727-200 Freighter Expansion Pack
Publisher: Captain Sim
This is the first of many upcoming reviews that I will be publishing biweekly using various real-world aircraft and personel that I have at my disposal. I chose the Captain Sim 727-200 Freighter Expansion Pack because I actually have access to a real 727-200 freighter and the captain is a dear friend of mine. I managed to talk the captain into getting me a ride along in the flight deck but he has chosen to remain anonymous. I must say that it was absolutly amazing and educational for me as a young pilot. I have a good amount of time in quite a few different types of aircraft but never anything this big. I gathered quite a bit of valuable data for my review. I made sure I didn't fly the sim aircraft until after my flight in the real one. In doing this, I hope to have made my comparison as accurate as possible of the real aircraft and the simulated aircraft. I hope everyone has as much fun reading this review as I did getting it done. It's not every day a young pilot like myself gets to jump in the right seat of a classic aircraft such as the aging "Three Holer." So here's The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly...
Extras And Animations
ACE - Captain Sim has created a tool called ACE, separate from FSX, to make it easier on the user to load and unload the payload of their aircraft, and also set the average passenger and cargo weight, before starting FSX. I personally found this unnecessary but some users may enjoy it. I don't care to exit my sim just to lighten my load, and then have to start the sim all over again.
Manual Cargo Loading and Unloading - The CS 727 Base Pack and Freighter Expansion Pack both have a wealth of really nice animations. The user can actually load and unload the cargo in real time. I found this to be fun at first, but sometimes we are in a hurry to get airborne and to have to do this every time could eventually become old and annoying. Captain Sim has taken this into account, and after the first loading, the user can click the 'save' button in the loading tool window in FSX and the settings are stored. Unfortunately, if the user wishes to use ACE to change the cargo weight, the aircraft has to be manually unloaded and then reloaded again, and then saved. Even though this is a rather neat feature, I feel that some of the time and effort spent in this area could have been better used in other areas of the add-on. I will get to those areas momentarily.
Having said all that, I would like to add that there are many, really nice animations for the user to enjoy. I found the animations, though many are just for looks, to be a really nice detail feature of the add-on.
I figured that the best way for me to compare the real aircraft with the add-on aircraft was to fly the exact same flight down to the smallest detail, under the exact same conditions (as best they can be recreated in FSX). Before I go any further, I would like to say that I know some serious strings were pulled in order for me to get a flight deck ride on an actual 727-200 cargo flight, and that I will forever be greatful for the accomodations of the flight crew. I actually got a little right-seat time once we were in the air! It was certainly an educational and fun flight from Memphis to Mobile.
We departed from KMEM at 1530 hrs local time, and we landed at KMOB in 37 minutes at 1607 hrs local time. That night, I set up the exact same flight in FSX that I had flown earlier that day, and entered all of the same weather data that I had recorded at the time of the real flight. As I stated above, we started our takeoff roll at 1530 hrs local time. We rotated at 135 KIAS with flaps 10, got the airplane cleaned up, and were in our turn in a matter of seconds. I, then, knew that I would not be using ATC in FSX so that I could fly the exact same route flown in the real aircraft. We started an on-course climb at 230 KIAS and 1800 FPM. All three engines indicated well within the green arcs. Our takeoff weight was 152,892 lbs and I was suprised we were not too heavy. We took off with 35,682 lbs of fuel and a payload of 19,510 lbs. I later learned that we were actually lighter than the flight crew was used to, as we were under gross weight, and I was told that they were used to being well above gross weight on takeoff. Naturally, I entered all the same data into FSX for my review flight.
I was impressed when I started my takeoff roll in FSX at 1530 hrs local time, because when i rotated at 135 KIAS with flaps 10, the sim aircraft eased off the runway just as the real aircraft did. After cleaning up my aircraft and starting my turn on course, I maintained 230 KIAS and 1800 FPM just as the captain had done in the real aircraft. I noticed that above 5000 feet MSL my power setting had to be gradually increased to maintain my desired airspeed and rate of climb. I remembered the captain doing that exact same thing in the real aircraft, but the engines indicated within the green arcs the entire time, all the way to FL250 as a matter of fact. In the sim aircraft, I was at full power by the time I was passing through FL180.
In the real aircraft, the captain continued to climb through FL250 and maintain 230 KIAS. As I expected, the captain began to decrease our rate of climb to maintain 230 KIAS without having to add any more power. We reached our cruising altitude of FL310 in only a matter of minutes. It took almost twice as long to achieve the same altitude in the sim aircraft, and that was at FULL POWER! I found the sim aircraft to feel considerably underpowered, as it supposedly has the same engines as the real aircraft to which it is being compared.
Once we were leveled off for cruise, the Captain maintained Mach 0.74. I would like to add that once we were straight and level at FL310, the real aircraft accelerated very quickly, and in the sim aircraft, I finally reached Mach 0.74 just before having to start my decent, and I was using full power the entire time. I was honestly a little disappointed.
While cruising in the real aircraft, I got to jump up in the right seat and make a few shallow turns. I found the old "Three Holer" to be smooth and, to my suprise, very responsive to light inputs on the yoke. The sim aircraft felt almost identical under the same conditions. That definately brought a smile to my face.
As we started our descent into Mobile, the captain slowed to 240 KIAS. I got to stay in the right seat all the way down until we were about 5 minutes out. I repeated all the same manuvers in the sim aircraft while descending at 240 KIAS as I had done in the real aircraft. I found that while spoilers were used to slow the real aircraft in the descent, none were needed in the sim aircraft at the same speed and power setting. Once I was below 5000 feet MSL in the sim aircraft, I actually had to add power to maintain airspeed. In the real aircraft, the captain didn't add any power until we were on short final.
When setting the real aircraft up on final, the captain maintained 200 KIAS and the FO lowered the landing gear. Flaps were bled in one notch at a time down to 160 KIAS except for the last notch. On short final, the FO dropped in the last notch of flaps and the captain added a touch of power. We crossed the numbers and flared at about 120 KIAS. The captain set the large aircraft down on the mains ever so softly, and the sound of the tires screeching brought back the memory of the feeling of satisfaction I had when I heard that sound on my first solo flight years ago in a Cessna 150.