iFly 747-400 v2
A review by Marlon Carter
iFly 747-400 v2 (Service Pack 1)
The Boeing 747 is without a doubt one of Boeing’s biggest achievements since the introduction of the 707. The 747 has had an extensive history that goes far back to the 1960s. Since then, the 747 has seen many changes which included more efficient engines, greater passenger capacity and cockpit upgrades that saw the elimination of the flight engineer. From the SP to the 200 or 400 series, each of us has our favorite 747 model. This aircraft has inspired many to be pilots or avid aviation enthusiasts and the sight of a 747 in the sky is still the next best thing to the majesty of the Concorde.
From the moment we first had our opportunity to fly a simulated version of the 747 thanks to Microsoft, we all longed for a simulation that was much more detailed. Throughout the years there have been a few developers that successfully met our needs, but in the end we all desired something that was much closer to “perfection.” One of the developers that recreated the 747-400 was iFly and many of you may recall that at the time, version 1 of their 747 was one of the best products to hit the FSX market. With the improvements we have seen since then, the iFly team gave their pride and joy a much needed facelift which was introduced to the FS market in 2014. The 747-400 V2 saw numerous upgrades that matched some of the best products available today. From systems to graphics, the 747 was completely overhauled to offer customers an entirely new flying experience. What made this offering even better is that the iFly 747 was created for 3 FS platforms which include FS9, FSX and P3D!
One might easily feel that developing products for FS9 may be a waste of time, but there is actually quite a large FS9 following and many still prefer FS9 over FSX or P3D for a number of reasons. For example, having a system that runs FS9 at its max setting is relatively easy these days, but having a PC that runs FSX or P3D “comfortably” requires a bit of an investment. Whatever your preference may be, iFly has covered all bases and they are one of the only developers to have recently released a high quality add-on for 3 simulator platforms. Due to FS9 limitations, some features of the FS9 version differ from the FSX and P3D version which means that FSX/P3D users can enjoy all of the benefits of these platforms without having to settle for the limitations of FS9 also.
What can we expect from version 2 of the 747? Here is a taste of the numerous features found in this product.
- Winds aloft forecast entries.
- Conditional waypoints for SIDS/STARS/Approaches.
- Fly-by and Fly-over waypoints for SIDS/STARS/Approaches.
- Accurate Cost Index calculations for ECON/LRC speeds
- Horizontal and vertical navigation.
- User defined waypoints.
- SID/STAR and navdata custom database.
- ETA and Fuel prediction.
- All pages and menus are implemented.
- Maintenance pages.
- Realistic Autopilot Flight Director System (AFDS) with Autothrottle System.
- AFDS active (Display in green): FD, CMD, LAND3, TEST (Displays in green with white triangles): LAND2
(Displays in amber): NO AUTOLAND
- Autothrottle (A/T) Active (Display in Green) Modes: THR, THRREF, HOLD, IDLE, SPD
- AFDS active Roll Modes Display in green): HDGHOLD, HDGSEL, LNAV, LOC, ROLLOUT, TO/GA
- AFDS armed Roll Modes (Display in white): LOC, ROLLOUT, LNAV
- AFDS active Pitch Modes (Display in green): TO/GA, ALT, V/S, VNAVPTH, VNAVSPD, VNAVALT, G/S, FLARE, FLCHSPD
- AFDS armed Pitch Modes (Display in white): G/S, FLARE, VNAV
- Leg Types: Track to Fix, Direct to Fix, Arc to Fix, Course to Fix, Radius to Fix
- With left and right Flight Director.
- Cross-bar or single cue flight director.
- Three individual flight control computers (FCCs).
- Simulated AFDS Status Annunciation.
- Activation of mouse wheel for easier MCP window settings.
- 3DS Max Model
- Realistic control surfaces.
- Working elevator power.
- Realistic flight spoilers and ground spoilers.
- Nozzle valve animation.
- Working APU doors.
- Entry & cargo doors with corresponding cockpit light.
- High quality livery textures.
- Flex wing.
- High Quality 3D modeling
- High Definition textures
- Gauges functional, clickable and animated
- Animated windows Wipers (two speeds) and more.
- Superb instrument lightning at night.
- Windshield reflection.
- Simulated triple Inertial Reference System.
- Terrain Display
- NAV1/2 radios with working AUTO/MAN modes.
- Realistic Ground Proximity Warning System.
- Cabin pressurization logic fully implemented.
- Flap load relief protection.
- Aural alerts.
- Simulation of Left and Right EFIS.
- Full TCAS logic (with traffic display on EHSI)
- Weather Radar (Active Sky Next Required)
- Predictive Winshear (Active Sky Next Required)
- CRT and LCD Display units
- Interactive Configuration Manager.
- Many custom configuration options.
- Detailed tutorial and operating manual
- Aircraft performance calculated directly from flight model parameters.
- With custom Turbine Sound Studios GE, RR, PW sound packages
- More than 44500 SIDs/STARs included.
- Ground support and push back.
- 2D Panel supports both standard and widescreen monitors.
- Hundreds of programmable key assignments
- Ability to operate both Captain and First officer's instrumentation in different modes while in 2D and in the virtual cockpit.
Here is a teaser video of the 747v2 and a clip of the engine sounds
*Please note that these preview videos were created before the SP1 update and the overall quality of the aircraft has improved since then.
Now that we’ve had a general overview of the aircraft, let’s dig a bit deeper to see what makes this aircraft so special. First of all, I thought it would be a good idea to find out more about the iFly development team and the 747 project.
1. Can you tell us a little about iFly? How long have you been around, products you've released etc?
iFly is a group who love FS and love develop add-on’s for FS. Before iFly was founded, all team members have already developed lots of shareware/pay-ware fs add-on’s, e.g. FS2002 scenery--Hangzhou Xiaoshan, F-7 Skybolt, B767-200 and more. In 2007 we decided we need to make a team so we can gather all resources to create some more complex add-on. 3 years later iFly's first add-on, iFly747-400v1 released and we got very good response. But we also realized that if we want to release a good product, we need more resources and more help. So we cooperate with Flight1 and then released iFly Jet:737NG at 2010 and iFly Jet: 747-400v2 at 2014.
2. What inspired iFly to create a version 2 of the 747-400?
The 747-400 is very important for us. When we discussed what plane we need to develop next at the time we just found there are so many options amongst the team. And some of our team members are fans of 747-400, and after doing some market research we decided 747-400 will be our next add-on after we release the 737NG. We still believe 747-400v2 is a good choice. We are very happy we did it.
3. Can you tell us of some of the challenges you faced in developing this product?
Our team is located all around the world, the develop team, tech support team; test team and the user support team all have their own work patterns. It is a very interesting and a challenging thing we needed to face. We use it to relay our work; if you are in Asia when you finish your work then the guys in Europe can continue your work and then America. So it is almost continues 24hrs without any pause. Our team is a group of very passionate Flightsim people, and we use this pattern and it is very effective.
4. I noticed that you created the 747v2 for 3 platforms; did this limit the features you were able to implement in this project?
We decided our product should cover FS9/FSX/P3D. This of course is a challenge to the development for 3 platforms at the same time. I have to say some feature can't be modelled due to platform limitation. But if any feature can't be modelled at one platform, it will not affect the other platforms. We do our best to make the optimal arrangement.
5. Since the release of the 747v2, iFly had been busy with a major update, can you tell us a little about the update?
Well it is impossible to give you a detailed list but here is a summary of the major work.
-Dynamic Interactive Panel Flood and Back lights 2D & Virtual Cockpit: FSX/P3D\
-Static Flood lights in Virtual Cockpit , Dynamic Interactive Panel Flood and Back lights in 2D: FS2004
-Increased fidelity and refinement across all systems.
-Enhanced external textures and models.
-Air file fine-tuned, climb/descent performance close to real charts.
-Corrections to systems, textures and models.
-Revised mouse scroll and click spot interaction.
-Dynamic on-ground and in-flight wing flexing.
-And a lot more……
6. What features of the 747v2 would you say separate this product from others currently on the market?
On current FS market there are some outstanding 744 add-on’s, all we can do is try our best to make a high level 747-400 addon. The panels cover all systems, including a fully functional FMS, autopilot systems, real engine sounds and many more. In the entire development process the only reference data we use are the real 747-400 flight and maintenance manuals.
And we also build a model, which is all based on real 747-400 data. We get lots of support from the 747-400 pilots, they provide many detailed photos and we strictly follow these photos to build the model and texture.
7. Given the complexity of this product, would you say that your target audience are advanced simmers or can just about anyone enjoy using this product?
We do believe all levels of user can enjoy our product. The rookie user can also takeoff and land the aircraft, it is fairly easy to fly manually. Any user who can use the default FS 747-400 autopilot can also use our 747-400's autopilot.
Of course if anyone wants to use the FMC or other systems deeply, I still suggest that they need time to study the manuals.
8. We understand that confidentiality is important in this competitive business, but can you tell us a little about customers can expect from iFly in the future?
9. Support is always important to customers and to developers for any product being bought or sold. Can you tell us a little about the type of support customers can expect for this product?
Well as you know Flight1.com is our publishing agent, they have a comprehensive and well-established customer support infrastructure.
Flight1.com has an automated self-help section for e-commerce relates issues. http://www.flight1.com/view.asp?page=wrapperservice
Jim Harnes our Forum Manager with his dedicated team of Certified Professional support staff monitor customer queries on a daily basis.
Flight1.com appointed Jannie Roelofse as our dedicated Project Manager for iFly, all feedback, input, information from customers, support staff, beta team, technical advisors and Flight1 are processed to improve our products, we also add some features according forum feedback to the best of our abilities.
As you can see, this project is very unique and the development team has spared no effort in ensuring it is completed to a high degree of accuracy. In addition, doesn’t the teaser photo of their future plans intrigue you?! I’m pretty sure we will be seeing very impressive things from iFly in the future. For this review we will be looking at the iFly 747 post SP1 so let’s dive right in.
As with any product sold by Flight1, the installation of the 747v2 is quite simple once you are familiar with the flight1 wrapper. After the aircraft IS installed, you may have the urge to start up your simulator for a “quick” test flight. However, I would encourage you to review the manuals that accompany this aircraft. For example, the iFly 747 comes with a configuration tool that is very detailed and it may take some time to get use to using it. In addition to this, you may also want to add your favorite livery to the aircraft and this process is slightly different to what you may be accustomed to. After reviewing the manuals on how to use the configuration tool and on how to add liveries, I would also encourage you to review the flight tutorial document which is some 90 pages long. If you think this is extensive, wait until you read the 500+ page Operating Manual!
The Operating manual covers everything you need to know about the 747 and it also provides details that only more advanced users or persons with real world experience may fully understand and appreciate. Also included among the manuals are documents that highlight the updates made to the 747 after the release of SP1. I strongly encourage you to read about the new approach procedures of this aircraft since it is now as true to life as possible. Overall, if you enjoy technical reading and you enjoy using a “study aircraft” these manuals will provide hours of fun learning.
Since it’s said that first impressions last a lifetime, I was eager to see what the 747 exterior model and virtual cockpit looked like within the confines of FSX. When the aircraft loaded up, I instantly had a smile from ear to ear as I looked around at a virtual cockpit that could easily convince you that you were sitting in the real aircraft. The quality of the textures was superb and the modelling detail was equally stunning. There were many opportunities for the developer to take shortcuts by leaving certain non-essential panels as textural only, but iFly went to great lengths to ensure that every aspect of the cockpit was as detailed as possible. Some of the additional features I particularly enjoyed were the moving seats and arm rest, window sun shields, and tray table. Apart from the added eye candy, the overall look of the cockpit was executed flawlessly. At night, the virtual cockpit truly takes on a new life with fully customizable lighting for all panels. This feature is new to the iFly 747 and one that many users have high praises for. Here are a few screenshots of the virtual cockpit.
Now that we’ve had a good look at the virtual cockpit, it’s now time to look at the exterior. As mentioned before, the 747 is an iconic aircraft and few can mistake its unique features. In fact, the 747 is so well known that from the very first glance, just about anyone can spot errors in a replica of the 747. At first glance, it’s clear to see that the developers spend a significant amount of time ensuring that every detail of this aircraft was captured. Even subtle details such as animated APU doors and nozzle values to the most anticipated wing flex and fully animated control surfaces have all been modeled. The textures of the aircraft are of the highest quality (not UHD) and they give the aircraft a realistic look when combined with the new bump maps and exterior reflection. At night, the exterior model is a magnificent sight to behold. The lighting effects are of the highest standard and seeing a night time screenshot of this aircraft can easily be mistaken for the real thing! We can go on and on about how amazing this model looks but since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a few screenshots that nicely showcase this aircraft.
While first impressions are important, sometimes we need to dig a bit deeper to truly appreciate a product of this nature. Let’s dig beneath the surface to examine some of the systems of this aircraft and its accuracy. With the introduction of SP1, many of the aircraft systems were enhanced to provide a higher level of realism. We will have a close look at a few of these systems to see how they work in the real world and whether they work as described in this product.
A significant aspect of this aircraft that is essential to its operation is the Hydraulic System. How important is it? Well the Hydraulic System is responsible for powering the Primary Flight Controls, Autopilot Servos, Spoilers, Stabilizer Trim, Elevator Feel, Landing Gear, Flaps, Brakes and Steering. As you can see, it plays a major role in bringing this aircraft to life. If we were to go into further detail, the hydraulic system is actually made up for four (4) independent systems which share the function of powering various aspects of the aircraft.
For example, System 1 and 4 controls the Trailing Edge Flap, Landing Gear, Brakes, Steering and it also provides power to the Primary Flight Controls. System 2 and 3 operate the Primary Flight Control, Stabilizer Trim, Elevator Feel and Lower Yaw Damper. Systems 1, 2 and 3 all power the Center, Left and Right autopilot servos. What’s the point of all this information? Well understanding how the hydraulic system works, will enable us to see how in-depth the iFly 747 systems are in comparison to its real world counterpart. From the testing I’ve done thus far, it seems like the Hydraulic System has been fully modeled with the correct systems being assigned to their respective hydraulic system. The failure system of this aircraft truly highlights the accuracy of this system and I encourage you to try it at least once to see how nicely programmed this aircraft really is. If you are not a fan of using failures, simply looking at the hydraulic system schematic and manipulating the controls on the overhead panel will show you how realistic this system truly is.
Here is a preview video during the development of Service Pack 1 on the Hydraulic System. While the videos may be a bit lengthy, I strongly encourage you to see for yourself how detailed aircraft really is.
Other systems such as the Electrical System, Fuel System and the Pneumatic Systems are also modelled to a high degree of accuracy. For example, with regard to the Electrical System, the Main AC/DC system and Standby Power components have all been modelled. Each Engine has an Integrated Drive Generator that generates AC power; the IDG becomes operational when the power generated by the APU or External Power is sufficient. Conversely, when the engines are started, there is a smooth transfer of power from the APU or External Power back to the IDG’s which is now generating power from its respective engine. The functionality of the AC Standby Power is also very accurate since it powers the correct components of the aircraft such as the APU Battery, Left FMS/CDU, Standby Ignition and Primary EICAS display to name a few. Why is all of this important? Well knowing how power is generated and distributed can be very useful if you intend on making the best use possible of this product. When starting up the 747 from a cold and dark condition, knowing how to power up the aircraft is extremely crucial. Understanding the AC/DC systems will allow you to know why various system will or will not operate based on the configuration of the aircraft. Once again, if you are a fan of using the failure system, the in-depth simulation of this aircraft will provide hours of interesting scenarios that will challenge your flying skills.
Here is a preview video during the development of Service Pack 1 on the Electrical System
After examining a few of the systems on this aircraft, I was quite impressed with the overall detail. While it’s nice to know that the hardware and circuits have been modelled to a very realistic degree, most of us are often concerned with the functionality of the FMS and the handling of the aircraft. How does the iFly 747 SP1 fair in this regard? Well let’s first have a look at the FMS and we will discuss more about the handling in the Flight Report section of this review.
The FMS is a very complex unit that makes the life of a pilot much easier if it used correctly. Given the complexity of this unit, I will begin by stating that all of the basic features of the FMS including LNAV and VNAV are fully modeled. In addition to this, there is also a host of performance monitoring features that were included. The most obvious of these features is Thrust Management, but also included are RTA (Required Time of Arrival), Wind Data entry and numerous nuances to the Takeoff, Climb, Cruise and Descent features of the FMS that enhance accuracy. In the event of an engine failure (which obviously has an impact on performance), features such as the Engine Out Modifications, Drift Down Execution and Engine out Cruise were also included. In order to benefit from using some of these features that become active upon an engine failure, one can access the iFly menu in the FMS to make use of the comprehensive failure system.
On the topic of Navigation, the FMS also contains a few interesting features that customers will find useful. These features include FMC Polar Operations, High Latitude Operations, Alternate Airport/Divert, ANP/RNP and numerous options to manually manipulate navigational data. For a detailed explanation of these features, I would highly recommend that you read the manual. From a superficial view point, one may easily look at the iFly 747 as just another 747 add-on. However, the detail that has gone into the FMS and other systems is truly remarkable and the closest we have come to the real aircraft.
From the few systems we’ve covered, it’s quite clear that this aircraft is very detailed and it can easily be ranked among one of the best add-ons ever made. But before we draw any firm conclusions, it’s only fitting that we test how well these systems work together. To achieve this, we will be doing a long haul flight from London to JFK where we can run the 747 through its paces. Let’s head over to Heathrow airport where we will conduct a short briefing and commence our 7 hour 30min flight.
Today we will be flying British Airways Flight 177 from EGLL to KJFK using G-BYGA (which is a downloadable livery). Before starting our westbound flight to New York, it’s important that we accurately setup the aircraft. This means that we will have to ensure that the aircraft is equipped with the features that match its real-world airline options. In order to accomplish this, iFly has provided a means of customizing the airline options of the aircraft for a realistic experience. Access to changing aircraft options can be found in the iFly Configuration tool which was very easy to use. The list of options found in this tool is quite extensive and it covers both basic and complex options that related to the systems. To keep things comprehensive for our flight, we will enable all of the features and ensure that our weight measurements are to the UK standards.
Now that we’ve setup the aircraft, it’s time to load the fuel and passengers. To assist with this task, we will be using the popular Professional Flight Planner X which has proved to be an invaluable tool to simulation enthusiast who truly wants to take their experience to another level of realism.
The performance data for PFPX is generally accurate, so we will be comparing various aspects of our computed flight plan with our actual flight to test the fidelity of the iFly 747. After entering the passenger count, cargo and fuel loads into the iFly Config, the aircraft is now fully loaded and ready for our flight.
After loading up the aircraft at Terminal 5, the cockpit state is currently in the configuration that a new flight crew would encounter as they board an aircraft that has just arrived from another destination. I decided to save this format prior to my flight since a cold and dark setup isn’t completely necessary at this point. If you would like to try the cold and dark setup, the tutorial that comes with this product nicely walks you through each step of the setup.
At this point, all that is required to get our flight off the ground is to align the IRS and load up our flightplan. As mentioned before, the FMS is VERY comprehensive and it allows you to perform nearly every function of the real aircraft. After loading the GPS location of the aircraft and commencing the alignment process, loading the flightplan was a simple as entering the Company Route that was generated by PFPX. If you do not use PFPX, flightplans for this route can be found online quite easily and you would thereafter have to enter it manually.
Once the route has been entered, we move to the performance page where all of the data related to our weight and fuel is entered. Some values can be entered automatically while others have to be manually inputted. An interesting feature of the FMS of this aircraft is that the Cost Index feature is modelled. After doing some research, I was able to find out that some 747 operators use a CI of 0 for the takeoff and climb and then later change it to 90 for the cruise. Since we want to be as realistic as possible, I decided to follow this policy to see this feature in action. Once the FMS setup was completed, we shift our focus to loading passengers and cargo. While this was already accomplished using the configuration tool, completing the task visually is always a nice touch of realism thanks to Ground Services X by FSdreamteam. For those of you who use this product, you will be pleased to know that the iFly 747 is supported and the ground operations feature works flawlessly for loading, fueling and pushback procedures.
If you do not have GSX, don’t feel left out, iFly has implemented a ground services page on the FMS that allows you to have access to a detailed pushback option that controls the distance and turn angles. While this feature doesn’t include ground service vehicles, it is still effective nonetheless. In addition to this, iFly has also created a drop down menu that encompasses a host of options such as Ground Support for Ground Power, Oxygen and Extinguisher Bottle Refill and Ground Air Source. Fueling and Payload options can be accessed via the FMS, which ensures that users will have a fully realistic experience with or without 3rd party products.
After following the startup procedures and pushing back from the gate, we being to experience thrill of using this aircraft from the very moment enough thrust is apply to taxi. The ground handling of the aircraft is nothing short of remarkable since it feels like a heavy aircraft (especially because we are loaded with 8 hours of fuel). What was also amazing is the spool of the RR engines as taxi power is applied. The sound of the aircraft during the startup and taxi phase is enough to whet your appetite to hear how it sounds at full throttle.
During the taxi phase of our flight, you might imagine that there isn’t much to discover about the aircraft. However, with this aircraft, surprises lurk at every phase of operation. From the external view of the aircraft, as it taxi’s to the runway you will notice that the wings flex up and down due to the uneven round. The flex has been very carefully programmed to directly relate to the amount of fuel loaded in the wings of the aircraft. Ultimately, it was a very nice surprise and it definitely reflects the characteristics of the real aircraft.
The takeoff phase of our flight was yet another opportunity to experience the amazing programming that has gone into this aircraft. The 747 has a TOGA function that can be accessed via the virtual cockpit throttle control or by the use of a key assignment which is done via the drop down menu for this aircraft. In addition to this there is a shortcut hotspot on the 2D panel that also activates the TOGA feature. From the moment the engines open to takeoff thrust, I immediately had a smile from ear to ear when hearing the smooth transition of the engines from a hollow whine, to a roaring giant. The handling and acceleration of the aircraft felt very realistic. Given the fact that we were loaded with 330 passengers and 26,000kgs of cargo, the aircraft had a heavy feel which subsided as the aircraft accelerated to the point of VR. During the climb, hand flying the aircraft was a joy and it is quite obvious that iFly took a considerable amount of time to fine tune the handling of this aircraft. The development team utilized the help of real world 747 pilots in fine-tuning this product and the smooth flight controls are a testimony to that fact.
After turning on the autopilot, there really isn’t much to do other than to monitor the systems of the aircraft and communicate with ATC. After clearing the busy airspace at Heathrow, we can now settle into the climb and have a look at a few more features of this aircraft. For example, let’s have a closer look at the Terrain and Weather radar display. Since the release of Active Sky Next, I’ve made it a point to never fly without it. From the moment ASN created their revolutionary weather radar, many aircraft developers have included a weather radar that works with ASN. The iFly development team also implemented this feature and it works quite nicely. Some of the features of this system include a System Switch that have the option of either the Left or Right which uses the Left and Center or Right and Center IRU’s for stabilizing the radar antenna. The Mode Selectors include functions such as TEST, WX, WX/TURB and MAP. Each mode has a very specific function and they have been modelled in great detail. The tilt function is self-explanatory and needless to say, it function is very convincing. The Gain control allows you to set the intensity of the display to your liking. Personally I found that the auto setting was a bit too bright so I often turn it down just a bit. There is one more feature of the Weather Radar that I’m sure everyone will love, but we will discuss this later as we setup our final approach to JFK.
As far as the Terrain radar is concerned, it effectively displays the terrain as expected. When the aircraft is higher than 500 feet or 250 ft with gears down and above terrain, the density based on the height of peaks and the aircraft altitude is clearly shown in green, yellow or red with varying densities. There is also a profile view that also works quite nicely.
A feature that many people take for granted is the autopilot itself. Most times, after we turn on the LNAV and VNAV we seldom think of the full capabilities of this feature. For example, many may assume that VNAV simple makes the autopilot meet all alt restrictions when flying a SID/STAR. However, this seemingly simple feature performs much more. When the aircraft is at 400ft, VNAV can now be fully activated. If an engine failure is sensed and the aircraft is below the engine out acceleration height and thrust reduction point, VNAV remains in VNAV SPD mode and it commands a speed between V2 and V2+10kts. Under these conditions that auto-throttle stays in THR REF mode with the limit set to TO.
Other factors that determine the function of VNAV parameters include whether the aircraft has attained Acceleration Height, Thrust Reduction has already been initiated or is flying under VNAV Climb or Cruise. Under each condition the reaction of the VNAV function differs and all of this has been implemented in this product. Amazing isn’t it? But that’s not all; the FMC also has a functioning ENG OUT page that provides detailed performance data needed to fly the aircraft with a failed engine. When you think about the depth of the systems in this aircraft, it impresses upon you how fascinating the 747 truly is. Another interesting detail of this aircraft is that it models both the LCD and CRT displays. Do you know the difference between both displays? Well initially you may think that the only difference is the display type itself. However, between the LCD and CRT displays, information is sometimes displayed differently and all of these fine details have been programed into this aircraft!
Can you spot the differences between these displays?
As we make our way closer to JFK, I decided to check the Progress Page to see how well the aircraft is performing as it related to fuel burn and on time performance. As mentioned before, the Cost Index of this aircraft is modelled and while we took off with a CI of 0, during the cruise we switched it to CI 90. What was the result? Well the aircraft imitated a higher cruise speed which should enable us to get to our destination on time with some fuel savings from having a slower climb speed. When comparing the fuel burn of the aircraft to the print out of our PFPX flight plan, the numbers were quite similar and it showed that the performance data was spot on with difference accounted for due to changing winds during our flight.
On the topic of fuel, one of the unique features of the 747 is that while it is very automated, there is a specific point in the flight that requires the pilots input to ensure that the fuel system is configured correctly for fuel balancing. When all 4 main tanks have an equal amount of fuel, an alert appears on the EICAS to alert the pilot that the aircraft should now be in a Tank to Engine configuration. This is done simply by turning off the cross feed valves which results in each being fueled by a respective tank for the duration of the flight. What happens if you stepped away from the PC or you forgot to do this? Well this would result in a fuel imbalance and you will be alerted to this by an indication on the EICAS. Having knowledge of the fuel system can be a life safer in this case, since the responsibility of balancing the fuel depends fully on your manipulation of the fuel controls. For advanced users this may be a simple task, but for newcomers to the 747, iFly has included an interesting feature that can be accessed via the FMS. Under the Intelligent Cruise section, it allows you to select options such as Auto Step Climb, Auto Fuel Balancing and other features to make once life a bit easier. In this case, the Auto Fuel Balance may be a life saver if you have to step away from the PC on a long flight and you won’t be around to configure the fuel controls. It can also help in recovering the proper balance of the fuel if you missed the opportunity to set the fuel panel correctly (Think of is as making your First Officer do all the work).
Before we get to our TOD, there is one more feature that I was quite impressed with that many of you may not have observed before with any other aircraft. Unexpectedly, this feature takes us to the external view of the aircraft. At a glance, everything may seem to be normal with the aircraft. However, upon closer examination, you will realize that the window shades of the aircraft are configured differently from our previous screenshots. IFly has included a fun and very realistic feature that animates the window shades to close or open in random order based on the position of the sun! This is perhaps the first I am ever seen this feature and it gives the impression that there are passengers onboard the aircraft going about their normal activities. Perhaps the only feature missing in this regard is the ability to have the cabin lighting change based on the phase of your flight which is most times required by regulations. Nonetheless, if you purchase this aircraft, this is a very nice feature to look at when flying.
As we approach our TOD (Top of Decent), I have to point out once again that this can easily be a feature of the VNAV function that we take for granted. How so? Well we typically reset our altitude on the MCP and allow the aircraft to descent with little thought to how it all works. When the aircraft is within 50nm of TOD and the initiated MCP altitude is lower than the cruise altitude, an early descent mode will be initiated and the aircraft will eventually intercept the idle descent path. If the aircraft is beyond 50nm from TOD and a new altitude is entered and initiated, the aircraft will treat this new altitude as a new cruising altitude. Knowing this detail about the descent mode of the 747 is very important if the aircraft is to be operated correctly. Another mode that is equally important is the “On Approach” mode. IFly has spent a considerable amount of time fine tuning this feature and I think that the best way to explain the changes to the VNAV Logic and Approach procedure is to post a direct quote from their forums/manual about these changes.
It is important to understand that in normal operation in the descent when in VNAV PTH the CAB is set according to what is programmed in the FMC. The programmed speed will usually be ECON SPD, or a flight crew entered descent speed, when above the speed transition altitude and 240KTS when below transition altitude.
The FMC then looks at either the next large font airspeed on the LEGS page, and at what waypoint it occurs (example: EMRAG 210/3000A), or a SPD RESTR entered by the crew on the VNAV DESCENT (LSK 5L) page, such as 230/4000. The FMC also looks at the deceleration requirements and, if the two constraints are close to each other, then the system will drive the CAB to the speed of the constraint requiring the greatest deceleration.
For example, if flight crew entered a speed restriction of 230/5000 and there is also a following waypoint restriction of 180/4000A, the FMC would command a speed of 240KTS until the aircraft needs to decelerate to meet the 230/5000 restriction. But looking ahead the FMC sees that the 180/4000A is very close, so instead of going to 230KTS the CAB would probably be driven straight to 180KTS with perhaps a very momentary pause at 230KTS.
When the aircraft is in the DESCENT in VNAV PTH mode and the MCP speed knob is pushed the window will open at the FMC programmed descent speed (What is showing on the FMC VNAV DES page) and the CAB will remain at or move to that speed. The pitch mode will change to VNAV SPD as the elevators are now controlling the speed set in the MCP window and are no longer attempting to maintain the calculated VNAV Path.
If the knob is pressed when the aircraft is below the speed transition of 240/10000, the window will open at 240KTS, and the CAB will move to (or remain at) 240KTS.
IMPORTANT: The ONLY time that the aircraft will remain in VNAV PTH when the MCP speed window is opened is when the aircraft is in the CRUISE phase of flight or On Approach mode (meaning that it meets the conditions of On Approach mode).
If this isn’t enough detailed programming, the On Approach mode of this aircraft is another truly remarkable feature. Here is a detailed explanation of this feature which is part of the real aircraft and the details can be found on the iFly forums.
The following screenshot shows an approach to LIRF RWY 16C and it utilizes the 2D panel for this example.
The red square (added for emphasis) around the green donut on the ND indicates where the aircraft will reach the DECEL point for approach speed. If the MCP SPD window remains closed at the DECEL point, the FMC will drive the CAB down to a speed which is into the amber band and just above the Red Bricks. It is also below FLAP UP maneuver speed.
The green speed reduction donut may appear on the ND before the first waypoint in the approach. In that case, open the SPD window 1 NM prior to reaching the SPD reduction point. If above the transition altitude, the FMC will set the SPD to the programmed descent speed. Set SPD after that as required. If the aircraft is below the transition altitude, the FMC will set 240KTS, or whatever speed restriction was entered by the crew or any CDU-specified waypoint speed restriction. Then set SPD and FLAP as required.
If the MCP Speed window is left closed, the airspeed will decay until the A/T commands a large application of thrust in order to keep airspeed protected. Then the A/T will command airspeed to follow the Min Maneuver Band down as flaps are selected, until the airspeed to which the CAB points are reached. If APP was armed the G/S will be intercepted and the SPD window will open on its own. If the aircraft is left to descend in VNAV PTH with the SPD window closed, the CAB will finally go to VREF+ Wind Correction.
The following screenshot shows the aircraft just prior to the DECEL position. Note that crew pressed the SPEED BUTTON to open the SPD WINDOW, and the FMC set airspeed to 240KTS. The vertical mode on the FMA changed from VNAV PTH to VNAV SPD:
The yellow circle (also added to the ND for emphasis) indicates where the FMC will enter On Approach mode. Note the 2NM circle around MIKSO, the first approach waypoint which will sequence. Remember, the FMC will enter On Approach mode 2NM prior to the first approach waypoint, and the CDU FIX function was used to draw the circle as a reminder to the crew.
This screenshot show how the crew is managing SPD prior to reaching the On Approach mode position. The SPD WINDOW is now set at 221KTS, which is the just below the PFD SPD TAPE FLAP UP speed. It also anticipates the 215K FMC specified speed at MIKSO, the first waypoint on the approach. Note that although the FMA Mode is VNAV SPD, descent path deviation is still being displayed on the ND.
This screenshot depicts the situation just after the FMC enters On Approach mode, 2NM prior to MIKSO. Look at the FMA. The FMC has automatically changed “back” to VNAV PTH while the SPD WINDOW remains open. The crew has set the SPD to 215KTS. The FAF, F116C, is 4.9NM ahead.
Finally, this screenshot shows the crew has set 186KTS as the SPD prior to reaching F116C, the FAF. The LOC is captured and the G/S is alive. From this point on, what remains is to ARM APP, get the GEAR down, set VRef+Wind Correction and lower FLAP on schedule. Set ALT as appropriate for the MISSED APPROACH.
The 747-400 is much more “hands on” than the newer Boeing transport category aircraft during the DESCENT and APPROACH phases of flight. Users of the simulation should carefully note the interaction of FLAP application, airspeed and VNAV logic. Some retraining will most likely be needed in order to fly the aircraft correctly. The Tutorial flight description now incorporates these changes.
After considering all of these details about the On Approach mode, some of you may still be a bit lost. On the other hand, if you’ve grasped the concept of how it works, then you are well on your way to flying the 747 with a greater degree of accuracy.
After applying what we learned about the approach procedures, it’s now time to setup our final approach to runways 4R at KJFK. On this particular flight, the weather was quite good but the approach to final reminded me of a previous experience while landing in some very bad weather. While landing at KJFK a few weeks earlier, I was quite pleased to discover yet another interesting feature of the Weather Radar which I referred to earlier. Thanks to ASN (Active Sky Next), the iFly 747 also has the Predictive Windshear Display and Annunciations. The picture below shows what it typically looks like.
While this is exciting news, FS9 users may be a bit disappointed to know that this feature works only with FSX/P3D versions of the 747. Nonetheless, it is something that you may see in action on any of your flights with this aircraft provided that the weather conditions are “ideal.”
Finishing up our discussion on the approach and landing; the full autoland function of the aircraft worked quite well even though at times the landings was a bit firm. Under normal circumstances however, most of us would have disengaged the autopilot for a manual landing. Landing the aircraft manually was a thrilling experience to say the least and the handling can only be described as smooth and stable. IFly has put a considerable amount of effort into fine tuning the FDE of this aircraft and if you would like to know about more about how it was designed, have a look at the video link below.
Please note that this video was recorded during the SP1 beta and improvements may have been made for the final release.
After landing at JFK and taxiing to the gate, I couldn’t help but to feel a sense of accomplishment while using this product. The in-depth systems, stunning graphics and sound package all culminate into a product that worthy of the FS community’s consideration.
But what about the performance? I’m sure some of you were waiting anxiously to hear whether or not the iFly 747 has a big impact on frame rates. If this is the case, rest assured that if you can operate the most basic of aircraft add-ons, you will have absolutely no issue with using the iFly 747 v2. This fact hold true whether you are using FSX or P3D since I was able to test both versions with great success.
Upon its initial release last year, some had reported that the performance needed some improvement. For almost a year since then, the development team at iFly had been extremely busy with a major update that would not only include added details and accuracy to the aircraft, but it would also significantly boost the performance of the aircraft on the most average of PCs. To further aid customers in achieving the best frame rates possible and reducing the risk of OOMs, iFly has also included some helpful tips in its documentation and on their forums that will help improved frame rates. Ultimately, if poor frame rates were an issue with the initial release, this is now a thing of the past since the release of SP1.
This review turned out to be much longer than I anticipated and it required a lengthy period of testing and reading/studying in order to come up to speed with flying the 747 accurately (and I’m still learning more and more each day). Many of the features that I highlighted throughout this review only scratches the surface of the hard work and programming that has gone into this product. IFly is by no means a new developer and they are well known for producing high quality products. To this day, many still hold their 737NG in high regard and I’m confident that many of you will feel the same way about the new 747. In an effort to have as many people enjoy this product, the development team created 3 versions of this aircraft to cater to users of FS9, FSX and P3D. When purchasing the 747 v2, each version has to be purchased separately and the cost of each version comes at the remarkable price of $59.95! Why is this price remarkable? Well when you think about it, most “study sim” add-ons sell for anywhere between $60 to $90 dollars. If you wanted to purchase a P3D version, the cost would be much more in some cases. With the iFly 747, all versions cost the same and in the end, you have an aircraft that can easily be ranked among the best FS add-ons to date.
It’s no secret that there is another popular developer who is also on the verge of releasing their second version of the 747. Should this deter you from looking into the iFly 747 v2? Not at all! After spending close to 2 month using this aircraft, I can confidently say that it would take a large undertaking to topple the iFly 747. Even if a “better” product were to be released, what the iFly 747 offers is already much more than the average user will need. For more avid simmers, this product also meets your needs by providing an aircraft that requires training, practice and study to master.
What about expansions? Well the development team has made it clear that there will be future expansions to the 747 product line and this will include the Freighter versions and from the teaser photo shown earlier, the 747-8 is also on the way. While a definite time line has not been announced, judging from the quality of the 747-400 series, the future expansion products will no doubt be worth waiting for.
In conclusion, it goes without saying that this product has easily earned itself an Avsim Gold Star Award for providing the FS community with a 747 that meets the standard of even the most hardcore of simulator enthusiasts. Added to this is the fact that the price of this product is more than generous for what it offers and if it were to be sold for 70 or 80 dollars it would still be worth it. Finally, developing a product that spans through simulator platforms shows that iFly has the interest of everyone at heart and for this, they have scored major points (especially for FS9 users). Whether you are typically a short or long haul virtual pilot, this aircraft is a must have for your virtual hangar and you won’t be disappointed.
Special thanks to the iFly Development Team and Support Staff, Flight1 and UK2000 for contributing a copy of their Heathrow Xtreme v3!
Suggested 747-400 Flying Guides and Supplementary material
I would also recommend these videos from Just Planes as a useful aid in seeing how the 747 is flown first hand.