Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mini-Review: iFly Jets 737 NG (FSX)

While the forthcoming PMDG 737 NGX product seems to be grabbing most of the hearts and minds of the flight sim community, another competing project has quietly emerged on the scene.  Developed by a relatively new outfit known as iFly Jets and distributed by Flight1, the iFly 737 NG series, which was originally released for FS9 last year, has recently been enhanced and updated for FSX.  The FSX version finally rolled out last week, and I felt it would be worth taking a look at - especially since PMDG seems to be in no big hurry to release the 737 NGX just yet.  (Yes, I know, they have very good reasons, and we won't get sidetracked with that here.)

The iFly Jets 737 NG includes all of the following variants of the 737: -600, -700, -800, -900, BBJ, BBJ2, BBJ3.  Here is a shot of the external model of the 737-900 with winglets in Alaska Airlines livery:

For this review, we will be simulating a short delivery flight from the Boeing 737 factory at KRNT to one of Alaska Airlines' hubs at KPDX.  Here is a shot of the main 2D panel from the Captain's seat:

Here are various other 2D panels.  The FMC:

The flight yoke:

The upper center console, with dual FMCs, throttles, and the other goodies one would normally expect to find here:

Here is the main overhead panel, including the lights:

Here is the rest of the overhead panel, including the IRS:

Here is the radio stack in the lower center console:

And here is the main 2D panel from the First Officer's seat:

The iFly Jets 737 NG also comes with a very nice 3D virtual cockpit:

One thing worth pointing out here is that the 737 NG series is one of the most configurable aircraft series around.  It seems every carrier which operates the type has their own unique combination of options for their own 737 NGs.  Examples include winglets vs. no winglets, eyebrow windows vs. none, old MCS vs. new MCS, CRT vs. LCD screens, EFIS/Map displays vs. PFD/ND displays, and so on. The really cool thing is that the iFly Jets 737 NG allows you to configure these options on a per-livery basis.  You can go investigate the cockpit pictures of Delta's 737-800s at sites like, and configure your Delta repaint with many of the same options.  This adds a degree of realism that is very nice - as opposed to add-ons like the Captain Sim 757, which model only one fixed set of options for the 757.

Here are a couple of examples of how you can vary the options.  The first picture resembles a Southwest Airlines example, which recently switched from EFIS/Map to PFD/ND in all of its 737-700s.  Note the newer-style MCP as well:

And here is an example from a United (Continental) 737-800, which still uses the EFIS/Map style displays, presumably for commonality with their older 737 Classics:

All of these options are managed on a per-livery basis through the iFly 737 NG Fleet Manager, which is part of the iFly 737 NG Configuration Manager.  The Configuration Manager does the usual job of managing payload and fuel for your next flight, as with many other similar utilities.  The Fleet Manager tool within actually helps you manage your repaints and configurable options.  It is somewhat crude - you still have to unzip your repaint into the appropriate subdirectory under SimObjects\Aircraft first.  Once you do this, the Fleet Manager can find the directory you have created, and walk you through the process of setting all the options for that repaint, and update the Aircraft.cfg file for you.  Here is a screenshot of the Configuration Manager.  Click on the "My Fleet" button to access the Fleet Manager here:

And here is a slideshow of various images of the iFly 737 NG in action, on our delivery flight from KRNT to KPDX:

The iFly 737 NG series is fun to fly, and generally works as advertised.  I ran into very few problems with crashes that could not be attributed to other external factors, such as running out of memory.  (Due to a lightning storm taking out my main FSX rig, I had to install and fly the iFly Jets 737 NG on my laptop.  It actually worked okay.)  Make sure you are not low on disk space, in case your machine needs to swap pages to disk.  When I ran low on disk space on my laptop, the iFly 737 NG started behaving in some rather peculiar ways.  Freeing up disk space made it a lot happier.  Users with powerful systems will not likely run into this issue.

Of course, this review would be incomplete without discussing some limitations/drawbacks of the iFly 737 NG series:

  • One notable omission in the list of 737 NG variants modeled by the iFly 737 NG is the 737-900ER.  While externally almost identical to the 737-900, the main point of frustration for me is the inability to "convert" a 737-900 to a 737-900ER by adding the auxiliary fuel tanks.  Yes, I'm aware there are a few other differences between the 737-900 and 737-900ER - such as the extra set of doors, allowing it to be certified for more passengers - but as I see it, the missing aux fuel tanks are the only thing affecting the operation of the plane itself, by limiting its range.  I would love to see a 737-900ER modeled by the iFly 737 NG as well, perhaps in a future update of the product.  It seems it wouldn't be terribly difficult to add this variant, considering that they already do a BBJ3, which is based on the 737-900ER.
  • Weather radar is not modeled on the iFly 737 NG.  Then again, PMDG won't be modeling it in their 737 NGX product, either.  As a workaround, there is a procedure posted in the iFly forums for adding the third-party Reality XP Weather Radar into the iFly 737 NG panel.
  • The EGPWS Peaks display is apparently not modeled on the iFly 737 NG.  Not a huge issue, as it is an optional feature in the real-life NG.
  • Repaints from the FS9 version of the iFly 737 NG apparently are not 100% compatible with the FSX version.  I tried installing an FS9 livery in the FSX version, and it looked terrible.  Not a major issue, but be warned if you download any repaints from AVSIM.
  • The iFly Jets 737 NG series seems a little framerate heavy - nothing severe, but probably roughly in the neighborhood of some of the Captain Sim products.  You may want to dial back your detail settings a little if you are working on a lesser machine.

The iFly 737 NG for FSX is one of those very unfortunate victims of timing.  In and of itself, it is a very nice simulation of the 737 NG series - an aircraft that has been long overdue for a proper treatment on FSX.  If iFly had chosen to do almost any other aircraft instead, everyone would be raving about how nice a product this really is.  However, because of the looming release of the PMDG 737 NGX within the next few months (presumably), it will be difficult for the iFly 737 NG to get a fair shake. It remains to be seen how much the PMDG 737 NGX will actually live up to expectations, but given the details that the PMDG developers have let slip so far, it is shaping up to be the Cadillac of 737 NG simulations.  I liken the iFly 737 NG to something more along the lines of a Toyota Corolla - a solid, dependable, and less expensive simulation of the 737 NG series.  It may lack some of the features and modeling that will make the PMDG version special, but it is still a very, very good simulation of the 737 NG series.  I like the iFly 737 NG, and I wish the iFly team great success with the product.  It is a solid first release from a relatively new team on the payware scene.  Hopefully, iFly will have better luck in the future with choosing projects that will differentiate them from their competitors in the marketplace.  I would really love to see iFly do a Boeing 717, in particular - I think they would do a great job with it.

If you are looking for a decent, relatively inexpensive simulation of the 737 NG, and you don't want to wait for the PMDG 737 NGX, then you certainly can't go wrong with the iFly 737 NG series.  It works well, and it is actually fun to fly.  Subject to the above limitations, I can't really say anything bad about it.

Rating: ****

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Caution: Foreign Objects on the Runway!

If you have ever tried to fly into Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport in Belize City, Belize (MZBZ), you have no doubt encountered a very nasty little bug in FSX: for some reason, the airport bounds are not correctly computed, and there are all sorts of trees and other objects growing right in the middle of the runway!  Turn off your crash detection for landing at this airport, folks.

Here are some screenshots which illustrate the issue:

Apparently, this is a well-known issue in FSX, although I didn't encounter it until very recently.

There are apparently some third-party fixes available for this problem, although Microsoft has never issued a fix themselves.

Preview of the iFly 737 NG for FGX

I'm going to do a full mini-review on this one perhaps as soon as a few days from now, but I just picked up the iFly 737 NG for FSX last night.  I took a quick first flight from KDAL to KHOU in the Southwest Airlines 737-700 "Illinois One" livery, which is available as a free download through the iFly forums.

Here are some nice preview shots of the upcoming review, just to give you a taste.  The first one is a shot of the exterior model, climbing toward cruise:

Here is a view of the 3D virtual cockpit:

And here is another shot of the exterior, with landing lights on as we line up on final for KHOU:

Initial impressions: it's very nice, especially for the price.  What it lacks in all the little flourishes that will make the PMDG 737 NGX special, it makes up for in a less expensive package that is easy on the wallet.  Plus, as a Flight1 product, it is fully backed by Flight1's legendary guarantee, so you really have nothing to lose.  I really like that it comes with the 737-600/-700/-800/-900/-900ER/BBJ/BBJ2/BBJ3 variants, as well.  There are a few minor glitches, but nothing unprecedented for a 1.0 release.

Enjoy!  And consider picking this one up if the PMDG price tag will be too expensive for you, or you simply MUST have a 737 NG NOW.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Flight1/iFly 737 NG Now Available for FSX

I had to dig around in the Flight1 forums to find this, as this has not showed up on their main page yet.  An outfit known as iFly (distributed by Flight1) came out with a FS9-only version of a 737 NG last year.  Now, as of this week, it appears that the FSX version of their 737 NG is also available.  Pricing is a little unclear from the webpage, but the FS9 verison is US $54.95, so I suspect the FSX version is similarly priced.

You can download the Flight1 e-commerce wrapper containing the iFly 737 NG for FSX here.

Very interesting timing, as the PMDG 737 NGX is apparently also very imminent.  I'm tempted to give the iFly 737 NG a look in the meantime, though, just to tide me over...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

PMDG 737 NGX On Final

What's that in the sky up there?  Could it be?  The PMDG 737 NGX really is on its delivery flight to our hangars?

Apparently, it is so.  NGX has been in beta for about a month, and many issues have been resolved.  Wider beta coming soon, and's time to take delivery of the NGX.

Very good news all around.  We will definitely be flying around in the NGX before long.  Check out the new videos in Captain Randazzo's post.

PMDG is showing off some 737 NGX livery previews, too.

Considering I lost my main flight sim rig in a lightning storm last month, I guess it is the perfect occasion to go build a new one...  :-)