A lot of aircraft files come and go in our little corner of the flight sim universe, almost too many to count, but there are a few that come to define the X-plane experience for many of us. And you know what I’m talking about…files so good we spend almost all our sim-time with them. For Heavy Metal aficionados the IXEG 733 comes to mind, and yet now even Laminar’s default 738 – and the Zibo permutation – have reached that coveted status. There’s no doubt that even after a short time on the market that both the Flight Factor A320 and Toliss A319 are there, too. Fly-J-Sim owns a slice of this pie too, and remarkably, all three files produced by this developer have reached a kind of cult status.
Yet there’s something oddly special about Fly-J-Sim’s 732, and after fiddling around with the file for a year I’ve come to think it’s attractiveness is something quite unique. Maybe like the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts, the file has always had a few niggling flaws yet the overall feeling I had after a flight in this “aircraft” was pure, simple satisfaction.
Now, with version 3 out for a while, almost all of the little flaws are gone, in effect wiped clean, and what’s left is getting real close to simple perfection. The panel is better, yet even so the night panel is the best in X-plane. The animated doors and air-stairs are without a doubt the best of their kind, yet it doesn’t end there. The triple-slotted Fowler flaps, the thrust reverser animation, all the other moving surfaces on the wing are flawlessly realistic. The cabin? As good as any in Xp…but the list goes on.
So, let’s take a flight today, take a closer look. Below, the latest version 3.18, as released yesterday, seen at Skyline’s KSNA John Wayne – getting ready to depart for KSBP San Luis Obispo, about an hour to the northwest:
The onboard air-stairs were a costly option few carriers went for, and the units weigh a lot so the fuel penalty was real – and ongoing, yet for some carriers they were a godsend. So equipped, the first 737s brought jet travel to smaller, almost marginal airports, and with it’s powerful APU the aircraft was almost self-sufficient. Bravo Fly-J-Sim for bringing such a difficult to model feature set to this acf; like the Rotate MD-80 these animations do so much to define what it is we love about such files.
Another thing I’ve noted before on this file is the wing, especially the delicate arc as the wing loads on takeoff. Not many developers get it this right.
For some of us, the joy that comes from navigating with relatively simple VOR/NDB instruments is hard to explain. Many pilots brought up in the age of GPS have little understanding of the role these systems played, or the feats of navigation that can be pulled off with a simple non-directional beacon and a stopwatch, yet the Fly-J-Sim 732 gives you that option…the option to fly under conditions that commercial pilots in the 60s and 70s took for granted. If you are a student of aviation, in other words, if you’re a pilot who enjoys learning about such things, this is a file you can learn – and grow – with.
It’s about an hour flight from KSNA to KSBP, and the VOR chain is easy to follow: Seal Beach to LAX to Ventura, Goleta, Santa Maria and finally San Luis Obispo. The weather in San Luis is picture perfect most of the time, there’s a popular university there, and the beach is only a nice, short drive away. American Eagle used to have a training facility there, and they took new hires and trained them on the Swearingen Metroliner, then the Saab 340. There’s also a really good freeware airport file for the facility (download link here).
The flight model in this latest version is refined enough so that there are few areas of concern left, yet turning on final I noted a little too much hobby-horsing. Other than that the flight was smooth and uneventful. Again, look at that wing!
And the main entry animated air-stair is simply a joy to watch. If you can’t get the aft air-stair to deploy, you’ll need to make sure you have power configured properly.
All doors and hatches operate, by the way, and this is one of the few aircraft files with this feature.
Fly-J-Sim’s interior is a total work of art, a worthy complement to all the work that went into the air-stairs.
Two galleys are included, and three heads are shown, but (thankfully) not modeled.
With version 3 of the aircraft file the front office has reached perfection. Instrument clarity is peerless, night lighting is now so immersive it’s almost hypnotic. The old Sperry autopilot is a simple affair and is good for taking out some of the drudge during cruise but of little help flying modern SID/STAR departures and arrivals. Yes, this is a vintage steam-gauge cockpit, and it’s gorgeous.
I think the IXEG 733s panel is still the best in X-plane, but this 732 is getting so good the margin is razor thin now, yet its fun to fly both back to back. You can see and appreciate the evolution of navigation by using these two, and the differences are instructive. Try it yourself sometime… Is one easier than the other?
We reset the time and weather for our return to KSNA – to night and moderate precipitation for our departure airport, clear on arrival, then loaded up and took off. Two things I need to mention regarding the night panel: the overall clarity is stunning, and the refined glow around many of the toggle switches is best seen to be appreciated. Indeed, such features cast little pools of light everywhere you look inside this cockpit, and in this area the Fly-J-Sim file beats all others. You need to study the third image below, look closely at the toggles, how orange light bleeds and diminishes from the base up the stalk. Another area to look at is the throttle quadrant. Magic…
The turning radius on the ground is amazing, exterior lighting is perfect, the tail logo light nice and bright. Ground handling is trouble free, directional control on takeoff superb.
But the night panel provides the perfect ambience to work in comfort. Again, instrument clarity is second to none and everything simply works…no awkward manipulators, no hard to operate switches.
Again, the same route back to KSNA…Santa Maria, Goleta (Santa Barbara), Ventura, LAX, Seal Beach and El Toro, where you turn and follow the 55 to your final. Flying VOR is simplicity itself, and the Fly-J-Sim 732 makes the experience picture perfect.
Again, the only issue encountered was some hobby-horsing when slowing from 170KIAS down to the 150s, easily countered with some power and initiating a gentle climb. Everything else was, to my mind, as it should be. I know this type of flying is often referred to these days as “classic” – and I suppose, in a way, it is – but it’s also fun…and quite satisfying. Perhaps, after the developers finish updating their Dash-8 Q400 they’ll move on to more modern aircraft…but I kind of hope they stick with these early, classic jetliners. Xp could use another 707, or perhaps even the DC-9-10 would be great to see, but whatever…I have a feeling whatever they choose, it’ll be worth the wait.
Way to go, Jack.
And we’ll see you next time out. Adios –
***oh yes, the 732 is on sale this weekend at the Org Store. If you still don’t have this file…all I can ask is why not?