PSS 777 Professional review
By Fred Ďmulletmaní Clark


The Computer Designed Airliner Returns To The Format It Was Born In

 

Back in March 2006, I arrived at London Heathrow, ready to board a flight to Newark Airport, in New York. I checked in, and wandered along to my gate to find a beautiful 777-200ER sitting waiting to spend another 8 hours in the air. When it took off, it joined many other ĎTriple 7ísí that were flying around. It is no wonder then that acclaimed developers, Phoenix Simulation Software (PSS) chose to model this popular aircraft.

Unfortunately, it PSS chose only to model the 200LR, a record breaking airliner, its (Un-built) freight variant, the -200LRF, and the -300ER, an aircraft that is coming into service and proving very useful for the airlines using her. Why they chose only these 3 is unclear, although liveries are included that are actually airlines that operate -200ís, -200ERís and -300ís. The actual differences between the -200 models and the -200LR would not be seen form some angles, and certainly not by anyone who isnít interested in aviation. Same is true for the -300ER.

 
The ANZ livery is actually installed into the -300ER model, incorrectly. I changed it to the -200LR model with no faults.
 
BA recently announced an order for new 777ís, not mentioning variant. This model comes with BA schemes for both the -300ER and -200LR models.

With this in mind, I installed the Just Flight CD Version of the product, and then its update with no pain at all. I easily selected the variants I wanted and didnít want, and loaded FS.

The first thing was get to grips with operating her. With .pdf manuals becoming more and more popular Just Flight have adopted a policy of printing nice big manuals. This one included a tutorial, although this was showing more what to press, that what you were pressing does. And even when doing that it misses some things that I rectified through conversations of the PSS and Just Flight forums. On top of that there are numerous errors through out the manual; although the full version is available as a .pdf from the PSS website for free if you do not understand anything.

Track IR users, will have no dismay here, as all switches that can be flicked in the 2D panels, can be flicked in the VC. PSS say that there is actually more functionality here, but apart from the neat movable chairs, armrests, pedals, sunblindís and other ĎEaster eggsí I fail to find the differences. When actually sitting in the VC though, it feels quite good. Although they could certainly benefit from a better, photo real, set of textures.

The gauges in the VC are clear and easy to read, a fact that will please TrackIR users.

But, as with all VCís, it is one of those options that almost instantly gets removed by any user running this bird on a slow system. Better not have a hat switch though, because looking sideways shows no 2D side views, and so you may feel like youíre falling out.

Despite the frame rates in the VC being slow, surprisingly my worst frame rates could be found behind the 2D panel. However, that is not to say the problem cannot be fixed. They are still flyable frame rates, and a useful popup provides options to change many of the panel features, including the gauge refresh rate. Be warned however the recommended settings are recommended for a reason. Go higher, and you will get smooth gauges, but woeful frame rates. When at the recommended, they are slightly jerky, but donít spoil flying the aircraft. On my system, panel FRís were around 9-12, with the VC pulling 10-14 and the external views pulling 12-25, all depending on the phase of flight and surroundings.

Included alongside the gauge refresh rate selector are options for ADIRU (Air Data Inertial Reference Unit) align time, fuel loading, ground commands, and start-up options. I would have liked to have seen the start-up options be available in an exterior utility, as although it is simple to change, it then requires restarting the flight before the change takes place.

The Overhead panel, crisp and clear. Each switch is a pleasure to press. It is also an accurate recreation of the real thing. The VC from the pilots PoV. A commanding position to be in.

Both the Upper EICAS, Lower EICAS and Left and Right Inboard displays are MFDís, or Multifunctional Displays. These can be changed to show many different items of data from various parts of the aircraft. On the real 777, you can also view external cameras if the aircraft is equipped, and communication information; however in FS9 this is not possible. The MFDís however do allow for a checklist to be displayed. As a simmer flying many different types, I would have found a full checklist useful.

Despite this being an incredibly complex airliner there are several buttons and switches that PSS chose not to model. I would have like to have seen some of them as at least dummies that donít do anything.

It is not hard to go on and on about how good or bad the panel is. I enjoy sitting behind it, and looking at its pin sharp graphics, same goes for the Virtual cockpit. But as with all add-ons, the major selling point is how it looks from the outside, in.

I can happily tell you that what has been created is a very authentic shape, true to the real aircraft. Although itís not ground breaking, and still has trademark PSS looks, like the engine fan blades, and the horrible cut out windows, it pulls together to form a good looking aircraft. PSS put work in progress screenshots of the aircraft from were from day one, giving Joe Public the chance to criticize it, and tell PSS to tweak it. They did that and produced a smooth visual.

And to sit on the outside of this model are quite a few liveries. These are not as good as they could be. As the textures make up over half of what the final model looks like, it would have been nice to see some more time be spent on them. It seems that PSS painter, Ben Jones has taken this fact into account whilst he works on the next model, the 757. I cannot criticize the selection. There are a wide range of textures available, many fictional, but most reflecting real world users of the -200 and -300 variants, albeit not necessarily the LR, LRF and 300ER models.

The cargo model departs from Washington. None are in service yet, but lots of airlines schemes are painted, including UPS, DHL and FedEx.

With the version 1 release PSS did not model the greatest flight dynamics. The aircraft was not nice to fly by hand, and this is always disappointing, it also left simmers constantly asking for the ILS runway, and even that came with its interception hazards. Thankfully, with SP1 came an entirely new FDE. Although you still have to be very gentle, especially when following the Flight Director, it is an easy airplane to manoeuvre, and I have found myself deactivating the autopilot quite a long distance before touch down. Even in the worst weather, you can safely fly through by hand.

Fortunately you will not need to fly through bad weather as the sim also comes with full recreation of the 777ís weather radar. The manual for this is not printed, and there are no lessons for correct operation, so I struggled to learn to use it properly. Of course that is not the only data shown on the nav display, you will also see the TCAS working away with audible callouts. However there are no callouts for things that you would expect in a modern airliner add-on, the most obvious of these being the ĎV1, Rotate, V2í and landing callouts.

You would expect to find some spectacular sounds to come with the PSS package. When you push the throttles forward to stabilise, and then hit the TO/GA switch the sound pulsates around your head and you scream forward. Whether you be sitting on the outside, or the inside the sound of the 2 engines is something incredible, and PSS captured it perfectly.

Which makes me ask why it was only that that they captured? On starting cold and dark the aircraft is completely silent. As I have not been in a Triple 7 flight deck for real, I accept that it could be that quiet. However the same cannot be said for outside. There are no APU sounds from the exterior either. Although I have learnt to accept this, and donít visit the exterior view during pre-flight, it is something that could be fixed.

All the doors open at once, a fact that could have, and should have been changed. Some of the panel pop-ups, including (bottom left) the setup menu.

Looking on forums it is Ďwhatís wrongí that people like to point out. PSS have fixed many bugs in SP1 and then in SP2; however users are still report them. I have spotted a few, but none that I have been able to recreate with a 100% success rate. I hope that these bugs are sorted. There are some other little factors that do spoil realism, however as such I have found none that keep me on the ground.

Summing up this aircraft is difficult. It is not a package I would instantly recommend, but it is not a package that any person who buys it will be disappointed with. I have other PSS products in my hanger, including the A340 Pro, and Vulcan. Neither are aircraft I fly very often, but flew a lot when they first arrived on my computer. I find the 777 different though. It is an aircraft I enjoy, and I think anyone who flyís her should think similar.

If not a major leap forward in aircraft add-ons, it is a major leap forward for PSS. It shows they are keeping up with the current, high, standard. Despite being underdogs, PSS are showing that they have still got it, and this aircraft is showing exactly that.

 

Mulletman's 777 Professional Photo Gallery - Click on thumbnail for full size picture

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The ANZ livery is actually installed into the -300ER model, incorrectly. I changed it to the -200LR model with no faults. BA recently announced an order for new 777ís, not mentioning variant. This model comes with BA schemes for both the -300ER and -200LR models. The model comes with full night lighting, although the tail lights remain on all the time. Air France have actually put the -300ER into service, flying from CDG.
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The gauges in the VC are clear and easy to read, a fact that will please TrackIR users. All the doors open at once, a fact that could have, and should have been changed. Some of the panel pop-ups, including (bottom left) the setup menu. Liveries are included for airlines from all around the globe.
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The Overhead panel, crisp and clear. Each switch is a pleasure to press. It is also an accurate recreation of the real thing. The AF Cargo model again, showing its normal cargo doors open. The VC. Notice the window blinds, armrests, pedals, and seat positions, all of which can be adjusted using the mouse. The configuration utilities, Load editor (left) and Fuel planner (right)
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Making a turn near the Alps. Hand flying this aircraft is easy, and I often find myself following the FD for a long time after takeoff. Emirates are another operator of the -300ER. Their livery is included. There are a few visual errors, including missing textures in the cargo holds. Note the extended Ram Air Turbine and flaps in this picture. This livery was not available, but after a few emails to PSS and Just Flight, it was added as a  free download.
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Radio Stack and zoomed glass panel displays. The VC from the pilots PoV. A commanding position to be in. The cargo model departs from Washington. None are in service yet, but lots of airlines schemes are painted, including UPS, DHL and FedEx.


Links:

http://www.phoenix-simulation.co.uk/
http://www.justflight.com/product.asp?pid=120                                                                           © Fred Clark 2007

  Mutley says.. . . .

Thanks to Fred for another excellent review!

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