• Review: Captain Sim 727-200 Freighter Expansion Pack

    727-200 Freighter Expansion Pack

    Publisher: Captain Sim

    Review Author:
    Nathan Henley

    Suggested Price:
    $13.99

    Buy Here

    Introduction

    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.

    Flight Dynamics

    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.


    13 Comments
    1. owend's Avatar
      owend -
      In FS9, one could go into the aircraft cfg. file and increase the power scalar. I do not use FSX, so don't know much about how FSX displays the data or if its possible to adjust some of the thrust or power settings within the aircraft file.
    1. gusifer's Avatar
      gusifer -
      Very nice review Nathan.... you hit the nail with the underpower issue
    1. flibinite's Avatar
      flibinite -
      The thrust problem is well known and a few users on the Capt Sim 727 user forums have provided solutions which solve the issue. The real AC didn't have a GPS to begin with - navigation was by VOR, so one option is just to not use it - but you can add, for example, an inexpensive ISG Panels FMC which will provide you modern navigation capability.

      She's a fun aircraft which hand flies nicely. Plenty of active switches and electric power management takes some care (though the old reliable Ctrl-E option is available) The trim is excessive but you learn to adapt. Expect the usual Capt Sim bugginess but certainly worth the ~$12.00 (for the base pack and expansion alike) you'll pay at their annual Christmas sale. This simulation is a few years old now and starting to show her age (just like the real thing)
    1. FlyNate's Avatar
      FlyNate -
      Thanks for the input guys! I know there are fixes out there, but I did this review just as I downloaded the product. I know about the GPS also, but the aircraft I flew in had an old Loran GPS that worked quite nicely. It was located right above the radar display. Captains Sim shows the same thing in the VC but it is not functional. They used the stock FSX GPS. Some people prefer this, but in the interest of realism, it would be nice to have the same thing. I agree, definitely worth the price for the Expantion but the base pack is a little high. Thanks guys!
    1. usslouisiana's Avatar
      usslouisiana -
      Great Review Nate!
    1. davearmour's Avatar
      davearmour -
      Thank you for your report. It is always nice to get feedback especially when you actually flew the trip. I am a retired Canadian Controller ( 31 yrs ) and was anxious to fly your trip on the original Captain Sim B727-200 for FSX. In my younger years I had the good fortune to fly a number of hours in small aircraft and then later as observer in Airliners. My first attempt of your trip was pretty well as you described. I thought the aircraft performance was a little off. I changed just 2 items in the aircraft cfg. ( induced drag to 0.9 and static thrust to 16500 ). The aircraft then performed right on the money, holding the speeds and climb rates you described. You mentioned in the real aircraft it took only a few minutes to reach FL310. Since for the most part you were climbing at 1800 fpm ideally the climb would take about 17 minutes. As you say the Captain decreased the rate of climb to maintain his speed as you got higher. My time to altitude was 23 minutes and I would say that is pretty accurate given the numbers as presented. Every thing went almost exactly as planned from cruise and I did a fast straight in at Mobile s' runway 14. My time was over 50 minutes and unless you had one tremendous tailwind I am not sure how you could do this leg in just 37 minutes. For the record - back in the day ( Toronto in the 70's ) nobody was worrying about gas and they flew these aircraft at max. The B727 was the king of speed, able to do 390 IAS down to 10000' losing altitude like a stone. That was 40 kts faster than just about anything in the civilian world. DC9's used 340 kts on descent as did Boeing 737's. The rule of thumb for the B737 was start your descent at 2 times your altitude plus 10, i.e at fl310 you multiply 31 by 2 add 10 and start your descent 72 miles out. Of course because of fuel savings nearly all jets descend at 250 or less theses days...yawn :-). Thanks again, Dave from BC
    1. FlyNate's Avatar
      FlyNate -
      It's always nice to find someone that knows what they are talking about, lol. I will see if I can find wy weather notes from that day. I wrote an outline, rough draft, then a final draft when I did this review. It was my first one and I wanted to do a good job. I know I have my final draft that I used to type the review, but I'll see if I can find the weather info from that flight and get it to you. Forgive the language, but we actually had one HELL of a tail wind that day, lol. For some reason I never have a good tail wind in a slow airplane though, it's like I'm into the wind both ways I wish I had the opportunity to do the 727 ride on an average day, but Ill take what I can get. As I stated in the review, it's not everyday a young private pilot like myself gets to do that. Especially after 9/11. Some of the airports I've been to feel more locked down than some of the military installations I've served on, lol.
      The spring months are windy here and unfortunately make flying in small airplanes quite a task. My wife won't even get in an airplane in the spring, lol. It's died down in the last couple of weeks and now it's just like being on the sun. If the wind blows at all in July, it feels like a hair dryer in your face. 31yrs is impressive! I would love to soak up some wisdom some time! Send me your email address in a private message and I'll try to get the weather info to you... I think you'll enjoy flying it as I did. I normally save flights that serve some kind of purpose, but lately I have not after discovering that I had almost a gig of saved flights! Lol. But, I've been using the same sim machine for about 4yrs. Take Care and I'll be looking for that message...BTW, I fixed my 727 just as you did, and just like you said, it's right on the money. Thanks. It's a lot more fun to fly now...
    1. davearmour's Avatar
      davearmour -
      Nate I tried to send a message but am not sure it went through...Dave
    1. FlyNate's Avatar
      FlyNate -
      I got it, and I sent you an email Dave... Bare with me folks! Sorry everyone but I am in the middle of moving and things are a little chaotic right now. MANY things are misplaced at this time. I will find the weather data and post it here so everyone can fly the same flight as I did. I highly recommend that everyone with this addon, or anyone that plans to get it, apply the fix that Dave posted above, it has made the aircraft correct and way more realistic. I am working on a way to make the trim less sensitive and I will post that as soon as I can. Thanks everyone! -Nate
    1. FlyNate's Avatar
      FlyNate -
      Also I would like to recommend the CaptainSim 737-200. I haven't gotten a 737 ride yet, and the chances of getting a ride in an old -200 are almost not-existent because almost all of them have been phased out, so I'm not sure about the realism. According to my research it's pretty close. It's very beautiful and lots of fun though, and if you like this one then you'll definitely like the 737...
    1. oldcrusty's Avatar
      oldcrusty -
      Interesting review. The issues you raised re power and trim have been addressed via some patches and changes available at the Capt Sim website in the 727 Forum. The Capt Sim model had the incorrect rated thrust and not all aircraft had exactly the same engines. The trim issue can be fixed or adjusted using FSUIPC. Otherwise the Capt Sim 727 is just like the real thing as I remember them.
    1. devincaliri's Avatar
      devincaliri -
      Enjoyed the review! I have to think when they (Cpt. Sim and others) release a product they expect to have bugs to fix. Some companies (not many) ignore the bugs and complaints but the reputable ones like CS usually wait a while then release patches to address the really big issues. Too bad you didn't have the patches before your sim flight. I use the FS9 version and I love it!
    1. royc10's Avatar
      royc10 -
      Great review. It must be a thrill to actually fly a commercial airliner. One thing I noted in your review was: "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." To me this indicates, besides the engine power issue, a possible aerodynamic drag problem. With denser air you need more power to push through. Ditto with higher cruise speeds. So flight dynamics may also need touching up.