FlyJsim 727 Review
pic

727 Series for X-Plane
Published by FlyJSim
Reviewed by Jessica Bannister-Pearce
December 2015


Beauty is a difficult quality to describe. Often, as the proverb goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. With aircraft, beauty can mean many things. Perhaps, more appropriately, the phrase 'if it looks right, it'll fly right' would be better attributed when it comes to beauty and aircraft. Though if anyone can explain how helicopters fly given their looks, would be great. In aircraft terms though, there are few aircraft out there as beautiful as the Boeing 727.

First built in the early 1960's, the little Boeing went on to be a sales smash, with the last of the 1832 aircraft built being delivered in 1984. Only the 737 has bettered that number of sales, and that's wasn't until the 1990's. Designed using the 707's main fuselage and cockpit, the 727-100 first flew in 1963. The stretched -200 version, which added an extra 20 feet to the cabin and an extra 58 seats, joined the fun in 1967 and there were even plans for a -300 version that would eventually become the 757. Today, the 727 is all but gone. High fuel prices, strict noise regulations and just plain 'old age' have done much to ground the old trijet, yet a few still survive with cargo operators, third world airlines and even as firefighting aircraft. Thankfully, in the sim, we can fly what we want and to hell with the fuel costs.

X-Plane developer FlyJSim has created the whole 727 series, including a cargo aircraft variant. Personally, I can't wait to dive in.

Back to the future

Once I'd downloaded the aircraft, I got it installed by simply copying the aircraft folder to the aircraft folder of XPX, and that's pretty much it. I love X plane and is ease of installation.

Loading up the original -100 model, I get a choice of 3 liveries. United, American and Eastern. Each variant comes with 3 liveries. The -200 comes with Pan Am, Alaska and PSA whilst the cargo variant comes with DHL, FedEx and Kelowna Flightcraft. It's sad to see three out of the six airlines available have long since gone, but it's great to be able to see Pan Am and the rest in flight again. If you’re looking for more liveries, there are plenty available online at www.x-plane.org.


The little -100 has the best looks of all three versions in my opinion


The -200F gives freighter captains a taste of the old school

I decide on the Eastern airlines aircraft and get stuck in. Looking around the outside, it's clear that the 727 has been modelled very nicely. Ignore the plasticky looking finish, that's an X-Plane limitation. The aircraft itself is gorgeous. The livery is finished with HD quality textures, giving it a crisp look. The modelling itself is also really impressive. Every little detail has been studied and reproduced. If the cockpit looks anything like the exterior, I'll be impressed. Turning to the engines, like elsewhere, they're finished in detail, including the static vanes that cover the engine intakes. In a world of high bypass turbofans, these old JT8D's look out of place. The developer claims that the model is incredibly accurate, and looking at it, it's hard to argue otherwise
 

The modelling is superb, including the fixed engine intake vanes
Johnny B Good?

Moving inside, the quality is pretty much like the outside, though not quite as new looking. My first impression of the cockpit is “worn without being worn out”. In an aircraft as old as the 727, you can expect a few dings and scratches. Compared to Captain Sim's FSX version, which I think you'll agree has 'seen some things, and some stuff', the FlyJSim 727 is just right I think. For an Airbus pilot though, the cockpit of a 727 is a very scary place. It's a cockpit filled with dials, switches and odd looking buttons. Each gauge however is rendered in 3D, making the scary at least pretty. Nothing ruins a good cockpit like a flat 2D gauge, that said, those 3D gauges could cause trouble and I fear with FPS suffering as a result. I'll know more once I fire her up.


Each and every gauge is 3D. Not a flat needle in sight


The weather radar actually works, which is a nice touch


The radio stack is surprisingly modern, though the autopilot erm isn't


There's not much help in here

Away from the cockpit, there's precious little to see. There's no passenger cabin for starters. For me that's a plus, as a fully rendered cabin often takes performance away from other places. X-Plane may be 64 bit, but it's still possible to big down the GPU with too much detailing. The missing cabin though does rob the 727 of one of its most interesting features, the rear air stairs. At present none of the exits open, air stairs included, so any thoughts I had of enjoying a flight over the Pacific Northwest with the stairs down were dashed. Apparently, the developer is hoping to add the air stairs and many other features in a future update, though there's no word as to when that might be.

Let's see if this sucker can do 90!

I can waste no more time it seems. The 727 is just begging to be flown, and I've been racking my brains to remember how to do that. It's always fun to try and fly an aircraft that was designed to be flown with three crew. So settling in, I discover that nothing is where I think it should be. The overhead panel is fairly spartan, whilst the flight engineers panel is the stuff of nightmares. For starters, the battery lives behind the pilot, after switching that I move to search for the APU. It's hidden on a supplemental panel next to the flight engineers seat, next to the circuit breakers. I select run and the whole cockpit comes alive, not with power, but with sound. The APU is loud, partially because it's found behind one of the main gear housings. The 727 was the first Boeing aircraft to feature an APU, and with the third engine sitting high in the tail, the APU had to go somewhere.


The overhead is surprisingly barren


The flight engineer's panel is a nightmare of switches, lights and knobs

With the power sorted, the next job is to get the engine bleeds set for starting. Again, the flight engineer handles this and his panel is filled with switches for the air conditioning, the aircraft power and the aircrafts hydraulics along with the fuel pumps. I switch everything that needs to be on to on and head to the pilots seats to continue the start up. This 727 is incredibly old school, so there's no 'waiting for alignment' for the FMC. There's no FMC, not even an INS system. It's old school VOR and ADF only. For $10 though you can buy the optional “CIV INS” system add-on, which models the CIVA system found in almost every commercial aircraft until the arrival of GPS. I choose to keep it old school though, instead opting for the tricky job of VOR to VOR nav.

Before I get the engines started I check the load out. Loading the 727 is a simple job. On the left of the screen are three option tabs. The first one brings up your V-speeds for takeoff and landing. It also shows the engine EPR numbers to set for takeoff. It calculates the speeds on the fly, saving you a job. You can specify your own flap settings and the rest of the figures are worked out automatically. What I like is the presentation. Looking for all the world like the figures have been worked out on the back of a fag packet, it seems to add a real air of authenticity to aircraft. 


Options for the V speed indicator, weight and balance and aircraft settings are all found on the left

The second tab brings up the load manager. Here you can adjust the fuel, cargo and passenger loads easily and quickly. There's a drawing of the aircraft with the load shown as if could see it on the real aircraft.

The third tab contains various settings, from your Field of View or FOV to kilograms or pounds for weight and even an option to start the session with the aircraft either cold and dark, or engines running. The last option on there is pushback, and given that I'm ready to go, I click it. The pushback itself is simple to control. Just use your rudder pedals to steer.

Starting the engines is fairly simple, select the correct starter in the overhead for the engine you want to start and set it to ground. That opens the start valve and the N2 pressure begins to build. Once you hit around 25%, switch on the fuel valve on the throttle quadrant and watch as the engine whines it way into life. Surprisingly, the cockpit doesn't get that much louder as all three engines come to life. In fact shutting down the APU brings the sound level down. You can adjust both the interior and exterior sound volumes in the settings tab to suit though. Speaking of outside, I take the opportunity to take a listen to the engines from the outside. The sound of the old jets whining makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. The engines sound gorgeous. The sounds are provided by Turbine Sound Studios, long known as the premier sound providers to many a flight sim product. But to really capture the feel of the 1960's jet, the developer has licensed the DreamEngine Sound plugin. The results are fantastic and go a long way to overcome the limitations of X-plane's ageing sound system.

Roads! Where we're going, we don't need roads


So with the engines running, it's time to taxi out. Immediately, I find the 727-100 to be a bit of a “pocket rocket” she takes a little power to get moving, but very little to pick up speed. In the corners is easy to overcook things and the aircraft can wallow around. You can't make quick changes in direction from left to right. Taxiing the 727 is precision work. For takeoff though, it's a real pleasure setting the engines to the right EPR settings and letting the brakes off.

The 727 accelerates quickly, though with a light load and just an hour and a halves flight time, it's no wonder that V1 comes up quickly. The cockpit rattles and shakes and the sounds as I bounce down the runway are immersive, especially in 5.1 surround. Pulling back for takeoff the aircraft gently leaves the ground and the noise level drops. I follow my VOR course by hand as I climb out and discover that the 727 is a joy to hand fly. Which is just as well, as the old Sperry autopilot is, um, well, compared to modern systems, the equivalent of tying a rope to the wheel and hoping for the best. It can handle basic functions, like hold pitch, IAS and even simple turns. For more advanced options, you can set it to follow your VOR and if you're very lucky, you can even get it to hold altitude. That's about it. There's no autothrottle either by the way, so you'll need to watch those engines, as pushing them to hard will result in a fire. For now though, hand flying is a charm. The aircraft feels heavy yet responsive. I like it.


The wing flex is almost perfect

What I don't like though is the work load. Whilst in a modern airliner you can click VNAV and LNAV and sit back and relax, navigating the 727 takes your attention. The radio stack is getting a good workout. VOR after VOR is tuned to and the RMI is poked and prodded almost incessantly, or so it feels. Add to that the need to watch your speed, control your trim and keep on course and the 727 becomes a brain training exercise from hell. The trim is the thing that's giving me the most headaches though as just when you think you've got the aircraft set just nicely, she starts climbing then descending in “Dutch roll” style. In the end I settle on trying to get the altitude hold to engage, but it won't. So I use the autopilot to hold my V/S at 0 instead.


Push the engines too hard and this is your reward

For the descent and approach I find out that the beauty of the 727 comes at a price. Despite pulling the throttles back to idle, the aircraft picks up speed descending. She's one slippery old girl and I use a little speedbrake to slow down. Once you get level again though, bleeding off the speed is still a little tricky. You constantly find yourself having to think well ahead of the aircraft to get the right speed settings as you approach the airfield. However, once you get it right, the 727 will be like putty in your hands. With full flaps and gear down, the aircraft is remarkably stable, yet nimble, feeling very much like a big C172. It's easy to control the approach and landing the old girl feels like a real accomplishment, though slowing her down even with full reverse and full brakes is a bit difficult.

Back in time!

The 727 is rapidly becoming a piece of aviation history. So to get a flight sim representation of the old girl as good as the lyJSim one is a rare treat. She flies by the numbers, sounds like the real thing and looks prettier than the swimsuit contest of miss world. That said, behind the glitz and glamour, there are a few blemishes. The flight director doesn't seem to work. Try as I might, I struggled to really get to grips with it. The Altitude hold function doesn't work at all. No amount of clicking on the switch seemed to help.

The sounds, whilst generally fantastic, do suffer from the odd bit of looping, and shutting down the engines without the APU running results is the wind down sounds 'stepping' down rather than smoothly running down. The last time I heard engines do that, I was playing Frontier on the Amiga. How much of that is down to the sounds used and how much is due to X-Plane's poor sound engine is debatable, with my guess being in the latter rather than the former. It's not just the engine sounds either. I'm half sure I'm missing a few warning sounds, like the autopilot disconnect and the engine fire claxons aren't there. Finally, the cockpit textures, whilst good, could use a little lift with a few HD versions, though this is a minor gripe.

The other great feature is an X-Plane special, the night lighting. On the 727, it's completely zonal, meaning you can tune individual areas to any brightness you like. It's pretty gorgeous to be honest.


The night lighting is up to X-Plane's usual standard, and it's fully zonal


The external lighting is a great compliment to the model

None of that really detracts from what is a fantastic aircraft. The whole series from the nimble 100 to the stretched 200 in both passenger and cargo versions is a joy to fly. The systems depth is good, with plugins used to augment the X-Plane default settings. Frame rates are good, with an average FPS around the mid 20's to 30's on my three screen system. On a single screen, you can expect much more. With the added bonus of a promised update that will bring an upgrade in cockpit textures, animated doors and other fixes, the 727 series is a must buy for X-Plane users. The world of 1960's Flying never looked so good.

Technical Requirements

Developed for X-Plane 10.20, for Windows, Mac, or Linux - Not for PowerPC.

We recommend a video card with a minimum of 1GB of VRAM, and at least 8GB of system memory. The 727 may run on less by the visual quality and frame-rates will be impacted greatly.

For best results set rendering option to display "very high" textures.

Review Computer Specifications

The specifications of the computer on which the review was conducted are as follows:
• Intel i7 4770K overclocked to 4.4Ghz;
• NVidia GTX680, 4GB.
• 16GB DDR3, 1866MHz,
• Windows 7, (64bit);
• X-Plane 10.41 64 bit ;


Welcome to 1964

Verdict

A great rendition of one of Boeings prettiest and most iconic aircraft. The minor issues with the old girl are vastly overshadowed by what us a cracking add on. Immersive and a joy to hand fly, the B727 is a "must have". Priced at just $45 for the whole series, it's a bargain.

Pros

Beautiful model, excellent flight dynamics and good quality sounds to set the ambiance.

Cons

Autopilot is a bit broken, and the odd cool down sound is well, odd.

 Scores:   silver
• External Model: 10/10
• Internal Model: 10/10
• Sounds: 9.0/10
• Flight Characteristics (does it fly by the numbers): 10/10
• Flight Dynamics (does it feel like what it looks like): 10/10
• Documentation: 9.5/10
• Value for money: 10/10
The FlyJSim 727 Series for X-Plane is awarded an overall Mutley’s Hangar score of 9.8/10,
with an "Outstanding" and a Mutley's Hangar Gold Award.


Top