AVSIM Commercial Aircraft Package Review

Ready for Pushback – 747-200 "Classic"

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Rating Guide

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The RFP 747 in flight

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RFP 747-200 main panel

Publisher: VMAX Flight Systems / Ralph Tofflemire
Description:
"The" 747-200 simulation for FS2002.
Download Size:
Box or download
Format:
Executable Auto Install File (Download or CD version)
Simulator:
FS2002
Reviewed by: Jeffry Babb, AVSIM Chief Technology Officer

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

Warning! Advanced Technology, Handle With Care

"This package is for the ADVANCED SIMMER ONLY" (emphasis not mine). This is the warning you receive when you visit www.panelshop.com looking for information on Ready for Pushback. Ready for Pushback, from VMAX/AVSIM Store and Ralph Tofflemire, is the FS2002 follow up to the 747-200 Classic we last enjoyed in FS2000. Ralph Tofflemire has been catering to the needs of the advanced simmer since the FS98 days and has, with each release, moved closer to perfection and further into the heady realm of the advanced simmer's world. This almost sounds snobbish and patronizing—why would an add-on developer for Microsoft Flight Simulator want to ward off potential customers with such words? What kind of place is our hobby where some products are presented in such an exclusionary and elitist manner? How did we get here?

The answer is: we are exactly where we have begged, bantered and cajoled to be. We have demanded high realism at all costs. Along the way we have demanded perfection in all circumstances: regardless of time, equipment and personal skill level. Well, is this yearning for realism such a bad thing? Was Ralph and his development team somehow wrong to have brought us a product that ranks highly among the ultimate Heavy Iron airliner flight simulation add-ons on PC?

The goal of "as real as it gets" has been the buy line for MSFS for well over a decade and this realism has always been delivered in part via 3rd party developers such as Ralph Tofflemire. I think it is safe to assume that phrases such as "as real as it gets" are aiming points which we target with the understanding that some gap—represented by various constraints related to time, expertise, money, etc.—will always exist between reality and what we can do our our PCs. However, what MSFS add-on developers are increasingly able to achieve are momentary suspensions of disbelief.  What quickly follows in the collective consciousness of the flightsim community, after the initial thrill of fresh breakthroughs towards reality, are bouts of flaw-finding, followed by a comfort phase in which we learn to be happy with our new approximation of reality until the next incremental advance is on offer. Ralph's latest effort, Ready for Pushback, is more than just another mile marker on the way towards "as real as it gets:" it is a turning point. The way in which RFP is more than just an evolutionary step is that I consider it to be a new benchmark representative of an emerging breed of MSFS add-on software: the elite class (strictly for the truly advanced simmer).

I do not include Ready for Pushback as part of this elite class due to revolutionary innovation in terms of aircraft design, flight modeling or panel design—RFP can not be considered truly revolutionary in these terms. Indeed, while RFP is shoulder to shoulder with the competition (remember, we are talking about the "elite" class now), the product does not leap significantly forward ahead of any of the contemporary "elite" releases.  Throughout this review, I will express my high regard for this package from a different angle: one that focuses on the importance of RFP as a new benchmark standard for the "elite" class of heavy-jet airliner MSFS add-ons.  What RFP is offering you is a very complete experience, long on the realism and comprehensiveness that the advanced simmer feeds voraciously upon.

As a new "Gold Standard" for add-ons in its breed and class, RFP represents a level of accomplishment such that others are going to have to beat this one to be a player moving forward. While this is going to seem a strange complement, what RFP has done, in my book, is convince me of the necessity of ultra-realism in the advanced-simmer add-on market. So, in this reviewers opinion, RFP sets a new standard for what a comprehensive aircraft/panel package must be at minimum as still get my dollar on the premise of "as real as it gets."

This review will not be a mere recounting of the technical specifications and other such materials as could be found in the freely-available manual; you can check these out yourself. I am also not going to waste your time with a bunch of subjective self-conducted "reality" tests which prove just how close to real numbers this thing is—how in the world would I really know anyway? I am not a professional pilot or one of Boeing's aeronautical engineers. On the other hand, I am no slouch of a simmer either: I have become as fastidiously carried away with this hobby as much as the next obsessive simmer out there. Over the years I have made all the right moves: I have the charts, the airliner mags, the books, the videos, etc.

So, what I am interested in with this review, and what I believe you are interested in too, is describing how Ready for Pushback feels when try it on. Let's face it, I'd rather be subjective in areas where I can be honest than promise you just how real this thing is against real world information. In my opinion, I can most accurately convey whether Ready for Pushback allows you to BELIEVE that you are flying 3/4 of a million pounds of steel that so effectively changed history. I want to report whether or not you will sense, though your PC, the awe and wonder of the Boeing 747-200?

I belive VMAX and Ralph chose to call this version of his 747-200 "Ready for Pushback" in order to reaffirm a sense of being right there in the real thing. The title itself somehow conveys a sense of immersion.  So, with that said, let's discuss how RFP "feels" in your hands and whether, at the end of the day, it will make you feel as though you have moved any closer to "as real as it gets."

The Pre-flight

Installation, Display and Documentation

Ready for Pushback is published and distributed through VMAX Flight Systems. VMAX offers the basic product—panel, utilities, sounds and four liveries (Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, Northwest and KLM)—as both a download and a boxed CD.  Now, as a download, we are talking about a 66 Megabyte package here, so you will need a faster connection for this to be practical. There are additional liveries available for purchase from VMAX as both airliner and cargo "Paks" such that end-users have a wide variety of liveries to choose from. Each "Pak" is about 40 or so megabytes, which is telling as to the heft of the texture files.  As has become the norm these days, livery creation is a tightly controlled affair whereby user-mods of liveries are only possible when VMAX does not already offer the livery. All of the liveries are available as downloads and you usually get between four and six liveries for about $10 US. I have found that the colors I fly on the outside is not very important to me personally, but I realize this is an essential element for those who want to lapse into fantasy (hey, isn't that why we sim?).

The CD installation process was no big deal, save for some oddities such as the installer being picky about which CD drive I used. I wasn't really put off by this and simply moved the CD to the other CD drive. The main installation menu allows for the main package to be installed as well as the many utilities that come with RFP. The manuals are available online and also may be installed from the CD. Some of the utilities are standard fare for add-ons of this complexity and stature: fuel planning and load management. The fuel-planner and load manager are handy to have and easy enough to use. As you might expect, the load manager makes edits to the appropriate aircraft.cfg file.

One criticism at this stage comes with the installers themselves. Rather than a comprehensive installer for everything, that is both utilities and the main plane/panel/sounds files, the main installation menu links to separate installation routines for the panel/plane package, the utilities and the manuals. Having a single installation routine where everything went to one place and one which provides options for what to install and not would have been preferable. As it is, each installer tries to place each utility in its own location, usually hanging right off of the root of C:/. This is a minor beef, but perhaps an area that is easy to improve upon as well.

Overall, there are no significant glitches with the install routine and all products go where they need to be. I chose a place to keep all of my RFP-related materials outside of the FS2002 directory and placed my utilities there.

So, What Does It Look Like?

You and I both know that we will typically assess visual quality first and not likely move any further if this department is lacking (at least not for commercial releases we won't).  The visual quality of Ralph's products have steadily improved as time goes along and I would say these are Ralph's best results yet; this especially the case with the 2D panel graphics. The panel seems to be optimized for 1024x768 resolution and gauges can become a little unfocused in higher resolutions (I run 1280 x 1024, which is not a 1.3:1 ratio, possibly contributing to my findings). Even on my 21" monitor, I found some of the smaller gauges to be, well, small. I think the "blow up" method present in some recent GA aircraft may have done the trick here, but with "over 400 working gauges" I can see why the designers would be hesitant to add further to the heft of the product.  Perhaps YMMV on this relatively minor issue and, at any rate, these observations are not indicative of a serious flaw.

Test System

P4 2000 MHz
Windows XP SP1
512 Megs RAM
GeForce 3 64MB
SoundBlaster Audigy
MSFF Stick
ViewSonic 21" Monitor

Flying Time:
20 hours over 6 months (on and off)

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I happened to like the Cargo liveries the best.  Here is a Polar Air Cargo B747-200.

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Here's another cargo version, in Northwest Airlines livery

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There is a working cargo nose door!

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She's a beauty! I was partial to this NWA cargo version.

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Look at the detail on the engine inlets!

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Check out the rear end on that one! :-)

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It's all in the details! Check out the NAV light casings.

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The detailing on the nose-gear and the reflections on this NWA cargo version are quite nice.

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Cargo doors and air-conditioning pack inlets.

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Static ports and another view of the nose area.  Sorry so many NWA shots, but this was the one for me.

The Aircraft

Let's continue our exploration of the 747-200 by discussing the aircraft exterior. In keeping with current trends, and in keeping with recommended practice for add-on development, Ready for Pushback visual models are created using Gmax. This is good as most users find Gmax models to be less of a burden on their systems (more on this later).  As I did my virtual "walkaround" important details began to leap right out at me: air intakes, AOA vanes, static wicks, gear lighting and other such details are rendered exquisitely; with the craft and care reminiscent of a high-quality model kit. There are so many areas where attention to detail is impressive: the fans on the engines are individually rendered; the slats and flaps are amazing; the cowling high-bypass inlets open at appropriate times, etc. etc.  In what will become a point I continue to make throughout this review, our demand to "have it all" with respect to realism has it price—you must have a hefty machine to run RFP—no questions! Yes, I know we can turn down details and the like, but I find that the target market for this add-on are people who don't want to turn any setting down.

Being a GMAX model, the aircraft's visual modeling is top-notch all the way: there are aircraft body reflections to add to the realism; there are curves that are now essentially void of any visible blockiness and hard edges. All parts seem to be flawlessly proportional and the little touches, such as external light enclosures, windscreens, passenger windows and painting, are just right. In my opinion, the external visual model is flawless!

Ralph was gracious enough to share many of the livery "Paks" with me during the review process and I found them all to be well-crafted and accurate (this was easy to check with airliners.net). There are many add-on liveries to choose from, so I think you will have many possibilities to delve into fantasy.

The Panel

The panel and virtual cockpit are very well done, which is really more of what sells this product to me on the realism premise than, perhaps, the exterior features. Let's face it, other than the initial "wow" phase—where by you marvel at just how cool your new 747-200 looks on your computer screen—you will spend most of your time in the front office. In my opinion, a well-modeled exterior is essential and it would be unfair for me to discredit the stunning job done with the exterior of the 747-200, but this is not what seals the deal with me. I find the external view of most importance when I replay my landings (man, isn't that cool!?!?).

The Main Panel

Ralph set out to model each position in the 747-200, which requires a crew complement of three. The main panel, the one greeting you when you first arrive in the cockpit, is, as with most other FS2002 add-ons, a compromise of sorts. While not a dead accurate rendition of your sight picture as you sit in the Captain's seat, it is a hybrid of, perhaps, what the Captain and First Officer would both see. This, like many of the other panels, is a functional panel. If you hit <CTRL>+<5>, you get a properly situated version of the main panel called the landing or approach view. The autopilot is also on the main panel, on the glare shield.

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'Ready for Pushback' 747-200 Main Panel
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RFP 747-200 Approach Panel

The Overhead Panel

Most of the activities related to pre-flight happen on the overhead panel. This is where you can control lighting, heating, PA, etc. This panel is directly overhead the Captain and First Officer and becomes vital for operations at all stages of flight. Like many other packages, this will entirely obscure your view whilst having it open. I like this because it simulates having to look up, and thus away from looking forward.

The Communications Panel and Throttle Quadrant

Yon control portions of the Full Flight Regime Auto Throttle (FFRATS) and tune the radio on the communications panel. The Inertial Navigation System (INS) is also here and, with this version of the 747-200, the INS has been cosmetically updated and looks nicer now.  However, of the few bugs you are likely to experience, one of them is related to the INS gauge. The fix for this bug is easy to implement, as it requires that you remove a file, but it can be annoying none-the-less. The problems related to the INS stem mainly from the fact that it is a gauge held over the FS2000. Ralph provides many suggestions on his website about overcoming this limitation in an approach that is helpful and forthcoming. I can't find much to say about the throttle quadrant other than: it looks nice and it is important for the engine start sequence as it contains the fuel-flow switches. Engine start is a particularly rewarding experience when you are using the S-Combo utility. A successful engine start really requires that you carefully follow the procedures listed in the manual: there are no shortcuts to this fact.

The Second Officer's Panel

While becoming more and more of an extinct species in real-life, this package has not forgotten the Flight Engineer (FE), or Second Officer. In fact, the modeling of the FE's station is the prominent features of RFP. I will say that having the FE's panels included in the package definitely requires your full attention, adds to the overall realism of the package, and keeps you far more active than you would be in a glass cockpit. You will interact with these panels the most if you choose to opt for realistic startups à la the "cold and dark" option. If you want to start "cold and dark," you may use the supplied scenario file that comes with the package, or, you can do like I do and shut everything down in the startup Cessna at Meigs and then load the 747-200. You will find yourself flipping back and forth between five or more panels as you prepare the aircraft from a "cold and dark" state in order to start the engines and bring the 747-200 to life for another run.

The Hydraulic/Pneumatic Panel

The Hydraulic/Pneumatic panel is probably the most placebo-laden, with switches that have the least amount of penalty if ignored (let's face it, nobody "feels" the temperature in the cabin back there... oops, don't mean to break apart your fantasy there). One exception here is the brake hydraulics, which must be minded to a degree.

The Fuel Panel

The inclusion of a dedicated fuel panel is unique for its fuel management functions: fuel loading and unloading (fuel jettison). What is also unique is the fact that while such a panel exists outside the real aircraft, Ready for Pushback models the fuel panel as part of the FE's panel. One can understand this compromise, given the finite limitations of panel creation in FS2002. As a feature, the fuel panel is useful as the 747-200 can be totally fueled from this panel without having to go to the MSFS menu. While you can control fuel loading into each of the seven fuel tanks onboard, it is best if you just use the master loading option, whereby you select the total fuel you want and fuel is automatically distributed to the correct tanks in the proper proportions. The granularity of control when using the individual tank loading process is too coarse to be useful in my estimation. However, the fuel jettison features are very cool and do work. If you have just taken off from KJFK bound for VHHH and lose two engines on takeoff, your whale can lose some of its heft by using the fuel jettison features. The fuel jettison panel is also useful for moving fuel between tanks.

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The fuel planner really works! Give it a few details about your flight and Presto! instant legal fuel calcs!  Be conservative, there is no penalty for fuel ferrying in MSFS, but there still is for running out of fuel!

The Electrical Panel

The Electrical panel is among the more complex panels and requires that you set things just so if you want a successful start. You will control the APU, the generators, the AC and DC buses and all things related to power. In all cases, reading the manuals provided (there are four PDF documents) will help.

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The Electrical Panel is crucial to successful operations!  RTFM (Remember The Friendly Manual)!

Praise for the Manual and a Rant About Manuals In General

If you are one who likes to gloat over your newly-acquired, highly-technical add-on, then you will enjoy the level of detail in the two-part Aircraft Operations and Reference Manual for RFP. There is no shortage of features and detail in these manuals that will help you learn about how the real bird works and how the developers implement which of these real features. All told, the manuals are functional and the features implemented are done so with every effort to ensure that you experience a high level of immersive realism.

The manual called Section One, however, will be the one you rely on regularly in order to learn how to fly the bird. One read-through will not suffice and I found myself having to read this manual several times. Everything from startup to shutdown is covered using a tutorial approach. I had to get out my laptop and have the PDF open for my first ten flights or so until I got the full swing of things. As cliché as it sounds, we are not dealing with a "kick the tires and light the fires" add-on here. But then again, perhaps none of the "elite" class of add-ons are simplistic anymore, so I would assume that you are not surprised by this.

But hold on, wasn't I supposed to be offering a nag? Well, this is not VMAX or Ralph's fault entirely, but I point out and criticize a trend that you would have to be blind not to have noticed in recent years: PDF manuals.  I am sure there are many good things about PDFs as the new chosen format for documentation, but I WANT PRINTED MANUALS!!!

Let's examine this further. If this RFP among what I am calling the "elite" class of add-ons, then the target audience are presumably serious and advanced simmers (or those who wish to cop to that title) and therefore individuals who require serious features and information. As serious simmers, you know we want to look at the manual and you know we want to see the charts. Why can't we have these printed out? Now, I won't enter into the discussion whereby you advise me that I can print any of these pages at my convenience; that is apart from my point. Printed documentation is still the mark of a quality product these days and I am looking for this from my high-end MSFS add-ons.

Every time I get a product now that has a printed manual, I am making a note of it.  I am keeping tabs as I want to support people who include what I consider to be the mark of an elite product: a nicely done printed manual.  While this is not a direct jab at the developers and publishers of RFP, I will say that this product could have been even better with some printed version of its manual.  Given the size of the four PDFs, I know that printing them in their entirety would have been cost prohibitive, but some of the checklists and charts would have been nice if they were printed. I suppose my argument is, let's make a premium product truly premium. The bargain bin hunters are not the target audience of this add-on from where I sit and perhaps the additional cost of quality printed manuals are worth extra expense? If you bought any combat flightsim between 1995 and 2000 (F-15, F-18, Longbow 2, Falcon 4) you know what I mean. In the non-combat flightsim arena, just look at PS-1 for an idea of what quality printed materials do for the overall value of that product.

So, What Does It Feel Like?

If the Devil is in the details, then RFP has covered the details in a sinfully good manner.  It is the little things about Ready for Pushback that make the flying experience top in its class, and I do mean top.  Let's first consider which class I am talking about.  This is an analog flying experience, very few onboard computers, no glass, all steam, all dials.  You will be busy, busy, busy.  Honestly, I attribute my long years of flight simming, my real piloting experience (PPL at 110 hours) and prior research in large jet aircraft operations as contributing factors to my ability to be comfortable with the aircraft in relatively short order.  However, I did need the manual by my side the entire time, but I had done this sort of thing before and understood the generalities of the what and why of my actions.  The constant need for the manual has to do with managing the operations of the aircraft and not the actual flying. Over time though, you will develop the same rules of thumb that real 747-200 use for their daily operations: rules of thumb honed via experience and via constant cross-check against the manuals.

In Flight Performance

When veterans such as Stanley Stewart ("Flying the BigJets", ISBN: 1840374225) are asked, they typically characterize the handling requirements for the heavy iron as not too different from a Cessna 172, with the exception that one must think farther ahead of a 747-200 than the small Cessna.  While I am no pro, the handling on this version of the 747-200 is heavy, stiff and sturdy; just what I had envisioned.  When used in conjunction with the S-Combo utility, one can fly superbly by the numbers in the RFP 747-200 and maintain consistency through the flight profile.  On takeoffs and landings (my favorite parts of flying really), the manual tells you exactly what to do when and the aircraft responds appropriately and accordingly.  As to the feel of flying the Whale, again, the little things prevail: S-Combo gives you cockpit callouts from the crew and reference bug speeds for each flight.  The Airspeed Indicator has a great feature which allows for the bug speeds to be precisely set with a series of sliders that pop-up when the mouse hovers over the gauge. I really found this feature a nice compromise between reality, where I would have moved them around to approximate settings, and my ability to set the numbers exactly as needed. I believe the bug settings for the real bird are eyeballed, but they are set on a real gauge and not a computer screen, so the approach taken with the RFP 747-200 is perfect.

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Set up your PAX loadings here.  (I think this needs to be re-worked for the cargo versions.) 

To get a sense of the overall feel of the aircraft, with respect to its hand-flying characteristics, responsiveness and feel, just read the first tutorial from David Walsh, which is in the freely available manual from VMAX and www.panelshop.com.  In terms of manual flight handling, everything David says can be corroborated by my experiences.  I find that hand flying approaches with the Full Flight Regime Auto Throttle (FFRATS) working the throttles for me up until short-final is not only a snap but truly a joy.

Automatic Flight Performance

You will fast grow tired with a lumbering beast such as the 747-200 if you do not have the assistance of an autopilot.  The autopilot on the 747-200, like those of the 737-200 and 727-100/200 series, is quite different than the modern autopilot in the FS2002 default airliners.  While just as competent in directing and controlling your flight, there is very little in the way of tight coupling with a Flight Management System.  In fact, only the Litton Inertial Navigation System, a primitive precursor to contemporary flight management systems found in the A320, B777 and B747-400, exists.  The INS in Ready for Pushback is a somewhat modified version of the INS Ralph's 747-200 Classic for FS2000, which means it was not designed specifically for this new version. The INS is limited both intentionally (for realism's sake) and unintentionally due to the existence of at least one documented bug.  You can always use the MSFS-supplied GPS mode (which I have learned to accept), but this comes with a degree of "realism" penalty.

The autopilot and FFRATS are stable in most regimes of flight and offer a CAT-III, fully automated approach to landing. I only tested this once, as this is not the way I personally fly, but, as with most features in this product, if you follow the manual, you can make perfect autopilot landings. My take on fully automated landings is: what fun are they?  I suppose, of course, that if you show up to your destination and find the weather has closed in, the full autoland features of the autopilot will pull you out of the sling.  Again, what I found to be a JOY is to allow the autopilot to get me all the way up to the glideslope intercept.  After getting on the glideslope, hand-flying in the approach view (with FFRATS on the throttles) is quite an experience; it afforded me the opportunity to suspend disbelief on several occasions.

Sounds and The Cockpit Experience

I must take a moment to offer praise for the inclusion of the custom version of Dave March's S-Combo. This modified version has a mode just for the RFP 747-200 and offers in-flight cockpit voices related to speed callouts and various checklists.  While I could do without the flight attendant voices and airport environment noise settings, I was able to turn them off.  What shines is the automatic calculation of your V-speeds (so important when flying the big stuff) and the callouts from your other crew members.  I was able to select from several voice sets and having these voices at key moments during a flight really enhanced realism in a potent way.  Overall, the sounds in the RFP package are better than the sounds in Ralph's past products and do not demonstrate some of the anomalies I have experienced in the past with Ralph's products.

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The Classic S-Combo really adds that extra touch! 

Simulator and Machine Performance

I started this review with a rant, of sorts, on the price of quality and realism.  Ralph's panels (and later, planes/panels) have always been a mark of comprehensive quality.  Sure, there are times when the panel images were not the cleanest, but the overall experience has always been there. I believe Ralph is an artist in this sense.  The RFP project has been a long time in the making and has been promised as the most comprehensive and complete of them all.  I believe that, with RFP, this mark has been hit, but at a cost a price that gave me some pause.

Remember, hobbyists, we are on a holy-grail quest for the highest in realism and will bestow the highest honor (and sales) to the commercial vendor (not to exclude freeware though) who will deliver.  In our quest for absolute realism, we want it all.  We want the exterior to be as though we were watching a video: we want moving parts, and lights, and sounds, with shine and gloss and fake wear and tear, etc. etc.  Inside we want every knob and dial to work and a clear-as-crystal Virtual Cockpit to pan around and use as a flight reference.  Lastly, we seem to want to pretend that we are both passengers and pilots; we want to walk around the passenger area and marvel at the details there.  This last bit is understandable on one level, we all ride in the back and it is part of our airliner experience.  However, in our simulator, I beg the question... why?  This is the same as extensive airport add-ons that have moving people in the concourse... why?  This is nothing to do with flight, and in the case of most contemporary add-ons, is eating up resources

I found the frame rates to be modest and sometimes downright sluggish.  Now, to be fair, I happen to like mesh scenery and think the level of detail of the mesh available from someone like Justin Tyme to be essential to my experience.  I believe my use of mesh did sap some power that the RFP 747-200 needed.  Still, even with mesh off, high teens to single digits frame rates were norm for me.  In most parts of flight this was bearable and in the cockpit, things were always smooth and I enjoyed more reliable frame rates and performance.  But replays of my landings in an area like Los Angeles were bona fide slide shows.  Could I have turned off detail? Yes!  Could I have ditched the mesh?  Yes!  Still, I found the RFP 747-200 to be a challenge to my system.  If you examine my system specifications, you will see that, for the time period, this system was at least average.  My overall high satisfaction with RFP was not severely diminished due to my frame rates, but performance was an issue such that I must report it here.  If you can live without other things such as add-on airports and mesh terrain, you will transfer that much more power to RFP.

We all know that FS2002 is somewhat CPU-bound and having a fully detailed passenger area, supposedly another of RFP's selling points did not sell me at all.  I find "features" such as this to be an utter waste and a drain on resources.  I fully understand providing a detailed exterior, as this is something to admire and likely not negotiable for many simmers.  So, resources spent to make an attractive exterior make sense to me, but resources to make all 300+ passenger seats, a lounge and stairs in detail is beyond my comprehension.  Why did VMAX and Ralph include this?  I can't say, but I suppose one factor is market pressure: the market pressure that we simmers exert on developers.  I will use this opportunity to point out what I consider a flawed aspect of the RFP 747-200 as illustrative our our over-optimistic expectations and demands of our add-ons.  Advanced simmers are fortunate that the laws of mass-marketing keep the price of the MSFS relatively low.  The large mass of novice simmers will support the development costs of MSFS, but I am not sure that the advanced add-on market can fully cope with our outlandish expectations.  This leads me to my next point....

Patches? We Don't Need No... Oh, Yes We Do

I have based the majority of my comments on a patched version of Ready for Pushback. This first patch to the product was made available to the public in April, 2003.  This review is some six behind the initial release of Ready for Pushback, in December 2002, and was stalled, in part, to examine the features of the patch as well.  This, my friends, is de rigueur now for the "elite" add-on market.  The truth is, we have come to accept a cycle whereby some simmers early adopt, being the addicted flightsim add-on junkies that they are :-), and by early adopting become bug spotters and catchers.  This does not necessarily make developers "bad" or their beta testing methods weak. I just feel that developers are just subject to market pressures that demand timely releases to satiate desire partly fueled by pre-release marketing and hype.  A timely release can compensate for development costs fuel additional time spent on patches.  This product came out just before Christmas 2002, and this after delays to an original Fall 2002 release date. I will let you draw your own conclusions as to whether this is all good or bad, but perhaps these things are unquestionably part of an emerging reality.  Was Ready for Pushback flawed on release?  Not in a serious way, but consider the fact that my positive review comes after months of hard work on the part of the developer to get the product to the state in which I now finalize a review on it.

If you do not have Ready for Pushback yet and are considering a purchase based on my review, you may not care about what happened with the product in its pre-patch state as you will likely patch it and enjoy the product as I am enjoying it now.  However, some of the realism we enjoy today with the product was brought about by the patch. 

Some fixes were related to realism and functionality:

  • Improved electrics
  • Improved startup
  • Improved autopilot features or implemented missing features

Others were cosmetic and, in some part, related to improving frame rates (thank God):

  • Static 2D internal panel images as a replacement for VC
  • Improved VC
  • Lighting enhancements

So, we must bear in mind that, in today's MSFS add-on market, a patch is almost a fact of life to be expected. In this case you will either buy the product out of the gate, be flexible and, perhaps, even helpful to the developer on his respective support forum. Or, you could skip the ballyhoo and wait until a first patch is offered.  Even with high top-level combat simulations (such as the March 2003 release of IL-2 Forgotten Battles), it seems that patching is the just the way it is now.  With this in mind, and in the case of Ready for Pushback, I will not hold the need for a patch against the developer/publisher as the product was not radically broken or flawed on first release.  Additionally, I do not believe releasing a review based on a patch is unfair as the practice is so normative that the need to patch is usually expected and almost systematically forgiven in the eyes of the advanced simming crowd. Recall that when FS2002 came out, most people began a "where's the patch" buzz in short order as though we expect them in all cases.

Conclusion

What I have set out to do is this review is discuss and describe how it feels to use Ready for Pushback and what impressions it has left on this reviewer.  The delivery of precise and concise product information via the web is now a given and I decided not to recount that data concerning Ready for Pushback here for you. Had there of been any gross inaccuracies or flaws within Ready for Pushback, I would have dutifully mentioned them to you.  However, any problems I encountered were minor and reasonably addressed by the developer. I found that, for the entire duration of my review of this product, the development team were responsive to customer inquiries and support problems and demonstrated caring and the ability to listen.  I evidenced this personally and via visits to the developer's support forum.

As for the overall quality of the the Ready for Pushback 747-200 package,  I would say that the RFP 747-200 has a firm and solid place in any advanced simmer's hangar of heavy iron add-ons.  In fact, in terms of modeling older jet airliners, I believe the product has no equal in comprehensive adherence to detail and fidelity.  While the product is very similar, in terms of quality, to CaptainSim's 727 product, there are a few qualitative aspects about Ready for Pushback that cause me to place it before the 727.  Don't ask me to fully quantify this, just consider it a je ne sais quoi.  The Ready for Pushback 747-200 will take the advanced simmer "there" in terms of immersion, quality, responsiveness, flight management, etc.  Its flaws are roughly the same flaws inherent in the other products in the "elite" class of add-ons. What this also means is that Ready for Pushback is revolutionary so as to place it several furlongs ahead of its contemporaries.  Ready for Pushback is the best of breed in the FS2002 heavy iron category and I believe RFP should be in your Top Three list of FS2002 airliner add-ons to get. 

Ready for Pushback is the definitive heavy-iron add-on for FS2002  The advanced and "serious" simmer is going to be right at home in the RFP 747-200 and, perhaps, such an individual doesn't need this review at all when considering a purchase of RFP: they already have it!  I think it is safe to say that the advanced simmer very likely gets "nearly" them all anyhow and Ralph's reputation precedes him.   So, if you are a serious simmer and you were on the fence about Ready for Pushback, I think I have given you reason to get off the fence and check this one out.  So the question now becomes, are you someone who wants to be an advanced and serious simmer?  If so, I can't think of a better place to learn how to spread your advanced simmer wings than with the Ready for Pushback 747-200: it's a winner.

 

What I Like About Ready for Pushback
  • Highly accurate exterior modeling using GMAX
  • Requires that accurate procedures be followed
  • Integration with "Classic" S-Combo
  • Wide variety of well-crafted liveries
  • Cargo and Freight models
  • Clarity of VC
  • Models all three crew positions with excellent levels of accuracy
  • A "gold standard" for Heavy-Iron MSFS add-ons

 

What I Don't Like About the Ready for Pushback
  • Some gauges a little small in non 1024 x 768 resolutions (I do wear glasses though, YMMV
  • Sorry, I still want printed materials
  • Internal passenger areas of the VC just hog resources and add little value to the advanced simmer
  • Not much else

Sorry, I am lazy

 

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