I’m proud to say iFly the new B737NG
When I began flying computer sims back in the early to mid-80’s all I really could do was get the Cessna off the ground at Meig’s Field in Chicago. If I was lucky I could return to Meig’s field and land within a 5 mile radius of the airport. Most times I ended up in Lake Michigan. As time went by and with the help of my Uncle who once had his PPL, I was able to narrow it down from a 5 mile radius to a 4, then a 3, then a 2 and before I knew it I could depart Meig’s fly around for a while and return and land….YES on the runway.
As the flight simulation software evolved into what it is today, I’ve slowly been trying to learn more technique and follow procedure more accurately. While I have no aspiration to become a pilot in the real world, I do continually push myself to be a better pilot in the virtual world. After a stressful day in the office….this is my stress relief. Of course, I’ve had more stressful days flying my computer sim….but that is a different story and I know you understand what I’m saying.
My friend Al (who is a flight sim blogger and inspired me to start by blog) will often ask me “What MD-80 are you flying?” By the way, check out his blog here. Anyway, I will usually answer…Oh that is a freeware model I found somewhere. With exception to some GA aircraft I own from Carenado, all the heavy iron I fly is freeware. Oh wait….I do own a PMDG 747 but she never leaves the hangar, but more about that later.
Back in around late 2001 – 2002 timeframe I heard about a company called GoFlight. I’ve talked about GoFlight before. They make various hardware modules for those wanting to build a home cockpit. My goal when I began purchasing these hardware modules was to make every attempt to avoid having to use the mouse and keyboard in flight.
The modules aren’t cheap in price, but as I’ve said before…all hobbies have a cost and I even blogged about that here and I simply do not mind paying for quality and quality is what you get with the GoFlight gear. Anyway, I began buying a few here and a few there. At the time I sort of mothballed my equipment and took about 5 years off, I had about $1000 invested in GoFlight hardware and only needed to use mouse and keyboard about 60% of the time. I had moved the needle, but I needed to move it more.
The Fall of 2010 came around and the Flight Sim bug bit me again. I pulled out all my gear (I also have the CH Yoke and Peds) and I built a new PC worthy of running FSX with sliders all the way to the right. I plugged all my GF gear in and started flying.
Sometime between the time I semi-retired from the hobby and the five long years it took me to get back into it, I forgot (perhaps never knew) that a lot of the payware companies don’t factor into their aircraft programming design to incorporate external hardware like that of the GoFlight gear. The difficulty comes in around how a payware company designs the auto-pilot functionality. If they get away from the Microsoft default key assignments then most likely the add-on payware aircraft won’t work with the GoFlight MCP. This is what happened and why I own a PMDG 747 FSX model that never leaves the hangar.
Now let me briefly explain what happened. I am a sucker for eye candy (have been since I was a teenager) and I fell in love with how the PMDG 747 looked and all the features. I spent about 2.5 minutes researching and found a thread talking about a software patch available from PMDG (for free) which would allow the PMDG to work with the GoFlight MCP. Credit card in hand….BOOM…there she was…the Queen of the Skies. But that excitement was short lived with the GF-MCP wouldn’t work. I calmly researched and after about 10 minutes or so of digging around I found another thread stating that PMDG was no longer offering that patch. However, I could purchase it, but it only worked with the GF-MCP Pro. I had the GF-MCP Advanced.
This experience left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. It would cost me several hundred dollars to get to the point where I could fly the PMDG 747 without having to use mouse for MCP functions. I took a stand and said I wasn’t going there. I would not fly an aircraft and not be able to use the hardware that saved me 40% of the keyboard and mouse interactions. I remembered freeware/shareware companies like POSKY who make some nice looking aircraft and they all work with my setup. So that is what I’ve been flying.
A few days ago I began reading about a new payware aircraft that was soon to be released. It was the Boeing 737NG and everyone was talking about it. Yes, everyone is also talking about PMDG’s soon to be released product….but this company beat them to it. iFly just released their Boeing 737NG for FSX and let me tell you she is as beautiful as she is functional. When I saw the images some of my FS friends had captured and watching the videos I forgot about my past experiences with PMDG for about 2 minutes.
But like a giant hand coming from no where, I was slapped back into reality. This probably won’t work for me. Oh…by the way, in the past 2-3 weeks I’ve spent another $1000 in GoFlight gear. The needle has been moved even further. I only use the mouse and keyboard about 25-30% of the time. So there was no way I was going to just give my hard earned money away so this 737 can sit next to the 747 and collect dust.
I quickly started researching but I couldn’t read everything in their forums about add-on hardware functionality. Thankfully my virtual airline CEO purchased the 737NG earlier that day and was setup with forum access. I asked him to look through the forums to see if there was any mention of GoFlight compatibility. Bada-Bing-Bada-Boom he sent me a message through our AvA forums saying to get on TeamSpeak. A very long story short, he told me there was support for it and I nearly started a fire with the friction created by taking my credit card from my wallet so fast.
I installed and set her up for a quick flight and took her for a lap around KDFW. She handled beautifully and just launched off of runway 35C like being launched from an aircraft carrier catapult. I was flying her in her base iFly livery colors. I couldn’t sleep last night with the excitement of flying her again today.
So I got up and installed an Alaska Airlines paint on her (American Airlines is not available yet) and am flying an AA Codeshare from KDFW to KSEA then on up to PANC. She handles better than I could imagine and I’m learning a lot from flying a more complex aircraft than the default or freeware models. I also flew the return trip from PANC to KSEA then on down to KDFW.
(Alaska B739 at KDFW during an afternoon rain shower).
Now…if you are a GoFlight user and own the GF-MCP Pro (which I now do) there are some very minor bugs. Most all functionality works with exception of a few lights do not illuminate. I’m told GoFlight is currently in beta testing for a new GF-Config software (this is what makes all the GoFlight hardware work with FSX) and it should be available soon.
To fly this aircraft the way she needs to be flown, I’ve probably moved the needle backwards on my quest for no mouse and no keyboard interaction. But most will be just on the ground. I’m OK with that for now.
It has taken me a few days to write this blog post and I’ve now owned the iFly 737NG for FSX for a little over 4 days now. I’m learning more about her each and every day. I won’t say I’ve not had my frustrations with this bird, but each one I walk away a little smarter and a little happier.
I won’t say I’ll never fly the old freeware models I have….actually I will fly them as I do enjoy a variety when flying for AvA. But I do really enjoy this new airplane and glad to say iFly the Boeing 737NG.
Next time I’ll share with you my experience with a new flight simulator add-on called FS2Crew. I purchased the FS2Crew version for the iFly B737NG and it has helped by adding a virtual second pair of hands in the cockpit.
Until next time,