Pilot In Command Boeing 737 Classic 300/400/500
By Ricky Petersen (21 March 2011)
I'm not a pilot, but still have some hours of flying experience in my friend's Cessna Skyhawk II. This review is of course my personal taste and opinion and should be read as a teaser, rather than the almighty truth. I wouldn't give any score, but rather tell you about my experience with this payware.
The Boeing 737 Classic is the name given to the -300/-400/-500 series of the Boeing 737 following the introduction of the -600/-700/-800/-900 series. They are short to medium range, narrow-body jet airliners produced by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. The Classic series was introduced as the 'new generation' of the 737. Produced from 1984 to 2000, a total of 1,988 aircraft were delivered.
Following the success of the Boeing 737-200 Advanced, Boeing wanted to increase capacity and range, incorporating improvements to upgrade the plane to modern specifications, while also retaining commonality with previous 737 variants. Development began in 1979, and in 1980 preliminary aircraft specifications were released at the Farnborough Airshow.
In March 1981 USAir and Southwest Airlines each ordered ten aircraft, with an option for twenty more.
The new series featured CFM56 turbofan engines, which yielded significant gains in fuel economy and a reduction in noise, but also posed an engineering challenge given the low ground clearance of the 737. Boeing and engine supplier CFMI solved the problem by placing the engine ahead of (rather than below) the wing, and by moving engine accessories to the sides (rather than the bottom) of the engine pod, giving the 737 a distinctive non-circular air intake.
The wing incorporated a number of changes for improved aerodynamics. The wing tip was extended 9 inches (23 cm). The leading-edge slats and trailing-edge flaps were adjusted. The flight deck was improved with the optional EFIS (Electronic Flight Instrumentation System), and the passenger cabin incorporated improvements similar to those on the Boeing 757.
The prototype of the -300 rolled out of the Renton plant on January 17, 1984, and first flew on 24 February 1984. After it received its flight certification on November 14, 1984, USAir received the first aircraft on 28 November. A very popular aircraft, Boeing received 252 orders for it in 1985, and over 1000 throughout its production. The 300 series remained in production until 1999 when the last aircraft was delivered to Air New Zealand on 17 December 1999, registration ZK-NGJ.
The 737-300 is now replaced by the 737-700 in the Boeing 737 Next Generation family.
The 737-400 design was launched in 1985 to fill the gap between the 737-300 and the 757-200, and competed with the Airbus A320 and McDonnell Douglas MD-80. It stretched the 737-300 another 10 feet (3.45 m) to carry up to 168 passengers. It included a tail bumper to prevent tailscrapes during take-off (an early issue with the 757), and a strengthened wing spar. The airplane was also upgraded to a full glass cockpit as standard equipment. The prototype rolled out on January 26, 1988, and flew for the first time on 19 February 1988.
The 737-400F was not a model delivered by Boeing but a converted 737-400 to an all cargo aircraft. Alaska Airlines was the first to convert one of their 400s from regular service to an aircraft with the ability to handle ten pallets. The airline has also converted five more into fixed combi aircraft for half passenger and freight. These 737-400 Combi aircraft are now in service.
The 737-400 is now replaced by the 737-800 in the Boeing 737 Next Generation family.
The -500 series was offered, due to customer demand, as a modern and direct replacement of the 737-200, incorporating the improvements of the 737 Classic series in a model that allowed longer routes with fewer passengers to be more economical than with the 737-300. The fuselage length of the -500 is 1 foot 7 inches (47 cm) longer than the 737-200, accommodating up to 132 passengers. Both glass and older style mechanical cockpits arrangements were available. Using the CFM56-3 engine also gave a 25% increase in fuel efficiency over the older -200's P&W engines.
The 737-500 was launched in 1987 by Southwest Airlines, with an order for twenty aircraft, and flew for the first time on 30 June 1989. The 737-500 has become a favorite of some Russian airlines, with Nordavia, Rossiya Airlines, S7 Airlines, Sky Express, Transaero, and Yamal Airlines all buying second-hand models of the aircraft to replace aging Soviet-built aircraft and/or expand their fleets. Aerolineas Argentinas is replacing their 737-200's with second-hand 737-500's. The 737-500 is now replaced by the 737-600 in the Boeing 737 Next Generation family. However, unlike the 737-500, the 737-600 has been a slow seller for Boeing since its introduction, with only 69 aircraft delivered.
This add-on comes with many different liveries for each series of the Boeing 737 Classic. Overall the texture is nicely done, but a few looks around the aircraft quickly reveals where the creator put their energy: the engines!
Every rivet and screw seems to be in place and it is awesome to view the blades of the turbine spinning when the engine is running. Underneath the aircraft, you see that the creator did put some effort here too. The gear and gear doors are very nicely animated.
On the other hand, where the appearance lacks a little reliability is the passenger windows on the aircraft. Even if you zoom out and look at the airplane from a distance, is obvious to see that the windows are a part of a texture rather than being windows in the body of an airplane.
The B737 comes with a full animated passenger cabin. The developer placed you as a passenger in the rear seat of the airplane with a nice view to the front of the passenger cabin and very nice view out the window behind the wing. You will find yourselves a bit lonely, cause you are the only one there. I assume the developer left this out in fear of loss of frame rate. When you sit in the seat, you can follow your actual flying on the information screen in the cabin. If you ever went flying you probably have seen this information screen on board that tells you about the current altitude, speed, time from destination, etc. As an in-flight passenger you can follow you own flight on the information screens that show multiple pages of information, fed directly from the cockpit instruments. This is very entertaining, just remember to return to the cockpit before ATC gets upset at you for not answering them.
I've actually bought this add-on some time ago, but after installing it, it was grounded on my bookshelf. To be honest with you, I got quite disappointed the first time I looked at the virtual cockpit. The panels are not simulated as 3D panels, which means if you look at the panels from the side angle, there are no knobs and switches coming out of the panels. That is boring to look at, when you are used to "real" buttons and not just a picture of them.
Apart from this, the Boeing 737 Classics come with a full-simulated and functional virtual cockpit. The layout of the knobs and switches seems almost as an exact copy of the real Boeing 737. Almost every knob and switch is clickable and almost every system of the aircraft is simulated. You can even control the pressure in the passenger cabin! You can choose to fly in the captain's or co-pilot seat in the virtual cockpit, and from here, you can use the 2D cockpit or the many hotkeys, which gives you quick access to all the pop-up panels, including the FMC.
The aircraft doesn't come with the default GPS, so you need to get familiar with the fully simulated and fairly complex Flight Management Computer (FMC). It is not as scary as it might sound.
It takes some time to get use to, but trust me, you will love it. It will be your true friend and also enhance your knowledge about the use of SID/STAR, because all the navigation is done through the FMC. You have no sissy GPS (sorry, couldn't help it) to help you.
It is possible to make you own route directly through the FMC or import a flight plan from FSX. I experienced a slight loss in the virtual cockpit, but nothing serious.
How Does It Fly?
The add-on comes with a checklist and a short introduction to get started. If you only handled the default version of a big jet like this, it will take some practice to get the hang of this bird. Every system of the aircraft is simulated, so some knowledge about jets would be rewarded.
One of the things I love is the option to make the EADI/EHSI panels bigger. If you click on the EADI or EHSI display, they will become a pop-up that you can resize to your needs.
"Yeah, smart guy. But you can't do that in real life!" True, but I can't flirt with the flight attendant either!
In a real airplane, there will be at least two people to control the airplane, like talk to the ATC, raise the gear, flaps and so on, during take-off and landing. In the simulator you have to do all this yourselves and if you, like me, enjoy staying in the virtual cockpit during take-off and landing, it is very helpful feature. You can look visually through the window in the cockpit and still scan the speed and horizontal alignment.
Once you have the aircraft in the air, it is very maneuverable and behaves extremely well. When you get comfortable with procedures and the aircraft systems, you will get a lot of satisfaction flying by hand.
In long flight, it's possible to use the simulated autopilot. The autopilot has some trouble maintain the airspeed and altitude, especially during climbing, descent and weather conditioning.
The autopilot has a tendency to overact. If, for instance, some turbulence pushes the airplane a bit beyond the speed limit, the autopilot will react by yanking the throttle way back, resulting in rapid loss of speed. To compensate for this the autopilot yanks the throttle to full.
Same is with the trim wheel. More realistic would be small and smooth adjustments to the throttle and trim wheel to maintain the speed and altitude. This can be a bit annoying, even the autopilot does it job fine.
Despite this issue, the aircraft shows great accurate systems and excellent flying dynamics overall.
This aircraft comes with a nice pack of sounds. When you sit in the virtual cockpit, the sounds around you feel very natural, most important - believable.
Best is the engine sounds. Just Flight must have done their research, because the sound of the engines are very realistic, with sharp high frequency sound when running, following by the deep rumbling sound when you add full thrust.
When you install the add-on, it comes with a fairly extensive setup menu that is accessible from the start menu in Windows. Here Just Flight made it possible to adjust different features regarding the 300/400/500 series. One very nice feature is the option to select "dark & cold", "ready to start" or "engines running" when loaded the aircraft into FSX. Other options adjust sounds, graphics, display setting, preferences and more.
There are many considerations to do when you start developing an add-on for the Flight Simulator. You have to issues like frame rates, price, systems requirement, what kind of costumer to target (beginner/experienced) and so on. At first I was disappointed with this Boeing 737 Classics, mainly because of the panels in the virtual cockpit.
I gave this "Pilot In Command" a second chance anyway, and now I'm really glad I did. Despite the thorns in my eye, I can't stop loving flying this Boeing 737 classic series. If you are looking for a step up the ladder from the default aircraft in Flight Simulator, this is definitely a great add-on to look for!
The appearance of Pilot In Command - 737 Classics isn't perfect, but the actual flying and management is pretty close! What catches me so much is the wonderful sensation this add-on gives me. To take place in the virtual cockpit of the most common and popular airliner ever built. Get this delighted feeling when you sit in the cockpit surrounded by all these great ambient sounds, pull the throttle forward and fly this jet airline like a pro.