This is a review of Level D’s 767-300ER by Jessica Bannister-Pearce.
There can be few aircraft that can rightly be called a ‘Workhorse’. The DC-3 springs to mind, along with the Boeing 757. But when it comes to an aircraft that can serve both long haul and short haul destinations with ease and without out complaint, the Boeing 767 is the top of the heap. The design hails from the 1970′s and yet the same basic airframe is still in production and demand today. (Yes, the 747 has been there a lot longer, but lets not nit-pick.) Demand is so great that second hand examples are almost always picked up from the deserts within a short while. By far the most successful variant has to be -300 series. And thanks to Level D simulations, we get to see what all the fuss is about.
What’s in the box
As is common these days, the aircraft is available either as a download or as a boxed product. Downloaded copies come with a digital certificate that can be used to reinstall the software if problems arise. All this is handled via Flight One‘s Purchase system, which simplifies the whole process quite well. Once installed, various items can be found on your start menu in the ‘Flight One’ Folder. You get the PDF version of the Flight Ops Manual, The Configuration utility, an option to check for updates and a repaint manager program to help you install the various free liveries available online. For those who prefer to read the FOM before flying, but don’t fancy the hassle of printing out the 400 page plus document, a rather nice, leather bound copy can be purchased at a rather reasonable cost.
Starting at the beginning
Before the 767 can be taken anywhere, she needs to be loaded as required. The load manager will take care of this. Loading it up gives you various options. There are tabs to select the type of flight, Long Haul or Short Haul. This will help set a basic level of fuel for your flight. Next is a button to switch between the cargo load screen and the passenger load screen. The former displays the load in each of the five cargo holds, which of course you’re welcome to change, alter and generally mess with at your discretion. The latter displays the cabin layout. You’re not able to add individual passengers here but using one of the three buttons below, you can choose from an empty ferry flight, a random amount of passengers and cargo or a full load. I usually stick to random just to keep it as close to reality as possible. (Who has 100% load factors anyway!)
The only other thing to set is the fuel amount. This goes from 0 to 160000lb. Setting it for your trip will mean that you’ll have all the load out figures you’ll need later for the FMC.
As a side note, if you’re like me and have trouble knowing how much fuel you’ll need for a particular flight, then I suggest you try Blushing Sheep’s Excellent Dispatch Planner X (see my earlier review) or you can download a simple utility that is specifically written for the 767-300ER just to work out the amount of fuel you’ll need. Go to http://nofuel.thatssailing.com to download this simple utility.
Once you’re done here, click ‘Save settings’ and the next time you load FS to fly the 767-300ER the load figures will be added.
I do suggest that you either make a note of the important figures like ZWF and %MAC/T.O. Trim setting before loading up, or leave the window open on a second monitor if you’re rich enough. Either way, the data will come in handy later.
Painting by Numbers
Before we head off to FS with our crib sheets ready to go, you should really give some consideration to the airline of your choice. I assume to save space on the download, Level-D only provide the three 767-300ER engine Variants (GE, P&W and RR) in house colours. So if you want to fly your favourite airline, you’ll need to use the repaint manager and download some new paint schemes. First, you’ll need to visit Level-D’s Website to download the paint scheme of you’re choice. You’ll note that repaints from Level-D come in two flavours. The DXT3 models are less clunky and heavy on the system whist the regular repaints have a more polished feel, but will strain the system. I recommend the DXT3 repaints, as they look just as good as the regulars to me. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to unzip the files into the right directory. The readme file will give you all the general information you’ll need. Now all you need to do is load up the repaint manager and click on Add Repaint. From there, just click on the repaint you wish to add and click install. You can also remove a repaint if you wish and you can upload a repaint you’ve done to the Level D website. If you’re chosen airline isn’t there, you can always download the paint kit and have a go yourself.
Let’s Get to the Airport
Once we’ve loaded up FS, then selecting the 767 of your choice is as normal, but you will have to read the text, as there are no livery pictures of new downloads. Level-D provide instructions and with a little work you’ll have no problem finding the airline you want in the future. Once loaded up, however, the fun really begins.
The Level-D 767 is a complex simulation, and as such, there are extras and features included that normal add-on aircraft don’t have. Clicking on the Add-ons menu in the main menu bar reveals two new choices. The first is Level-D simulations whist the second is B767 Specific. Clicking on the former brings you five new menu choices. The first is Custom controls. Here you can set buttons, key presses and such to be used by the sim. The next menu is the Preferences. This lets you set things like ‘A/T inhibits manual throttle’ as well as the settings for the crew voices (British, Canadian, American and even an Australian ground Crew are available.) You can also set the first officers duties during the flight, to help make your job easier.
The next menu is the Instructor menu. Again, you can select the voice set as well as several options for training.
The last two menus are Level-D specific and are not worth mentioning here.
The B767 Specific menu is where the action is. From here you can import or export various panel settings, from cold and dark to fully running. You can also define the default panel settings (Cold and Dark. Go on, you know you want to). Next you get to define the failures on this particular flight and the next one down allows you to repair the failures after they’ve happened.
Below that is the ground requests menu, only to be used once you’re ready for pushback, whist the realism menu is where the real power is. In here you’ll be able to set the various settings that will bring you closer to the real 767. Some seem a little strange, (Hydraulic Fluid needs refilling for example) to the really useful, (Battery discharge and such).
The final Menu is the quick tips section, which is great if you’re really stuck.
This isn’t Kansas anymore!
As you can imagine, it’s rather daunting to sit down and prepare for a flight in an aircraft that is more complex than the FS defaults. Fortunately, Level-D have provided us with several tutorials, all found within the missions section. Don’t expect any rewards for completing them though, as Level-D say they haven’t finished exploring the limits of the mission section.
There are several tutorials to go through, from the short hop from Vancouver to San Francisco, through to the long haul, Atlanta to Brussels. But for me, the star of the show, and something I think that Level-D have done well in providing, are the last two missions. These are failure missions. The first places you in the cruise at 35000ft only for a failure to happen. The second throws a failure at you at take off. Both offer a real insight into how a real aircrew train in the simulator for just such emergencies. Bravo.
At the Gate
The first thing you’ll notice at the gate is a menu screen that pops up to help you load the aircraft. Option one loads the aircraft automatically with the settings you saved in the configuration utility. Option two offers you the choice of lbs or Kg’s; whist option three gives the chance to manually load the aircraft. Selecting option one does the job and so we’re ready to pre-flight. For such a complex aircraft, the 767 seems remarkably easy to navigate. The overhead isn’t too cluttered whist the MCP is easy to understand. Only the FMC can cause problems, but even here it’s not too difficult. You’ll have to program your own route, though, as you can’t import the route from FS itself. This is fairly easy, though, and requires only a little time. From there you can then set the ZWF and trim using your crib sheet as before.
Once you’re set, you can request a pushback from the ground crew. Clicking on the ground call switch on the O/P brings up a menu to help you. If you select pushback, you’ll then be taken from the cockpit to a separate screen where you can choose to not only push back, but you can choose how far you can push back, whether you wish to push to the left or right, (which really makes some of the taxi routes much easier to start from) and finally you can select to ‘push and start’. Whatever you select, you’ll be treated to some real speech between the captain and ground crew, with instructions for the pushback. Once you’re set, started and pointing in the right direction, be careful when you advance the throttles for taxi. One thing to look out for is a starting bug found only with users of the FS Acceleration pack. For some reason, the engines will spool twice before starting up. Strange, but in no way detracting from the overall product. The 767 is a very powerful aircraft and as such, very little power is required to move and it’s quite easy to exceed taxi speed limits without much difficulty.
Here we go!
Taxiing out brings the captain to announce that the cabin crew prepare for departure (again, scripted but all part of the immersion experience). On takeoff, though, the high quality sounds are really shown off as the engines spool up to full power. The rich sound of the P&W engines, or the RR or the GE versions sound exactly as they should, whist the amount of power produced is nothing short of frightening. Rotation and V2 comes quickly and soon we’re in the air. A nice touch is the first officer who, if asked, will handle the flaps and landing gear for you. Once we’re up, however, things become more relaxed as we hand off to George and let the aircraft do its thing. The cruise prompts more interaction between the crew as well at the descent. It’s the landing, however, that shows the next Level-D trick. Auto land can be engaged once the ILS has been attained, and by selecting all three of the autopilots, the 767 will gracefully set herself down on the runway. Just remember to operate the reverse thrust to slow down.
There really are not enough superlatives available to describe how good this aircraft is. It’s not just the aircraft itself, it’s the little touches that add up to make a package that really is more than the sum of it’s parts. The interaction between the flight crew, flight attendants and ground crew all help to immerse you into the cockpit. The options available mean it’s flyable by anyone, and the use of tutorials to learn how to deal with failures all mean that this is no ordinary add-on. If I had to pick a fault, it would be frame rates. All this complexity will hit the frame rates, especially around built up airports like LHR or SEA. Still, it’s a fair price to pay for the chance to fly such a graceful lady. If you haven’t thought about the 767 until now, this is the package that will make you take notice. If you haven’t bought it yet, where have you been?
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