AVSIM Commercial Aircraft Review

Captain Sim "Legendary 727" 

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Rating Guide

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Legendary 727 Panel

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Legendary 727 Virtual Cockpit

Publisher: Captain Sim
Description:
Boeing 727-100 and 727-200 add-on aircraft
Download Size:
N/A
Format:
Automated installer
Simulator:
FS2002
Reviewed by: Ian Scott, AVSIM Staff Reviewer

Possible Commercial Rating Score: 1 to 5 stars with
5 stars being exceptional.
Please see details of our review rating policy here

Here's a hypothetical question that might have been asked by a commercial aircraft designer of the late 1950s. "What would we get if we cross a Caravelle and a 707?" In a sense, that is what the Boeing company decided to do in 1960. The well-proven features of the 707 were combined with the radical "engines pods on the tail" of the French Caravelle airliner with one very innovative touch—a third engine embedded into the tail section itself. The first "tri-motor" since the Ford classic of that name and its European look alike, the Tante Ju (the Junkers JU52), quickly established itself as a capable and elegant replacement for the Douglas DC-4 and DC-6 aircraft that still dominated the fleets of most western domestic airlines. The result of this marriage of technologies is arguably the finest mid-sized, medium ranged jet transport of the 20th Century – the Boeing 727.

The Captain Sim "Legendary 727" add-on for FS2002 is a worthy tribute to this classic and highly successful airliner. Coming from a company that has received rave reviews for every product they have released, I fully expected to be impressed by this latest release from Captain Sim. I was not disappointed. In fact, I was utterly awed and delighted with what I encountered.

History

Without any argument, the 727 was the most produced (1,823 built) and widely used aircraft in its size and range class, loved by pilots for its "fighter-like" handling (quoting a United Airlines 727 pilot I talked with at O'Hare a few years ago). Although it had a relatively high accident rate in its early years, it was eventually acknowledged that this was mostly pilot error resulting from pilots who had flown piston engine airliners mishandling a challenging but honest airplane that was faster, heavier and more complex than anything most of them had encountered before. With the introduction of full-motion simulators and the acquisition by the airlines of a fund of jet experience, the accident rate of the 727 declined and it became renowned for reliability and safety.

Test System

Athlon 1800 1.6 Ghz
1 Gb SDRAM
nVidia GForce Ti4600 video card
CH Products F16 Combat Stick, Throttle and rudder pedals
Gateway EV910 19" Monitor

Flying Time:
8 hours over 8 days


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2D panel, Captains view

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VC Captain's view

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A day at the office

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VC view of First Officer and Second Officer (Flight Engineer) positions

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Notice the reflections in the side windows?

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Air Canada departing Moncton in a snow storm

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Another view of Air Canada departure

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Another load of sun-drenched Berliners' get ready to head home

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Nostalgia time – Pan Am 727 in the early '70s rotates!

It introduced many innovations. The distinctive T-tail, the APU and rear passenger air stair door that allowed it to service small airports with rudimentary facilities, the triple slotted flaps that permitted it to use short runways at a gross weight of up to 170,000 lbs, and completely powered controls all made it unique in its own right, despite its apparent 707 parentage. It first flew on November 27th 1962 and is likely to remain in use in freight operations well into the 21st Century, though noise limits and fatigue issues have seen the numbers in operation decline rapidly in the last few years.

With a range of over 3000 miles and—in the 727-200 model the ability to cary up to 180 passengers—it was and is a remarkable achievement of aircraft engineering. The old adage, "If it looks right, it will fly right" seems to have proven true with this graceful, elegant old queen of the skies.

Panels

As always, the first thing you are going to see is the 2D panel. [Editor's Note: Well, almost always—we've seen recent releases that eschew 2D panels in favor of only a virtual cockpit ;-)] If you are anything like me, your first reaction will be to grin from ear to ear. It is simply the best jet airliner cockpit I've seen since the Dream Fleet 737 several years ago. This is "photo-realistic" in the very best sense of that word—simply put, it looks absolutely real.

However, you do need to make a choice. In the Texture and Configuration Editor (TCE) one of the options you have to select is whether you want the full 2D panel with no VC or partial 2D (front, overhead and 2nd Officer (FE). There is a line in the manual that implies you can "have it all" but if so, I couldn't figure it out. You either get full 2D with side views including your female First Officer or no side views and VC. I'm not sure why Capt Sim doesn't allow the choice of "all of the above" but I assume it all has to do with frame rates or the phase of the moon when they were making those decisions. Personally I'd like to be able to have the option to have all the views available. With VC and partial 2D selected you do get a wonderful forward view of the captain's flight instruments, the 1st Officer and Flight Engineer's positions and overhead, plus autopilot panel, APU panel, flaps panel (but not thrust lever console strangely enough), avionics and probably some others I can't remember.

There are some issues with the 2D panels, though it is really a matter of personal taste and opinion. The Overhead and 2nd Officer views look great but the realistic "pilots eye view" angle of the overhead panel and the small size of the switches makes it hard to use, especially if using audio checklists and needing to be a three person crew with a "cold and dark cockpit!" I would prefer a "flat" flight engineer panel with larger switches/gauges rather than the more "realistic" angled view with rear bulkhead and 2nd Officer visible. The view truly is very realistic and I can see why they chose to do it this way, but functionally I didn't find it ideal.

To a lesser extent, this is also true of the captain's instrument panel. The instruments are very much "to scale" which looks awesome but makes them hard to read accurately. Capt Sim has addressed this with an option to toggle digital displays on the instruments but that then destroys the wonderful realistic appearance of the panel. A more elegant response was adopted by PSS with their "click and zoom" feature on the Dash-8, that allows you to click on a hot spot and get a "zoomed" portion of the panel for better visibility.

These are all minor issues, and do not detract from what I believe to be one of the finest 2D cockpits ever produced. In all fairness, I must point out that one of the best freeware panel designers of FS98 fame has produced a wonderful FS2002 "photo-realistic" 727 panel. This is the work of Richard Probst, and I heartily recommend it. You will see that in most respects it is similar to the Captain Sim panel, though Richard has opted for "functionality" over literal "realism" in terms of the scale of the instruments. If all you wanted was a great 2D panel for one of the 727 freeware aircraft you can download on AVSIM, then Richard's will definitely satisfy you, though the Capt Sim panel is rather more "refined" artistically. But read on—there's much more to the Capt Sim Legendary 727 and I am sure that Richard (who is a delightful guy and one of my personal MSFS freeware "heroes") would probably be the first to say so.

There are plenty of "toys" to play with. Every knob and switch seems to work. All warning lights have "press to test" functions. The avionics panel is very impressive, with a very "analog" set of radios with full functionality and lots of things you need to do to make things work. (Tuning the "steam-driven" ADF is a real challenge.)

Virtual Cockpit (VC)

I grinned with delight when I saw the 2D panels. But when I saw the VC my jaw nearly hit the floor. There is only one word for this—superb! Remember to select "massive" textures and "maximum" for gauge quality in your FS2002 options. You may get some frame rate hit but it is minor and definitely worth it! The Virtual Cockpit is the best I have seen, bar none. The only thing I've seen that comes even remotely close is the PSS Dash-8 and this is far superior. I have never been much of a fan of Virtual Cockpits, but this made a believer out of me—taxiing, take-off and landing with this feature is an incredibly immersive and realistic experience. (Remember what I said about selecting "massive" textures—the textures control VC graphic quality and you will only get the true effect of this with "massive textures" selected.)

Visual Model

As this is my first review for AVSIM Online I can't keep saying something is superb or they will think they've appointed an idiot to their staff, but the reality is that "superb" is the word I want to use! I would say "awesome" but that word has definitely been flogged to death and deserves an honorable burial, or at least a comfortable retirement. Whatever superlative you want to use, the visual rendition of the 727 by the Captain Sim team is perfect. I could find no fault with it, though I'm sure there are going to be some people out there who will. But to this long-time observer of the 727 I can only say that in every respect it looks absolutely gorgeous and absolutely right. It is breath-taking. Stunning! Oh, okay, I'll say it one more time—yeah, it really is "superb!"

Four visual versions are available—both pax and freight variants of the 727-100 and 727-200 with over 85 freeware liveries available on the Captain Sim web site as of March 27th 2003. Now that's impressive, especially compared to some other developers who sell you a "base" aircraft and then charge you for each additional livery.

The basic package includes a generous variety of liveries of all types, both pax and freight versions. There were a few call-signs that needed to be corrected so if you find yourself being called "0001" by ATC select the aircraft on the main menu then change the call-sign in the ATC change window to a valid call-sign. (e.g., not "American Airlines" but AMERICAN) Remember that if your favorite livery is not there, chances are you'll find it for free on the Capt Sim website or right here at AVSIM. The procedure for doing this involves the TCE and you will need to follow the instructions in the manual.

Sound

The sound set is excellent and obviously the result of plenty of time spent on the flight deck of a 727. Don't expect the drama of some sound sets you may be used to. Predominantly what you hear is the rushing sound of external wind, as you would expect in an aircraft with engines in the tail. The engines are quite muted though you will hear them spool up as you go to take-off thrust. My only criticism is the quietness of reverse thrust. I really would like more of an audio "kick in the pants" with reverse and some shaking and rattling that would accompany it in an airplane that first flew when the Beatles were still playing club gigs in Liverpool.

The APU is a bit loud but it's a fun and full-bodied sound and a nice change from the more muted sounds of the main engines. I would like to hear a bit more from the flaps but maybe that is not realistic in the 727 flight deck, which is well ahead of the wings.

Overall, the audio experience in the cockpit is not as "alive" as the very attractive sounds that come with Richard Probst's freeware panel, but probably equally authentic and possibly more so, as the sound environment on most jet airliner flight decks is actually quite muted.

External sounds seemed okay but did not particularly excite me. I would like something a bit more robust but that's probably my "pre-hush kit" personality. I liked "loud" though I confess that if I lived close to an airport my views on that would probably change after 10 p.m.

On the subject of "sound" the Legendary 727 comes with its own audio crew checklists and callouts that Capt Sim calls "Checked and Set." These are interactive, realistic and do offer some limited language choices but there are some problems. The most notable was that the FO calls "3 engines good" when the thrust levers are pushed forward regardless of whether in fact they are "good." She even says it if they are all shut down! She also calls "positive rate" immediately after the rotation call, whether or not the wheels are still on the ground. But the captain has enough sense not to call for gear retraction on her call and waits until 200 ft is reached so her mistake is just a minor glitch and not an embarrassing crunch!

Flight Model

The flight handling is very believable. The aircraft has a nice rate of roll, the pitch and trim changes with flaps and gear seem realistic and appropriate; you really do have a very real sense of a first generation jet airliner that is big but relatively nimble. You need plenty of up elevator trim for rotation on take-off and whatever you do, don't let your airspeed get low prior to pitch up for landing or you will run out of elevator authority and thump the beast into the ground in a flat attitude. The First Officer doesn't call "positive rate" when you do so, probably because she has just suffered compressed vertebrae from the G forces, but it is equally possible that the fire from the landing gear punching up through the wings has distracted her attention.

There is one annoying "bug" and that is that the GPWS calls a continued "glide-slope" warning when according to ILS and VASI you are on glide-slope. Eugene at Capt Sim has told me that this will be fixed in version 1.3.

The Autopilot and Flight Director are very realistic and representative of their generation of technology. You will have to pay attention to what you are doing as there is no autothrottle, no pre-selected altitude hold, no IAS or Mach hold—you can command up and down elevator via the flight director, you can select a heading, a VOR radial or a not always reliable ILS capture but that's about it. This will be no problem if you have used the more modern but functionally similar PSS Dash-8 autopilot or Richard Pabst's excellent freeware panel that is identical but actually has a better ILS capture capability.

One unique visual and flight model feature is the opening side window on the pilot's side. It opens with the usual shift-E command and slides back with a very satisfying sound. Those of us who are old enough to remember the harrowing sights of a hijacked TWA 727 captain with a gun to his head at Beirut Airport in the early '80s will vividly recall this window. Why am I mentioning this in the Flight Model section of this review. Well, if you've ever wondered what might happen if you opened a window at altitude, you need wonder no longer. Select the flight engineer position and watch when you select "open window." You won't get an explosive decompression, the cabin won't fill with mist and your eyeballs won't pop out of your skull, but you will see warning lights come on, and the cabin altitude very suddenly change. Now that's impressive!

Manuals

These are very complete with lots of real world data but I found them a bit daunting. I would suggest that they provide a detailed tutorial, especially for start up that would walk the novice "step by step" through the procedures. Given that we are doing the work of a three-person crew, that isn't too much to ask! A minor issue is that the talented team of Captain Sim are all Russian or Ukrainian and so in places their English, though far better than my Russian, is a bit challenged. I would suggest that they recruit one of their many fans to do some proof-reading of their documents before issue, in exchange for a free copy of the product. (Alexei and Eugene—if you are reading this, I am willing to volunteer, especially for the F104 and C130 that I am already salivating about.)

Texture and Configuration Editor

This is a nice feature that allows you to add and delete liveries, manage your passenger and freight loading and select a variety of options.

Conclusion

In summary, I think this is the finest aircraft add-on for FS2002 that I have seen so far. Though it is not as innovative as the Wilco 767 Pilot in Command was for FS2000, and maybe doesn't even push the envelope as far as the Dream Fleet 737 did also for FS2000 in terms of what has so far come to my PC for FS2002, the Legendary 727 of Captain Sim is the most exciting aircraft add-on that I have had the opportunity to fly. It is visually wonderful, immersive, believable and likely to prove hazardous to your marriage and employment prospects if you find it as addictive as I did. This really is an absolute classic and a "must buy" item for anyone who wants to experience something of what it would be like to fly this great Queen of the Skies—the Legendary Boeing 727.

You can purchase the Captain Sim 727 by downloading from their web site here. The download was easy, with no issues. You will have to wait for an access code before you can fly it—mine came within 24 hours in spite of it being on the weekend.

 

What I Like About the Legendary 727
  • Visual models are incredible
  • VC is superb
  • Handling is realistic and believable
  • Complexity without being overwhelming

 
What I Don't Like About the Legendary 727
  • There was nothing I really disliked at all
  • The Manuals could be a bit more "user friendly"
  • GPWS needs to be fixed and will be in Version 1.3

 
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The review above is a subjective assessment of the product by the author. There is no connection between the producer and the reviewer, and we feel this review is unbiased and truly reflects the performance of the product in the simming environment. This disclaimer is posted here in order provide you with background information on the reviewer and connections that may exist between him/her and the contributing party.

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