X-Plane is renowned as being a platform with a great amount of study-level aircraft worth drooling over. One of the developers credited for producing a couple of those is FlyJSim.
While their team is small, FJS carries a wealth of experience between them that allows them to create some magnificent simulations of some classic aircraft. You only need not look further than their 732 TwinJet v3, that was released at the start of 2018, to see how the development team is capable of some of the best aircraft simulations available to the home flight simmer.
With the refresh of their 727 Series, bringing it to version 3, FJS has once again shown they are the masters of their craft.
Included in the package are -100, -200 and -200F models that, in their design at least, have not changed since version 2 of the aircraft. However, their flight models have been updated to be compatible with X-Plane 11. The texturing, on the other hand, has been updated to higher resolutions, and the entire aircraft has been given the Physics-Based Rendering treatment (more commonly referred to as PBR).
The cockpit has an incredible presence that feels familiar for an aircraft of the era. While sitting in the left seat at night, the warm glow of the lights from the engineer’s station is apparent from behind you, casting a retro ambience over the pedestal and up onto the main instrument panel. Every switch and dial in the business end of the aircraft is modelled and functional, including the entire engineer’s station, overhead, instrument panel, pedestal, and the cockpit voice recorder event marker.
While this is a study-level aircraft with a focus on cockpit operations, most simmers have come to expect a passenger cabin with high-quality aircraft in 2018. Sadly, FJS has chosen to pass on modelling the cabin for reasons unknown. Those too young to have known the era of 727s scattered throughout our local airports will, sadly, have to continue waiting to find out what it may have been like to sit in the rear of this bird as the three engines scream from all around you, lifting the plane into the sky. I remain hopeful that FJS will one day come around on the idea of adding this feature.
The small silver lining to this, though, comes in the form of the aft stairs which have been modelled. While not documented, they can be operated with the Shift + 1 key combo. It’s the little things, right?
One of the added features in version 3 is the inclusion of FMOD sounds. For the uninitiated, FMOD is a 3D sound engine that allows the sound experience to change as you move around the inside of the aircraft, and as you pan around the outside.
In this case, the sounds are quite good. While I’m a little too young myself to have ever been near or in a 727, the sounds are what I would have expected to hear being emitted by one of these dinosaurs as they tear a T-tail shaped hole in the sky. The only criticism that I have is they feel a little flat and lacking in bass.
A feature that has been carried over from FlyJSim’s highly acclaimed 732 TwinJet is the enhanced replay system. This is a system that records datarefs on top of X-Plane’s inbuilt replay system, enabling a higher level of detail when you go back to watch your bread being buttered (or gear collapsing from a slammer). What this means is that the replay will reflect very closely to what actually happened in real time, right down to cockpit gauges and displays being correct to the situation. It might be a small detail, but it makes all the difference for those who enjoy recording or photographing their arrivals and departures.
FlyJSim has always produced feature-filled aircraft, and version 3 of the 727 is no different at all.
In order to allow just about anyone to jump into this aircraft and experience the full potential, FJS has included a number of navigation options with the package.
The first option is to fly VOR-to-VOR using the NAV radios; it’s likely the easiest, and most period-correct method of flying the aircraft, although it does mean you’re constantly monitoring your flight to ensure you’re switching frequencies at the right time.
The next option requires the purchase of the CIVA INS add-on from X-Plane.org. The Inertial Navigation System works similar to a modern-day FMC but without the automated waypoint loading from a flight plan. Pilots need to punch in each waypoint coordinates as they’re required – this will obviously create a high workload for the pilot, especially without a co-pilot and flight engineer to share the load with.
Finally, for the followers of the magenta line, while you won’t have said line to follow, you do have the option of using the X-Plane 11 default FMS, making life a lot easier for newer pilots and those unfamiliar with older navigation techniques.
Another feature to help newcomers to the retro jet are the built-in checklists. These checklists are a step-by-step guide to going from a cold-and-dark state, right through to the arrival at the gate. Each checklist gives a brief on what state systems should be set to, and when to be performing the described actions.
While it’s a fantastic aid for anyone unfamiliar with the jet, something that all 727 newbie pilots would appreciate further, would be the ability to click a checklist item and have your view taken to the general area on where to find the switch or knob related to that action. In a cockpit of so many adjustable controls, it’s easy to get lost and go “I saw that just a minute ago… where was it?”.
Calculating V-speeds and other take-off and landing data can be difficult in old birds like this where no FMS is present to tell you things like your ZFW, GWT, and so forth. To aid in this, FJS has included pop-out V-speed cards to do all the hard numbers for you. Once calculated, the “Set Bugs” button will instantly set your speed bugs on the gauge. Landing is much the same process, just with a lot fewer numbers on the page – set the bugs again here to know your landing VRef.
Also popping out from the left side-of-screen menu is a load manager. Entering the desired loads here will give a vast array of data relevant to the trip ahead. If you’re the type of person who prefers to forego the above speed cards, this is where you’ll find all the necessary information to do those calculations yourself.
The options pop-out does what the name suggests, giving users the choice of clock time (local or zulu), co-pilot callouts, visible/invisible yokes, weight units, dirty or clean cockpit windows, TCAS VSI, GPU cart connected/disconnected, air cart connected/disconnected, choice of navigation system, and sound volumes. A nice little touch to this, though, is the ability to enable or disable the inbuilt load manager – by disabling this, users are able to fly the aircraft while connected to FSEconomy so that the tracking app can set the aircraft loads.
The hardcore simmers (who likely will give the speed cards a miss) will enjoy the persistent maintenance system built into the aircraft. Turning this system on will enable failures on the aircraft, and one wrong move could see your entire flight ruined.
For those unfamiliar, persistent maintenance is a rolling mechanical log, keeping track of flight hours to the airframe and all three engines, while also tracking the running time on the APU. Like in the real world, the condition of these items will depend on how well they’re treated and will require servicing over time. If you’re like me though, you’ll switch this on to go for your first flight only to end up diverting and having a maintenance item logged requiring the replacement of engine 2. Oops!
Going that extra step further too, and as if to mix the present day with retro technology, FJS has added virtual reality compatibility in version 3. Sadly, without adequate hardware, I was unable to test this functionality – my Oculus DK2 isn’t the greatest for flight sim VR without being able to use Oculus Touch controllers. However, I can only imagine it to be an incredibly immersive experience for those who are lucky enough to be able to experience it.
In all my time as an X-Plane user, I don’t think I’ve once heard anyone say a bad thing about the performance of a FlyJSim product. With the release of the 727 v3, I wouldn’t expect to start hearing anyone say such things either.
The 727, with all the high-resolution textures, PBR, gorgeous night lighting, and everything else that comes with a beautiful product in 2018, shows no evidence of being a resource intensive aircraft. Of course, there is the fact to keep in mind that the 727 is pretty simple as far as systems go when comparing to something more modern such as a 767 or A330. Still, there’s a fair amount of logic involved when you have an aircraft with an engineers station and that needs to be considered when looking at just how well this aircraft performs.
To put it into numbers, in the middle of the day with AI/VATSIM traffic around at YSSY, on the ground with the Sydney city skyline in the background behind the airport terminal in front of me, my frames weren’t dropping below 50fps. In the air, this increases and we’re sitting on a constant 70. Your mileage may vary, as with anything, and will be totally dependant on your system’s capability to run X-Plane with your chosen settings. Mine are medium-to-high on 2018 hardware.
Despite having put in a large amount of work to this new version, FlyJSim has left the purchase price untouched at $59.95. As far as add-on aircraft pricing goes, this is very much the middle of the road for a plane, especially of this quality. We’ve seen plenty of aircraft in recent time with price tags pushing the $100 mark, and that’s just in X-Plane – let’s not forget our friends on the Prepar3D platform that are expected to fork out $140 for an A320. To only have the need to spend under $60 here on a classic aircraft with such character, packed to the brim with study-level realism, all while looking so incredibly gorgeous is a bargain in anyone’s books.
The way I look at it though, FlyJSim could easily tag another $20 onto the asking price for this aircraft, and they’d still be able to sell a ton of planes. I believe the reason they keep the price low, though, is because they need to give it the ‘bargain appeal’ to lure in those who are more comfortable in the 737 or A320. This is an aircraft that you won’t be flying every day of the week, and so it needs to be priced accordingly. In doing this, FJS has hit the nail on the head.
For those upgrading to version 3 from the older version 2, you’re entitled to a 50% discount on the purchase. $30 (give or take) is a small amount of money to bring an aircraft into 2018 that you undoubtedly already adore, and the upgrades and additions to the 727 Series will make this feel like a brand new aircraft that you’ve never flown before, meaning that the aircraft will hold that novelty value for quite some time.
The FlyJSim team had set the bar pretty high for themselves when it came to the 727 Series – the widely acclaimed 732 TwinJet had made sure of that. A talented and dedicated team was all it took to take that bar and move it higher once more. Sure, there are areas where things may have been done a little better, but in the pursuit of creating a study-level, classic airliner, these can be forgiven.
The aircraft is complex, and FJS has successfully conveyed the reason why these old girls needed a 3-man crew back in the day. You’re constantly working to make sure things are going smoothly, and while there’s rarely a moment when you can sit back and admire this beautiful old machine, when you do get that chance it means that you appreciate it just that little bit more.
The simulation is packed with features that simulate the aircraft well, while also providing tools that make it easier for casual simmers to jump in, spend some time learning the aircraft, before going flying. Anyone can fly this plane with a little bit of patience – I doubt we can say the same for the real aircraft.
Visually, the plane has been bought into 2018 through the use of high-resolution textures, PBR and X-Plane 11’s praised night-lighting. There’s not a corner of the aircraft that doesn’t look stunning in any light.
FMOD has helped the aircraft sound as amazing as it looks, with immersive sound from all angles. To experience this plane to the fullest, speakers set to ‘11’ are necessary.
For a plane that does things well in nearly every aspect, FlyJSim doesn’t ask a great deal of money for the privilege of experiencing this fantastic piece of work from them. $60 is a small amount of money by today’s standard of aircraft add-on pricing, and users upgrading from version 2 will jump at the opportunity to upgrade for only $30.
Overall, FlyJSim continues to deliver products that are used as examples of what makes X-Plane so great, and for anyone just starting out in X-Plane, I’d highly recommend picking this one up from the X-Plane.org store.