely from scratch. 3. Performance. As good as the Level-D 767X on my system: maybe even just a touch faster, even when I increase the capped VC framerate from the default 10fps to 25fps.4. Graphics. The VC (which is all I use) is very nicely done: better than the Level-D 767X and on a par with the 747X. Oddly enough, though, to my eyes it is not quite as "photorealistic" as the new Captain Sim 757. Externally and in terms of animations: there are some nice touches, including a view from inside one of the landing gear bays, letting you see the gear going up and down in nerdishly-fascinating detail.5. User interface. A number of nice touches, particularly the incorporation of what would otherwise be flight sim events into a section of the FMS (pushback, control of the doors and a VERY ingenious refuelling system). The load manager has also been improved significantly: it will "inject" settings directly into FSX.6. Robustness. To a better degree than most other add-ons that I have tried, this one seems to work right out of the box - INCLUDING being able to save situations and resume them properly without having to fiddle around persuading it to recognise the saved panel state. This is partly because PMDG have written a sort of "warm up" routine at the beginning: a count-down of about 10 seconds while it puts everything in place, so you don't un-pause only to find yourself plummeting to earth at 10,000 ft/s. A very good thing IMHO.7. Humility. PMDG have taken a leaf from Level-D's book and given us a helpful first officer who makes sensible speed calls etc.8. Compatibility. Uses PMDG Navigraph data. Not sure about FSBuild and Vroute flightplans.9. Documentation. This is both good and bad. The good bit is that there is lots of documentation including proxies for "real world" manuals; there is a nice FAQ on the website (not, oddly, in the package, so far as I could tell) which helps those of us familiar with Boeing systems; there is an OK-ish "Tutorial" (not as clearly written or well illustrated as it could be, IMHO) BUT ...Bad points.1. Documentation. ... the bad bit is that the documentation is a bit of a mixed bag, IMHO. There is masses of it, but quite a lot of it is repetitive; not all of it has been edited very carefully (for example, the text boxes aren't always big enough for their content); and - I do not mean to be rude - quite a lot of it could do with being proof-read by someone with a slightly better command of written English. (Mind you, that is a common enough failing these days: perhaps it is "authentic".) Focus is another problem: there is a tutorial, but it is no substitute for a "road map" through the controls on the aeroplane; and the nearest equivalent - the "Aircraft Systems" book - approaches things on a system-by-system basis. This may or may not be realistic, but it is not ideal for getting familiar quickly with the new controls.2. Weather. Very very very disappointing that a sim of this complexity lacks weather radar. PMDG put what, I suspect, they would call a "purist" spin on this: as I recall, they say that FSX doesn't do weather properly so any weather radar would not be a proper one. To my mind, that is a totally spurious excuse. They could slap whatever "health warnings" they liked on it and give you the option to turn it off; but since the whole thing is only a simulation anyway I bet that everyone would keep it turned on, if it were provided. The Captain Sim 757 for all its alleged faults has an OK weather radar. No doubt it is imperfect: but it does a reasonable job with what FSX gives it, and it adds immeasurably to the experience. It may not be "real" - whatever on earth that means in a simulator - but I like seeing areas of suspected windshear etc.3. None other that occurs to me yet. I haven't tried it with VATSIM yet so I'll be interested to see whether the radios etc play nicely with FSInn.Overall:An extremely good add-on IMHO; near the top end of the market for lovers of verisimilitude; and in some respects, I suspect, defining it.Personally I think there is something a little "retro" about the penchant for models of aeroplanes that are approaching, or past, their "use by" dates. I'd be very interested to see PMDG or Level-D turn their hands to a 787, for example. But that (like all else in this post, I suppose) is just a personal thing and does not reflect on the quality of their model MD-11. In fact, what stands out most distinctly is a sense that a lot of affection has been lavished on this product, as well as attention to detail. It is nicely done.Worth the wait? I couldn't say: I wasn't waiting, just curious. Tim

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Thanks, very interesting read.I agree with you about the lack of weather radar. I was expecting at least an "OK" weather radar at this price. Several high-fidelity developers provide servicable weather radars in their latest products, no excuses. They don't claim they're completly proper, but you know what, that's ok. They still add a lot to the experience. I don't like the failure modeling system either. They go through all that trouble, but then set the minimum failure rate to one event every ** 10 hours **. That's way too high. That means on a long trip, the aircraft is LIKELY to have a system failure. By simply lowering the minimum failure rate setting, they could model an aircraft where the chance of a system failure is highly unlikely, but still real. You know, a well-maintained AIRWORTHY aircraft where you can expect and rely upon the systems to get you across the deep blue Pacific ocean without a single problem, but you can never assume something won't break (so keep on checking those systems). At least LevelD gets this.

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>they could model an aircraft where the chance of a>system failure is highly unlikely, but still real. What's real would still be questionable. Great majority of pilots fly their whole life without a single failure. Honestly, for most realistic experience you should fly with all failures disabled, if however you want to actually practice failures (like pros in the simulator) then something like once in 10 hrs or even more frequently sounds good.Michael J.http://img142.imageshack.us/img142/9320/apollo17vf7.jpg

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>The Captain Sim>757 for all its alleged faults has an OK weather radar.Captain Sim 757 is like some reviewer well stated Paris Hilton of flight simulation - all the glitter and outside beauty with no depth and substance. So yes, in their world of simulation weather radar fits perfectly. In the PMDG or LDS world of simulation it would be an eye candy with no substance.Michael J.http://img142.imageshack.us/img142/9320/apollo17vf7.jpg

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>>>The Captain Sim>>757 for all its alleged faults has an OK weather radar.>>Captain Sim 757 is like some reviewer well stated Paris Hilton>of flight simulation - all the glitter and outside beauty with>no depth and substance. So yes, in their world of simulation>weather radar fits perfectly. In the PMDG or LDS world of>simulation it would be an eye candy with no substance.>>Michael J.>http://img142.imageshack.us/img142/9320/apollo17vf7.jpgWith all due respect I disagree. It's all fake. (simulation :)). The underlying code in FSX that models flight (lift, yaw,gravity etc.) is anything but rigorous. Every dynamic code element of FSX has simplifications. The limited code is molded by talented developers to provide a nice approximation of flight parameters during normal flight regimes. The rest of the experience is audio and visual, including red and green stuff on radar if it is raining. It's close enough for me. I have never understood the argument that since the atmospheric model is less than engineering code, weather radar is precluded from our PMDG planes. IMHO it's a silly argument that ignores the equally simple flight code. You want to see how rigorous the flight model is on any complex and expensive jet in FSX? Fly it upside down with the knowledge that none of the parameters and responses are related to the real world. The five percent of serious simmers who will actually use more than 50% of the features (and care) can leave weather radar off. For $82.50 I would like weather radar integrated in the flight displays. Just 'sort of' like the real one. :)Bob..

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>IMHO it's a silly argument>that ignores the equally simple flight code. I think the flight code is anything but simple and any MSFS flight developer would take issue with the above statement. They would probably also tell you that with the flight model at least they can make a solid first degree approximation (it is well defined mathematically what it means) to the real thing, with the weather radar they are not even close to such approximation. What good is a weather radar simulation that will paint in front of you a weather cell echo in red or magenta (VIP=5 or 6) through which you can fly and experience absolutely zero consequences? Michael J.http://img142.imageshack.us/img142/9320/apollo17vf7.jpg

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>Personally I think there is something a little "retro" about>the penchant for models of aeroplanes that are approaching, or>past, their "use by" dates. I'm surprised how modern this thing is. When I first heard they were doing the MD-11, I wasn't thrilled with the decision. But the more I fly it, the more impressed I am with with this model from MD and PMDG's sim version of it.

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Michael,Normally I agree with you, but I have to say something about this (not commenting on PMDG failure modelling in anyway, only real world stuff):"Great majority of pilots fly their whole life without a single failure. Honestly, for most realistic experience you should fly with all failures disabled"In reality (in transport category aiplanes) the little failures, glitches, and the sort are very very common. It's quite normal to dispatch with an airplane that has all sorts of small problems "active". It's also quite normal to see things fail on the ground, in the air... at the ramp, during taxi, whatever. Not big or systemwide failures (entire systems, engines etc.), nothing like that. But the airplanes are really not failure-free.I am not a real pilot, and don't claim to be one. But I've jumpseated enough real flights on various aircraft to know that stuff breaks, is repaired, and MELs used quite often.Ugh.. :)Tero

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>In reality (in transport category aiplanes) the little>failures, glitches, and the sort are very very common. Absolutely, I don't disagree. I guess by "failures" I meant something major that pilots would remember throughout their careers, something that would give them real headache and some sweating in the cockpit. These are exceedingly rare (and these are the failures they practice in the simulators). I talked to a few United/American captains, all mostly retired they could not recall such events.Michael J.http://img142.imageshack.us/img142/9320/apollo17vf7.jpg

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Aah OK. Yes, I definitely agree. Bigger headaches are indeed very rare. Otherwise we would be watching a lot more accident reports on the telly...rgds,Tero

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