Captain Sim Boeing 777 Captain – the forgotten add on
When it comes to the 777 people instantly think of the PMDG Boeing 777. Is there another one? “Yes Captain Sim, but PMDG all the way” is a common answer on Facebook groups and screenshots of the Captain Sim 777 are rare. Reason enough to have a closer look at Captain Sim’s rendition of the 777.
The Boeing 777 does not need much of an introduction, as the mighty twin jet is one of the most famous airliners today. The design dates back to 1994 when the 777 took to the skies for the first time. Since then in excess of 1300 jets have been delivered to customers worldwide. The youngest member of the 777 family is the freighter variant, which more and more replaces the aging MD-11F.
Captain Sim has a long tradition of publishing classic airliners and except for the 747 cover almost the complete palette of Boeing jets, ranging from the 707 to the 767. The 757 and 767 were amongst the first FSX planes to feature a fully usable FMC and Captain Sim was also the first to include working weather radars to their aircraft.
The latest addition to the Captain Sim Boeing fleet is the 777, which was released as a discounted version 0.8 back in June 2012 already. While the initial 0.8 release was hardly playable at all in FSX due to performance issues, the FSX variant quickly evolved into a high class add on, culminating in the current 1.6 version.
As with all other Captain Sim add ons, the 777 comes in several modules:
- 777-200 base pack containing the 777-200, 777-200(ER) and 777-200(LR)
- 777-300 expansion containing the 777-300 and 777-300(ER)
- 777 freighter expansion
- 777 connect – a utility to couple the free Captain Sim wireless CDU app for Android tablets with the plane in FSX/P3D
For the price of 60€ you get to fly the whole Boeing 777 family including all current variants.
Recently Captain Sim released the 777-200 base pack for P3D as well. The bad news – existing FSX customers have to buy the base pack again, the good news – the base pack costs only 39,99€. The expansion packs and 777 connect can be used for both FSX and P3D. Compare this to the pricing policy of the competition.
Let’s have a look at exactly this P3D version.
The 777 is exclusively available in the Captain Sim online store. The 281 MB large installer still features the 1.4 version, so make sure to download the 1.6 service pack as well. Hard to understand why the installer was not updated yet, as the service pack is from late 2014. The expansions are updated to 1.6 standard already.
Installation is no problem, just have your order number ready to activate your copy during the installation process. The base packs will only install into FSX or P3D respectively, while the expansions will let you choose your simulator. Side by side use of the 777 in both FSX and P3D works fine.
A full installation of the base pack together with the -300 and freighter expansions will take up 1 Gigabyte of your hard drive.
Two manuals can be downloaded from the 777 product page, one 46 page user manual and a 127 page aircraft systems manual covering all aspects of the add on. Both manuals are in PDF format. Furthermore an easy to use paint kit in layered PSD format is available for download.
On your customer account page, you have access to more than 100 free liveries, with many more being available on the various flight simming libraries on the internet.
From the outside
The outside model is nicely detailed and the textures are very crisp. The spec and bump maps make this 777 a real photo beauty and even hardcore PMDG fans credit the Captain Sim version as the optically better one.
A nice feature of all Captain Sim products is the animations control panel. It is not just about opening doors, you can open various maintenance doors, add wheel chocks, engine covers or even high loaders for the cargo variant. The cargo palettes you load into the cargo hold of the 777 freighter add to the actual payload weight of the aircraft, so this is not just optics.
For the pax variant a load manager is also included – the 777 ACE, which also serves as a livery manager.
Animations are nice and smooth and the wing flex looks very good as well. A pity that the Captain Sim 777 is not supported by the FSFX 777 immersion add on.
From the inside
The first impression of the cockpit is very good. The knobs, buttons and switches are nicely modelled and look very good, the high res textures and shadows make the virtual cockpit look and feel very realistic. The lettering is very crisp and even at lower zoom settings well readable.
For movie makers Captain Sim also included a variant consisting of a very detailed cabin. In order to save resources this needs to be selected separately from the aircraft menu and is not part of the standard pax models. A nice little feature is the custom stewardesses, dressed in the correct colors of their airline, make sure to have a look when boarding your plane.
The freighter expansion comes with a detailed cargo cabin, which will display the containers you loaded using the high loaders from the animations control panel.
Captain Sim sometimes has the reputation of producing main stream products with little system depth. I tend to disagree and the 777 is a perfect example why. The VC is not just fully clickable, no the systems do interact and they do work. When I first loaded the aircraft in the sim, I was wondering why my controls would not initialize – stupid me – I simply did not check the hydraulic valves which were shut.
Rather than simply listing all the systems the VC features (which are basically all), I would like to get into detail for just a few of them.
Captain Sim included AIRAC 1210 as a default nav data, so I would recommend updating the nav database with a more current AIRAC. Captain Sim is supported by both NaviGraph and NavDataPro, whatever you prefer. All Captain Sim planes equipped with a FMC share the same nav database.
I use PFPX for my flight planning and the flight plans can be directly exported into the Captain Sim format. Upon setting up a new flight you can of course enter the whole route manually or you can enter a CO ROUTE to load a saved or exported route or you can use the REQUEST ROUTE function, which will also let you choose from the saved and exported flight plans from your routes directory.
When entering a new route manually, the free Captain Sim Wireless CDU app for Android devices combined with the 777 connect expansion comes in handy. I was planning a 12.5 hour trip from Bergamo to Hong Kong and I could do the whole FMC setup relaxing on the couch using the cheapest Android tablet available. Purists may find this unrealistic, I call it comfortable and the 9,99€ for the 777 Connect expansion are a worthy investment.
SIDs and STARs are well supported, as are configurable step climb climbs or optimal cruise level calculations.
One thing about the CDU I find noteworthy in times where the next OOM might lure around the next airway is, if you saved a flight of the 777 anywhere inflight, it will save the complete FMC settings. Thus upon reloading the flight there is no need to setup anything again – unlike in many other airliner add ons.
EFB? Yes the Captain Sim 777 does include a basic Electronic Flight Bag. Of course it is not comparable with the 3rd party EFB by Aivlasoft, but it is a nice, easy to use gimmick. If you just want to use it to display aerodrome layouts, parking maps, SID, STAR or ILS charts, then it really does the job. Simply download freely available charts from the internet, convert them into any common picture format like JPG, PNG or preferably GIF and save them in the respective EFB folder – that’s all. No need to buy 3rd party software and 3rd party charts. It is just a viewer, so your aircraft position will not be displayed on the aerodrome maps.
The 777 features an electronic checklist that can be displayed on any of the 6 major displays in the cockpit. The checklist interacts with the systems and automatically recognizes action items like “Gear down”. The usage of the checklist can be a bit tricky at times, since the assigned key commands (Alt plus arrow keys, Enter) tend to interfere with the default FSX/P3D commands for the menu bar or for adjusting the seat height. In daily use the problem is minor though. As the 777 does not offer any system failures, the respective checklists cannot be used either.
The normal operations checklists however work fine.
The flight model feels very realistic, no matter if you are taxiing to the runway or flying a manual approach. The plane is responsive, but you still get the feeling of being at the controls of a +200t jet liner. The MCP interacts with the CDU in regards of cruise levels correctly, but the autopilot did cause me headache at times, disconnecting in flight without any obvious reasons. Not a big issue for those who are at the controls for the whole flight, but it might end in disaster for those who like to take a nap on their multi hour long haul. I haven’t found out what causes these glitches and so far I only experienced them in P3D, never in FSX so far.
Compatibility and performance
I did not encounter any compatibility issues using the 777 so far. As stated above it is supported by NaviGraph and NavDataPro for AIRAC cycles and PFPX for flight planning. The weather radar can detect precipitation from the weather engine of your choice and GSX works fine, as do the moving jet ways.
Performance however is a totally different topic. While the 777 runs pretty smooth in FSX, I did have fps issues running it in P3D 2.5. Framerates rarely went above 20 fps, staying at an average 15 fps for most of the time. This is just enough to have a smooth flying experience, but could and should be better. VAS usage is not an issue, if the texture size is kept at 1024px.
Is the bad reputation of the Captain Sim 777 justified? In my opinion, absolutely not! It is a very nice and detailed model with a good system depth for a relatively small price tag. When praising the competition, keep in mind – Captain Sim were the first to include working wx radar in their 777, they were the first to include a (basic) EFB in their planes and they were the first to offer a wireless FMC. And they are the only ones to include the complete range of 777 variants.
For a price of just under 100€ you get the complete family for FSX and P3D. Again, compare this to the competition.
The only setback for me is the performance. But if I had to choose between an omni present OOM or a few frames less per second, my choice would be an easy one.
Overall I would say this is one the most under rated add ons on the market. The PMDG 777 surely is the pinnacle of simulation, but if value for money matters and you do not need inflight failures, take a look at the Captain Sim 777 – it is far better than its reputation.