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The Queen Of The Skies add-on is undoubtably the leader in the field of quality add-ons for Microsoft Flight Simulator due to the pure level of depth that the simulator has. Many of the cheaper competitors seem to focus more on having many liveries rather than the more subtle issues that make for a more rewarding flight experience. One such example is the amount of detail that has been maticulously reconstructed in the virtual cockpit.
The virtual cockpit:
PMDG have adopted the approach of going for a more realistic look to the flight deck of the 747-400 rather than giving the impression of a brand new aircraft. This is a fantastic eye for detail from the developers at PMDG as they have oviously realised that some of the airline liveries that are available are for companies that do not operate these days, TWA being an example. The flight management system (FMC) has been very well developed although it can prove disorientation at first because it is very different to the traditional Airbus version. Where the autopilot is concerned it is correctly replicated and features everything that is requires including both the Lnav and Vnav functions.
The pack itself comes with only the Boeing in house colors on it, all others must be downloaded from the PGDG website where a great selection of commercial and cargo liveries can be downloaded at no extra cost. The British Airways liveries are as well represented as ever but my personal favourite is the Air India replica which features unparalleled detail on the windows and on the tail. The downloads do take time although it does have its advantages because you do not get many airlines that you do no want.
Beginners should avoid this and begin with something a little les challenging, on the other hand for those with a good prior knowledge of how an aircraft operates it provides a stimulating and enthusing prospect. The hardest part is not the actual flying itself, it is all of the pre-flight management and programming that simply has to be done. It is worth the effort when you see the awesome aircraft lift off from the ground with ease as you power to your destination!
There was a lot of hype about this add on for FSX and I usually never believe the hype until I see it for myself and 9 time out of ten, it doesn't live up to the hype.
The PMDG 747-400 was different it lived up to the hype and more. It's important that these types of things are made real and PMDG did a great job with realism.
The visual presentation is stunning when the flaps are deployed you can see every control unit on the wing moving. When speed brakes are deployed you can see a line off hydraulic pipes underneath.
The landing gear is details down to the steering bypass pin that is inserted at the gate. The texture of the aircraft skin itself is very special and does look just like aluminium panels.
Stepping into the cockpit the same level of detail applies every switch and gauge is operational from the 3D or 2D cockpit views. I have been inside a 747-400 cockpit and can say that PMDG have got it spot on even down to the cup holders near the window.
I comes with a very extensive tutorial and checklists which are in PDF format again these near replicate the actual aircraft.
Ease of use:
This add on is defiantly not for people that want to climb in a jumps and get it up to 30,000 feet in a couple of minutes. This won't allow you to do that as each system and setting must all be accurately set before departure. For your hardcore simmer (like me) this is what we have been waiting for. The engine start procedure alone is modelled with a very high level or realism.
Ok I know people will think I'm sad for this but I don't care I love aviation and spend a lot of time on it.
I have a DVD from ITVV which is in the cockpit of a 747-400 from London to San Francisco. So I thought to myself what better way to test this out than to recreate this on FSX same Fuel loads same weather let's see how real it is.
I was astonished at just how Close to the actual thing it performed when I landed the fuel difference was 0.7 less than the crew on the DVD had when they landed. The PMDG 747-400 prompted me to switch the fuel system from tank to engine at the exact same point as in the DVD. I've never had an expansion for any flight sim where I can say it's perfect but this it really is.
* Flight Performance Model - Developed from scratch by our own aeronautics professional, the flight characteristics operate within a narrow margin of operator's specifications
* Customizable Options - Change units, flight director styles, IRS alignment times, engine variants and more
* Professional Features - Complete IRS system, Autopilot includes VNAV, LNAV, FL CHG and is capable of performing full autoland in the strongest of crosswinds
* New Night Lighting Technique - At night, this airliner cockpit will illuminate in all its glory, with three different intensities and complete standardization between the virtual cockpit and 2D panel night appearance
* Panel State Loading - From cold and dark to cruising level, the airplane can be loaded to be configured in different setups
* Flight Management Computer (FMC) - Interactive FMC operating to real world standards with highly accurate fuel/distance/time predictions - Functionality includes: SID/STAR Procedures / Two Independent FMCs Operative / IRS Position Interaction / Accurate Cost Index Functionality
I could actually copy exactly what they did on the DVD and fly this with no trouble. The detail is mind blowing even down to the engine fans wind milling at the gate.
The manual is about 400 pages and makes for very interesting reading. As I Said before though you do have to really be an aviation petrol head to get the most out of this.
The only thing that does concern me about a product that is so accurate is with the world we live in today, anybody will be able to programme an FMC of a jumbo jet to make it go exactly where they want it to.