The 747 Classic is one of those aircraft that many simmers have been longing for in recent years, but has seemingly gone ignored by some of the bigger names in the aircraft development community. That is, of course, until back in June of 2018, when Just Flight announced they had taken up the mantle to bring a high-quality rendition of this aircraft to our sims. This announcement was met with much excitement and yet, left the community wanting more.
Thanks to the extremely generous folks over at Just Flight, I’m proud to bring you new and exclusive previews on the upcoming 747, as well as a ton of new information on the project sourced from an interview with Just Flight’s own Martyn Northall!
The interview with Martyn touches on nearly everything you could want to know about the upcoming 747 Classic, from systems depth, to a potential virtual flight engineer, as well as the variants that Just Flight will be creating. Be sure to stay tuned in the coming days and weeks for some new information on the 747 Classic!
It should be noted that any previws below are WIP and that the developers are aware of some of the issues raised.
Here’s the full interview with Martyn:
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Our first question is pretty simple, but probably requires a longer answer. Why? Why did you decide to bring the 747 Classic series to the simulator instead of other vintage airlines?
We are always on the look out for possible future aircraft that have either yet to be created for FSX/P3D, have been created but not to a complex standard or are from many years ago.
The 747 Classic was one of the favourites on our list (I have a model of a British Caledonian 747 Classic in my office) and to be honest we were quite surprised that one wasn’t already available. It’s undoubtedly an iconic aircraft but obviously a very complex type, requiring a significant investment of time and cost.
We published the CLS 747-200/300 quite a few years ago and it was a very popular product. We originally envisaged reusing some of the assets from that product but ultimately decided that a ‘clean-sheet design’ was the best option for achieving the standard that we wanted.
I believe we’ve got a strong reputation for classic British aircraft, but we’re keen not to get stuck in any one ‘genre’ and the 747 Classic seemed like a logical step towards larger and more complex aircraft.
Is this an internal development? How many people are working on the project? What experiences have they had on aircraft development?
Yes, this is an in-house product, so the development is being led by the Just Flight development team. That team consists of predominately full-time employees but also external partners, and part-time partners who work on our aircraft alongside their day jobs. It’s a diverse team!
There have been at least ten people working directly on the development of the 747, albeit not necessarily all at the same time as the project progresses through several stages (modelling, coding etc.). In addition to the development team there are probably another five people contributing to manuals, marketing and other non-development elements, and then a further 20+ testers.
The past experience of our in-house team is quite well known (https://www.justflight.com/category/developed-in-house) but we’ve also brought in new expertise from developers behind some of the popular study-level airliners that have been released for FSX/P3D in recent years.
I think it’s fair to say that your internal team has spent a lot of time on creating high quality GA aircraft as of late – why the change now to something much bigger and much more complex?
We’ve always strived for variety in what we develop to keep things fresh, for the sake of our own sanity as well as attempting to cater to the wide-ranging tastes of our customers. Since 2013 we have developed everything from a PA28 and C152 to a Canberra PR9 and Tornado, and a L-1011 Tristar.
We’ve released quite a few GA aircraft in recent years but that is as much a result of the shorter development times for aircraft of that scale than a deliberate focus on that one genre. Whilst continuing to develop GA aircraft for FSX, P3D, X-Plane 11 and Aerofly FS 2, the next couple of years will see the development of several airliners. The VC10, 747, and 146 are already public knowledge but we have at least two more in the early stages of development.
We are continuing to invest in the expansion of our development team and that has brought in not only additional capacity for a greater number of product releases each year but also a wealth of experience with complex aircraft, and our goal is to develop complex airliners alongside our existing GA and military product range to offer the best possible variety to our customers.
In terms of system depth and usability, how detailed are you going to make the 747 Classic? Modelled systems, failures, etc?
As with previous aircraft such as the Tornado GR1 and Vulcan, our focus is on providing highly functional and realistic representations of the real aircraft, including all the core systems – electrical, fuel, hydraulic etc. Those systems will very closely match the real aircraft based on our studies of a vast collection of reference material and the involvement of air and groundcrew with real-world 747 Classic experience.
The 747 will bypass some of the FSX/P3D limitations by running systems ‘externally’ to the simulator, such as engine parameters and fuel flow. We’ve also been developing a new INS unit for a while now and that will be included for authentic navigation.
Failures will be simulated due to the way the systems are programmed, for example a failure of a specific transformer-rectifier or AC bus in the electrical system would result in the correct subsequent failures and switching logic, but we’re not aiming for a Level-D simulator.
Our business model is obviously quite different to those of developers such as PMDG and FS Labs. 747 Classic hasn’t been our sole focus for multiple years with a corresponding £120 price-tag, so decisions had to be made about what features, including failures, were worthwhile for routine flights.
One of strengths as a developer is that we listen and react to, and actively encourage, feedback and suggestions from our customers, so we will continue to build on the complexity and functionality of our aircraft in response to that.
Will you be making use of the latest technology such as PBR texturing or windshield effects?
We are continuing to explore the technical possibilities that are emerging as a result of new features in Prepar3D such as PBR materials and windshield effects. Our aim is to include as many of these features as possible and we expect that PBR materials will become standard on all our future aircraft including 747 Classic, just as they already are on our X-Plane 11 aircraft.
As demonstrated by some of the recent announcements from other FSX/P3D developers, continuing to develop for FSX alongside P3D v4 creates quite a lot of extra work and in some cases constrains our ability to add new P3D-specific functionality, but we are working hard to address that (and our intention is to continue supporting FSX).
The 747 Classics was a very hands-on aircraft, requiring 3 people to operate it. Are you offering some kind of virtual flight engineer to take some of the load off the user?
This is an area that we will provide more details on in future project updates as it is dependent on many other areas of the systems programming, but as with our past aircraft one of our key goals is to develop an aircraft with excellent usability regardless of your skill-level. The 747 Classic has a formidable Flight Engineer’s panel with controls for many critical systems, so we will cater for the single-pilot aspect of operating aircraft within a simulation environment, including automation where appropriate.
You have so far announced the 747-100, 747-200/F, what are the chances we’ll see other variants of the aircraft, such as the SP, SOFIA and -300, depending on how it is received by the community?
Following on from the -100, -200 and -200F, we are developing the -300, SP, VC-25 (‘Air Force One’) and E-4B (‘Advanced Airborne Command Post’) variants. This was in direct response to feedback from the community as there was plenty of interest in those variants.
They are all derivatives of the -200 and will likely share common virtual cockpits and systems rather than each being a unique product, so will form an expansion pack for 747 Classic owners. We’ll bring you more details on those following the release of the base pack.
There are other variants and hundreds of livery options, so much like with our PA28s, we are looking at building on the release of 747 Classic to create a series of 747 products.
Do you, or any of the development team, have any stories about the 747 Classis series you’d like to share? Either from real life past adventures or during development.
A key requirement for any in-house aircraft project is to get access to the real-world aircraft. In the case of the 747 Classic, we visited an aircraft at Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome to take hundreds of photos of every part of the exterior and interior.
It was a great experience for an aviation enthusiast – we were dropped off beside the aircraft, given a torch and instructed to access the interior by climbing into the avionics bay near the nose-gear and out through a hatch in the floor of the first-class cabin.
Walking through the dark, empty interior of a 747 makes you truly appreciate the scale of the aircraft. We had the opportunity to explore the entire aircraft, looking in all the compartments such as the crew-rest areas that you typically wouldn’t get access to.
There are several 747 Classics at Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome and one of them is stripped bare and is occasionally used for Christmas work parties!
Anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for the continued support from the community, including FS Elite and all your readers who we regularly chat with in the comments sections.
Just Flight is undergoing an exciting period of growth as we continue to evolve from being a traditional publisher and webstore to one of the largest developers in the industry. Last year was a record one for us as we released 11 of our own products, and we’ve been really pleased to see all the great feedback.
The coming year will see the release of a wide variety of airliners, GA and military aircraft, as well as scenery and utilities for FSX, P3D, X-Plane 11 and Aerofly FS2, so there’s plenty of work to keep our development team busy!