The Boeing 737 needs no introduction, especially to flight
simmers. There are probably more 737 add-ons than any other
commercial aircraft. With the various developers it is possible to
own the whole of the 737 range as payware add-ons. The first 737
flew in 1967, but the aircraft covered in this package by Wilcopub
(-300, -400 & -500 variants) did not fly until the 1980's and
became known as the 'Boeing 737 Classic'. They were produced
between 1984-2000 and a staggering 1,988 aircraft were delivered.
As of July 2010 1,651 of these aircraft were still in active
The 'Classic' 737's offered airlines many improvements over the original versions; increased range and capacity, better fuel economy, noise reduction from the CFM56 Turbofan engines and the problem of the engine's low ground clearance was solved by placing the engines ahead of the wing (rather than directly underneath it).
What's in the box?
I'm reviewing the boxed version for FSX and in many ways I prefer a boxed version as I have something to hold and a printed manual (more on that later). The Deluxe edition ships with all 3 aircraft variants and 36 liveries for you to try out. It is advertised as 'today's most advanced, most realistic and most complete Boeing 737-300/-400/-500 simulation for FSX' and that it has also 'been tested by active 737 pilots'. Having active pilots test add-ons is fast becoming the norm now, I would be disappointed if it hadn't been verified.
Installation is a breeze; insert the CD and follow the on-screen prompts and the installation process is entirely automated.
Previously I have owned Wilco products and they have been massively let down by the included documentation, which in some cases were terrible. I'm happy to report however that this is not that case with the 737 Deluxe. The manual has been written by Captain Mike Ray in his usual easy to follow format. You'll be up in the air in no time at all, even if you are a complete novice. This manual is part of Mike Ray’s book : B737 Simulator & Checkride Manual.
● Fully new aircraft 3D model to match today’s Flight Simulator X requirements : winglets variants, more animations, moving parts,…
● New HD 2D panel graphics to suit both 4:3 and widescreen options
● Fully 3D interactive virtual cockpit
● High Definition textures on panels, fuselage and liveries
● Wing flexing : wings flex under load charge, they react to weight and speed. Any manoeuvres will affect the wings state.
● Simulated systems : IRS, Flight Controls, Fuel Systems, electrical (battery, APU,...), anti-ice, hydraulics, pressurization, pneumatics, air
conditioning, lights, fire protection, weather radar, TCAS etc.
● 3D interactive virtual cockpit – Exactly as the real aircraft! Nearly every switch, lever and dial is modelled in 3D and functional
● Flight dynamics engineered by a Flight Sim dynamics expert and tested by active 737 pilots.
● Immersive audio experience with digitized sounds set recorded from the real plane : fire alarm, APU, batteries, air conditioning, passenger
signs, warnings and caution messages,…
● Load manager to change passenger and cargo loads
● Detailed animations : pilots, multi-speed windshield wipers, hydraulic suspension, flaps, slats, spoilerons, speed brakes, thrust reversers,
landing gear, passenger and cargo doors and more.
● Weather Radar showing clouds density, rains and storms to safely fly around dangerous weather conditions
● Fire protection system with test and extinguish procedures.
● Traffic & Collision Avoidance System II (TCAS) simulation with audio-visual Traffic Advisory and Resolution Advisory system
● Full Autoland system CAT 3A simulated
● Widescreen and Standard (4:3) resolutions for the 2D cockpit
● Major Overhead systems simulated
● Highly Realistic Flight Management Computer including SIDs & STARs and a worldwide FMC Database Navigraph database
● Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) with multiple callouts
● Two Engine instruments variants: modern digital and older steam style
For the full feature list see the Wilco product page
In my opinion the external model, of all the variants, is gorgeous and is easily the best model of all the Wilco products which I own. There aren't any jaggies and all animations are silky smooth, whilst frame rates still remain acceptable. The only times I have suffered an out-of-memory error messages are when I have not altered my settings from the VFR set-up I use when flying with Orbx scenery, but when these messages popped up the system was REALLY being tested so it was hardly surprising.
Most add-ons now come without a 2D cockpit and the end user has no option to use the 3D cockpit, which is a source of hot debate amongst some members of Mutley's Hangar. The 737 Deluxe comes with both, but don't get excited just yet..
The virtual (3D) cockpit is stunning and it is very easy to operate a flight completely from within it due to the fact that the various panels can be show as a 2D pop-up to make things easier, which is great. The buttons move and have a nice 'click' noise when you move them and the gauges are easy enough to read. Depending on your zoom factor in the VC the MFD, PFD and FMC can be a little tricky to read, but the 2D pop-up panels solve all this.
High quality 2D panel. note pilot view-point
2D panel with pop-ups
The 2D panel however is somewhat of a let-down. The panel itself is nicely represented and looks exactly like the real thing, however I find it almost impossible to use when flying the aircraft. The reason is because your view point is smack back behind the centre strut in the window. All other commercial airliner add-ons I own have your view point where you would expect it: the captain's seat. Taxing can be very hard and landing is almost a lottery from the 2D cockpit. Why bother going to the trouble to include something if its use is limited because you can't see out of the window correctly?
In my opinion any add-on that you are paying for should come with its own custom sound set. If what you are hearing doesn't sound like what you are flying the whole experience is ruined. The included sound set with the 737 Deluxe is very good. From the whine of the APU starting to the roar of the engines on take-off you'll find that it is a very good representation of the aircraft. Most of us will have been on classic 737 so making the comparison with the real engine noise won't be hard. I thought that the engine sounds seemed a little quiet compared to the real thing (I flew on one just before being asked to write this review).
The majority of people who buy this add-on will probably do most of the flying under the command of the auto-pilot, which is a shame as manually flying the 737 Deluxe is fantastic. It's very easy to control through all phases of flight, provided that you have it set up correctly. It reacts well to the control inputs and feels just about right; not as agile as an Extra but not as heavy as a 747.
Hand flying an approach is easy and rewarding when you hear the screech of the tires coming into contact with the runway. It's worth noting that if you use Accu-Feel you should turn it off when using the 737 Deluxe. I encountered a lot of problems, notably not being able to climb about FL280, when combining the two. The auto-pilot would be programmed for FL350 but after getting to around FL280 the aircraft would start a slow descent back to the ground. Turn off Accu-Feel and normal service is resumed.
The overall package is certainly not the best 737 simulation available, but it is still very good. I've had, and am still having, a lot of fun flying this add-on but there are some drawbacks. The 2D cockpit could be a lot better; maybe the viewpoint could be altered with a service pack? And the manual lacks a lot of detailed information should you wish to delve deeper into the workings of the FMC. But if you just want to fly the aircraft the manual is more than adequate and is a massive improvement on other Wilco offerings I have seen. The external model and virtual cockpit are fantastic, the sound-set is very good and the flight characteristics feel spot on.
I'm happy to award the 737 Pilot in Command Evolution DELUXE a Mutley's Hangar score of 8/10
Review machine Spec: Intel i7 2600k @3.40GHz | 8GB DDR3 RAM 1600MHz |NVidia GTX570 1280MB GFX Card |Windows 7 64bit Home Premium