Farewell to the Queen

If you follow real world aviation news then I’m sure you’ve heard the sad news which was announced last week.  Of course I’m talking about British Airways plans to retire their fleet of 28 Boeing 747-400 aircraft.  In pre-COVID times, British Airways was the largest operator of the B744 and had plans to continue to operate the type into 2024. 

I’ve had the pleasure to fly on three BA 744 flights in the past 5-6 years with the last flight being summer of 2019. While I’m fascinated with all aircraft types, the Boeing 747 Queen of the Skies was my absolute most favorite.  British Airways began operating the 747-400 into Denver with their daily non-stop to London Heathrow about 6 years ago, replacing the Boeing 777-200 which had been used from the beginning of the DEN to LHR service.  Of course the daily BA flight which connects Denver to London has been cancelled since mid March and I’m uncertain when it will resume.  Most likely once the daily service resumes BA will either return to using the B772 or perhaps the Dreamliner. 

Lack of Passenger Demand

The reasons for BA retiring their 747 fleet ahead of schedule boils down to lack of passenger demand and of course to the inefficiencies with the four engine beast.  Of the 28 remaining 744’s in BA’s fleet, the majority were 20+ years of age and have served the airline well. 

Long Live the Queen

Of course the majestic Boeing 747 will continue to fly.  A few passenger airlines will continue to operate the newer 747-8 and of course the 747-400 will continue to fly into the next decade hauling freight around the globe. 

The Future

If I could predict the future, I’d probably first focus on the next six numbers in the lottery…but who really knows what the future of passenger airline travel will look like.  I suppose most of us believed this COVID-19 pandemic would have wrapped up by now and it appears there is no end in sight of it just yet.  I read a few weeks ago that it could be 2023 or even 2024 before airline travel returns to the status it was pre-COVID.  But I’ve learned over the past few months not to really trust anything I hear as short of God himself, know one knows.

Thanks for reading and please continue to take care of yourself and each other.  We will get through this.

Until next time….

Jerry

PMDG Is First

The development team at PMDG was the first to ready one of their payware, add-on aircraft for P3Dv5.  The majestic Boeing 747-400 Queen of the Skies II is now 100% 99% compatible with P3Dv5.  Unfortunately, she isn’t 100% as there was a last minute change with the way the new ActiveSky P3D handles weather.  Specifically the way aircraft needs to be coded to interpret weather from ActiveSky P3D so the weather radar functions correctly.  Unfortunately, PMDG were not aware of this change and only learned about it after releasing the QOTSII.  While the PMDG Dev team have moved onto the next aircraft (hopefully the 737NGXu), they will circle back and make the necessary corrections to the Queen.  Most likely I will wait and install the 747-400 after PMDG has provided the new updated installer. 

Speaking of the Queen

While not flight sim related, Friday 8 May marked the 75th Anniversary of VE Day.  VE Day also known as Victory in Europe Day was the day in which the Allies of World War II accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany.  Queen Elizabeth II spoke on Friday and was quoted as saying, “Never Give Up, Never Despair”.  In these trying times we’re now finding ourselves living, those words could never be more important.

The Work Continues

As I mentioned in my post on Saturday, I have successfully installed P3Dv5, ActiveSky P3D and FSUIPC.  I’ve now moved on to installing all my Orbx sceneries and airports.  I’ve always had the best luck in doing this in a particular order. 

First and obviously you need to install P3Dv5.  Next install Orbx FTX Base and Libraries.  It appears Orbx will not be making their FTX Vector for P3Dv5, so for now skip that. Then I begin installing the Orbx regions and finally all Orbx airports.  Once this is done (and it will take some time) I generally spend some time in a GA aircraft and go out and enjoy the beautiful Orbx regions.  My all time favorite is Southern Alaska and Pacific Northwest.  The very first add-on Orbx airport I purchased was 7S3 Stark’s Twin Oaks Airpark which is a Bill Womack classic.  I just love flying around this area. 

Still Not Ready for Prime Time

P3Dv5 still isn’t ready to go for me.  While it’s coming together for GA, VFR, low and slow flying…it’s not yet ready to take the place of P3Dv4.  Most likely it will still be a few weeks away from that timeframe.  To me this is a very methodical process and as I’ve stated before, I DO NOT install anything into the new sim that hasn’t been made compatible.  So my favorite aircraft, the PMDG 737NGXu will have to wait for the PMDG team to provide a new installer.  Whether that is a few days or a few weeks, the wait will be worth it. 

For now, I’ll continue installing the rest of the Orbx airports and then begin downloading other “ready to go” payware airports.  I have a lot of add-ons so stay tuned.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!

Jerry

Real World Meets Sim World

I know I’m not the only one who enjoys simulating their real world flights either before or after any trip.  I’m actually a little superstitious about it to be honest.  In the past dozen years or so, there’s only been one real world trip which I didn’t fly in the sim before hand.  It was a few months ago when I received the word that my Mom had passed away.  I rushed out to KDEN and jumped on a Southwest Boeing 737-700 and flew to Austin.  When I got back home a week later and found myself in the mood to spend some time in Prepar3D, I setup that flight in memory of my mom.  I think she would have appreciated that.  After all, flight simulation has been a hobby I’ve been involved with since I was a teenager back in the early 1980’s.

Memorable Flights

I’ve had many.  When I first moved to Denver back in the late 90’s, I would fly to visit my family in Texas.  Before hand I would simulate an American Airlines flight from KDEN to KDFW in one of my favorite aircraft the MD80.  After landing at KDFW, I would jump in a Saab 340B and simulate the quick flight down to Killeen – Fort Hood Regional.  Then I would do the reverse. 

Of course, in my job I’ve traveled a lot.  Some domestic and many trips overseas.  After all it was a business trip back in 2001 which led to me meeting my now wife.  But regardless if I traveled domestically or international, I set aside the time to simulate the roundtrip flights before I head to the airport in real life.

London Calling

By the time you read this, my wife and I will be halfway through our European vacation.  Once again we’re headed cross the pond from Denver to London Heathrow via the Queen herself a beautiful Boeing 747-400.  A trip I’ve made about a dozen times.  Anyway, we’ll spend a few days in the English countryside before heading to Antwerp, Belgium (family visit) on the Eurostar for a week, then back to the English Countryside for another week and then back home to Denver. 

A few weeks ago I completed the first leg of the trip and flew my PMDG 747-400 from Denver to London Heathrow.  On Thursday, 4th of July I completed the return leg and captured the following screenshots of the trip.

Of course, no trip of this magnitude can be completed without snacks.  I’ve gotta say, the food British Airways serves in their business class is top-shelf and the drinks are nice as well.  Smile

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I would have snapped a picture of the bags being loaded, but GSX being GSX decided to use belt loaders which just looked really silly.  So here we are being pushed back from our stand at London’s Heathrow (UK2000) airport (one of my favorite airports in the world). 

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Pushback complete, time to taxi out to 27R

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Once you get this big girl rolling, she just wants to fly and fly she does.  I don’t fly the Queen near as much as I wish I could. 

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Well on our way across the Atlantic. Personally I find the return trip to be a lot easier than the eastbound trip.  I think it has to do with flying during all daylight hours. 

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If you happen to live or have visited the Denver area, then you know all about our late afternoon thunderstorms.  They can wreak havoc with on-time departures and can cause holds while these powerful, but quick moving storms move near Denver International.  In the below, we’re approaching KDEN for the ILS 16L approach with storms brewing just northwest of the field. 

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Touchdown imminent.  9 hours, 45 minutes after pushing back from Heathrow we safely touchdown on runway 16L at KDEN (Flightbeam). 

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And with that…I’m ready to board the Queen for what might be my last flight aboard a Boeing 747-400.  As most will know, United Airlines retired their last 744 in 2017 and with that it marked the end of any US carrier flying the Queen.  Other airlines including British Airways have also started the process of replacing their 747 fleet with 777’s, 787’s and others from that other aircraft manufacture.  Smile

As a point of reference, when I began flying British Airways between Denver and London (2001 timeframe), BA operated the 777-200 on this route.  They changed to the 747-400 in Spring of 2015.  While BA’s plan to reduce the number of 747-400’s by 50% in 2021, the Queen may still fly until 2024.  But who really knows what the future holds…

Until next time….God Save The Queen!

Jerry

GBS Beast v5–Update at 10 Days

It’s been 10 days since the covers were battened down on the new GBS Beast v5 (my new gaming PC) and I couldn’t be happier with how she’s been performing.  All the simulation based games I truly love and enjoy playing perform flawlessly.  Since v5 first booted up with a brand new install of Windows 10, I’ve been feverishly getting everything reinstalled, configured and operational.  I’ve managed to resume (and almost catch up) with getting videos recorded for the GrizzlyBearSims YouTube Channel.  For me, my simulation gaming is a huge stress reliever for me from the hectic days of real life and I feel that life and my sanity are back to normal, or as close to normal as can be expected in my life.  I’m very pleased.

Baby Steps

Much of the time I spent with v5 in the first few days could have been considered baby steps.  As previously noted, I spent some time playing FS17 and recording content for the YT channel.  I also began the daunting task of getting all my flight sim add-ons reinstalled and configured.  In addition, spending time getting Prepar3D v4 dialed in with the new system.  While P3D v4 is not new to me, the configuration settings with the new performance hardware is drastically different that how I had it setup with the previous gaming machine.  But thankfully, the new hardware in the Beast v5 is allowing me to really crank up the graphic settings and both the GPU and CPU are working well together to deliver a spectacular visual experience which I couldn’t be happier about.  But with almost 10 days of taking it easy on the new machine, I felt the need to really stress her and see just what she could do.

The True Test

As my long-time readers will know, I’ve been a flight simmer for a very long time.  Quite honestly, it’s because of my passion for virtual flight which served as the requirements for the new PC build.   I could have saved a lot of money if I were only building the new rig to play FS17, ETS2, ATS etc.  But to achieve the stunning levels of immersion and eye-candy I wanted from Prepar3D v4, I needed the CPU/GPU and other elements.  But how would this new system perform.  Would it, could it deliver the level of performance I really hoped it could.  I new of only one way to test this and it would involve pretty much an entire day of my time.  Of course, time spent gaming is never a waste of time.  Right???

Now, I must admit that I rarely have the time or real desire/interest to commit to a full international long-haul flight in the sim.  In my earlier years, spending a full day flying from the US to the UK was something I did quite frequently.  But as one begins to settle down and all that…then sacrifices must be made and for the most part my virtual flying generally consists of shorter haul flights in the 2-4 hour range.  Also, until the GBS v5 was born….I had difficulties getting the type of performance that would allow a full international long-haul flight without a system crash or really slow performance at the very end.  I had hoped this new rig would solve those issues and let me say once again, I couldn’t be happier.

On Saturday, I booted up GBS v5 and loaded up Prepar3d v4.2 with the PMDG 747-400 (Queen of the Skies II) and placed her at the gate at KDEN (Denver International Airport).  I set the sim time for just before 1900 hours and began to perform all my pre-flight setup work to ensure a prompt departure for 19:35.  I would be simulating British Airways flight 218 which operates daily between Denver and London’s Heathrow Airport.  This is the very flight my wife and I will take in a few months.  While in the past BA operated the Boeing 777-200 on this route, for the past few years they have operated the Boeing 747-400.  The Queen of the Skies won’t be around many more years and it’s truly a joy to have the opportunity fly on this wonderful aircraft.

The real life flight time for this route is approx. 8 hours, 35 minutes and I’ll be doing my best to simulate this down to the very minute.  After all, “As Real As It Gets” right?

Push-Back and Departure

Unfortunately, the first few screenshots which I captured while on the ground, pushback, taxi and take-off didn’t get saved.  But despite one family being a bit late arriving to the gate, Speedbird 218 Heavy pushed back at 19:36 and began the short taxi to runway 36R.

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Speedbird 218 Heavy climbing through the clouds just as the final minutes of sunlight was visible to the west.  The four Rolls-Royce RB211 engines provide all the thrust we need to reach our cruising altitude of 37,000.

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A near full moon is visible just off the starboard side of the aircraft.  Wing shots are some of my favorite to capture.

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The flight deck of the B747-400 (view from the jump seat)

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Here comes the sun.  The sun rising in the east, but we still have many hours to go.

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A port side wing view.  PMDG simulates wing flex very well with their aircraft.  It’s truly amazing just how much flex these large wings have.

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The Queen of the Skies is a thing of beauty.  Note the heavy cloud cover over the Atlantic ocean.  Not much to see.

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Land Ho….just approaching the cost of Northern Ireland.  Almost time to get to work getting this bird safely on the ground.

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One more body of water to cross before reaching the coast of England.  At this stage of the flight we’re beginning our descent from FL370 and experiencing a lot of turbulence.

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Somewhere, down there….you’ll find Thornton Farm, Coldborough Park Farm.  Love the details

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It’s pretty soupy in Old London Town today.

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Gear down and fully configured for landing.  Speedbird 218 Heavy is joining the ILS for runway 27R.  The Thames River is visible in the background.

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Cleared for landing on 27R and just seconds before this shot the end of the runway was in full sight.

Summary

The total flight time from push back at KDEN to engine shut down at EGLL, was just a little over 8 hours, 45 minutes.  So about 10 minutes late, but this was mainly due to heavy traffic as we entered the busy London airspace.  But the GBS Beast v5 performed just as expected during this entire time.

This long flight pushed the new machine hard.  Night time, heavy cloud cover and flying from and to heavy detailed airports were all tasks which would have been difficult with the old PC.  It handled it all with flying colors (pun intended).  I’m going to spend a few weeks flying some European routes before eventually heading back to Denver.

Until next time….

Jerry

Prepar3D v4 Add-ons Compatibility List

If you are curious as to what add-ons are currently compatible with the 64 bit version of Prepar3D v4, then look no further than this extensive spreadsheet list which is updated frequently as more add-ons are released for this awesome sim.

The highly anticipated 64 bit version of Prepar3D (P3D v4) was released only one week ago, but already dozens of 3rd party add-ons have been either made compatible or confirmed to already be compatible with P3D v4.  On the very first day of release, many 3rd party developers already had released new installers and the list continues to grow.

Over this past weekend, PMDG released their almost new Boeing 747-400 Queen of the Skies II for P3D v4.  While I own the PMDG 737 NGX and the beautiful Boeing 777, I had yet to pickup the 747.  But I’m excited to say that the Queen now lives in my hangar and here’s a recent flight image of this beautiful airplane.

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I can also report that on the above mentioned flight using the PMDG 747-400 (flying as Atlas Air Cargo), I departed from Denver KDEN (Flightbeam add-on scenery) and arrived in Dallas/Ft. Worth KDFW (FSDreamTeam add-on scenery) with all graphics settings maxed out and P3D v4 performed like a dream.  I simply could not do that in P3D v3.x without an Out of Memory error crash.

Over the next few weeks, I will continue to get more of my large collection of 3rd party add-ons installed and configured into P3D v4.  At the present time I’m also working on a video review of the new Dovetail Games Flight Sim World and will also begin showcasing some flying action from the new P3D v4 on my GrizzlyBearSims YouTube Channel along with Farming Simulator 17 “Let’s Play series”.

Thank you for reading my blog and thanks for subscribing to my YouTube Channel.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

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