Air France Boeing 777
By Andrew Herd (25 October 2000)
Every so often an aircraft comes along that just tickles your fancy, and my current favorite is Yannick Lavigne and Steve Small's freeware Boeing 777 [B777AF2.ZIP]. In case you are curious about how I discovered it; I didn't download this plane at random, I automatically downloaded it as soon as I saw Yannick and Steve's names on the credits, because experience tells me that their work is usually very good indeed. I was not disappointed.
Yannick is not exactly unknown in the flightsim developers' world and other projects of his include collaborations with Fred Banting to produce a de Havilland Beaver [beaver7.zip]; with Manuel Medel, Steve Small and Aaron Swindle to produce a Piper Cub [redcub.zip] and BlueCub [cubpan2.zip]; and an Aeronca Chief panel [aeronpan.zip]. Yannick is currently working with Steve Small and Jim Goldman on a Pilatus PC6 B2-H2 project, and with Fred Banting on a Turbo Beaver, so there is plenty to for us to look forward to.
The Air France livery chosen for this aircraft wouldn't have been my first choice for a 777, had you asked me a couple of months back, but having seen this plane, it is hard to imagine how it could look any better. Normally I don't spend much time viewing aircraft in spot plane mode, but with this 777 I had to make an exception, because the paint job is absolutely first class - very understated, but a thing of real beauty. When you bear in mind that this is a repaint of the default Microsoft model, it is extraordinary how much better it is, but there is more to this plane than its livery. If you download the patch [b777afim.zip] you also get detail in the inside of the gear bays. To my recollection there aren't many planes out there that share this level of attention, even though it isn't that easy to get to see it. If you had any idea of the risks the FlightSim.Com photographer had to take to get the screenshot, you would definitely give him respect. It is rumored that Yannick's next enhancement will add opening seats to the passenger lavatories.
As Yannick points out in the readme, the externals aren't quite correct; there is an extra hold door on the right side, the black nose is wrong, the gear doors are the wrong shape and the ground handling is awful (this plane is for flying, once you get it on the ground you can forget steering it if you don't have toe brakes), but I can forgive the plane for all of that, because of the cockpit.
Yannick is best known for his instrument panels, and while he has retained the Microsoft gauges (he is an artist, not a gauge programmer), he has transformed the default cockpit into something that is not only easy on the eye but practical to fly. Instead of the ugly Microsoft bitmap, we have a much better proportioned panel, which is far closer to a real pilot's perspective. The downside is that the gauges are all a little bit smaller than they are on the default panel, which makes them a little tough to read, but it does give you much more of the feeling of being in a real plane. I used this aircraft a great deal when I was reviewing ProFlight 2000, chiefly because it comes close to my ideal of being simple to handle while having a realistic flight model. With the flight crew from Dave March's [pf2kcomb.zip] plugin for PF2K burbling away in the background, I nearly forgot it was just a sim a couple of times and reached out to grab those flight plans which are so carelessly stuffed into the dashboard. Once or twice on turns I swear I saw them move.
If complexity rings your bell, this plane is not for you. What you see is more or less what you get, though the yokes and radios switch on and off, as does the throttle quadrant, and the engine start panel. But if you like a bit of Gallic class, there is nothing to beat it and the virtual cockpit is sumptuous, just take a look right, and you can see…
Er, can you take over command, Francoise? I think there must have been something bad in that clam chowder I ate earlier….Andrew Herd
Download Yannick Lavigne & Steve Small's Air France Boeing 777.