PMDG 747-400 V3/QOTS II
Reviewed by: Marlon Carter
Since its introduction in the 1970s, the Boeing 747 has intrigued both regular travelers and aviation enthusiasts around the world for decades. Affectionately called the “Queen of the Skies” and “Jumbo Jet,” the 747 holds a very special place in aviation history and it comes as no surprise that this popular aircraft would also hold a special place among flight simulator enthusiast. PMDG has always had soft spot for the 747 and this is quite evident in the fact that their latest version of the 747 is the 3rd in their product development history!
PMDG’s previous version of the 747 Queen of the Skies was quite a popular add-on for a number of years which boasted many innovative features at the time. When a new version of the 747 was announced, it was difficult to conceive how an already great product could have been made better apart from a visual upgrade. However, if PMDG’s 777 was any indication, it seemed obvious that the 747 QOTS II was going to be a major upgrade to this iconic aircraft. In an effort to find out more about PMDG’s newest 747, here is a brief interview with Robert Randazzo that you might find insightful.
1. It's quite evident that PMDG has always had keen interest in the 747. What prompted PMDG to create a 3rd version of the 747 rather than a new aircraft such as the 757, 767 etc? Also, can you give us a bit of PMDG's history with the 747?
Well, what can possibly be written about the 747 that hasn’t already been written? She is at once iconic, powerful, beautiful to look at, romantic and uniquely emblematic of mankind’s limitless imagination and dreams of a brighter future when she was introduced nearly 50 years ago. I think all airplane geeks of a certain age have held a romantic notion of what it would be like to fly the airplane. I am one of a fortunate few to have the rating on my certificate and that has played a role in our selection.
What we really wanted to produce was a full package to include the 747-400 and the newer 747-8, to show users how these two related airplanes can be remarkably different and interesting to operate. When we release the 747-8, I think it will be interesting to see how users react to having the greater technological capabilities of the newer airplane and apply them to routes they currently operate with the 747-400.
2. In creating the 747 V3, were there any challenges you faced that differed from the development of V2? Or was it all smooth sailing given your prior experience in developing this aircraft?
That I am aware of, I don’t think a single line of code transferred from the original 2005 product to this new one. Our development agenda on this project was actually a bit convoluted as we were pivoting out of the 777, who’s design informed much of the system and operating design of the 747-8. The natural inclination was to work through the 747-8 airplane first, then pivot backward to the older technology 747-400, but we found that this was a good working theory that simply wasn’t going to hold up to the actual application development process. There are significant technological differences between the two airplanes and in order to model those technology changes, we needed the base airplane to be present. So we did a combined development effort where the systems and behavioral logic for the 747-400 was written, with the 747-8 logic being created simultaneously. Once the 747-400 was completed, we then were free to begin working on the technical marvels that Boeing added to the latest generation of the airplane.
3. Given the fact that PMDG has developed the 747 V3 for both FSX and P3D, are there any differences between both products or are they essentially the same?
The simulation of the airplane is the same, but we treat the platforms slightly differently in order to capitalize on their strengths. This is less true when talking about Preapr3D v3, but is really becoming obvious in Prepar3D v4.1. The crossover to x64 architecture is an obvious point, but beyond just changing some things around, this new platform gives us far greater freedom to use the resources of the machine to enhance memory management, improve object oriented development and capitalize on features Lockheed Martin has added to the simulator, such as dynamic lighting and the like.
4. After following the development of the 747 V3, it's quite clear that the list of features that were implemented are extensive. Can you tell us a bit about some of the features that the PMDG development team is the most proud of?
In-house we routinely joke that we are creating features into our products that only a dozen or so people will ever fully appreciate, and all of them work for PMDG. This makes us laugh, but the truth is that most users really don’t appreciate just how deep the simulation level is with a product line such as our 747. The predictive methods and behaviors being used by the FMS to manage the airplane in 3D space are incredibly complex, factoring in simulated air data feeds derived from similar techniques used by the airplane’s onboard systems. The mathematical methods used to align the IRUs, and to calculate drift during flight are accurate to the airplane’s behaviors and accuracy as well. These types of details tend to fade into the background since you can see, touch and interact with them- which is unfortunate- but they greatly enhance the overall feel and completeness of the simulation in a way the even casual simmers notice, even if they don’t understand WHY it feels good.
From a systems standpoint, we have long been renowned for our effort in bringing not just the correct lights and messages to the screen, but also in our ability to simulate the systems holistically to a degree that is reasonable for the purpose and complete. One example of this is the display of hydraulic pressures on the airplane when it is completely depressurized on the ground. There are certain impedance behaviors unique to the pressure sensors in the hydraulic systems that cause bogus pressure values to be sent to the flight deck when the systems are depressurized. The processing unit that is responsible for displaying these figures on the flight deck has a specific update rate, and this causes a peculiar dance of digits to appear on the display.
All of this is modeled in detail.
And on the subject of hydraulics, have you noticed that as you pressurize and depressurize the system, the yoke settles in/out of it’s service position? How about the flight control bleed-down of pressure in the flight control actuators slowly responding to atmospheric pressure from wind against the rudder or the elevators?
I could go on this way for hours in every single system of the airplane. We pack as much into the simulation as we can unearth, and it is these details that bring forth that feeling of realism for users. The most satisfying part of the process for us is hearing from experienced crewmembers who write in to thank us for including these nuances that are familiar to practiced eyes.
5. Can we expect to see more features added in the future? Or is the development of this aircraft considered to be closed?
On the 400 itself, we are continuing to refine the baseline product and we do have some features already contained within the airplane that we have not yet turned on. These are awaiting other aspects of the development process in order to be activated, and we think a few of them will completely change the way simmers interact with our products.
Beyond that I don’t want to say too much more until we are ready to drop those items for users to enjoy.
6. More and more flight simulator enthusiasts are enjoying products that offer in-depth systems simulation. How is PMDG able to ensure that the systems and flight characteristics of each aircraft variant is accurate?
This answer will sound more cagey than it is intended to sound, but: We feel that our methods are a bit of a trade secret. We have been at this for more than 20 years now and we have a very well developed professional advisor network that helps us in nearly all aspects of the development of our products. That much is well known, but how we go through the process is something that is unique to PMDG and we treat it as a closely held secret.
We certainly would like to thank Robert Randazzo for enlightening us on the development of this product. From all indications, it seems like the QOTS II may very well be one of the most advanced flight simulator add-on aircraft to date. As we progress through this review, we will dive deeper into the systems to showcase some of the hidden gems contained in this product. As a preview however, here is a list of features listed by the developer.
Complete From the Start - All variants of the 747-400 are included. These include the 747-400 passenger model, the 747-400M "combi" model, the 747-400BCF (Boeing Converted Freighter), the 747-400D domestic model used for a time on high-density short-haul routes in Japan, the 747-400F freighter, and the extended-range 747-400ER passenger model and 747-400ERF freighter. Each model has its own valid engine types that include the Rolls Royce RB211-524G, Pratt & Whitney PW4056 and PW4062, and General Electric CF6-80C2B1F and CF6-80C2B5F with their own accurately modelled performance data.
Exterior Models - Exterior models are richly detailed with complex Leading Edge Devices and triple slotted flap mechanisms, realistic articulating main gear trucks, wing flex that reflects the ground bumps while taxiing, as well as realistic in-flight flex modeling. Texturing work is beautiful, with just the right amount of shine.
Virtual Cockpit - The Virtual Cockpit includes dozens of physical layout options: ADF, ISFD vs analog standby gauges, RMIs, window frame styles, cockpit lavatory option, paravisual display (PVD), push to talk and taxi light options, and many more that are specific to aircraft model type as well as airline/operator specific options. The VC's geometric modeling work is amazingly complete, accurate down to fractions of an inch as measured in the real cockpit.
PMDG Service Vehicles - Have your 747-400 serviced by an entire fleet of PMDG Service vehicles. Each vehicle for a specific ground task is included. These are: Aircraft hydrant fuel pumper, catering and cabin service trucks that lift to the cabin doors, air-stair trucks, a bulk cargo loader, standard size hi-lift loaders for the lower deck cargo holds as well as the large hi-lift loader for the SCD and nose doors of the freighter models. Need the water tanks filled? A water truck will roll up to the aircraft along with a lavatory servicing vehicle to empty waste. You also get tail stands for the freighters, single and dual-plug GPU carts, terminal power units, as well as air start and air conditioning carts. Everything needed to service your airplane on the ground is included in the PMDG 747-400 Queen of the Skies II!
PMDG Operations Center - Includes the PMDG Operation Center, a stand-alone application which manages livery downloads and installations, documentation, support and more. The OC also supports the PMDG Jetstream 4100, PMDG 737NGX and PMDG 777. We update this application frequently to add new features and functionality. New for the PMDG 747-400 Queen of the Skies II is micro-update capability directly through the OC. We intend to update the aircraft frequently through this feature rather than using new installers or service packs.could see.
FMC - The flight management computer (FMC) contains all of the real life 747-400 FMC features including LNAV, extremely accurate VNAV speed and altitude predictions and the full complement of scratchpad warning messages that a real crew could see. RTE 2 is modelled and fully usable, as are advanced features like step-climbs, constant speed cruise and required time of arrival (RTA).
Flight Model - Engine and flight modeling is within 5% of the actual Boeing aircraft performance charts, including data and parameters specific to the Pratt & Whitney, General Electric and Rolls Royce engine types.
Autopilot - ultra smooth autopilot flight director system (AFDS) created for the 747 that replicates the precise yet smooth feeling you get from the real thing. Created with hours of video taken in the real airplane and actual 747-400 full flight simulator flying experience.
Weather Radar - the PMDG 747-400 Queen of the Skies II features a working simulation of the Collins WXR-2100 weather radar. In conjunction with the Active Sky Next weather engine addon, the radar depicts actual precipitation returns (not clouds!) and gives you full control over tilt, gain and radar mode including turbulence and windshear detection. Integration with additional radar products such as REX WX Advantage coming soon!
Sounds - A meticulously created soundset consisting of over 1200 individual files captures the raw power of the Pratt & Whitney, General Electric and Rolls Royce engines and cockpit environment. Every aspect of the engines is represented here, exactly pitch matched to real life recordings made at every 10% over the engine’s power range. Many cockpit sounds have multiple files behind them that are randomly selected to make each click sound subtly different, just like they do in the real world. Multiple soundsets exist including detailed modelling behind and in-front of the wing views. A new fully custom playback system allows for manipulation of the engine sounds as altitude and airspeed rise, allowing the slipstream to take over just as it does in real life. Two separate sets of ground crew calls are included and it will be possible in the future to create new sets yourself! Note: stereo soundset included, 5.1 soundset will be made available post-release.
Cockpit Shake Modeling - A fully customized and realistic simulation of cockpit camera shake is included. This feature reacts realistically to the environment on the ground during taxi, takeoff and landing, as well as in-flight due to turbulence, stall buffet, speedbrake application and engine failure or stall.
RAAS - Fully functional Runway Awareness and Advisory System which calls out runway names and other information for improved flight safety.
User Interface - We’ve spared no effort in making the PMDG 747-400 Queen of the Skies II easy to use in terms of its user interface. The aircraft’s fuel, payload and the large number of airframe and cockpit options are adjustable on the fly from the FMC CDU without ever touching the FSX menus or pausing the sim.
Exterior Lighting - 3D volumetric exterior lighting that lights up the FS scenery. You can even see the flash from the strobe lights when looking out the cockpit side windows. Improved over what was implemented in the PMDG 777.
Liveries - Free downloadable liveries for numerous world airlines, easily installed using the Livery Downloader within the PMDG Operations Center application. At the time of release, well over 60 liveries were available in the OC with more being added every day.
Documentation - Includes everything you will need to operate the PMDG 747-400 Queen of the Skies II. We’ve also included a 168 page introduction manual specific to the simulation and a 113 page tutorial flight to learn from as you fly.
As impressive as the list of features seems to be, after using this product for the past few months, I can honestly say that this list is only the tip of the iceberg. Let’s dive in to see what this product has to offer.
When a pilot is learning to fly a new aircraft, the learning process not only involves simulator training, but it also requires lots of reading. If you are an avid reader, PMDG has supplied a Flight Crew Operations Manual that is some 1606 pages long. In addition to the FCOM, you also have a Quick Reference Handbook, Product Introduction document and a Flight Tutorial which all add up to just over 830 pages. With a seemingly endless supply of reading material at your finger-tips, flying this aircraft competently can be achieved by simply setting aside the time to read the manuals. If you already have a basic understanding of the systems of the 747, getting the QOTS II up and running might be easy, but with so many nuances packed into the product you might be doing yourself an injustice by not using the 747 to its full potential.
Overall, the documents are well written and the information is laid out in a professional and almost “official” format. For a product of this nature, having such an extensive array of reading material is an essential tool for those who desire the ultimate flying experience. If you are slightly intimidated by the volume of material, I would highly recommend you begin by reading the tutorial document. With the documentation covered, let’s load up the sim and take a look at this amazing aircraft.
When the simulator is loaded you typically start off in the virtual cockpit of aircraft. This being the case it’s only fitting that we examine the interior modelling of the aircraft to see whether or not it meets the high expectations typically demanded by “hardcore simmers.” At first glance, the virtual cockpit of the 747 QOTS II gives you an overwhelming feeling of being in an actual aircraft with the aid of stunning visuals and an array of immersive sounds that are a near perfect match to the real cockpit environment. To give some perspective on the level of detail captured in the virtual cockpit, we will examine the overall model by looking at the textures, design and options.
The textures seen throughout the virtual cockpit are all of the highest quality and this gives an accurate representation of the various materials in the cockpit. Whether it’s plastic, fabric or any other materials, the textures offer an almost 3D experience which isn’t always common in other aircraft add-ons. Another fascinating aspect of the textures used throughout the cockpit is that it gives a somewhat “used” appearance which is only fitting for a heavily used aircraft of this nature. As you view some of the screenshots below you will see examples of how switches and other areas of the cockpit that are heavily used differ in appearance to other seldom used areas.
Moving on to the design of the virtual cockpit, you might recall that in the previous QOTS products that virtual cockpit also included the upper deck of the 747. With the QOTS II, focus is mainly centered on the cockpit itself and in my opinion this was a great move which would allow for many other more important features. The overall layout of the cockpit is extremely realistic and proportionate to what you would expect from the real 747 cockpit environment. As you pan your view around the cockpit, you will see that nearly all of the switches and dials within the cockpit were modeled and in some cases, high quality textures act as a “filler” for areas that really don’t require excessive detail. By way of cockpit animation, there are a host of realistic animations mostly related to the way in which switches, buttons and levers are operated. This type of detail may seem insignificant to those who may prefer moving seats and the like, but this shows just how detail oriented the folks at PMDG can be in that the simple act of flipping a switch as to be done the right way.
While not necessarily an “animation”, another impressive feature is the cockpit shaking effects that adds another level of immersion to the cockpit environment. These effects are independent of any 3rd part products such as Chase Plane or EZCA v2 and are active on the ground during taxi, during takeoff and landing, turbulence, stall buffet, speedbrake application and engine failure or stall. After experiencing these effects in action, it’s hard to imagine using any product that doesn’t offer this level of immersion.
The final and perhaps most impressive aspect of the interior model is closely related to some of the special features contained in this product. As listed previously, the QOTS II offers dozens of physical layout options such as ADF, ISFD vs analog standby gauges, RMIs, window frame styles, cockpit lavatory option, paravisual display (PVD), push to talk, taxi light options, and many more that are specific to aircraft model types and airline/operator specific options. Which such a wide array of options, it means that you can fully customize the layout of your cockpit without having to constantly use external programs to change and reload your configuration of choice. All of these changes take place instantly and it offers users the ability to enjoy not just an array of exterior models, but also an array of cockpit layouts that are extremely accurate. Here are a few screenshots that nicely showcases the interior of the 747.
After examining the impressive level of detail found in the interior model, it’s only reasonable to conclude that the exterior won’t be a disappointment. My first impression of the exterior model was that it is clearly one of the most outstanding 747 models I have ever seen. The 747 has a very distinctive appearance with graceful lines that can never be forgotten and PMDG did an outstanding job in capturing every aspect of this aircraft. Given the fact that the QOTS II includes nearly all of the 747-400 variants, the exterior models include high quality renditions of the 400, 400D, 400M, 400F, the extended range 400ER and 400ERF models. Each model also includes the correct engine variants from RR, GE and PW
Going a bit further beyond the actual look of the aircraft are the numerous animations that are including. For example, based on the fuel quantity required for your flight, you will see a significant cambering of the wings as the aircraft sits on the ramp due to the weight of the fuel. As you taxi, you will also notice subtle wing flexing and shaking as the aircraft maneuvers over the ground. For takeoff and landing you will also notice stunning detail that has gone into the landing gear operation and the flap mechanisms. PMDG has always had a policy of including even the minutest detail in their products and the QOTS II is no exception. In fact, I would say that this product takes their passion for detail to another level. A final note on the exterior model is the outstanding texturing work that adds further detail to the various aircraft models. The textures are all very high quality and it contains a realistic shine for added realism. We can go on and on about the exterior model but I honestly think that the following screenshots says it all.
For users who may have owned the previous PMDG QOTS product, it might be all too easy to assume that using the QOTS II will be no different. However, before you jump into the cockpit for a quick flight, it is especially important that you note one very important fact and it’s that this aircraft is far more advanced than the previous product. If your goal is to competently fly the 747 in a manner that reflects real life operations, it is important that you understand the basic operation of various aircraft systems. For example, understanding the hydraulic systems is critical if you to utilize any service based failures. Given the size of the 747, it goes without saying that the hydraulic system is quite complex with 4 systems that power various parts of the aircraft. From my research thus far, System 1 and 4 powers the trailing edge flaps, landing gear, normal brakes, alternate brakes and steering. System 2 and 3 shares the task of powering the primary flight controls, stabilizer trim and elevator feel. Systems 1, 2 and 3 power the center, left and right autopilot servos while systems 2, 3 and 4 power the spoilers. If at this point you’re a bit lost, it’s perfectly understandable due to the fact that the 747 is a marvel of engineering and is packed with many redundancies. Is taking the time to understand all of this really necessary? Well the answer to that question depends on goal as a virtual pilot. If realism is your main objective, then understanding the hydraulic systems is important in order to know what systems will work when any of the 4 hydraulic systems are not operational. Also, with system 4 having an auxiliary hydraulic pump for ground operations, knowing how and when to use the hydraulic system correctly will have a definite impact on how the aircraft works. In addition to programming the correct role of each system, PMDG (in its typical fashion), has gone even further to simulate the pump flow rates based on type and power source, pressure/temperature relationship and the fluid flow dynamics through the system which allows for potential leaks and overheat! With so many variables, you will never take your hydraulic system indications for granted again.
Another important system of this aircraft is the electrical system. With an aircraft this large, one can imagine that a significant amount of electrical power would be necessary to operate the aircraft. As a small taste of the complexity of this system, the 747 generates both AC and DC power with the AC power being the most complex. The AC electrical system consist of an AC power source (4 IDGs, 2 APU generators and 2 external power courses), AC Power Distribution, AC Standby Power and Electrical load management and load shedding.
The DC Electrical system consist of 4 transformer rectifier units (converts AC power to DC power) which is connected to the main DC busses. Knowing which components of the aircraft are controlled by AC and DC power is also very important for the correct operation of the aircraft. For example, the DC system powers Cabin Pressure, Fuel Jettison, Pack Temp Controllers, Wing Anti-Ice and more! In a similar manner to the hydraulic system, the electrical system has been fully modelled to carry out function with a high degree of accuracy. Yet despite the hard work that has already gone into the programming of this system, PMDG has gone even further by accurately simulating the no break power and break power logic of the power transfers and the modelling of each piece of equipment from pumps to valve controllers. What is even more remarkable is that each component is connected to their respective AC or DC power source to ensure a truly realistic electrical environment.
Again, while all of this may seem over the top, I can assure you that taking the time to understand the systems of this aircraft will be an educational and a rewarding experience. If you thought that the electrical and hydraulic systems were impressive, just wait until you examine the pneumatic, fuel and autopilot systems! The more you peer into the systems of this aircraft, the more impressed you’ll be as you see many of the hidden intricacies that were programmed into this aircraft. As a small taste of what’s beneath the surface, sometime ago PMDG provided a very short list (the list is obviously much longer) of features that showcases the extensive nature of the systems and physics modeling of this product. Here are some of the items listed.
Accurate thermal energy transfer model for autobrake and manual brake use, including thermal soaking of brake/tire/landing gear elements.
accurate thermal energy transfer model for cooling
Wing flex model based upon accurate rigidity, stiffness and oscillation model of the 747-400 wing structure.
Accurate thrust and energy model simulation for all engine types.
Accurate mixing and blending of air temperatures and pressures from engine bleed tap to cabin outflow valve, including thermal changes and pressurization.
Accurate control effectiveness based upon airspeed, angle of attack, control operation and deflection.
Parking brake, chocking position and increased rolling after tire loss based upon physics.
Engine pylon shaking based upon turbulence induced acceleration moment, wing motion and rotational inertia of engine components.
Transfer of heat between fluids (fuel mixing, hydraulic fluid returning to reservoirs, etc.)
Transfer of heat through heat exchangers in the bleed system, fuel and hydraulic systems.
Accurate modelling of fuel temperature based upon the thermal exchange of heat through the wing surface, radiant heating by the sun, etc.
Accurate modelling of cabin temperatures based upon a complete airflow model.
Cabin temperature modelling based upon electrical equipment operation, internal lighting operation, supplementary heating sources (foot/shoulder/windshield air use) the number of passengers onboard and their relative distribution throughout the cabin, solar heating of areas such as windows and exposure to direct or indirect sunlight, the state of cabin doors.
As you can see, while having prior knowledge of the 747 through the previous QOTS product may be helpful, the QOTS II is a whole new animal that requires a much more calculated approach. With so many details packed into the systems of this aircraft, it results in a dynamic experience that is guaranteed to leave you awestruck on every flight as you see the aircraft react not only to your use of the systems, but also the environment around you. With this in mind, let’s get into the flight planning stage of our test flight.
Let’s be honest, it would be quite difficult to summarize the experience of using this product in a single flight. Due to this fact, this test flight review will cover my overall findings after months of using this product in a variety of settings. let’s begin by first of all setting up our flight plan details.
If you’re interested in flying the PMDG 747 QOTS II, it’s only fair to assume that you plan on experiencing the rewarding adventure of long haul flights. But before you jump into the cockpit, a good pilot will take the time to complete a thorough flight dispatch document containing all of the essential information pertaining to your flight. For the most realistic flight planning experience, I’ve found PFPX and Simbrief to be two of the best resources in planning long haul flights. With PFPX offering performance profiles for numerous 747 flight models, PFPX may be the best choice for generating flight plans, given the wide array of models offered by PMDG. Whether you choose to fly passenger operations or cargo operations, PFPX will generate a realistic flight dispatch document while also exporting the flight plan to your FMS.
After receiving your dispatch document, it’s now time for us to head over to the aircraft. As typically offered by PMDG, users have the choice of meeting their aircraft in a variety of cockpit panel states ranging from cold and dark to long or short setup configurations. Starting off with a cold and dark cockpit may seem a bit intimidating if this is your first introduction to a detailed 747 simulation. However, the manuals provided by PMDG are sufficiently detailed to get you on your way to confidently powering up the aircraft. If time is of the essence, choosing the short setup configuration might be an appealing option but either way, I would highly recommend trying the cold and dark option to become more familiar with the systems of the aircraft and the cockpit flow procedures.
Once you’ve powered up the aircraft, one of the things that will immediately catch your attention is the outstanding sound immersion of the virtual cockpit. Sounds ranging from electrical hum, avionics and fans can all be distinctly heard and the overall experience is the best I’ve had thus far. The next series of steps to be completed prior to departure include a wide range of options. For example, if flying a passenger version of the 747, are your passengers and cargo loaded? Have you already fueled the aircraft for departure? What about catering? All of these questions may be irrelevant to the causal flight sim enthusiast, but to those seeking the most realistic experience, these are steps that are also given consideration before the wheel chocks are removed. If you consider yourself to be an avid enthusiast, programs such as GSX may be very useful in offering a wide range of ground services for your aircraft (even in cargo operations). If you do not have GSX, PMDG has also included its own ground services simulation that works quite well and it can accessed through the FMS. While not offering a wide range of ground handling companies, the ground service simulation provided by PMDG is fully automated and can be customized to the length of your turnaround time. Other options available through the FMS include the ability to set passenger, cargo and fuel loads. While the steps involved with loading passengers and cargo are mostly the same as with previous PMDG products, when it comes to loading your fuel you will notice a new feature called fuel density. Without getting into a complication discussion that would be best had in a physics class, fuel density plays a significant role in the overall performance of an aircraft in the real world. In a nutshell, the temperature and quality of the crude used to produce fuel and the refining process itself plays a role in the density of the fuel that goes into your aircraft. In turn, this will have an impact on the range of your aircraft if the incorrect amount of fuel is loaded into your aircraft. PMDG has pulled out all of the stops by including this subtle but important feature that offers accurate fuel density/temperature effects during real time refueling that vary based on actual global/regional variations in fuel density. In the past, we may have taken the “simple” task of loading fuel for granted, but PMDG has now ensured that our fuel planning is as real as it gets!
Moving on with our aircraft setup, while the passengers or cargo is being loaded this is perhaps the best time to complete all of the pre-departure checklist items. To achieve this, PMDG has included a very detailed normal operations checklist that you will find indispensable as you acquaint yourself with the operation of this aircraft. Loading the FMS wasn’t a difficult task, but you if you are a user of the previous QOTS product, you will quickly notice that the pages of the FMS are much more detailed. Some of the changes you may notice are the ability to perform a route request, RTE 2 functionality, constant speed cruise and required time of arrival (RTA). While some of the features mentioned are impressive, they only scratch the surface of what has been implemented and we will be examining more features during the cruise phase of our test flight.
After completing all of the necessary cockpit checks and loading our passengers or cargo, it’s now time for us to get the show on the road to really experience the thrills of the QOTS II.
You might consider the engine start process to be a relatively simple task that requires little planning. However, keeping in mind that this is a complex simulation, one has to consider many factors before starting the engines of the 747. For example, Will you be starting up with the APU? Is your APU bleed switch turned on? Have you turned off the packs? Will you be starting two engines at a time? The answer to these questions depending purely on your knowledge of the aircraft and how its systems interact. When disconnecting from the GPU and switching to APU for power, failure to carry out this procedure correctly before engine startup can cause your center IRS to fail due to the lack of AC power. The consequences of this can be a No Land 3 EICAS message and an added 10 or so minute for realignment to your departure time which will not look good on your on-time performance.
If all of these factors have already been considered, the process of starting up the engines should but fairly easy and especially so if you’ve flown the tutorial flight. During the pushback and engine start process, I couldn’t help but to be quite impressed by the sound of the engines as they slowly spool to life. Whether you are flying a PW, RR or GE equipped 747, you will surely notice the differences not only in sound, but also in the startup process itself. Once the engines have come to life and the engine bleeds are turned on, the sound of the air conditioning system was so remarkably realistic that for a moment, you might expect to feel the cool air from the air vents. This is the level of realism we have come to know and love from PMDG and they have surpassed our expectations as far as the sound quality is concerned.
Now that we are about to taxi, I’d like to briefly discuss a common issue that many have had over the years. With the vast majority of add-on aircraft, a common issue we’ve all had is the unrealistic taxi simulation that is hindered by an excessive ground friction. This has often made it necessary to constantly apply thrust to get the aircraft moving. In the real world, an aircraft such as the 747 is perfectly capable of moving with minimal thrust while continuing that movement with the aid of the idling engines and initial momentum. With the QOTS II, you will be amazed to see and feel a remarkable difference in how this aircraft handles on the ground verses any other aircraft you’ve used before. With the issue of ground friction eliminated, taxiing this aircraft was an enjoyable experience that will leave you impressed each time (once you’ve master the art of steering this mammoth around airports of course.)
As you line up the 747 for takeoff, the thrill of flight slowly intensifies as you apply takeoff power and watch as this majestic aircraft gradually thunders down the runway before gracefully lifting off into the skies above. With outstanding sound quality and cockpit shaking effects, you can’t help but for a brief moment to feel that you’re a real 747 captain. Although a large aircraft of this nature will typically fly on autopilot after the landing gear is retracted, the QOTS II is an aircraft that encourages the user to fly by hand due to its smooth and outstanding flying characteristics. Even with the autopilot turned on; this aircraft gracefully handles adverse weather and is always smooth when responding to any autopilot input by the pilot. Unlike the previous version of this product, the autoflight system of the QOTS II is far more advanced and as we approach the cruise phase of our flight, we will take a closer look at the autopilot and a few other systems of this aircraft.
The autopilot of the 747 offers many advanced features and PMDG has taken the time to implement both the analog and digital versions of the MCP with every mode perfectly programmed to give you a stable and authentic experience each time. Is it all that important to have such an advanced autopilot? Well the answer to that question depends on your overall goals as a virtual pilot. If you would like to truly experience the rewards of operating such an iconic aircraft, learning and appreciating the ins and outs of the autopilot system is essential. For example, in the past we may have been use to the “set it and forget it” type mentality when it comes to the autopilot of an aircraft. However, with the PMDG QOTS II, there are features that allow the user to have an enhanced autopilot operation by enabling strict (but realistic) parameters for engaging the autopilot. What many may not be aware off is the fact that certain modes of the autopilot will only work correctly under specific conditions. Being unaware of this fact, you may be tempted to run over to the PMDG forum to report a “bug”, but in reality the fault may be your own.
With so many subtle features packed into these systems, going over them all will be an endless endeavor. Overall, with a good working knowledge of the FMS and autopilot modes, your experience when using the 747 autopilot will be one that leaves you with a smile from ear to ear when you’ve realized that it is now possible to fly the aircraft like a pro. If you are not a fan of reading and you are not a type rated 747 pilot, you may be doing yourself an injustice by not learning how much care and attention was given to this product.
As we draw close to the end of our test flight experience, there were many highlights that I discovered during the descent, approach and landing. With add-ons that claim to offer true to life VNAV/LNAV capabilities I’ve often found that while they tend to be “acceptable,” they often lack the fine tuning that one may expect. What does this mean? As an example, I recently used another add-on that offers a realistic autopilot with VNAV and LNAV capabilities that “should’ve” match the real aircraft. While the autopilot was mostly stable during takeoff and cruise, the descent management wasn’t picture perfect. This aspect of the autopilot tends to be a problematic area for some developers given the complex manner of controlling a descent profile while taking into consideration the weather and performance of the aircraft. Even if an argument can be made that managing the descent of an aircraft in the real world isn’t always picture perfect and may require pilot intervention, such an intervention should also be one that doesn’t significantly affect the aircraft in a negative manner.
With the QOTS II, PMDG did an outstanding job in programming the VNAV capabilities of each aircraft model and engine variant to be as precise as possible. In cases where manual intervention is needed, the aircraft responses well and doesn’t leave you wondering “what is the aircraft doing now??” Such a stable autopilot is especially essential when flying complicated approach procedures that require a very specific descent profile and procedure turns. The stability of the aircraft is also nicely seen when executing a full autoland or landing the aircraft manually. After landing the aircraft, you will also notice that the reverse thrust allows you to access the full range of power settings from idle reverse to full reverse thrust. While this in itself is quite an impressive feature, you will also notice the corresponding effect on the deceleration of the aircraft and an increase in the engine sound which is expected when adding more reverse thrust.
As you taxi to the gate, your experience will be much the same as your initial taxi for takeoff when little need to no need for constantly adding thrust to keep the aircraft rolling. On a side note however, if your landing wasn’t very good and it require excessive braking, you may want to keep an eye and your brake temperature which is also a subtle aspect of this aircraft that was simulated. When parking at the gate, you’ll have a choice of using GSX or the Ground Service feature of this product to simulate the ground operations of this aircraft. Personally, I’ve found both to be very useful with each having an advantage and disadvantage based on your needs. Even when it comes to the ground operations, knowing your aircraft systems continues to play a significant role in operating the 747 and especially so the 747-400F model. When the iconic nose cargo door being a significant feature of this aircraft, when experimenting with this cargo door, some users may be puzzled as to why the door won’t open when selected. To solve this puzzle, you may want to glance at the overhead panel to ensure that only 1 APU generator is selected. If both are in the ON position, the electrical load on the aircraft won’t be sufficient to open the nose cargo door. This may seem like an insignificant feature to implement, but it shows that the QOTS II isn’t your typical add-on aircraft and PMDG has gone the extra mile to ensure that even the most subtle of features that may go unnoticed are all programmed into this outstanding product.
While this ends our test flight overview, there is so much more than can be said about this product that time will not permit. However, if you are still on the fence about buying this product, I will encourage you to not to miss out on the unique opportunity to fly one of best 747 add-ons available. If you would like to purchase this product but you’re concerned about your PC’s performance, please consider these notes from PMDG.
On the performance side: We are dogmatic about preserving computations, processor cycles and draw calls within the simulator. You can see by looking at the depth of simulation in our products that we leave very little out of the simulation. Every system is modeled down to a degree of fidelity that is unmatched. Behind all of this, we make some very smart decisions about what to simulate in order to accurately reflect what the airplane does, however. If we take a few thousand lines of code to simulate something that the user will never see or interact with, then we are simply wasting processor time and reducing performance. Sure, a tiny side trip here and there to prove the prowess of an individual programmer might not be noticeable on today’s modern processors- but if you start to simulate miles upon miles of stuff that the flight crew isn’t going to see or interact with, then you are simply wasting the processor’s time and the customer’s performance. In our opinion, there is a social contract between the developer and the user that states clearly that the developer shouldn’t do anything to waste time on the processor because that time belongs to the user in the form of performance. Sure, I might be thoroughly entertained as a developer to compute the surface tension on each wire in the aileron crossover mechanism, but that is something that serves absolutely no value to the simulation except to transmit a control input. If I model all of those wires and their associated tensions and activities, I am wasting processor time and killing performance. Our customers pay us to be smart enough to pick and choose wisely.
These comments might easily be viewed as cleaver marketing, but with my own PC being average at best, I can say will all honesty that the PMDG QOTS II performs better than many other add-ons that are far less complex. In fact, when flying the 747 along with products such as Ultimate Terrain, AS16 and Skyforce 3D enabled, the performance remains both smooth and consistent. In the closing comments of this review, we’ll examine a few more reasons why this is a product not to be overlooked.
To conclude this review, I’d like to acknowledge the fact that PMDG has consistently proven themselves to be among just a handful of developers, who deliver products that offer tremendous value to both real world and virtual pilots. When it comes to the Boeing 747, PMDG has taken the crown for offering a product that not only covers each model and engine variant, but a product that also offers numerous airline specific options in addition to an in-depth simulation of various aircraft systems.
With the 747 slowly being retired from passenger service, going to the airport with the hope of flying onboard this iconic aircraft is sadly becoming a rear event. For the aviation enthusiast who has always dreamed of flying a 747, the QOTS II is perhaps the last opportunity that many of us will ever have to “experience” the thrill of flying this aircraft. With the price tag of $89.99 US for the FSX version and $134.99 for the P3D version, some may say that the price is a bit high. However, taking into consider the fact that the development team would have spent years of their time and energy in order perfect this product and offer continued development, in my opinion the outstanding work done by PMDG can easily be seen as invaluable.
With systems that closely match the real aircraft, the value of this product is seen even by real world pilots who can utilize this product as a supplement to their real world training. For the avid flight simulator enthusiast, the value of having such a detailed product means that you can be a virtual pilot who flies by the books. While some may not see this as important, to a small (but significant) group of enthusiast, being able to operate an aircraft like a real world pilot is the ultimate goal. If you would really like to take things over the top, then I would HIGHLY recommend using the PMDG 747 QOTS II with the FS2Crew. What is FS2Crew? Well it’s basically a program that allows you to have an authentic flight deck experience which includes interacting with a virtual first officer who will carry out all PNF responsibilities. What makes this program even more impressive is that you can make use it both by button and voice commands. As an added bonus, the operations implemented cover both passenger and cargo operations and after using this program for just 2 flights, it has instantly become a must have program for flying an aircraft such as the 747 which truly requires two pilots.
With the ability to have such an immersive experience on so many levels, I wholeheartedly believe that the PMDG QOTS II is deserving of an AVSIM GOLD STAR award for overall excellence. With the 747-8i/8F quickly on the way, I’m eagerly looking forward to the years of 747 flying ahead.
I would like to thank Robert Randazzo for taking the time from his busy schedule to answer some of my questions (I honestly don’t know how he does it…) The details provided were significant in understanding just how complex and special the QOTS II truly is.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the 747, I would highly recommend reading the Mike Ray 747 Training Handbook. For more information on this manual, click HERE for the printed version or HERE for the download version.
PRODUCTS SEEN IN THIS REVIEW
Seattle Airports X
SkyForce REX 3D
FS2Crew QOTS II
Edited by Chuck_Jodry-VJPL