The PMDG 777 is on the best aircraft available for flightsim. Without a doubt, it’s got excellent features, a stellar virtual cockpit and it performs extremely well. One of the best features of it is how easy it is to get to grips with. You can be on the runway one minute and cruising at FL350 before you know it. It’s a great aircraft for those long hauls, and airlines even use them for short hops. Whilst this is great, the depth that PMDG have covered is often overlooked. And it’s not a surprise when the manual is as large as it is (not the introduction manual, the FCOM itself). Quite simply, as a study level sim, this documentation will tell you everything you need to know, however, as everyone learns at different paces in a variety of ways, this is where Airline2Sim steps in. This review will be a little different as instead of reviewing something designed to be used in the sim, this has been designed to used alongside as a tool to not only get to grips with the PMDG 777, but to master it.
Some of you may know Airline2Sim from their brilliant Dash 8 Q400 Package programs. Both of them covered absolutely everything you needed to know about the excellent plane by Majestic. It was delivered in a way unique to the flightsim community and put you in the shoes of a real pilot taking you through various situations to really test your skills. The PMDG 777 Cadet Program is the same. Throughout the 20+ hours of content over 24 videos, you’ll shown challenging approaches, short hops, night flying and even dealing with a rejected take off. Each scenario you’re put in is different, and you’ll exploring the world as you go. This is important as it keeps the content varied and allows simmers from all around the world to have their own territory covered.
Each episode is narrated by Ben. Throughout your journey from cadet to full-fledged pilot, Ben plays the role of you – the simmer. As I watched, I found myself wondering the reason why the plane did something or why that was a specific procedure. The problem of course with pre-recorded video is that you can’t ask those questions. However, it felt like Ben was right there in the room with me as he was asking those questions on my behalf. It sounds odd, but then I realised: this is the point. This is why Ben is there – to be you; the viewer. His inquisitive nature and passion for learning is a perfect fit for this type of production. Instead of a single person talk you through the procedures, Ben is there to put the speed brakes on and ensure that not only you know WHAT is happening, but also asking the questions so you understand WHY it is the way it is. Any trainer will tell you the why is just as important as ‘the what’ for people to fully understand and comprehend what is going on.
Whilst you’re travelling the world, Ben won’t be your only companion as you’ll be very quickly introduced to Myron – a long time and experienced Captain for a large US carrier. Almost immediately, you’re given an introduction to him, his past experience and even his favourite bar in Hawaii. Right from the get-go, you feel very comfortable listening to him talk to you about his past and what you can expect from the next 20 or so hours with him. He certainly knows his stuff and the level of detail he goes into is just right throughout. A captain with this much familiarity of the industry, the aircraft and the skies in general is bound to be able to talk for days and days about a singular subject. Luckily for us, he is very concise and not afraid to tell Ben off when he does something wrong. This has a great impact on the viewer as you know this is the real deal. Nothing here has been compromised to make it “easy” for anyone. This whole package is about learning and if a mistake has been made, Myron does a great job at ensuring the right information is given and tips on how to avoid it next time.
There’s always going to a challenge when trying to teach someone how to operate an airline in a sim environment. That challenge is, in my opinion, flexibility. Why? Well, all airlines across the world conform to their own Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Of course, there are similar SOPs through the industry as they’re set by Boeing and other Governing bodies, however, in a sim environment; you can literally do whatever you want. What the Airline2Sim Boeing 777 Cadet programme does is take you through a ‘virtual’ airline SOP, which merges many of the experiences Myron uses at his airline. So if you think you know something about it, or hope to learn based on your own airline’s SOP, then you will need to be flexible here. Typically, a lot of the flows and checklists are pretty standardised and Myron / Ben do a good job at teaching you various ways. For example, when selecting flaps during the approach, some airlines select flaps when you pass the bug, whilst others do it within 20knts of the bug. Neither is ‘wrong’ per se, but different. It’s interesting and it will come down to your own flying style.
Something that everyone will appreciate and recognise throughout the course is just how well Ben and Myron get along. The relationship between the two not only allows the conversation to flow freely, but also allows you to feel very much part of the banter. Their bond really helps with the learning too. No question is a silly one and everything is explained in a professional, yet light hearted manner. It is this balance that makes listening to them so refreshing and easy to do. The audio quality for both is great, being clear and edited well. Not surprising considering Ben’s work experience as a radio presenter. Occasionally, I did find myself reaching for the volume knob as the levels were different between cuts and videos. Not exactly a big deal – just something to consider going forward.
As for the video content itself, there’s an awful lot to go through. It’s almost its own Netflix series where you may binge episode after episode. On the other hand, it’s broken down in manageable chunks to better suit those with shorter attention spans. Whichever style of learning suits you better, the video player allows you to watching in full 1080p HD, or if you’re on the move often, you can download each episode in a variety of qualities suiting your needs. Watching on a 7inch tablet for the majority of me time, I assure you even the “Mobile Quality” is suitable for most devices.
So what’s in the content? Well let me give you a little rundown:
Episode #1 – Meet Myron
The opening episode is your introduction to the training package and Myron. As explained above, you’ll find out plenty about your host during this episode video. Ben put together some lovely clips of his previous experience as well, which helps to further highlight Myron’s experience.
Episode #2 – Simulator Set-up
I’ll be honest, this isn’t an episode that’s required watching. For those that want an effective and good-looking Sim, this is a great video. For myself, I’m pretty happy with the settings I use and as a result, I skipped parts to see what else was here. But this is fine, you won’t miss any sexy 777 footage. There’s also no Myron here either. Ben does a good job holding it, I would just like to see what the real-life pilot thinks of the sim in the future.
Episode #3 – Planning and Weather
A detailed look into how to plan a Triple 7 flight as well as planning for weather. There’s a lot of detail here, as well as some stuff you probably already know. Worth watching for some tips you may learn in dispatching future flight plans.
Episode #4 – Exterior Walkaround
Your introduction to the 777-200LR. You’ll explore the exterior of the 777 with Myron and Ben who gives some really deep insight into what to look out for and the flows a real captain will do during the walkaround.
Episodes #5 – #7 – Flight Deck Tour
This section is so big it is spread over 3 manageable episodes covering literally everything in the flight deck. Again, if you’re somewhat familiar with the aircraft some bits will feel a bit repetitive. Ben does a great job at prying Myron for more detail, especially when it comes to hydraulics and bleed air!
Episodes #8 – 11 – Training Flight
No A-B flying, but instead plenty of discussion on all the protective systems of the aircraft, as well as everything between push-back to on-chocks. Some great production here as well with some wonderful shots and great edits to keep you interested throughout. There is a LOT of content here with many things to learn.
Episodes #12 & 13 – Honolulu to Kahului
An extremely short flight for the 777 means you’ll be seeing lots happen in a relatively short period of time. I loved the destination with these videos are there’s plenty of things to consider.
Episode #14 – Kahului – Honolulu
The reverse of the route above but in one extended video. This one flows better for me as you see everything happen in more real time than the last 2 episodes. Some great learnings from Ben too!
Episode #15 – San Diego RNAV Approach
Probably one of my favourites due to the airport itself. You start mid-flight and learn all about the RNAV approach into San Diego on one of the steepest glideslopes around for the 777.
Episode #16 – San Francisco RWY 28R Visual
There’s more than meets the eye with the approach into San Francisco and you’ll learn plenty about visual approaches along the way.
Episode #17 – Stormy Hong Kong Departure
This is an exciting episode due to the horrendous weather you’ll experience. Had me on the edge of my seat several times with the crazy stuff going on!
Episode #18 – Munich CATIII Autoland
With extremely low-vis, Myron does a really impressive job teaching you about autoland. Not only how to do it, but best practice when doing it.
Episode #19 – Munich CATIII Go Around
A pretty tense episode as you’ll use the same bad weather from before, but this time, you won’t be touching down. Even though you now you’re going to go-around…you’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat. Some really good tips in this one as well.
Episode #20 – Doha Noise Abatement Departure
Short but sweet video set in Doha. Somewhat interesting information about noise abatement to enjoy in this video.
Episode #21 – Dulles Runway 30 Circle to Land
Probably the most interesting video as it takes away some of the automation of flying the 777. You’re going to learn how to do a circling approach in the beast and it gets pretty busy. I felt this episode taught me the most about the plane and how to handle it better.
Episode #22 – Doah Rejected Takeoff
Back to Doha for the last proper episode and this time we learn a little about emergency procedures when you have to do a rejected take off. Excited stuff and a great way to finish your time in the 777 cockpit.
Episode #23 & 24 – PMDG 777 Options Part 1 and 2
Truth be told, I skipped a fair portion of these episodes as it related mostly to the simulator itself. (including FSX, which I don’t use). The production is as good as ever, just the content didn’t hold my interest. Sorry Ben. Useful for those who want to improve their set-up!
Episode 25 – Debrief and 777 Cadet Teaser
Not yet available. But promises to debrief what happened and a teaser for Cadet+
Every episode just oozes in quality. The video production is excellent and exceeds any other tutorials you’ll find. The sim runs really smoothly with a good smooth frame rate throughout. It’s weird to think that this is important, but it helps to immerse you in the training environment.
As part of that environment, there’s plenty of ccue-cards to provide further information that may have been missed or simply displayed as an FYI to the viewer. Often referred to as “Myron’s tips”, they’re useful and don’t distract from what’s going on. Some of them are to provide further insight into the ‘why’ and others are simply humorous mistakes from “Ben’s fat finger”. All of them help to provide a good learning experience throughout allow you to really make sure you get the best from the training package.
Outside of these tips, Airline2Sim use plenty of other tools to help you visualise what’s going on. In one of the opening episodes, you’ll be treated to some in-depth information on how the engine works. To help understand this fully, a great visual appears on screen of the innards of the engine itself and how it works. Further visual aids include charts on an Air America iPad (complete with wear and tear), where an aircraft icon will make sense of everything being explained. Simple, yet very effective.
Another element to the training which is useful is “Training Pauses”. When things get busy in the cockpit, the video environment gives the chance to simply pause everything that’s going on and review what’s happening and what needs to be done next. It gives everyone, including you as the viewer, chance to breath and take in what’s going on. Additionally, if you’re after some real-time visual ccues pointing to the part of the aircraft we’re talking about, an overlay is added to focus your attention. Sometimes I found myself hunting the screen for the orange square, so maybe some screen fading would help to really ensure the focus was given. Occasionally, you’ll get the chance to have a “training review” with feedback from Myron detailing what could be done differently next time. He puts it really well, when he tells you that no flight is ever perfect, and this tool does a great job at not being afraid of getting it wrong. Instead it simply challenges you to think differently for next time.
The subject of value is always a difficult one, as it really is independent based on usage and experience. As the PMDG 777 Cadet Progam is a tool to help teach you to use a product, it will come down to how much you want to learn and the understanding you currently have. I would say I have a good understanding of some of the laws associated and I can certainly program the FMS pretty easily. This product was more about learning the quirks of the 777 – which is does well. On the other hand, there are people out there who wouldn’t know the first thing about flying this plane – which again, it covers. So yes, the videos are well suited to just about anyone. I found myself fast forwarding some videos as it covered ground that I thought I knew. You have to be careful, because yes, you may know how you program information in, but is it best practice? Or maybe there’s little tips to make you more efficient or know what’s going on and why it’s happening. All of this further cements in my mind the product is truly value for money for just about anyone.
Your enjoyment from Airline2Sim’s PMDG 777 Cadet Program is certainly guaranteed. There’s a great connection between the two guys and their passion for the 777 is unquestionable. Each episode is full of information and snippets of real-world quirks and will leave you more knowledgeable than ever before. In fact, you’ll probably say to yourself “I knew that” more often than not, which only helps to reaffirm your ability to pilot the stunning aircraft.