By Dave Tonks
Hot on the heels of the long-awaited first flight of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner (Ed. - finally!), could this review of the Abacus 787 flight sim follow suit and likewise make hearts go all a-flutter? Dave Tonks takes the new airliner for a sim spin.
I was excited by the videos of the recent first flight of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner (those amazing wingtips came into view before the fuselage on one shot I saw), but I have to say I’m not all that excited by the Abacus version for FSX and FS9. There are some good points and a few not so good, but read on and you will get my drift.
First impressions count, and when you start off in the virtual cockpit (VC) and find everything is flat and toy-like it’s not a good start. Add to that the fact that switch functions work only occasionally and you start to think that this is a pretty ordinary package. The next view to peruse is the Spot (outside) view, and now things are starting to look up a bit – there’s nice detailing on the undercarriage and engines, with very nice shine from the fuselage and engines. F2 will give incremental thrust reversers and you will see some nice detailing inside the engines as the cowls open progressively – the spinners on the fans at the front of the engines look quite realistic as well.
The next view is the Tower view, and this is one you’ll be using a lot with this aircraft. She looks absolutely superp with those enormously high-swept wings, and using this view for playback of landings, take-offs and fly-bys is just a treat to watch. All of the panel controls are accessed via Shift 1, bringing up a panel that covers the lower half of the screen – I found that the best use of this was with the Spot view zoomed right out. All the autopilot controls are straightforward and easy to set up, and there is also a small block of switches here that open panels for the overhead panel, kneeboard, ATC window, map, FMC, EICAS, throttle quadrant, GPS and radio stack.
The FMC (Flight Management Computer) has a readout that says it is the 2006 version and it is version 1.0. I searched for an update on the Abacus website without luck, but I tend to think that the level of complexity doesn’t extend to FMC updates anyway. There is an 11-page Users Guide for the FMC that comes with the package, which is worth printing out to go through all the functions. Shift functions are: 1 – standard cockpit, 2 – overhead panel, 3 – radio panel, 4 – GPS, 5 – throttle quadrant, 6 – FMC, and 7 – EICAS. There is some quite usable information on multiple pages of the EICAS, but unfortunately it’s not able to be moved to a second monitor.
I flew a test flight from Amberley YAMB to Oakey YBOK at 10,000 feet and 250 knots, using a few waypoints along the way. The autopilot worked like a dream, and I must say it was a delight to go to Spot view and watch this aircraft make those wonderfully smooth turns, initiating the turn well before the waypoint when the angle was acute. One thing I was surprised at was how much I started using the HUD (Head Up Display) – with speed, altitude, heading and attitude all there, it really did take away a lot of panel scanning. The data displayed on the huge screens was also very informative, with the track and waypoints all clearly visible.
At 20nm DME (and 20nm from waypoint BOKNC, the waypoint I required to set up for an ILS approach to runway 14) I commenced a descent to 5,000 feet (airfield elevation is 1,335 feet) for an effective glidescope interception, and set the Autothrottle to 200 knots. It’s a treat to watch the attitude of the aircraft change and the throttles retard when autopilot changes are made. Passing BOKNC (with a sharp turn to the left) I am down to 175 knots and flaps 20, and with the aircraft now aiming in the direction of the runway I hit the APP (Approach) button and the aircraft dived toward the ground.
I immediately paused the sim and checked my settings, and they were all correct.
One other unsettling handling trait is that the aircraft would not maintain altitude or speed during autopilot turns, something I haven’t noticed on other aircraft I’ve flown (and I’ve flown a lot). I wondered if the problems were just with the FSX version, so I flew some autopilot and ILS approaches in FS9, with the same results.
There are some nice features in this package but overall I found the add-on quite disappointing – my score is three out of five.
Feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions I may be able to answer, or just to say g’day. And if there’s a particular sim you’d like to see reviewed in Australian Flying just let me know.
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