Captain Sim / Just Flight Boeing 757
By Gustavo Mercado (29 June 2009)
Without a doubt, a fully simulated 757 was something that took way longer than it should have to show up in the FS market. It is my guess that after the enormous success of the Level D 767, and how in real life the 757 and 767 are so alike, nobody really deemed it necessary to go the extra mile with a credible effort to reproduce the 757. That is until Captain Sim decided it was time to please the true 757 die hards. Even though one might think that it really was not truly necessary or commercially feasible to reproduce the 757, I think it was a noble effort. The 757 came to replace one of the most beautiful commercial airplanes ever produced (esthetically speaking) the Boeing 727. I guess the designers at Boeing realized the importance of the airplane that would replace this beauty, and came out with something equally beautiful with all the modern goodies jetliners had to offer, this was the 757 in its essence.
The 757 is hard to miss once you are sitting at the gate waiting to catch your flight. Somehow its slick lines, oddly shaped cockpit, and its thin but longer than usual fuselage make for a beautiful bird to look at in the air and in the ground. One of the most economically efficient airliners ever made (take into account it is already outdated technology) it has one of the lowest operating costs on any modern fleet even up to this day, and its ability to operate in 3 different categories make it without a doubt a versatile, efficient and beautiful workhorse. Without a doubt this aircraft is the essence of the Boeing philosophy of quality, efficiency, and beauty.
The package I got to review this time around was not the usual download from the flight shop deal. This time around they sent me the boxed version with the complete set of different packs Captain Sim made for the 757. I'm sure we all agree Captain Sim has a semi complicated way of selling its products, there are about five or six different offerings for every one airplane they have, then more additions, then expansion packs, etc. But this time around Captain Sim got together with Just Flight to release all of the different 757 variants and liveries into one consolidated hard pack which has everything you will need to fly the 757 in commercial and cargo format.
The boxed version of this product comes in a very nice, very well made DVD box. The package does not specify the amount of information on the DVD but given the various variations of the airplane, and the 30+ liveries we most assume it is big. The DVD has its own auto launch software and installation is a breeze. The DVD brings both FSX and FS2004 versions, after choosing the version you have and assuming you have the program on the default folders, installation takes about five minutes and you are set to go.
The boxed version brings both a printed manual and an electronic manual. The printed manual is a very nice booklet containing important information regarding installing and troubleshooting, it brings descriptions for the airplanes, the panel, the different aircraft systems, how to use the load manager, how to create your own liveries, and many more important info. In terms of information for actually flying the aircraft, checklists, and limitations, it is better to turn to the DVD manual and leave the printed one for reference. It is important to note that the package itself is very well done, the DVD box is probably the best I have seen for a FSX add on, great job to Just Flight on this one, beautiful packaging.
For the exterior model I only have one word: awesome. The exterior model is as beautiful as the real bird. Apart for the more than 30 liveries it has in all its variants, it includes the 200, 300, and freighter series along with winglets, cargo door animations for the freighter, and a custom paint kit to create your own liveries.
Animations include emergency lights, wheel chocks, engine covers, cowlings, engine fans, reversers, radar dome, radar antenna, pilot's window, service and passenger doors, nose wheel steering, APU intake, dust excluders, wipers, elevators, ailerons, rudders, spoilers, wing flaps in eight different sections, wing slats, stabilizers, aileron trim, rudder trim, landing gear, wheel rotation, main gear service access, and many others. All said and done depending on the variation the 757, it has close to 100 exterior animations.
As you can see in the pictures, on all outside shots the airplane looks beautiful. I have flown with only three liveries out of the whole (Continental, Northwest, Iberia) but they look amazing down to every detail of the real thing. All animations on the outside look natural and although I am not a 757 expert, at least it seems they modeled just about every last door, entry, hatch, or service access the aircraft has in real life. They are all animated, and easily controlled from a diagram in the cockpit. All in all, flawless exterior work.
As mentioned in my last review I am not a virtual cockpit pilot. I guess I started on this way too early in my life (about 20 years ago) and regretfully the virtual cockpit never grew on me. Believe me I have tried many times but I just cannot get to complete the flight 100% on the VC. I will always feel obligated to repeat this in my reviews, number one to be fair to the developer, and number two all of you (my readers) deserve to get the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the true.
Now, getting the disclaimer aside, here is where my problems with this airplane begin. The 2D cockpit was not pleasing for me at all. Captain Sim has a long standing tradition of making a big effort at making you feel like you actually are in the cockpit, details down to the normal wear and tear of the instruments and displays are not left unattended. Although they deserve credit for this, for one reason or another the end result is a 2D cockpit display that is not particularly pleasant to look at. By the way this only applies to the 2D cockpit display of the captain's seat. The overhead panel, center console, communications, EFIS, and weather radar controls are really nice.
The problem I encountered with the 2D main panel was two fold. For one, it just does not look nice, and it is just too small. When I say it is too small I mean I have a pretty decent size display (21 inches) and I can't read the warning messages on the screens, the flight plan is barely visible, and the same for engine information and pretty much all the screens that show all the important and pertinent information regarding the status of the aircraft. I think this bird was definitely conceived to be flown with the virtual cockpit, and this is not necessarily bad, since from what I hear pretty soon even I will be forced to fly in VC since they will do away with the 2D cockpits.
It is also important to mention that I feel I do have a legitimate complain because in reality the closest bird we can compare this package with would be the Level D 767, and I have to say that the Level D has an awesome VC, and it also has a perfect 2D cockpit. Everything in the Level D 2D cockpit is perfectly visible, it has the perfect size, and everything is where it should be so it really is not an unreasonable request to ask the same of a prestigious developer like Captain Sim.
Back to the good things, taking out the 2D main panel out of the equation everything else is made very nice. All the complimentary panels are perfectly modeled, and are fully operational, interior views are wonderful as well, down to flight attendants and flat screens the inside of the plane was designed very carefully and it is a beauty, you truly feel like you are inside the plane. The wing views (which are extremely important to yours truly) are great, you can watch the whole wing, watch from a window in business class, or even watch from the window door to the outside and it looks great. I would have to say that with the exception of the 2D main panel view, the interior is great, although I have to mention it is not the most frame rate friendly bird out there.
The autopilot behaved pretty decent in this airplane. I would say it is not quite as good as the Level D but it is good enough. For some reason on my first two flights while on approach switching from lateral hold to heading hold, the airplane started automatically doing 360's instead of going to the heading set on the AP controls. This weird malfunction forced me to fly my first two approaches on this aircraft manually (which it is really not a complaint) but from the third flight on, it was no problem. On ILS approaches it also behaves quite well, I did not try an autoland, but did perform at least two ILS approaches in bad weather and the AP did its job well.
As some of you may know both the 757 and 767 are so similar that you only need to get certified on one to be able to fly both airplanes. For all of the Level D owners out there flying this bird should be no problem, unless you got spoiled by FS2crew and cannot even start the engines without your virtual copilot by your side, then you might need to go to home school again for a refresher, but all in all you should have no problems with both airplanes, at least I didn't.
The FMC is another department where Captain Sim did a great job. Pretty much the same story with the Level D, I had no problems switching from one to the other. Between receiving this package in the mail and writing this review, I did at least 30 flights with the 757 and the FMC behaved flawless. It has a very complete database of airports and SID/STARS, I can guarantee this because I fly mostly in Central America and in places that are remote to my readers from the US, but the FMC handled every airport I threw at it, and a decent number of SIDS and STARS.
The Most Important Part
As I said previously the Captain Sim 757 is not the most frame rate friendly bird out there, so in some cases my system had a bit of a headache specially while performing taxi and approaches. Now, taking the frame rate suffering out of the equation, the airplane handles great on the ground and great in the air. It is very responsive to the autopilot commands, and it is also pretty good while flying manually. It is for sure not the best handling bird I have tried out (the prize for this one is a close call between the Ejets ERJ190 and the Level D 767) but it holds his own in all levels of flight, on the ground, and during the approach.
All Said And Done
Highs - Great job on the exterior model and animation, great job on the packaged version presentation, and awesome sounds, flawless programming on the FMC and in general aircraft systems. The software recreates a truly beautiful commercial airliner and the Captain Sim guys did a great job at recreating it in the virtual world. Very modestly priced for what the package brings.
Lows - The 2D cockpit was a disappointment, and it is not the most frame rate friendly bird out there.
The Verdict - Good job by Captain Sim and Just Flight. Although I expected more in certain departments such as the 2D cockpit, they still did an awesome job at modeling this aircraft and giving us a very professional virtual version of the real thing. I would say if you are an airliner freak you need to have it in your collection, but if you don't have the Level D 767 in your virtual hangar yet, get it before you jump to the 757.
Flight Simulator FSX (SP2) or FS2004
3.0 GHz PC
1.0 Gb RAM
256 Mb 3D graphics card
925 Mb hard drive space for FSX installations, 3.4 Gb for FS2004
Microsoft Flight Simulator X (SP2)
2.16 Dual Core II processor
4 GB RAM
526 MB Nvidia graphics accelerator