• Captain Sim 727 Captain

    Captain Sim 727 Captain For FSX

    By Kevin Glover (7 October 2009)

    This review covers the Captain Sim 727 Captain for FSX, with the 727-200 and Freighter Expansions and discussion on the new weather radar.

    Before I say anything about the product, I think that my past experience with reviewing airliners should be brought up. I have reviewed two separate modern airliner packages, and the many negative comments I received about both reviews helped teach me something: I simply do not grasp modern avionics. Since then, I have avoided modern glass cockpits like the plague. This was a shame, I thought, since a long time ago I flew to each country in the simulated world in the cockpit of an airliner and enjoyed it; the Captain Sim 727, with its graceful rows of glass-fronted dials, has helped me ease comfortably back into the pilot's seat of a tubeliner. I hope that those of you who were disappointed with my previous airliner reviews will read this one candidly, and I hope, give me unbiased feedback.


    About Captain Sim

    I would like to make a few comments which will ease some of the confusion which sometimes occurs when people purchase through Captain Sim.

    First of all, the outdated purchasing method which often failed to deliver download links is now, thankfully, gone. After purchasing your product simply check into your account, click on the name of your purchase, go down to the row of links under Active Services, and click Extended Download service--easy as that and your links are there.

    Next, I find that Service Tickets are among the most sinned-against methods of support out there. For one thing, the person submitting the ticket has no way of knowing if the ticket has been looked at, and this usually gets the customer a bit antsy if the ticket isn't answered right away. Patience, for both customer and company, is warranted.

    Before submitting a ticket, I suggest you search the forums; technically, these forums are strictly for customers to interact with each other rather than for support. In an attempt to dissuade piracy, Captain Sim will only directly help customers through the Support Ticket system. The forums contain a wealth of information for all of the Captain Sim products and have answered most of the questions out there; unfortunately, a lot of the public purchases their products from other retailers and may not be aware of this forum. Secondly, if the forum doesn't yield anything, go to the support section of the web site by clicking the link in your profile. Simply search your inquiry in the database of previously submitted tickets. If all else fails, then submit your ticket; being as explicit as possible will help expedite your ticket's solution.

    What bothers me the most is when people are rude to the representatives on the forum. Modern technology has dumbed us down to where we forget that that name on the screen represents a real person. I can understand people expressing their dissatisfaction with a company's service, but what really gets me is the gross exaggeration and often outright rude comments. The FS2004 version of the 757 (which Captain Sim recently announced will be getting a service pack!) left a stain on their reputation, and I know, I know, you've put down a lot of your hard-earned money for this software, but one simply doesn't need to forget what their mother spanked into her child.


    First Impressions

    Download size for the three files comes to just under 80MB. Even on my non-internet PC, installation was a breeze; go through the installation process as normal and when you come to the Activation Method Selection simply select the lower bubble next to the Manual activation. Then, generate the code, move it to a computer connected to the internet and log on to Captain Sim's web site. Search for 'offline activation' in the knowledge base (as described above) to find the URL where you go to upload your code. In short order you take the instant key file to your FS computer, go through the installation process as before, but this time select the 'use a key from Captain Sim' selection. Then, simply rerun the installer.

    One can find the manual at Captain Sim's web site by navigating to the product page and clicking 'manuals' near the bottom. This is in three parts, the first being a user-guide to the product's features, the second a very comprehensive overview of the systems, and the third being the checklist. The most tedious section of this document is doubtlessly the second part. However, as both a reviewer and someone who would like to know more about the 727, I read this several times and I recommend that every person who bought the 727 do this. It's written in rather technical English and therefore, most people will find it utterly tedious. I recommend playing about in the cockpit once you've first booted up in the airplane, observing the general layout and obvious controls. Then, read through the manual and try to recall seeing the controls and other things in the cockpit. Once you've finished this, have a go at starting the airplane, and then finish things up with another sweep through the manual to solidify your knowledge. This approach works well for me (although I often read them a few more times) as you get acquainted with the aircraft and doesn't necessitate giving yourself a headache trying to remember where everything is, which is nearly impossible when you're just given a picture and location in the manual.

    The CS 727 does not come with performance charts for calculating takeoff and landing data cards (TOLD cards). These planes fly by numbers: power settings, minimum flap maneuvering speeds, approach speeds, etc. The manuals contain no performance charts to calculate these numbers. Fortunately, there are several online resources which can be accessed with a simple search.



    Firstly, please note that no 2D main panel is included. Flying is accomplished completely via the VC. However, they also included some miscellaneous panels which control such things as the radios and the animations.

    The Captain Sim 727 exhibits the many qualities that I value highly in an aircraft: signs of experience (a polite way of saying age), texture quality, beautiful rows of 'steam' gauges, and as an added bonus, plenty of clickable objects to grin foolishly over. Humor aside, Captain Sim always goes the extra mile in their modeling by giving life to many unnecessary objects; the armrests all fold away, the small clipboard on the front of the yoke is moveable, the windows can be opened individually, the fuel dump door will only close if all the switches are off, the seats can be moved via the controls on the base, etc. These are, to the average observer, quite extraneous to what the simulation is intended for, but nonetheless, this pilot feels they are an integral part to Captain Sim's method of immersing you in the simulated world.

    Another aspect which contributes to this feeling is the rather eye-popping texture quality. Most developers model quite a bit of the aircraft with computer renderings, but Captain Sim always uses high-resolution photoreal textures. This creates an atmosphere which is quite faithful to the real aircraft. Seats, instruments, panels, yokes, and floors are all rendered clearly on the screen, and from normal zoom levels and camera positioning, everything looks quite true to life. One rather odd thing is that the flap detents don't match up in the CS 727 to the real-world aircraft, but the gauges on the panel do. So, just use the gauge and ignore the markings. Additionally, there is no click zone on the spoiler lever, so just use the key command or a joystick axis until Captain Sim fixes this.


    Perhaps the area in which this technique of using photoreal textures is most valuable is weathering. I build model airplanes when I have time and inclination and I've always had a tough time getting any realistic looking wear-and-tear. Since the cockpit is primarily photoreal, all the scratches, dings, and scuffs are portrayed clearly and without exaggeration. This is an old aircraft and the cockpit bears testament to this; what's more, we haven't even opened the cockpit door.

    Captain Sim continues their level of detail all the way to the cramped, noisy, and uncomfortable seats in the rear of the cabin. This does start a bit of a conflict, however. Is it necessary to model these seats, which are enjoyed for the first exploration of the cabin and valued for the screen shotting opportunities, while the hundreds, or even thousands, of additional polygons drag the frame rates into the mud? For me, it is, simply because when I purchase anything from a light GA aircraft to the most modern of fighters, I understand that quality often comes at a cost, and this cost is frame rates. However, I'll discuss performance in detail later.

    The cabin of the aircraft features moving luggage bins, fold-down tables, arm rests, and every single window has a reflection. This is naturally a very good area to capture some screen shots, especially with the views of the engines and wings out of the surprisingly smooth windows, or rather, the windows ovular, whereas some add-ons have blocky polygonal windows.


    Although my heart has yet to be captured by a jetliner, one cannot deny the 727 is a sleek bird indeed. Whereas some add-ons make use of bump maps and panel lines, the 727's best aspect is, once again, the excellent textures. One can discern streaks of oil, dirt, grime, and other details. The landing gear bay is covered with textures of lesser resolution and when it's dark, the landing gear wells are illuminated by the lights which, as in the real 727, are located there.


    The landing gear and flaps are particularly detailed. When extended, the flaps offer a view of the screws, levers, and hinges needed to operate the large pieces of metal. Indeed, the flaps that Captain Sim modeled are quite certainly the most detailed I've ever seen on an airliner. The landing gear is somewhat less stunning, but the struts, doors, and the wheels themselves are, once again, crisply textured and beautifully modeled.

    Captain Sim also included a number of animations which can be accessed by shift-2. These are all done very well and include an airstair (because of this, Captain Sim didn't make it so that jetways could connect to the aircraft, but this will be fixed in the next update), emergency slide, engine covers, engine cowlings, wheel chocks, and just about anything else you can think of. I personally found that the engines are especially detailed when the cowls are open. One can see all sort of tubes, rods, and bits of cable modeled in crisp textures; some of these are even 3D.

    The exterior has less to talk about in relation to the interior, but nonetheless, the detail is quite satisfying, from the glass domes around the lights to the pilots inside the cockpit. The modeling is true to life and leaves nothing to complain about.

    Flight And Systems

    When I reviewed my two previous airliners, many people were upset by the fact that I didn't give an adequate description of the systems. What am I to say? All the working systems are exhaustively detailed in both the manuals and on Captain Sim's web site. Most of the systems work as they should, and those which don't, I list. I hope that my readers will find this sufficient, but for those who don't, I truly hope that you will contact me with detailed suggestions on how to improve on this.

    Your time in the cockpit will be largely divided between the pilot's chair and the engineer's panel. On the main panel, one finds all of the normal instruments of flight. Since the average pilot can recognize the vertical speed indicator, altitude, attitude, and other basic gauges on site, I doubt there is anything on the main panel which isn't clearly labeled or apparent enough to give you pause.


    Moving on to the less traditional areas of the cockpit, the overhead panel is next on our list. On the left-hand side one finds all of the hydraulics controls for the control surfaces. Simply cap them to provide hydraulics. On the bottom are all of the lighting controls in a row, which will be discussed later. In the middle, one finds the stall warning (left-middle row), windshield wiper controls (middle), then the engine starting controls, auxiliary flaps, and the cockpit voice recorder (all of these are on the right-hand row of the middle). On the far right are the various anti-icing controls.

    Moving to the most foreign area, the engineer's panel can be found on the right-hand wall of the rear of the cabin. This defies my attempts to list the locations of the different controls because it is scrambled into quite a selection of square and rectangular panels. However, the second section of the manual details every system and where it can be found, so I suggest you check there as it's rather less confusing than my attempts without the aid of images. Also, as with many older aircraft, everything makes sense; the fuel system is in one area, the hydraulics another, and so too are the electrical controls.

    Since the principles of navigation and flight remain the same for just about every aircraft, the hardest part of learning how to fly something new is often simply getting the engine started. It's very frustrating to go through all of the documentation without being able to fly without the aid of auto-start. So, I will provide an abbreviated tutorial which, I hope, will alleviate some of these concerns until such a time as you can master the systems. For the purposes of this tutorial, click 'Load' on the main FSX menu, navigate to '727-100 Cold-N-Dark (KSEA). This is a flight which Captain Sim provided in which the systems of the 727 are cold and dark.

    Keep in mind that the 727 has a few unique features. For most switches there are more than two positions. In this case, use both the left and right clicks of your mouse to control these. Generally, a right click will move the switch up or to the right and vice-versa for the left. To hold a switch in a position (such as the starters, which are spring-loaded to neutral in real life), click the switch and move the mouse away before releasing your finger. This function is a bit erratic as some switches will 'stick' and some won't.


    1. Turn on the battery. The battery is located on the top left-hand side of the Engineer's panel. Simply click the black cover to turn the switch to 'on'.

    2. Turn on the APU. Do this by looking at the rear of the cabin directly next to the door on the Engineer panel's side. Set the top-left switch to 'start' and, by monitoring the two gauges beneath the panel, determine when the APU has stabilized. Then, move the two switches (Generator breaker and Bus Tie Breaker) near the middle to 'close'.

    3. A short way beneath the battery switch there are two rotating knobs (Generator Selector and Essential Power Selector). Select APU with each of these. You now have an energized aircraft. All you have to do is close the APU generator breaker on the APU panel to power the main bus. The field breaker normal position is closed. Switching the essential power selector to APU powers the essential bus.

    4. Make sure both of the 'B' pumps are on. These are located on the bottom row of panels directly to the right of the 'A' system controls which are easier to find with their two red switch guards, which are the only ones on the bottom row. Thanks to the texture quality, it's easy enough to locate these controls since they are all labeled. Make sure fuel boost pumps are also on.

    5. Find the start levers on the middle pedestal directly to the rear of the throttle levers. Make sure these are completely closed (down).

    Some systems have some issues with starting the engines- on my own rig, they simply won't crank when the start switch is actuated. Go up to the overhead panel, find the four guarded switches at the top of the overhead panel, click the farthest left one to open the switch, and move it down to 'ground start'. If you can hear it begin to crank then you're fine, but if not then pay attention.


    If nothing happens when the switches are moved, there are several solutions. My favorite is to reset the aircraft, which I recommend. This will shut off the APU, but all other systems are still in the same mode. Once you've done this, just turn the APU back on and continue to start the engines. Simply click the start switch and move the corresponding start lever up to 'start'. This is a bit of a roundabout method, but keep your fingers crossed that your rig won't have this issue. Most people don't, but you can have a look on the Captain Sim forums for other solutions. I run Vista 64 bit and I think that most of the blame lies with my operating system.

    6. Next, get the generators going. Simply shut off the APU and close the generator bus tie. The generators are located on the left-hand side of the Engineer's panel about halfway up. Then, move the two black rotating selectors that you used earlier to any of the generators. After starting the engines, the engineer will check the output of each generator before getting them online one at a time. He will then move through the essential power selecting and checking that each generator will power the essential bus before setting the Essential Power selector on 3. Then the APU is shut off.

    7. Turn the A system hydraulic pumps on.

    **Please note this tutorial is extremely rough and bypasses all of the safety checks and everything but the most necessary systems. Some of you readers are probably fuming that I would flaunt the systems of this venerable aircraft in such a way, and you are completely justified. However, for myself, I find that playing around in the aircraft and getting acquainted with the systems is an essential stepping stone to a more complete comprehension. If anyone reading this small tutorial takes advantage of it, then I'm glad I wrote it, but please understand that you may as well have saved your money and not bought this beautiful airliner if you don't learn the systems yourself. It's like buying a race car and never leaving first gear.


    There are some issues with the systems. For one thing, testing the various lamps via the switch on the main panel will cause the lights to illuminate, but some will not extinguish. These include the pack trip, bleed air, and parking brake lights. Additionally, some users note that the trim wheel operates very quickly, but the electronic trim control lever on the right-hand side of the pedestal will control it very smoothly and effectively. Upon cruise, one notes that, if a fuel dump is necessary, fuel will only drain from the Number 1 tank. This is not realistic and should drain equally from all tanks when all the switches are open. The cruise trim (which operates slowly and smoothly) isn't used during departure and arrival, and the main stab trim is a very big issue as the pilot has to fight the trim when he should be focused flying the plane. Unfortunately, this is a rather large issue, and I hope Captain Sim will address this in a next service pack because it seriously detracts from flying the aircraft, especially at critical stages such as landing. Lastly, the only other issue that presents itself to me is that the hydraulic system 'A' fluid shutoff switches cannot be closed and guarded in both positions, only when the switch is down. In real life, it can be guarded in both positions.


    Captain Sim includes a GPS as a 2D panel, but this is certainly not an authentic experience. Navigation in the 727 is performed by the use of navigational radios. Now, VOR navigation is a fairly basic thing but I can understand how some users have difficulty with it as they're used to more modern systems. I highly recommend this excellent little guide by Tim Capps over at the Captain Sim forums- http://www.captainsim.org/yabb2/YaBB.pl?num=1246640038

    Landing is the only thing which gives me pause in the 727. With full flaps it is very much like a stone. I recommend flaps set at two notches above fully extended (this will be at 25 degrees) and don't be afraid of really horsing the throttles on final. There is no outside temperature gauge and the information this provides is necessary for setting correct power. Try to keep engines at a steady rate rather than rapid changes, and expect some very bumpy landings. In my case, I landed about halfway down the runway for the first ten landings at least. It's just something that takes practice, but it's very rewarding to finally make a perfect and largely unaided landing.


    The -200 Variant

    The -200 variant is largely a stretched version of the -100 version with better performance. It comes to around 20 feet longer and also has a round opening on the middle engine nacelle. If you have the freighter expansion, you'll also find some -200 freighters. Some users noted that the 727 had difficulty reaching cruise altitudes- I only noticed this when I was very near the max takeoff weight. The aircraft would enter a nose-up attitude around 24,000 feet and wouldn't climb any farther. At this point I re-engaged the altitude hold, built up airspeed, and climbed to my desired altitude. One can always unrealistically increase the engine thrust via the aircraft's .CFG file.

    The Freighter Expansion

    For an additional fee, you can get new models for both the -100 and -200 freighter variants. The cabin is completely redesigned on both the upper and lower decks and (as in the passenger variant) you can click on any of the doors to open them. Then, you can load cargo with a beautifully modeled loader. It's odd how we aviation nerds find bits of human-made hardware to be beautiful, but Captain Sim's exceptional modeling puts more detail into the cargo loader and crates than many companies put into a virtual cockpit. The texturing is, as usual, excellent, and the struts which operate the lift are animated. Via the controls accessed by shift-1 from the icon bank, you can move the loader forward, backward, up, down, and move crates in and out. Then, save it by the button on the panel and it will reload the aircraft with the new weight; for this reason, I suggest you load the cargo before you do anything more than energize the aircraft.



    Captain Sim has made some small breakthroughs with interior lighting. Although they haven't fully fixed the situation, they have made it so that, to a certain extent, you can have more than one combination of lights. FSX only provides provisions for one interior light, and Captain Sim had made it so that you can individually control the panel lighting, then the back-lights on the gauges, as well as a two separate sets of individually controlled red and white cockpit lights. The overhead panel is, in my opinion, quite beautifully done because of the shadows which are cast across the rows of switches by the white dome light. Mind you, the red and white lights won't control the different colors of lighting, but Captain Sim has made some strides on this front and perhaps they will be able to refine it even further with their future releases. The exterior lighting is less remarkable, but still very nice as usual. Although all of the lights can be controlled via the overhead panel, if you press the lights command you will notice a blue strobe flashing off of the tail in the middle of nowhere; this is obviously not desirable, so I recommend only using the switches in the cockpit. Additionally, the patch of illuminated aircraft in front of the landing lights does not revert to a dark state when the light is switched off. This is an easily-fixed issue which I daresay Captain Sim will address with the next update.


    With the latest update, Captain Sim provided a very nice sound set for the 727. The sounds are rather less remarkable than a nice piston engine, but much better than what they had. However, some default sounds such as the autopilot warning are the same as the default 737. There are also some custom cabin sounds, but I am unlucky enough to have a system which functions poorly with the 727; I cannot hear these cabin sounds despite trying everything I can think of, but rest assured that most customers do not experience this.


    The Captain Sim Weather Radar

    Perhaps this product deserves a review of its own, but I feel obligated to discuss it in this review. From what I gather from the community, a weather radar has never been programmed due to its supposed impossibility. Captain Sim has made one, and what a marvel it is. It works flawlessly and I have no doubt that many pilots will value it for its uniqueness, attractive pricing, and flexibility. At only 3MB, installation and setup are very simply. Simply open up the WXR Editor under Captain Sim in the start menu, select your favorite aircraft (the 727, for example) and click the large button to add a 2D panel with the weather radar to that aircraft. The 727 will automatically received a weather radar in the VC from installation, but you'll have to do the 2D panel separately. The manual is very concise and deals with all the aspects of using this radar, and I highly recommend you finish this short read before you play with this, your newest toy. Then, once up in the air, naturally you'll find a thunderstorm and plunge in. Weather radars like this work by analyzing the returns from the radar which hit precipitation and bounce off. The stronger the return, the more of a likelihood of lightning. Returns which are very far away and still strong are especially dangerous.

    In the 727's cockpit, the radar is located directly in front of the throttle quadrant on the pedestal. Right-click the selector on the lower left-hand to turn on the radar and wait for it to power up. Then, with a simplicity belying the brilliant programming behind this, the screen will fill with blotches of different colors representing precipitation and, indirectly, possible thunderstorms. The one key tool of the radar is the antenna control which is the knob on the bottom right. This controls where the antenna is receiving data from, and the key to operating this is to find the position which returns the most severe storms (red or magenta, usually). Left and Right clicks control downwards and upwards respectively.

    I suppose the weather radar is not terribly practical since you can't get hurt in the simulator, but at the very reasonable price at which it's offered coupled with the sheer curiosity of many people like myself, it has found itself a niche in the collection of flight simulation products which everyone acknowledges (or will as hind-sight comes) as valuable parts of our community. Buy it if you have the money, but if not you might as well save up for the 727 first. Lastly, keep in mind this adds a 2D panel to any aircraft you want, but only in the 727 does it modify the cockpit.


    On the whole, performance is quite unremarkable. It's not as bad as their 757 but not nearly as good as default. My medium-powered computer necessitated some lowered settings and such, but when you're up at cruising altitude this is hardly a problem. I maintained low twenties for most of the flight with landings edging down the teens if I kept settings high. The VC is the jumpiest, but the exterior is quite smooth on the whole.

    Final Word

    The Captain Sim 727 is, visually, a diamond, and in programming, still quite good. Although there are some issues and the systems in general are not as complex as that of a modern airliner, the 727's beauty lies in that same simplicity--there is nothing so satisfying as bringing a massive hunk of flying metal in for a smooth landing in instrument conditions without the aid of sophisticated computers. Captain Sim has done well in capturing the timeless grace of this era of flight and no doubt the 727 will be a hit with vintage and airliner pilots; I, for one, can truly say that this is the only jetliner I have truly enjoyed flying.

    Author's Note: I had the pleasure of working with an individual who not only owns the CS 727 but more importantly flew her in real life. He provided me with invaluable assistance in this review and contributed a great deal to my knowledge of some of the more technical aspects of flying the aircraft. Being a real-world pilot, few people fly 727's better than him, and I strongly encourage you to check out his blog where he reviewed the 727. He encourages the reader to keep in mind that he flies the 727 much more realistically than the vast majority of computer pilots and that many issues which he pointed out in his review will not be a factor in the pilot's enjoyment, but still, it's very nice to know about them.

    Kevin Glover
    [email protected]

    Learn More Here:
    Captain Sim 727-100 Pro Pack
    Captain Sim 727 Freighter Expansion
    Captain Sim 727-200 Expansion
    Captain Sim Weather Radar

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