FlightFactor 757 Review

The 757. With it’s easily distinguishable fuselage perched atop it’s tall landing gear and engines, the plane easily marks an era of prosperity for Boeing. With over 1,000 models delivered, this 200+ seating trans-Atlantic cruiser was one of the most successful planes ever built. It is even still used today, mostly on trans-continental routes and high-density medium range routes. As the jet ages however, airlines are scrambling to find more fuel efficient alternatives to serve the same routes. With no such planes, airlines still cling on to their 757s to this day, in a bid to keep certain routes alive. FlightFactor have undertaken the task of recreating this iconic aircraft within the world of X-Plane 10. How have they done? Let’s find out.

HISTORY

The Boeing 757 began development in the late 1960s amidst rising fuel costs and a need for higher density aircraft. At first, Boeing considered stretching the preexisting 727-200 into the 727-300, but the idea was soon scrapped in favor of an all new design featuring a two engine configuration. This new project was code-named 7N7, and interested many airlines with it’s increased aerodynamic efficiency and lower potential operating costs.

In 1978, development of the 757 formally began, with two models being considered. A lower capacity 757-100 variant, and a higher capacity -200 variant. After a severe lack of interest, the -100 variant was dropped in favor of the solitary -200 variant. The -100’s role would later be filled by the 737. The -200 was to be powered by an airline choice of Rolls-Royce or Pratt & Whitney  engines. GE engines were offered at first, but later dropped due to insufficient demand.

Boeing decided to locate it’s final assembly line in the companies home, Everett Washington. British Airways and Rolls Royce unsuccessfully lobbied to move production of wings to the UK. Instead, most 757 components were manufactured in Everett Washington, alongside the final manufacturing plant. The first 757 prototype came out of the factory on January 13th, 1982. Shortly thereafter, orders rolled in from  Air Florida, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Eastern Air Lines, Monarch Airlines, and Transbrasil.

The Aircraft took it’s first revenue generating flight with launch customer Eastern Airlines, going from Atlanta down to Tampa, Florida. Shortly thereafter, the airline began using the airplane on trans-Atlantic routes. Orders continued to steadily roll in for the 757 (both the -200 and extended -300 variant) until the mid 90’s, when orders started declining amidst even higher fuel prices. The last example was delivered to Shanghai Airlines in 2004, when production officially ended.

VIRTUAL COCKPIT

Overhead Panel

The Overhead Panel of this aircraft is a faithful representation of it’s real life counterpart. All of the switches can be operated in an easy and intuitive manner thanks to scrollwheel support, and all of said switches and knobs are modeled to incredible detail. Compared to a similar FSX product, this plane reigns supreme in almost every department. However, this isn’t to say that minor polish issues aren’t still there. The battery switch guard has a really bad click-and-drag system that is completely out of whack. To close the cover, you have to move your mouse as if you are opening the cover and vice-versa. The “Auto” position on the seatbelt sign is the same as if you leave it in the “On” position, which is a little frustrating at times, especially for a simmer like me who likes to pretend there are passengers in the back.

Main Panel & Avionics

The Main Panel and Avionics both manage to fulfill the Overhead Panel as worthy parts of this addon. The texture work is extremely crisp (something that I am extremely grateful for) and all of the assorted knobs, buttons and gauges are all 3d. Yes, even the gauges appear to be 3D. The actual flight displays are pretty well done, but have a weird reflective property that makes them look extremely new, something that is highly unrealistic for a plane of it’s age. The gauges are easy to read, and definitely offer a different environment for the pilots who like to stick with the newer glass-cockpit fitted aircraft.

Pedestal

The Pedestal, much like every other part of this VC, is modeled with extremely high detail, and houses everything you would expect to find in a real aircraft. all of the radio comms work as needed, and the throttles work smoothly, alongside gracefully moving speed brake and flap levers. The pedestal also houses the FMC, which I will touch on extensively when discussing systems modeling of this airplane.

 

EXTERIOR MODEL

The exterior model of this airplane is fantastic. No doubt one of the best models for X-Plane, period. Every rivet and bolt can be seen once you zoom in, and things like the landing gear have great detail, fitted with all the jumbled hydraulic lines that you would expect. A picture is worth a thousand words, so here are some screenshots of the exterior, with some addon liveries downloaded from the X-Plane.org file repository.

 

 

FLIGHT MODEL

Being pretty is enough for the casual simmer, but a model of this price is expected to get all the nitty-gritty details completely right. We’ll start with the flight model, which is awesome! The airplane feels its size, no smaller, no bigger. The engines take a while to spool up, and losing control of your speed can snowball into a catastrophic failure. Hand flying this plane is an absolute pleasure, and I rarely turned on the autopilot before breaking through the cloud layer.

 

SYSTEMS MODELING

The Systems Modeling in this airplane is by far its biggest selling point. The product is officially licensed by Boeing, and advertises itself as a study-level simulation. Here’s the feature list from the product page.

  • Dual air-data computers with custom failure modes and source switching
  • Three independent nav/ils receivers
  • Realistic inertial and radio position updating – this plane has no GPS ,so you can see the individual inaccuracies of those systems
  • Triple-channel autopilot with realistic dependencies
  • Fail operational and fail passive auto land with mode degradations based on system failures
  • Load company routes generated by Professional FlightPlanner X (or other compatible programs) directly into the FMC
  • FMC can be used on external touchscreen or tablet, optimized for the Retina iPad

Advanced 3D modeling and features

  • On-screen Menus
  • Accurate dimensions based on drawings provided by Boeing
  • Very detailed exterior modelling with extensive use of normal maps
  • Super high resolution 3D cockpit with every switch functional
  • Multilayer dynamic reflections on all glass objects
  • Spatial rain simulation with lots of details
  • Very detailed passenger cabin graphics, including galleys and lavatories
  • Real working oxygen masks both in cockpit and cabin, dynamic window shaders
  • Custom programmed particle system to visualize failures: generates smoke, fire and sparks

Custom systems, failures and sounds

  • Detailed and deep simulation of almost every system in the real aircraft
  • Custom air and pressure system
  • Electrical system with all AC and DC busses modelled
  • Multistage custom failure system – over 150 more failures than X-Plane
  • Ability to fix failure by following proper procedure
  • 200 Mb of custom sounds – In-cockpit custom sounds -3D stereo engine sounds

 

Physical Systems Modeling

The Physical Systems are modeled to an excruciating level of detail. From start-up to shutdown, this airplane is meant to perform exactly as the real aircraft would. From things like cabin temperature to fire detector testing, this airplane truly has it all. Another unique feature is that systems can deteriorate over time if neglected, similar to the likes of A2A’s Accufeel products. To give you an example of this, while learning the airplane, I managed to explode the Right Starter Valve.., twice. I also experienced a left wheel-well fire upon landing at KSFO en-route from KDEN. I still haven’t found out what caused the spontaneous combustion of my wheels, but it was an interesting experience non the less.

Another example of this airplanes uncanny likeness to it’s real world brother is that it ships with the 757 FCOM (albeit slightly shortened to not include things like on ground maintenance) This is honestly one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. I understand FlightFactor weren’t the only ones to do this, but it’s still amazing to see a company produce a product so comprehensive that they can just ship it with real-world instructions.

Virtual Systems Modeling

The Virtual Systems on this airplane are just as impressive as their physical counterparts. The main Virtual System you will be concerned with during flight is the FMS (Including the FMC, MCP, and A/T) The FMS in this airplane is extremely comprehensive, so comprehensive in fact that I need to cover the parts separately. The MCP and A/T both perform as expected. The only gripes I had are that the clickspots could be a little dodgy, which may frustrate some people.

FMC: The FMC is the main interface for flight planning and manipulating. The FMC is so similar to the real FMC that I’m not even sure where to start. When it first receives power, you are presented with a screen, where you can choose to enter the FMC simulation, or modify settings. The settings menu is pretty barren, only allowing for one option to be changed, the style of F/D. If you back out, you can continue on to the FMC proper, where you’re greeted with the IDENT page. One thing to note here is that the AIRAC cycle is ancient From February to March of 2012.

You then continue to the POS INIT page, where you input information to help align the airplanes IRS systems. From there, you may navigate to the ROUTE page, which should be a familiar sight to almost any Flightsimmer. Here, you manage your route, as well as input some other basic info pertaining to navigation. for SIDs and STARs, you must go to the DEP/APP page, which will get you started on that process. Once you’re done inputting your route, you will continue to the PERF INIT page, where you put in your weights and cruise altitude among other things. You then proceed to the TAKEOFF page, where you can input departure flaps to get your appropriate V-Speeds. The entire FMC experience was smooth, and made sense to anyone who has used a Boeing FMC before.

On top of the aforementioned basic FMC operation, the FMC is also capable of holding at a waypoint on your route, a waypoint off of your route, as well as holding at the aircraft’s present position. There is also a fully functional FIX page, for determining distances.

SOUNDS

Sounds in this airplane can be good at times, however the bad can outweigh the good during certain parts of flight. Let’s start with the preflight, where the airplane noises sound just fine. The whine of electronics as systems slowly came to life was very nicely done. However, the airplane also comes with ambient noise, which is awful. the sounds are nowhere near what an actual captain would hear sitting in the flightdeck, and the same few soundbytes loop infinitely, which became infuriating very quickly. I would suggest the devs try to record a few more soundbytes to play on the ground, maybe stuff about departing flights or TSA & Equivalent baggage rules? In all seriousness, this one really urks me, and made me simply turn off sound during setup once or twice. The other sounds are okay, but there is a distinct noise of a car whooshing past occasionally, which has left me really confused.

Once you have left the gate, you get to listen to your engines roar to life. There’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s definitely a good noise. Actual flying is much of the same story. Nothing really spectacular, but nothing to complain about.

EXTRA FEATURES

Control Panel

This airplane comes with an in-sim control panel to customize various features of the aircraft. We’ll start with the general page, where you find options for aircraft configuration, F/O in control, Throttle Block (a feature that helps with A/T disengagement,) Real Limits & Times, as well as High Challenge mode (increases failure rate.) You can also control doors from this page.

You then move onto the on-ground page, which lets you set static ground equipment, payload and fuel, as well as perform maintenance and control the pushback feature. Although it appears to be a useful feature, I haven’t been able to get the load manager to work at all, which is slightly annoying. I don’t know if this is a possible incompatibility with X-Plane 10.45 or not, so your mileage may vary.

Next is the failures page, which is critical for diagnosing potential issues with your airplane. The page also has a handy button to reset all failures while you are still learning the aircraft, so you won’t be punished for poor operation at first.

Next are the About and PA pages, which do what they say on the tin. The about page is essentially some credits with a little bit of marketing tossed in, and the PA page lets you control the flight attendant announcements, a bit of a gimmick, but it works without a hitch so I really can’t complain. Speaking of the flight attendant, he is one of the worst features that has ever been added to a plane. Period. Although a cool concept, he soon becomes a nightmare to handle. He scrutinizes every aspect of your flying, and if he feels the need, he will gladly inform you of any concerns he has. He’ll let you know if you miss an announcement, if you’re flying too roughly, etc… Luckily, there’s a way to get rid of him. You simply spam the FA call button until he commits suicide. You think I’m joking?

 Checklists

This plane also comes with an interactive checklist menu, from which you can complete checklists. Although not a complicated feature, it doesn’t need to be, and in it’s simplicity it manages to be an extremely useful tool for both newbs and veterans of the plane alike. The checklists cover both basic operations as well as procedures, such as how to start the engines (something that was a godsend in diagnosing why I kept blowing up my plane when starting the engines.)

Remote CDU

Remote CDU allows you to control your FMC from any device connected to the same network using a simple URL. It worked smoother than any other internet related utility I’ve ever used for flightsimming. A great utility (if you have something with the proper screen size and resolution, my phone didn’t like it at all.)

 

CONCLUSION

This airplane is awesome! Although it suffers from occasional polish issues, it still manages to put a smile on my face with every successful landing, and really makes me think when I screw up. It’s truly an immersive experience, and I would wholeheartedly recommend this airplane to anyone looking for some fun alongside work. You can find both versions over at X-Plane.org.

DISCLAIMER: This product was provided to me free-of charge by X-Plane.org for review purposes. This however did not affect my final verdict, nor any of my opinions.

 

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