Flight Journal: Escaping the snow in the 787 Dreamliner

For my last Flight Simulator Flight, I took to the skies in the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner on a route that took me from New York City to Orlando with the twin objectives of escaping the snow and flying somewhere warmer as well as getting my first full flight in on the 787. Some things went well and a few didn’t. This is my latest entry in the flight journal.

JFK to the skies

I was going to pick an American carrier for this flight but when I loaded into Microsoft Flight Simulator I realized that I had only installed the Air Canada 787 so that’s what I picked for this flight. Taking off from a snowy John F. Kennedy airport, my departure route took me over New York City with famous areas such as Brooklyn and Manhattan on full display.

As the aircraft climbed through 10,000 feet we were up and on our way above the skies of New Jersey and then Delaware, Virginia, and North Carolina before thicker clouds moved in and obscured much of the view of the ground before me.

Following some tutorials on how to fly the 787 Dreamliner, I found the aircraft to be similar in some superficial ways to the A320neo. With similar, yet unique approaches to their autopilot system, the 787 is similarly hands off in its approach to flying once the initial takeoff has been completed. What was different was the overall feel and handling of the aircraft. The 787 is much bigger and in Flight Simulator you feel that weight as the aircraft trundled down the runway and into the air. The 787 doesn’t lack on power, however, and we were easily able to achieve a high cruise altitude well over 32,000 feet.

To the skies of Orlando, Florida

Most of the flight was straightforward and the thick heavy clouds eventually gave way to show off the coast of Florida. Crossing over land approximately over Daytona beach, I followed the ATC’s instructions to bring the aircraft down to 8,000 feet and a descent in to Orlando airport.

All was going smoothly up until I got to the approach. Unlike my past issues with not flying the approach very well or planning it out properly, this time it was the sim that caused me some trouble. Disconnecting the autopilot, I found out that I had no control over the aircraft. The control surfaces weren’t moving, the throttle refused to budge, and nothing was really happening.

After trying to troubleshoot it for a moment, I went back on to autopilot which kept the aircraft steady and stable.

We were flying but stuck on course and unable to maneuver. So, I held course and overflew the airport. I disengaged and reengaged the autopilot three more times before finally my stick and throttle were functional again and I was able to maneuver the aircraft once again.

I hand flew the rest of the approach doing a wide circle around Orlando (and around a small thunderstorm) before being declared clear to land on runway 18L.

It was not a smooth landing but it was workable. Being my first in the 787, I think it was an acceptable first attempt and one that will require some additional work as time goes on.

Thoughts on the 787 and some bugs

Airliners in Microsoft Flight Simulator have taken a lot of flack for being less than study level simulations. Some of them, the 787 included, have some flight model issues. A few people have leveled some pejoratives against them and the developers but I don’t think they are nearly as bad as indicated.

I’m by no means a study level airliner virtual pilot. I’m not there yet and if I am I think I’d still have an overall positive view on these types. The airliners in Microsoft Flight Simulator have a fair bit of realism baked into them from the impressive visuals to the detailed cockpits. Not everything in the cockpit works and not every system is simulated. What Asobo did was focus on what was necessary to give you the experience of flying an airliner – maybe for the first time.

So while the 787 is not a study level airliner simulation, it’s still going to give you an airliner experience. If you’re like me and want that overall experience and aren’t yet ready to dive in with every single button available, there should be nothing stopping you from trying this aircraft out and flying some routes with it. It can be fun and it can be very engaging.

If there are some serious flight model issues with the aircraft, I do hope that Asobo is able to tackle them over time providing a more realistic experience with the aircraft in question and building an even more stable foundation for other third party aircraft as they are added to the sim.

For study level airliner pilots, I hear you, there are those types coming to the sim from the likes of PMDG and Aerosoft. But the wait will be no doubt a frustrating process for some.

There are some problems with this aircraft and they are speaking to me louder here than with the A320. While the A320neo performs relatively well on my system, the 787 definitely cuts my frame rates down and soaks up more CPU resources. It has more displays, a HUD, and it’s a bigger aircraft so that may explain it but I don’t fully get why it is so different than the A320neo. It is still flyable but it’s also clearly less fluid on my system than it should be (I never checked the FPS counter so this is by feel only).

There’s also the issue of my controls not working. What happened there I do not know but it resolved itself after a while. I haven’t seen this kind of problem since the early release days with the sim so I wonder if the sim still has issues in high stress (i.e. with a big airliner) kind of situation. More work needs to be done to prevent these kinds of issues from cropping up. In the meantime, I’ll be doing more flights to see if it happens again.



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