Just Flight F-Lite 747-200/300
Reviewed by Rob Scott
Be honest, who hasn’t taken the default Boeing 747 for a spin at least once. The problem with this 747 (in my opinion) is that it is horrible, which leaves you with the option of either downloading some of the good freeware models out there and hoping you install them correctly, or paying out a large sum of money for the fantastic PMDG Queen Of The Skies 747 which will probably take you months to master and even longer to read the manuals. What you are seeking is a great add-on that is miles better than the default version, but not as complex and brain intensive as the PMDG version. Step forward Commercial Level Simulations and Just Flight.
The 747-200/300 package is the latest addition to Just Flight’s very popular F-Lite range. I have previously reviewed their DC-10 and VLJ packages and liked them both. For those of you who don’t know, the F-Lite range aims to deliver a far superior model than the default offerings along with fantastic flight dynamics, but all without the need for the end user to have to read up on endless manuals in order to operate the add-on. So far this range of add-ons has done the trick on each occasion, so how does the 747-200/300 do...
This add-on (developed by CLS) comes as a boxed DVD or as a download from
the Just Flight website. The initial package costs £19.66 and gets you the
regular, combi and cargo models, if you wish to expand your collection
further you can purchase expansion packs from the Just Flight website for
£4.88 each; these include a classic liveries upgrade pack, cargo upgrade
pack and passenger/combi upgrade pack. I like this approach to the way Just
Flight are selling this add-on as all too often you will pay £30+ for an
add-on but will never actually use all the liveries/models which are
included with it. This way you can choose how many liveries and models you
buy. For the purposes of this review I will be looking at the boxed DVD and
just the standard package, which is £19.66.
I prefer to have a boxed product rather than a download because I can actually hold the manual in front of me when I am getting to grips with everything, rather than alt-tabbing between FS and the PDF file, it just makes things much easier. Installation was easy and painless, as you would expect and it was easy to install into both FSX and FS2004. During testing I split the time evenly between FSX and FS2004, the only real difference were that the aircraft views (wing, pushback tug) etc... which are available in FSX are not available in FS2004, other than that it is the same add-on.
The manual is 32 pages long and is easily read in around 15 minutes or so, with 10 pages being used for a tutorial flight. I like the way the manual is laid out because it is nicely split with pictures and words, so you can easily relate what the manual is telling you to the screenshot next to it. The tutorial takes you on a flight from Gatwick to Palma which should take around 2 hours, I didn’t want to fly this route for my first flight but all the instructions in the tutorial are easily enough to follow so that it wasn’t a problem flying a different route first time out. The tutorial does go into a reasonable amount of detail about what is happening at each stage of the flight, but all the important parts (which switches to flick etc...) are highlighted in bold.
The first impression of the aircraft is the 2D panel which I thought was a
nice panel, but I have seen better, this is more than made up for by the
virtual cockpit. With FSX more users are now flying from the VC and I have
noticed with the last few aircraft add-ons I have bought/reviewed the 2D
panels appear to have taken a back-seat during development. They are still
easy enough to fly from and a far better quality than the default 2D panels,
but to get the best experience you should be using the virtual cockpit. The
cockpit panels feature full analogue Pilot, Co-Pilot and Flight Engineer
panels, as well as the overhead panel, throttle quadrant and radio stack.
The Flight Engineer's station has expanded pop-ups for easier viewing. There
is also a limited FMC included which calculates your take-off and approach
speeds, allows for SIDs and STARs, direct to waypoint entries, progress
reports and estimated fuel on board. For those of you who are used to going
through the whole process of setting up the FMC and calculating take-off
speeds etc... you won’t need to do that with this FMC. The flight plan is
imported straight from the FS flight planner, and with a few clicks here and
there you are all set for take-off.
When starting up the aircraft you can either cheat and use ctrl+e or go through the start up procedure as outlined in the manual. It’s doesn’t matter which way you choose to do it, the end result is the same and all the systems are functional. Before we get onto discussing how this aircraft flies, here is a brief outline of what you can expect to find in the package: 21 highly detailed liveries, pushback tug, air stairs for passenger models, ground service vehicles, high quality sound sets, dynamic wing shine & flex, engine start smoke, wet runway special effects, a paint-kit for your own liveries, each airframe will have different flight characteristics, INS or GPS navigation and much much more.
I loved the inclusion of the ground vehicles and the ability to open the
passenger and cargo doors via a pop-up panel, this is something you would
normally associate with much more expensive add-ons and greatly adds to the
overall flight experience. Rather than jumping in and pressing ctrl+e to get
going, you can imagine the passengers getting on the plane whilst you are
doing your pre-flight checks.
I found the 747 to be very easy to taxi around the airport despite its huge size, as long as you keep the speeds slow in the corners she’s very easy to manoeuvre. After you are lined up for take-off you will begin to get a feel that you are flying a big airliner, apply full power and it takes a couple of seconds to get you thundering down the runway, don’t forget to switch to spot view and listen to the great sound-set. Just make sure that you have the trim and flaps set correctly for take-off otherwise you won’t be able to rotate at the correct speed. Once airborne the 747 is a delight to hand fly, most of my fights were well above 10,000ft before I engaged the autopilot. She is very easy to handle and whilst remaining responsive to the control inputs, you definitely know that you are flying a huge plane. Once the auto-pilot is set, take a step outside and have a look at the external model; it’s unbelievable! I am amazed at how good the external model is, there are simply no jagged edges and the liveries are fantastic. Some of my screenshots have been mistaken for the PMDG 747 model; I don’t think there is a bigger compliment than that.
If you switch to passenger views during periods of turbulence you will be able to see the wings bouncing around, even on take-off if you use the tower view you can see the wings flexing. The longer flights are quickly passed as you will marvel at the external model; some of my flights became screenshot frenzies.
The hardest thing about this airliner is slowing her down. When ATC directs
you to begin your descent to land you will need to keep a careful eye on the
speedometer as the aircraft can very quickly over speed if you don’t keep a
careful eye on it. I found that descending at 2,000fpm at 270kts managed to
keep things in check. When commencing the final approach make sure that you
are slow enough to make the final turn, otherwise you will end up snaking
down to the runway trying to line up with it. At first the landings were a
little difficult because I am used to landing Cessna's at 65kts, my first
landing in the lightly loaded 747-200 was at 170kts as calculated by the
FMC. After a few flights this didn’t bother me anymore, but it does seem
strange landing GA aircraft so much slower when I switch back to them. One
of the problems with the default MS 747 is that it is hard to see out of the
cockpit to judge when to flare to get that trademark soft touchdown, but
with this model nearly every landing will be silky smooth. If you switch
back to replay mode and watch the landing you could almost be confused into
thinking that you were watching a real video of a 747 landing. All that’s
left to do is get back to the terminal, call in the ground vehicles and load
up for the next flight.
This add-on goes to show that you can have unbelievable quality at a bargain price of under £20. If you do so wish you can expand the package with new liveries and upgrade packs to take the total price to just under £35, which is still excellent value for money.
From the moment I first took off in the 747 I have loved it and have flown many hours in both FSX and FS9. I am struggling to find anything to criticise about this package it is so good. It is a fantastic compromise between the default aircraft and a systems intensive aircraft such as the PMDG 747. The F-Lite 747-200/300 fills the gap perfectly in allowing the novice or casual simmer to take the next step up from the default aircraft yet still have a good amount of complexity to keep them interested. If anyone wants to expand their hangar with a big aircraft that is easy and fun to fly, this is the perfect choice!