Many of you were expecting to get the PMDG 777 in your hands this weekend. We’re bummed that it wasn’t able to get released, as PMDG has announced, they had a few hiccups. But all is well, and things seem to be on track for next week!
You may have set aside your entire schedule to get the airplane this weekend, and fly-fly-fly. Don’t run away and drink away your sorrow- there are things you can do to prepare for the arrival of the PMDG 777 at your Fleet Headquarters.
I must be honest- I just want to best for you. I want you to be able to enjoy this 777 from the moment you get it, and be able to fly it- hard. Work the hell out of this machine.
I’ve only been flying the PMDG 777 for a few days, but I must tell you that I wasn’t truly prepared. I’ve spent many, many hours setting things up or tweaking, and not enough time flying.
See this minor delay in getting your 777 as a blessing, and use this time to get ready for it’s arrival. When you DO get the 777, you can jump right in and start flying, without having to waste time doing other things.
Besides, a lot of you are brushing off the dust on your simulator. A new airplane usually means a lot of people are getting back into simulations.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is fly a route becoming of the PMDG 777. You’ll be doing many routes, I’d guess, in the first few days. With the new Time Compression feature from PMDG, you can get in a lot more long-haul routes.
By determining now what routes you actually want to fly, you can start to get the scenery you need for those routes, and make sure it’s all working ahead of time.
Last night I did a flight from Vancouver, Canada to Auckland, New Zealand. Before I did the flight, I had to download and install all sorts of scenery. It took me 4 hours just to get to a point where I could fly.
By planning ahead of time, and listing out your routes, you can make sure that your scenery is all setup.
Apart from that, you can get the mindset of where you’ll be flying, and what types of things there will be to see.
The anticipation of the routes may help take away the pain of anticipating the airplane itself.
Over this calendar year, we at Angle of Attack have been huge supporters of PFPX (Professional Flight Planner X). PFPX is essentially a one stop shop for all your flight planning needs.
We started using PFPX in our 737 Training, which was produced back in February. However, at the time, it wasn’t available to the public.
In fact, it wasn’t available to the public until just this last week. What perfect timing! Is it divine providence?
It’s one thing to use PFPX for the likes of the 737, but for the PMDG 777, I see it as 100% essential. Because you’re doing such long routes, using ETOPS, and perfect fuel calculations are essential, you NEED this program.
I don’t make anything from telling you that, just that I know you need it- and it’ll make your flying experience with the PMDG 777 much more enjoyable.
Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time scrambling for routes, getting the FMC setup correctly, and a slew of other issues that arise as a result.
Get it. You need it.
In addition to the other things mentioned so far, I also spent a fair bit of time getting my controls right with the 777. This machine, although it handles completely differently than the 737, needs to be setup correctly.
When I first loaded up the PMDG 777, there were some minor differences I had to attend to. For example, the PMDG settings for the 777 have a number of keyboard shortcuts setup by default that are contrary to what I have setup for my 737.
For example, if I have a keyboard shortcut setup for an external view, and that keyboard shortcut is now also applied to something within the 777, I’ll see some funky things! For me that meant that when I wanted to look at the pedestal view, it shutdown the port engine. Not a good thing!
Now, obviously you can’t setup your PMDG settings ahead of time, but you can make sure that your controls are calibrated, and that you’re setup with FSUIPC with all the controls mapped correctly.
FSUIPC essentially hijacks control over all things flight controls, as FSX is notoriously bad at handling flight controls. You then map everything out, make it smooth, and you’re off to the races.
A view very basic functions you’re going to need have setup are:
- Flaps (Retract and Extend)
- Gear (UP and DOWN)
- A/T Disconnect
- Roll, Pitch and Yaw
- Differential Braking
- Reverse Thrust
These, I have found, are the absolute essentials. The rest, more or less, can be controlled from the cockpit. You can assign keys to whatever you’d like, but these are essential. And one of the best ways to get them setup the correct way is through FSUIPC.
One of the first things I find myself doing, perhaps before even setting up my controls, is setting up my views in the cockpit. Because the simulations of today are all virtual cockpits (all completely 3D) I find that I need a way to move about that cockpit from the start. Otherwise, I’ll be trying to move around the cockpit all the time with a keyboard and mouse.
How it SHOULD be is you should have preset views, you have one key on the keyboard to press, and it’ll take you to that panel. For example, you’ll want separate views for the Main Captain’s View (where you’ll be flying), CDU and EICAS area, Overhead, MCP, Throttle Console, and Lower Console. You can assign other areas of course, but I have found these to be the most basic ways of moving around.
It’s also not a bad idea to add supplementary views like a very focused CDU view, a EICAS view, an oxygen panel view, a taxi view (looking up over the glareshield) and more.
All of these views can easily be managed with a program called EZCA. You may have seen in our videos where we’re able to move from point-to-point, to what is obviously a predefined location, in one click. Additionally, we can move around easily as well.
EZCA lets you setup different views, like those listed above, where you then call out that view with a key-press. It’s that simple. By then enabling PTP (point to point) for each camera, the camera will appear as though it’s moving from one location to the next, rather than just snapping to a new view.
You’ll see this in almost any AOA video, because it’s how we manage to stay on top of things in a busy, virtual cockpit.
Without this on the 777, it’d be impossible for us to manage a flight correctly, and therefore greatly decreases safety. An unsafe pilot is a dead pilot- or in the case of a simulator- a ‘reset’ pilot.
EZCA is a terrific way to add realism and make your virtual cockpit more manageable. For you to fly the PMDG 777, it’s essential.
Flight Sim Tweaks
This is potentially the area that could be the biggest time suck. If you’re not careful, you could find yourself tweaking like crazy around the time the 777 comes out. We all do it- we want better frames, better graphics, less blurries, less stutters.
This is a sickness as a flight sim community that must stop! We need to get our sims setup correctly, and then stop messing around with them. We need to spend more time flying and less time tweaking!
I’m fully aware there is a draw to tweaking, and it’s all part of the fun. Heck, I’ve had that giddy feeling before after spending 12 hours working on my FSX.cfg and getting a few more FPS.
But a release of a beautiful aircraft like the PMDG 777 isn’t the time to be messing around with tweaking!
Good news for you, the PMDG 777 is super easy on framerates comparative to other PMDG products. I would venture to say that it actually runs better than the 737. That’s not a knock to the 737- the visual detail and framerate balance is out of this world!
Regardless, you’re going to want a system that is setup and looking mighty fine for the big arrival. Therefore, you’re going to want to do some tweaking.
There are many resources out there, all of which I’ve used to one extent or another. Tweaking is a hot topic, and a topic that many get in heated discussions about.
To be 100% honest, I don’t have time to read through all the arguments about what method is better versus another. What I do know is that I’ve tried most of these tweaks, if not all of them, and I just want a setup that works.
That’s why I finally use the Kostas Tweaks as the Holy Grail of what I do. His information is solid, thorough, and unbiased. I also feel like I have some options based on my hardware setup.
That said, it does take some time, and is worth taking the time. That is why right now is precisely the right time to get things setup right on your simulator before you get the aircraft.
Outside of working with your simulator, the machine that is running FSX needs to be running top notch. So it’s your duty to go through your computer, clean out files, and make sure any unnecessary programs are removed. Here are just a few things you can consider doing:
- Defragment Your Harddrive (non-SSD)
- Run C-Cleaner
- Clean Out Your Trash
- Organize Your Desktop
- Uninstall Non-Essential Programs
- Update Drivers
Now for the last and most important item: making sure your life is ready to receive the 777. This means that you need to look out for your physical, emotional, and relationship needs.
Physically, you need to make sure you have plenty of rest. It’s likely you’re going to be glued to the screen all day, and up all night.
Having a water bottle close-by, and a good amount of snacks within reach, will ensure you don’t go hungry. Otherwise you’ll find yourself starving and thirsty after having spent 8 hours straight on the flight deck.
Additionally, you may want to consider buying adult diapers. This will mean that you won’t need to get up from your chair. Rather, you can just sit there… or maybe it’s a better idea to just install a toilet in your simulator office/room.
Emotionally, it may be a good idea to have a box of tissues nearby to wipe away the tears of joy. This will just be applicable to the 777. We don’t foresee you needing a box of tissues for your 737. It’s not likely you’ll think twice about ending that relationship.
Last, relationships. Now, this is more of a ‘realistic’ note. Perhaps you’re not going to be spending so much time with your spouse and kids. So, maybe get them a movie, get her roses, or some nice gesture ahead of time.
You may even be able to arrange for uninterrupted play, depending on how elaborate your efforts are. This way you can disappear and enjoy the aircraft.
Otherwise, make sure to give them warning you’re going to be playing around.
I’m probably not the one to give relationship advice, but honestly- all you’re going to want to do is fly this thing.
You can see there really is some prep work to do! Take two or three of the tips above, if not all, and get to work before you get the PMDG 777. It’ll make your initial experience that much more enjoyable and immersive.
We’re excited for you all to get the PMDG 777, and soon, our Training. We are planning on having some sort of ‘release party’ which we’ll make sure to let you know about. At that release party, we’ll be giving away prizes including AOA 777 T-shirts, and those prizes located at www.777Training.com.
Good luck with your preflight preparation!
Chris Palmer and the AOA 777 Crew
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