Phoenix Simulation Software Boeing 777
By Andrew Herd (11 July 2000)
The FS2000 777 is not one of Microsoft's masterpieces and yet it is an aircraft that many people want to fly, so the Phoenix 777-200 is a welcome addition to the range of flightsim aircraft available. Its real-life counterpart is available in three models: the -200 represented here, an uprated -200 with increased range, and the larger -300 model. The aircraft's wing uses the most aerodynamically efficient airfoil ever developed for subsonic commercial aviation, which improves the plane's ability to climb quickly and cruise at higher altitudes than competing airplanes. This feature also allows the 777 to carry full passenger payloads out of many high-elevation, high-temperature airfields. This is a long-haul aircraft and typical routes operated by 777's include: New York-San Francisco; London-Los Angeles; Denver-Honolulu; and Los Angeles-Tokyo.
The complete Phoenix 777-200 package comprises an aircraft, panel and a manual in PDF format. This is a highly detailed simulation, so the whole download (including the manual, which is essential) weighs in a whopping 22 MB, but on the other hand, it only costs £10, which is a bargain in anybody's money, considering how much is included. A sound package by Mike Hambly is available as an extra for a further £5. Well up to the usual standards, this is a huge improvement on the FS sounds and adds in much of the base rumble that is missing from the default set; so I would suggest purchasing it if you plan to use this plane frequently.
The package is downloadable from the Phoenix web site at www.phoenix-simulation.co.uk and installation is very straight-forward, thanks to an automated install routine which many less experienced users will appreciate. Judging from the volume of email I have received, the biggest problem area for most users is installing packages, as the directory structure of Flight Simulator is deeply hidden in the depths of Windows.
The aircraft has a sixteen sided fuselage, with maximum moving parts, including animated fans, illuminated textures and unsynchronised beacons. The .air file has clearly had a great deal of work devoted to it and the sim is a comparatively easy aircraft to fly for such a big jet. This matches Boeing's design aims for the real thing, and in practice the Phoenix 777 is much more inspiring to fly than the Microsoft 737, exhibiting none of the dead feel characteristic of the latter. I flew the aircraft to a variety of destinations, both trans and inter-continental and it behaved very well. You do, of course, have to beware of the inertia problems characteristic of all big jets; the engines take time to spin up and down, and you have to plan your approach fairly carefully, but if you can get properly lined up at ten or fifteen nautical miles out, landing is no problem. In tests I dropped the gear on the threshold nine times out of ten, except for a rather regrettable incident at Gatwick where the phone rang at the wrong moment and I took out the overseas departures lounge.
The 777 was designed to free up the pilots from repetitive tasks to the maximum extent and the simulation reflects that very well. The flight deck is a glass cockpit with all information presented on six big-format color LCD displays. In the real aircraft these are divided between two Primary Flight Displays (PFD), two Navigation Displays (ND), a Primary Engine Display and a lower Multifunctional Display. In the Phoenix simulation one PFD and one ND are missing, as there is no right-hand seat view. Nevertheless, the panel is one of the more complicated ones available for Flight Simulator at present, and initial impressions of simplicity are deceptive because so many of the gauges are multi-functional - the pedestal multi-function display alone has seven different modes! The main panel graphics are in the grand tradition of the Ernst panels, and while they are nowhere near as atmospheric as Bill Rambow's DC3 panel, they are a very attractive combination of functionality and good design. The switches and dials are particularly well executed and just beg to be flicked on and off, though I don't advise trying this in mid-Atlantic unless you have a really good grip on procedures.
While the cockpit isn't packed with instruments, it has several times the level of functionality of most flightsim panels. In particular, the navigation display and the primary flight display combine so many functions that they will absorb most of your attention. To give you a feel of what the panel is about, the navigation display is switchable between VOR and Map mode, with centering available, and each mode has a dozen different display functions on screen at any one time.
There are three other panels. The overhead panel contains working electric, hydraulic, passenger signs, lights, anti-ice, fuel and engine startup sub-panels, but the majority of users will only need to bring it up very occasionally. It is worth noting that selecting a saved situation in FS2000 will sometimes load the panel with the engines switched off, and if you experience this problem, the cure is to turn the APU starter switch back on and restart the engines.
The center console display will become very familiar to you if you fly this aircraft for any length of time, because apart from the seven mode multifunctional display, it contains a sophisticated Flight Management Computer, which is capable of the majority of functions of its real-life counterpart, including great circle navigation. It will not, however, allow the entry of coordinate waypoints at present, and flight plans must either be assembled from VOR/NDB/intersection selections, or using a facility for converting existing FS2000 flight plans. The one problem I had with the FMC, apart from its inability to deal with coordinate waypoints, was the way it deals with descent profiles. It is possible to enter speeds and altitudes for waypoints, but when the flight plan calls for a descent to a lower altitude, the descent occurs immediately after the previous waypoint. This can cause problems if your flight plan calls for a descent between two waypoints some hundreds of nautical miles apart...the aircraft will make the descent the moment it passes the first waypoint and I narrowly avoided hitting the Pyrenees while I was out making a cup of coffee because of this feature. According to Phoenix, the failure to deal properly with vertical navigation should be fixed in a later release and user defined waypoints (either by lat/long or place/bearing/distance) will also be implemented.
The final panel is a compact radio stack, which neatly combines the functions of all the radios into one switchable display with very clear read-outs. This is small enough to leave on screen at top left throughout the flight, and it is one of the best radio panel designs I have seen. The OBS adjuster is actually incorporated into the radio stack, just in case you spent thirty minutes looking for it on the main panel like I did!
So in conclusion, if you want to try one of the vanguard of the breed of aircraft designed specifically for FS2000, I suggest you log onto Phoenix's site and give the 777 a try. I enjoyed reviewing this package, and while the majority of modern jets lack personality, there is certain elan about the Phoenix sim that makes it fun to fly.
- Good install routine
- Regular patches
- Excellent forward view
- Forgiving flight model
- Easier to fly than Microsoft 737
- Highly automated as per the Boeing original
- No right hand seat view (but how many panels actually have one, anyway?)
- Vertical navigation not properly implemented - yet
- No user-defined waypoints - yet
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