• Review: Flight Factor B767-300 Professional

    X-Plane Boeing 767-300 Professional by Flight Factor and Step-to-Sky

    By Tony Vallillo

    For what seems to be a very long time we in the MSFS community have been enjoying what have come to be known as "Study Sims"; FS simulations, originally of large airliners but now extending to all manner of airplanes, that are so realistic in both systems operations and flight characteristics that you need to be either a real pilot of the type or be willing to spend a lot of time in something like the real books to fly it well. It might be said that the genre had its origins, or at least its first full development, in the series of Boeing 767 add-ons that started with Eric Ernst's freeware offerings and matured into, first, 767 Pilot in Command and finally the Level D 767. Other developers, notably PMDG, joined the party and by dint of staying in the game longer wound up surpassing the LDS product, at least in terms of the visual appearance, especially of the 3D cockpit. Others such as A2A and Carenado brought light planes to the genre, and Milviz has done the same for military airplanes of all descriptions. Our cups in MSFS definitely runneth over with study level simulations!

    Over in the parallel universe of X-Plane, study sims are a much more recent phenomenon. One of the real weaknesses of X-Plane was the lack of third party development; which was sorely needed due to the, shall we say, simple nature of the airplanes and cockpits in comparison with the MS world. But the tide in the X world has turned, and turned big! There is now a comfortable supply of constantly improving third party add-ons for X-Plane, and a number of the offerings have graduated into the genre of Study Sim. One of the most notable of these is a new representation of the airplane that started the whole ball rolling years ago in FS - the Boeing 767-300.

    This is where it all started - the Level D 767 (2D view). It looks odd when stretched out onto a widescreen monitor, but allowing for the selective compression needed to fit everything essential into a single screen, it is still a great piece of work.

    The Flight Factor Boeing 757 Professional for X-Plane. No 2D view here (that view seems to have gone west these days with just about all higher level products, with the exception of the Quality Wings 757). There were some complaints (including from me) about it being too dark, and the round instruments lacked contrast, but overall it is an excellent rendition and it performs very well indeed.

    Flight Factor actually started a few years ago with a rendition of the Boeing 757, which was one of the first real study sims in X-Plane. Although it, like just about all flight simulation add-ons, had a few weak spots, it was a very good rendition both visually and in terms of performance and it quickly became quite popular. Both inside and outside the graphics were very impressive, and although it took a bit of getting used to (I'm sure most if not all of you know that the X-Plane interface is quirky if you are a long time user of FS!) I soon found that it performed with a high degree of fidelity. The FMC was fully functional, at least as far as I explored it, and it even had an outstanding feature that allows one to put the FMC onto an iPad and utilize the touch screen capabilities for much more realistic operation. Like most study level sims it is not cheap, but it is well worth the investment. Our appetites were whetted for something more, particularly since the LDS 767 has neither been significantly updated nor ported over to X-Plane. We were, in the event, not to be disappointed!

    The new 767-300, which is a joint project of Flight Factor and Step-to-Sky, made its debut in late 2015 and was an immediate hit. The reviews were salutary; and, in at least one instance, so well written and profusely illustrated that it was possible to visualize actually having the product! Stephen Dutton's review, from XPlane Reviews, can be seen here.

    I was initially put off by reports that the FF 767 imposed a bit of a frame rate hit, which is something you see in X-Plane but that I never saw in MSFS (although I never had any of the PMDG airplanes, which are sophisticated enough to perhaps create that effect in FS). Then again the price tag, while obviously less than a real 767, even one from the boneyard where some of them are now migrating, was enough to give even a retired airline pilot pause! And of course I still had the LDS 767 on both FSX and FS2004 to scratch the itch of flying the airplane, which I have not touched in the real world for over eight years now.

    But the temptation continued to exert a pull, and when I saw the FF 767 on sale last weekend, I finally gave in and bought it. To cut to the chase, I am not disappointed! Even the frame rates on my mediocre machine (Dell XPS, Core I7-3770 3.4 GHz, 16 GB RAM, GeForce GT620 with 1 GB) were nowhere near as bad as I thought they might be - typically around 20-30 FPS even with airport add-on scenery. Now that performance may be anathema to some, but I have learned to live with it over the years, reminding myself that, according to the movie industry, anything over 24 FPS is wasted!

    I would like to share with you my impressions of the Flight Factor 767. I will not attempt to duplicate such an outstanding effort as Mr. Dutton has put together, with its many illustrations, but rather give you a "Pilot Report" on the actual flying qualities as they compare to the real thing, based upon my nine years experience flying it.

    Let's leave the description of the preflight and start up activities to Steve, and begin with the experience of taxiing the bird. Several folks complained that taxiing this airplane was like taxiing a container ship, and although I think they overstate the issue for comedic effect the truth is that all big airplanes can be somewhat ponderous on the ground, particularly when they are heavy. The FF 767 does an excellent job of mimicking the handling characteristics of a real 767 on the ground. Turn rates are realistic and the response to thrust is also very well duplicated. Unless it is very heavy indeed (above 380,000 lb or so) the 767-300 moves along well after you get it going, without having to resort to frequent blasts of thrust to avoid coming to a halt. (The Rolls Royce powered 757 is the opposite - it takes frequent shots of throttle to keep it rolling while taxiing on anything other than a downhill slope).

    The Flight Factor 757, with brakes smoking at the end of a high gross weight rejected takeoff. Some glitch or another prevented the full OneWorld livery from showing. The depiction of American's bare metal livery has been something of a challenge in X-Plane for one reason or another. There is always the temptation to go for the shiny silver look, as though the plane were the Silver Surfer! The real AA look is nowhere near that uniform or shiny.

    The Level D 767 Virtual Cockpit. Somewhere around 10 years old and it still looks very good. In fact, all that it really lacks compared to the newest and best of today is the three dimensional aspect of every knob, switch and instrument. Viewed at an angle, you can see the difference, but from straight on, as here, there is little to complain about here!

    The FF 767 responds to gentle "tiller" inputs quite realistically too, and you can make some very smooth turns with this if you are careful both going into the turn and coming out. This is exactly like the real airplane - you have to be very gentle with the tiller if you want to avoid spilling your entire cabin crew into the aisles. I find that the rocker switch on the throttle portion of my Thrustmaster HOTAS-X works perfectly as a rudder/tiller, even better than twisting the joystick. Rudder pedals may be a different matter, but since I do not have a set I will leave that to others to experience.

    1. dbauder's Avatar
      dbauder -
      While I don't own X-Plane, I did retire off the 767-300 and dabble with FSX (Level 'D', 767) on occasion. It's lots more fun to watch Level 'D' do a wonderful Cat3 landing than doing it in the real simulator, waiting for something wrong to happen! Great review.
    1. FITBADUG's Avatar
      FITBADUG -
      The point about 24 fps is worth making more often to flight simmers. The review itself was "immersive"! Many thanks.
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