• REVIEW - 777 Captain by Captain Sim


    WR269

    Review

    by Marlon Carter

     

    INTRODUCTION

     

     

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    Captain Sim is well known within the Flight Sim community for their popular 727, 757 and C130 aircraft. In recent times CS has developed other classic aircraft such as the 737 Classic, 707 and the L-1011. With each release, CS has managed to significantly improve the overall quality of their products by introducing unique features that enhance the experience of flying. One of their latest releases diverts from their classic line-up to focus on a very popular modern aircraft. The B777-200ER has been an eagerly anticipated aircraft in the simulation world and it comes as no surprise that CS would feature this aircraft as their newest modern aircraft release. In addition to releasing the full range of B777-200ER aircraft (inclusive of all engine variants), CS has also released the B777-200LR/F and the B777-300ER.  Let’s have a look at some of the features of this product and its expansion packs.

     

     

     

    FEATURES

     

    777-200ER/LR – BASE PACK

     

     

    • Weather Radar (CS exclusive)

    • Electronic Flight Bag (CS exclusive)

    • Electronic Check List

    • Advanced systems programming

    • Authentic sound set (TSS $12.99 value)

     

     

    Exterior

     

    • Accurate digital replicas of the Boeing 777-200ER (including GE, PW and RR engine variants) and Boeing 777-200LR aircraft.

    • 4X high resolution textures of 12 popular liveries

    • 109 free liveries and growing

    • Hundreds of realistic animations

    • Transparent windows

    • Passengers

    • Stewardess model (various airline uniforms)

     

    Interior:

     

    • Highly detailed and functional flight deck

    • Hundreds of accurate animations

    • 4X high resolution textures

    • Complete (3-class) passenger cabin including galley and lavatories

     

    Misc Features:

    • ACE - Aircraft Configuration Editor

    • Manuals

    • Repaint kit

    • DirectX 9/10 compatibility

    • FPS friendly

    • Presaved flights

    • Realistic flight model

     

     

    Bonus Features:

    • Navigraphnavdata including Terminal Procedures

    • AIRAC support

     

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    EXPANSIONS

     

    777-300ER

     

    • Supports all features of the 777-200 Base pack

    • Boeing 777-300 model with PW 4098 engines

    • Boeing 777-300ER model with GE90-115B1 engines

    • 33.3 ft (10.1 m) fuselage stretch over the baseline -200

    • New main gears (300ER only)

    • Tailskid

    • Ground maneuvering cameras (exterior model only)

    • 4X** high resolution textures of three popular liveries

    • Hundreds of realistic animations

    • Animation control panel

    • Transparent windows

    • Passengers

    • Stewardess model (various airline uniforms)

    • Wing flex

    • Wing vortices

    • Self-shade

    • Pre-saved views

    • FPS friendly

    • Own flight model

    • Own EFB setup

    • Own FMC setup

     

    Liveries:

    All Nippon Airways

    Air New Zealand

    Cathay Pacific Airways

    Plus a growing number of liveries

     

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    777 Freighter

     

    • Supports all features of the 777-200 Base pack

    • Boeing 777 Freighter model with GE90-115B1 engines

    • Complete VC including flight deck, galley, cargo cabin, wing views

    • Main deck animated cargo loader

    • Lower deck animated cargo loader

    • Animated cargo ULDs (containers)

    • 2 loader control panels

    • Realtime cargo load calculation

    • Realtime aircraft weight and CG update according to the calculation

    • Ground maneuvering cameras (exterior model only)

    • 4X** high resolution textures of three popular liveries

    • Hundreds of realistic animations

    • Animation control panel

    • Wing flex

    • Wing vortices

    • Self-shade

    • Pre-saved views

    • FPS friendly

    • Own flight model

    • Own EFB setup

    • Own FMC setup

     

    Liveries:

    - Air France Cargo

    - FedEx

    - TNT

    Plus growing number of free liveries.

     

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    777 CONNECT

     

    http://www.captainsim.com/products/x777/cdu/index.html

     

     

    FIRST IMPRESSION

     

    Manuals

    The manuals that come with this aircraft are well put together. Does it include a 500+ manual on how very system of the aircraft works? No, it isn’t a very detailed manual, but it covers what you need to know about the aircraft to fly confidently. The only aspect of the documentation that could be improved or perhaps included is performance specific information. Other than this small shortcoming, I think that the manuals will be very helpful in understanding all of the features of this product and how each system works in a basic overview.

     

     

    Exterior

     

    When it comes to aircraft visuals, Captain Sim in my opinion has some of the best aircraft models I have ever seen. The attention to detail is simply mind boggling and this goes beneath the surface of the aircraft exterior. For example, have a look at the various doors and cowlings on the aircraft. The detail that went into creating these animations and features are stunning to say the least. The addition features that take this product over the top is the inclusion of Escape Slides, Wheel Chocks, RAT, Radar Antenna, a uniformed Stewardess that matches the airline livery and much more!The exterior model also includes self-shading with DirectX 10, Wing flex, transparent windows with passengers inside and light bloom effects for the exterior lighting.

     

    What I appreciated the most in this product was the fact that Captain Sim has included not just one engine variant, but ALL 777-200ERengine variants which include GE, PW and RRin addition to the 777-200LR. Why is this so significant? Well when you consider amount of work that goes into creating these 3 engine variant with their differences in look and performance, it’s clear to see that Captain Sim really went out of their way to offer a product that was complete in every way.

     

    Here are a few screenshots that showcase the exterior model of all B777 variants.

     

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    Interior

     

    As we move into the interior of the aircraft, the wow factor continues with an amazingly accurate layout of the B777 cockpit. Some of the hidden features of the virtual cockpit include sun screens, animated pilot windows, headrestand armrest, working seat controls, clipboards, nose wheel tiller and more! From the screenshots below, it is clear to see that Captain Sim didn’t hold back in providing a stunning virtual environment. What adds to the overall authentic look of the 777 cockpit were the detailed HD textures that showed the perfect balance between a cockpit that is both new and used on a daily basis. If you look closer, you will see details such as smudges, scratches and stains that give a lot character to the cockpit. Overall, I think that the interior cockpit can easily match its competitor. One thing I will mention about the virtual cockpit is that the 777-200ER cockpit is the basis for all 777 variants and expansion packs. This means that the newer 777-200LR and 777-300ER models do not have the cockpit updates such as the single standby instrument and the camera button on the display controls. Will Captain fix this? Well we will have to wait and see but with the latest update to version 1.6, they have shown a high level of commitment to continually updating this product.

     

    As far as the interior lights are concerned, I had some mixed feelings about the type of lighting used in the interior of the aircraft. Captain Sim went with the traditional methods of interior lighting which included light boom effects but unfortunately it did not include the ability to properly control each lighting control knob. Another downside of the interior lighting is that it is mostly visible at a specific time of day which is not the preferred type of interior lighting that we all expect today. I certainly hope that Captain Sim will move away from this type of lighting and include individual lighting controls and 3D lighting effects for the exterior. This is the standard today and everyone loves this type of lighting.

     

    What about the virtual cabin? Captain Sim is well known for creating very detailed virtual cabins that beautifully capture the look and feel of being a passenger onboard an aircraft. Some of you who own the 727,757 or even the 707 may well remember their virtual cabins being a significant highlight of the aircraft due to its high quality. Unfortunately, due to the significant impact on performance, the virtual cabin of the 777 will exist as a standalone model that does not have a virtual cockpit. While I personally think that resources could have been used in other areas rather than a standalone virtual cabin model, I think that this addition can be a cool option for video makers. Other than using this model for video making, I find it hard to believe that anyone would use the virtual cabin model other than to check it out and then revert to the normal virtual cockpit models.In the end, it is still a bonus feature of this product that can be equally admired.

     

    Virtual Cockpit Preview Video

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIr4I6QQlH4

     

     

    Virtual Cabin Preview Video

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Wo6DSf9sbg

     

     

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    Other Features

     

    The CS 777 comes with a few additional features that we will look at in greater detail. Some of these features include the Electronic Checklist, Electronic Flight Bag, New Cargo loading process (777F) and the 777 Connect.

     

    Electronic Checklist

     

    The electronic checklist is a new feature that has revolutionized the way pilots use the checklist while flying. While the immediate advantage is the removal of numerous paper checklists, it also increases safety in that the ECL gives clear indication of whether or not certain important checklist items have been completed. In terms of functionality, I initially thought that the display would allow you to use the mouse cursor to select various items on the checklist, but I was surprised to see that the interface was completely different. In order to use the ECL, you will have to use the ALT+ directional arrows on your keyboard and to check off items on the checklist, you will have to press the enter button. While this method takes getting used to, I found it not to be a problem at all. The ECL’s functionality is predominantly based on the normal checklist items and while non-normal checklist items are shown, they are not functional. If you would like to learn more about this feature, I would encourage you to consult the system manual for a detailed breakdown on how the ECL works.

     

    Video Preview

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4mCG8SgLdk

     

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    Electronic Flight Bag

     

    The electronic flight bag is also a fairly recent addition to modern airliners. These units have had a significant impact in the way pilots consult charts and other forms of information while flying. It was once thought that having an EFB incorporated into an FSX aircraft would be impossible due to the impact it may have on frame rates. But CS came up with a very ingenious way of including this feature in its simplest form. Instead of offering a complicated display that would eat away at your performance, the EFB offers you the ability to load images of charts or documents with no impact to frame rates. In addition to this, the menus and even the logos that are shown on the EFB can all be customized to suit your airline or virtual airline needs. The downside of this feature however, is that you have to convert charts from PDF to one of the few formats that are supported by the EFB. If I am not mistaken, there are programs that can be used to do that that can be found online for free, but it would have been so much better if the EFB loaded PDF files out of the box. Also, when loading images into the EFB folder, you will have to repeat the process for each aircraft variant rather than simply loading everything into one folder.

     

    The key pads on the EFB are fully functional in that you can switch pages, scroll and zoom any document or chart to suit your viewing needs. I have personally found this feature to be very useful and I find myself enjoying the fact that I can look at airport or arrival charts without having to use any external programs or even my tablet. The EFB may not be as complicated as the real thing but I certainly think that it gets the job done and it is definitely a highlight of this product.

     

    Video Preview

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJra2LNc_To

     

     

     

    777 Connect

     

    The 777 Connect is a fairly new addition to the 777 Captain product-lines and it shows the commitment of CS to continually support and enhance the user experience. In recent times,developers began offering android apps that allow you to control the flight management systems of an aircraft from the comfort of your tablet. This has been a most welcome change in thinking since it reduces the need to continuously change your view point or pull up 2D panels to make changes in the FMS. In late 2014, CS released this product for android users and thus far I can confidently say that it works flawlessly with absolutely no impact to your frame rates. The instructions on how to get this product up and running is very detailed and I was able to get in working in less than 5 minutes after downloading the app. While this feature comes with an additional charge, it is definitely worth it and I would highly recommend it if you are an android user.

     

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    New Cargo Loading & Systems

     

    The new cargo loading process applies specifically to the 777-200LRF. In the past, we were used to using the ACE program to load passenger and cargo onto your aircraft. Some may have also loaded the aircraft with the default FSX load manager. With the 777 Captain Cargo Expansion, you can now load cargo in real time. What does this mean? Well basically, when the aircraft is loaded in FSX it is loaded empty and when the cargo manager is opened, you can load each pallet one at a time and place them anywhere within the aircraft by dragging the pallet with the mouse cursor. What was very impressive about this feature if the fact that the moving pallet can be seen in the exterior model. The plus side of this feature is that you can have an ultra-realistic cargo loading experience with the ability to have full control over the aircraft loading. The downside is that the loading process can be time consuming so be prepared to spend a few minutes on the ground loading cargo if you are pressed for time and you would like to enjoy a quick flight.

     

    These are just a few of the newest features you will see in the 777 and you will be pleasantly surprised with the many other upgrades that have gone into the programming and system fidelity of the latest Captain Sim products. Speaking of system fidelity, how does the CS777 hold up?

     

    In past products such as the 757 and 767, there were a few issues related to the systems and autopilot that have been well noted. In many cases the thrust and autopilot stability were major issues that may have disappointed a few customers. Nonetheless, that was the past and I can assure you that Captain Sim has indeed delivered a product that very balanced. The 777 Captain features many systems that have all been modeled to a high degree of realism. The Weather and Terrain radar systems both function as they were designed with the latter having perhaps a higher fidelity. When it comes to the Fuel, Pneumatics, Hydraulics and Electrical systems of the 777, Captain Sim has done an outstanding job in recreating the functionality of these complex systems with only a small margin for error due to the limitations of FSX. In the flight report to follow, we will see how all of these systems work together and how the 777 stands up to a 5 hour flight from PHNL to KSFO while also making use of the 777 Connect app.

     

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    FLIGHT REPORT

     

    At the time of writing this review, I’ve been fortunate enough to see the progression of this product from version 1.0 to version 1.6. For this review, we will be looking at the newest 1.6 version which has the most up to date features. To begin our test flight from PHNL to KSFO,we will be performing a full flight planning session using PFPX and Active Sky Next.

     

    Using PFPX (Professional Flight Planner X), I was able to plan a detailed flight to KSFO that included Fuel, Routing, ETOPS and Weather data. In the past it would have been necessary to manually load the flight plan into the FMS, but since PFPX has an export feature that supports Captain Sim products, loading the entire route of our flight becomes a very simple task.To make the best use of the features of this aircraft, I also decided to find charts that were relevant to my route of flight. After taking a few minutes to find charts for PHNL and KSFO, I was able to convert these documents from a PDF to one of the formats (jpg) supported by the EFB. In the end, I was able to load airport diagrams, SID, STAR and Approach plates into the EFB folders which should be done before starting FSX. Another task that has to be performed before loading FSX is the passenger and cargo loading via the ACE program. Once this has been completed, it’s now time to start up FSX.

     

    After loading the aircraft at the Gate, It becomes very obvious that the 777 starts off in a configuration that can be a little puzzling.It starts off with the engines running while systems such as the fuel and pneumatics are not properly configured. While this was a bit odd, it wasn’t a big issue since the job of the pilot is always to ensure that the aircraft is properly configured before pushback. When it comes to programming the FMC, Captain Sim has offered a very realistic but not overly complicated simulation. This means that they have modeled nearly every aspect of the FMC, but have also managed to simplify certain tasks such as loading flight plans and forecast data. One of the newest additions to the FMC is a menu page that allows you to select features such as Pause at TOD, KG to LBS conversion and the current CG of the aircraft which has always been a missing feature of previous modern airliners from Captain Sim. When it comes to the immersion factor, I found that the FMC offered a very realistic experience that everyone will enjoy.

     

    Now that the FMC has been programmed and the cockpit has been configured, it’s now time to confirm all of our actions by running through the checklist using the ECL. The interface with the ECL is slightly different to other products that allow you to use the mouse cursor to select checklist items. In this case you will have to hold the ALT key and use the directional arrows to scroll through the checklist items and press ENTER to check them off. In addition to using the ECL, this would also be good time to review the airport charts and SID charts for our taxi and departure. To do this, we will be making use of our charts that were earlier loaded into the EFB. Once the EFB has been turned on, it’s fairly easy to pull up charts and have a closer look at them by zooming in. The quality of the display is remarkable good and it comes in handy in order to avoid using external programs. The use of the EFB isn’t limited to viewing charts only. If you have documents that can be converted to image files, these can also be used in the EFB if you wish to review manuals or airline SOPs. Please keep in mind however that proper management and naming of files in the EFB is purely the responsibility of the user.

     

     

    As the time for pushback arrived, I thought it would be a good idea to test how well the 777 functions with GSX (Ground Services X) and it came as no surprise that they both worked quite well together. During the pushback it was quite a pleasure to listen to the engine startup. The sound package included in the 777 Captain includes a unique sound file for the GE, PW and RR engine types. If you are familiar with the work of TSS (Turbine Sound Studios), you willknow that these sound files are as realistic as they get!

     

    Taxiing the aircraft isn’t normally something I would mention in a review, but I did notice that when the aircraft is lightly loaded,it tends to pick up speed on its own at idle thrust. While this may occur in the real world, I found that it was a bit excessive and it required having to ride the brakes during the taxi. On the takeoff roll, the aircraft’s acceleration was smooth thanks to the autothrottle which is engaged by RIGHT clicking the AT button.After takeoff off, I quickly noticed that even after using the actual CG and the corresponding trim settings, the aircraft controls had a slight forward pressure which made it a slight challenge to hold the required nose up attitude. To fix this issue, I would suggest using a much higher trim setting until a fix has been released by Captain Sim. Other than this issue, I think that CS did a fairly good job at modelling the aircrafts FBW system and while there is always room for improvement, I think that right out of the box, the aircraft handles quite nicely in the air.

     

    While the auto throttle aspect of the autopilot has thus far held up quite nicely (It maintains thrust and transitions from takeoff thrust to climb thrust very nicely), I was quite eager to see how well the aircraft would perform under full command of the autopilot. It was no surprise however that the aircraft performed quite nicely under the command of the autopilot and it also was able to smoothly follow its vertical and lateral navigational path. The only issue I spotted in the performance of the autopilot was related to strong winds that were perpendicular to our flightpath. The autopilot had the make several corrections to stay on course but in time the aircraft was able to stabilize itself. I had a hard time trying to figure out why the aircraft was doing this and then I remembered that I had Accu-Feel and Active Sky Next active. After some troubleshooting I realized that the 777 doesn’t work very well with Accu-Feel. ASN had a very minimal effect on the autopilot behavior and I am doubtful that many of you will experience any issues. These observations may not be the official reasons, but I am hopeful that Captain Sim may address this problem in the future.

     

    During the cruise portion of the flight I had the opportunity to closely examine all of the systems pages to see whether they all worked correctly. Sure enough, the systems were all very well put together and while they may not match the systems of the real aircraft 100%, I think that Captain Sim kept the mark at well over 95% accuracy, taking into account the limitations of FSX and the intended design of the product. Many advanced features of the FMS such as programming the FIX page all systems seemed to hold up quite well.

     

    Another feature I had the opportunity to test was the 777 Connect which is a separate expansion designed for individuals who have access to Android devices. The setup of 777 Connect was quite simple and in a matter of just a few minutes, you can download the app and have it running perfectly with your aircraft. The benefits of using this app are numerous. For example, for individuals who have PCs that do not deliver the best performance or individuals who would rather not be inconvenienced by constantly pulling up an FMS 2D panel or changing your view point at critical phases of flight, you can conveniently use your phone or tablet to easily access any function of the FMS with no impact to your frame rates. For me personally, I have always found it inconvenient to pull up 2D panels or to look down at the FMS at critical phases of flight when you need have quick access to your forward view. Using this app has made it easier to enjoy other activities if you don’t wish to sit in front of a PC for many hours and still have access to critical information about your flight. If you choose to purchase the 777 Captain, I strongly recommend this expansion app.

     

    As we approach KSFO, we come to a critical point in the performance of this aircraft. While it was relatively easy for the autopilot to manage the climb and cruise portions of the flight, descents can be a bit tricky. The combination of weather, altitude and speed restrictions can truly put an autopilot system through its paces. For the CS 777, while the autopilot was able to keep up with the decent path in order to meet various altitude and speed restrictions, there were moments where the aircraft had a hard time keeping up. For example, at times the aircraft would have excessive descent rates to meet an altitude restrict despite starting the descent at the specified TOD. There are many factors that could have caused this and this type of behavior does not occur on each flight. This being the case, I thought I would mention this so that customers would not be caught off guard should this occur.

     

    For the approach and landing, I opted to test the full auto land feature of this aircraft. I had previously landed this aircraft manual on many occasions and it handles flawlessly. The auto land feature seemed like the ultimate test of the stability of the autopilot and I am pleased to say that the aircraft is fully capable of a full auto land without any issues. At each appropriate phase of the approach, the aircraft’s autopilot does exactly what it was designed to do and this includes a subtle flare just before landing. While on the topic of landing, if you have an opportunity to replay the landing of this aircraft, you will notice that Captain Sim did a great job at modeling the animation of the landing gears on touch down. Here are a few photos and video that demonstrates this more closely.

     

    Landing Gear Animation Video

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8p5zgzD4AtQ

     

     

    To summarizeour test flight, I think that the quality of the CS 777 is far superior to the average FSX Add-on. Despite experiencing a few issues while using this product, I was still able to thoroughly enjoy flying this aircraft. While the expansion models were not extensively covered in this review, I can assure you that they all function quite well. The Freighter model, along with the new method of cargo loading gives you a unique experience that I have yet to see from other developers. The 300 series is also very unique in its handling characteristics as one would expect from a much heavier aircraft. Here are a few random photos that showcase the expansion models.

     

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    Photos in succession showing the realistic landing gear animation

     

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    When it comes to performance, the previous versions of this aircraft took a significant hit on frame rates. This was most noticeable in the virtual cockpit due to the high quality textures and animations. In later updates and with the release of V1.6, the performance has definitely improved to the point where the average gaming PC should be able to comfortably support this aircraft. Some who have experienced lower frame rates with the newest release were able to see a slight improvement by manually reducing the quality of the displays or cockpit textures. Please keep in mind that these adjustments are of a user origin and not supported by Captain Sim.

     

     

    CONCLUSION

     

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    In Conclusion, I think that Captain Sim did a fantastic job on the 777 series and they have created a product that can be enjoyed by just about anyone regardless of your level of experience. When it comes to modelling, CS has always had a significant edge in creating some of the most fascinating aircraft models we have ever seen. The 777 series is no exception and they have taken things a step further by introducing numerous eye candy options that enhance your overall experience using the aircraft. As far as the simulation of systems goes, CS has provided clear information on what their product is offering and I can definitely say that they have delivered on what they have promised. Is it perfect? No. No aircraft add-on is perfect and there will always be quirks and features that can be improved. Since the release of version 1.0, the development team has shown a willingness to listen to their customers about updates that would enhance this product. For example, prior to even knowing that I would be writing this review, the development team took suggestions about adding a Pause at TOD, and KG to LBS update to the 777. Numerous other features were updated or added and I have come to learn that if you have a suggestion about fixing a specific issue, one can make these suggestions provided that they have proof that their suggest is indeed correct. Keep in mind however that the development team is not very large and updates take time.

     

    While the additional features that were added in v1.6 made this product much more enjoyable, the initial release that featured the Electronic Checklist and the Electronic Flight Bag were truly ground breaking at the time. Until now, the CS777 is one of the only commercial aircraft that offers a functional EFB feature within FSX.

     

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    After all is said and done, one may be wondering whether they should purchase either the CS777 or one of the other 777s in the market?. Some may say that the choice is obvious but I found this is certainly not the case. It has been long standing that FS users seem to believe that if Company X releases a 777 and Company Y also releases a 777 that both products will compete with each other on every level. But this is not so and it may be presumptuous to think so. First of all, while most products may claim to be a “full simulation” of the 777, they all have their pros and cons. Some 777 models may appeal to users who are fanatic about having every single switch perform a specific task, but in reality I am not so sure how many actually use these features correctly or uses them at all but those who do will be happy they found a model that suits their needs. The CS777 offers you features that give you a sufficient immersion into flying the 777 but also simplifies many features to suit the FSX platform and average users in addition to the more advanced enthusiast.

     

    I have owned a few 777 products for a while now and I can honestly say that I use them equally. They serve different purposes and they offer you the opportunity to experience different levels of realism. One of the newest features of the CS777 that I have recently fallen in love with was the 777 Connect which was outlined earlier in this review. This android app added a new dimension of realism in that you would no longer have to change your view point or pull up a 2D panel to program or make adjustments to your FMC. Coupling these features with the terrain and weather radar, ECL, EFB and the simulation of numerous systems on this aircraft, I think that the CS777 is a tremendous bargain at a price of 29.99 Euros for the FSX Base Pack and 39.99 Euros for the P3D version. These prices are a discounted price point from the original price of 59.99 Euros! If you plan on purchasing the expansions, it will cost you an additional 9.99 Euros each.

     

    For this reason, I think the 777 Captain deserves a Commendation for a top notch product that excels in features and price point. I think that it shows a good effort on the part of the developers to release a product that can appeal to simmers with any level of experience. Captain Sim had originally released this product some time ago now and they have continued to refine and to add new features. Whether the 777 Captain will see further upgrades is left to be seen but I think that as of version 1.6 they definitely have a solid product.

     

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    Acknowledgement

     

    Special thanks to Tanya and Eugene from Captain Sim for their assistance with this review and I would also like to thank Kroswynd for assisting with the edited screenshots.

     



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