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Why commercial airliners?


This forum in Mutley’s Hangar exists specifically as a place where we can discuss issues relating to the flying of commercial airliners — everything from recommended aircraft through to the operation of the CDU, from Standard Operating Procedures to suitable airport scenery.


But its existence does inevitably pose the question — what is meant by the term “Commercial Airliners”? And that question isn’t too easy to answer, when you think about it.


I think that most people vaguely assume that airliners are simply the bigger aircraft in the sky, which is fair enough up to a point, but then I would want to include the Dash 8 Q400 in that category, for example, in spite of its relatively small size. Furthermore, most large airliner models have cargo versions, too, including 747-400s, MD-11s, 777s various, and others, and these carry no passengers at all. Well, apart from the Combi versions, that is, which can be adapted for either rôle. So to define the term too precisely is... tricky, shall we say.        :stars:


So let’s simply avoid getting too hung up on the definition: I think we mostly know what we mean.


Moving on, let me pose another, and perhaps more pertinent, question — why do people fly commercial airliners in their sim? Obviously, there are as many answers to that question as there are simmers that enjoy the airliner experience, but I suspect that basically it comes down to what you want to get out of your flight simming. If you are a “jump into the cockpit and go” sort of person, who loves to fly around not far from the ground enjoying the view, then it’s probably less likely that you’ll want to spend your time seven miles up where all your photorealistic scenery is utterly wasted. On the other hand, if you enjoy planning your trip and then executing it as realistically as possible in spite of real world weather, ATC, random aircraft malfunctions, and all the rest, then you’re much more likely to enjoy the experience that some of today’s simulated airliners can give you. And happily, there are airliner models available to cater for all tastes and types of simmer, definitely including those who just want to fly an airliner for a “fun trip” rather than as a “study sim”.


When you take a look at the airliners that are available to fly in your sim, you’ll quickly find that there’s a range of aircraft available to you with very different levels of complexity, so there’s no need to be put off by thinking that you’ll need to learn the full range of a real airliner’s real world operations if you simply want to experience your holiday flight again, but this time from the cockpit. To take but one example, Just Flight have what they describe as their “F-Lite range”, which “is designed to provide top quality aircraft that are extremely high in detail but less demanding to fly than today's most complex procedural simulators”. In other words, you can easily have the airliner experience without needing to read all those manuals first.


But having said that there's a wide range of types of simulated airliners available, I suppose that I ought to try and illustrate what I mean. So here’s a list that I came up with (yours would almost certainly be different), starting with the most straightforward to operate, and ending with the ones which are... relatively complex. I should mention, too, that I’m afraid that my experience with the simpler types is somewhat limited, which is another reason why your list would probably be different to mine (and also why my list also no doubt omits many other worthy contenders).


I have already mentioned the Just Flight F-Lite range, and at the gentler end of the spectrum I think I would perhaps also start with these (each group is in alphabetical sequence):


Commercial Level Simulations (CLS) — MD081/82, Airbus A330/A340, and their recently-released DC10 collection

Wilco Airbus A380


Moving gradually up the scale —


Captain Sim 707/727/757

QualityWings  "uptimate 757 collection" and "ultimate 146 collection"


Then, perhaps —


Aerosoft Airbus A318/A319 and A320/A321

Wilco 'Pilot in Command' Embraer 170/190


But by now we’re approaching a certain measure of true-to-life accuracy, so many of the aircraft in these groups are now beginning to require you to have some knowledge of how to operate the aircraft to a reasonable standard. But apart from the real aircraft manuals that are often available on the Internet, there are lots of tutorial videos on YouTube, too (albeit of varying quality, but the best, by Matt Davies et. al., are very good indeed); and honourable mention must also be made of the books by Capt. Mike Ray). So the next group will definitely involve you in some preliminary reading!


FlightSimLabs Concorde X

FlyTheMaddog (MD80) v3.3 SP2

iFly B737NG

Level-D Simulations Boeing 767

Majestic Software Dash 8 Q400 Pilot Edition (the Pro Edition is currently in development)

PMDG 737 NGX and 777-200 LR/F (their 747 v2 is also coming... later in 2015??)


However, if you want the ultimate in an aircraft simulation on your desktop PC, there is only one contender. Aimed at flight schools and aircraft training establishments, this one is so real that a recently retired BA Training Captain who lives just a few miles from me declares that it flies as close to the real thing as makes no difference —


Aerowinx Precision Simulator X (for the Boeing 747-400 only)


(Unlike the offerings from PMDG and others in the previous group, this incorporates pretty much everything that’s in the real aircraft: if you don’t know how to operate the ACP (Audio Control Panel) to select the various inputs and tune ATIS, or interact with ATC via CPDLC, or request the descent winds using ACARS, then you’ll probably have a bit of reading to do before you can satisfactorily fly this beast).


Those who want to get as close as possible to the real experience of a specific aircraft as they can, and who enjoy that degree of immersion and realism, are often termed “procedural” simmers, since they are people who take the Real World ™ procedures extremely seriously. I have to plead guilty to being among their number: for me, my manuals are the Boeing documentation that comes with the aircraft, and I fly adhering as closely as I am able to the Standard Operating Procedures also as laid down by Boeing. But, as I said, that’s probably a bit extreme for most people, and if that’s true for you then I would recommend trying one of the aircraft simulations further up the list (initially, at least), depending on how deeply you want to get into the aircraft systems.


Or simply post here, and ask other people what they would recommend. That's one of the things this forum is here for.     :)


But the real point I’m trying to make is that flying airliners in the sim is by no means restricted to hard-core procedural simmers — anyone can enjoy the experience of taking off from a glamorous international airport on one continent and landing on another, simply by choosing the level of aircraft simulation that they’re comfortable with.


Unsurprisingly, the requirements for your chosen simulator will be different than for the hedge-hopping GA enthusiast or helicopter flyer. I’ve mentioned that photorealistic scenery is almost entirely a waste of time with airliners, but the Orbx worldwide products will give you a huge improvement on the FSX (or FSX-SE, or P3D) defaults. Worldwide terrain mesh is also helpful if your operations are truly worldwide, otherwise simply install the mesh for Europe or the U.S. or wherever you normally fly. If you start flying complex aircraft into complex airports in FSX, then you may also want to consider using Steve’s DX10 fixer to operate in DX10 mode and hence avoid VAS problems (VAS usage usually come to a peak when you’re on the approach to your destination airport, to the chagrin of many a frustrated FSX simmer). But the main thing is that you’ll probably want to acquire some add-on versions of your favourite airports, which hugely improve your enjoyment both when taxying from the gate to the runway or vice versa, and also on the approach.


Then, of course, there are the hardware add-ons — and in this department the sky is pretty much as high as your wallet can reach. Most people start with a decent yoke and throttle unit (except Airbus drivers, of course, who use joysticks as in the real aircraft), and are surprised when they discover that in an airliner the rudder pedals can be more often useful for their toe brakes than for applying rudder input (unless there’s a cross-wind or something). Additional switch units, together with hardware MCPs and CDUs, are also helpful, although now the price starts to increase more steeply. For those who have the space (and the £££££s) there is always the prospect of building a full-sized cockpit in their house / garage / company warehouse (all those have been used for this purpose) — don’t laugh, apparently once you start it’s an entirely addictive process, as many have said!      :whis:


Fortunately for me, I have never been tempted to go down that road. And my wife is unanimous in that.     :P


But it’s time to bring this diatribe brief introduction to a close, and I haven’t said anything at all yet about flight planning, AI aircraft, online weather and ATC, ground and cloud textures, different approach types, random malfunctions and the QRH, the need for charts, Electronic Flight Bag programs and moving maps, and a whole raft of other stuff. So it’s probably best to wait to see which areas evoke the most interest, and then we can get into such matters as we go along.


And I know for sure that I'm not the only airliner enthusiast in the Hangar, so hopefully the others will help us all by adding their insights, so that we can all learn more about the fascinating aspect of the flight simulation addiction that is Commercial Airliners. (However you care to define the term). I'm delighted to see Jess here because I'm hoping at some point to hear her explaining to us something about Airbus Flight Control Laws and Alpha Floor protection (I never did understand the Airbus philosophy) — the great thing about airliners is that you never stop learning, and it's all fascinating stuff.      :D


Finally, I should mention that there's also a special section for documents associated with this forum. I've seeded it with a few random jottings of my own, but do please upload whatever you have found helpful, too. (I'll add a sticky with a contents list, and try to keep it updated). You can find it here —  http://forum.mutleyshangar.com/index.php/files/category/15-commercial-sim-pilots-centre/?sort_order=ASC&sort_key=file_name&num=15


Clear skies, and safe landings, Captain!





a.k.a. brian747

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