Flight Journal: First full flight with PMDG’s 737 flying Calgary to Vacouver!

Following up from my recent Flight Journal talking about getting started with PMDG’s 737-600 in Microsoft Flight Simulator I’ve now progressed to doing my first full flight with the aircraft. It went surprisingly well although I did get some serious help along the way that I might not have been able to manage otherwise. Here’s how it went!

The planning

In documenting my experiences here I’m also going to attempt to document some of the tools that I’ve slowly been picking up to get the most out of this experience. After all, I do want to learn how some of this is done but I also want it to be fun and not spend all of my sometimes limited flight simming hours planning. I want to fly!

Still, a little bit of work beforehand is a necessity here and before I did my flight I hopped onto SimBrief.com to put in what I wanted to do. If this is new to you, this site and its interface can be slightly intimidating. When I did some of my first long haul flights I used this platform but I really struggled with all of the information that I thought it needed to have entered.

The reality is that you don’t need to put in all that much. Departure airport, arrival airport, and the type of airplane seems to be, in my still uneducated opinion on the subject, all that is really needed. In other words, don’t sweat all of the details and just put in the basics.

I used a tutorial that YouTuber Drawyah put together a couple of years back to get started and its good for no matter which sim you’re using.

Starting up the jet

This part I’ve been through a few times now and for this I turned to another YouTuber to get through it with some visual and audio explanation of what was going on. I’ve been on the look for quicker and more direct tutorials (some I’ve found to be long and difficult to follow) and TiJayFLY’s tutorial here was excellent on how to get the PMDG 737 going from Cold & Dark with minimal fuss.

A second video of TiJayFLY’s that I watched was an easy full flight tutorial. Once again, the length was right and the overall approach here was a no-nonsense approach to just the basics of what was needed to get flying with the 737.

There are a ton of details and a lot of things that people can do to better, more fully, simulate the airplane but what I want right now is to get flying it and this again helped achieve that goal.

Armed with these tutorials and countless hours having watched people like Into the Blue, Q8 Pilot, BluGames, 737ng Driver and Cpt Canada trying to soak up little pieces of what each of them knew and talked about, I decided to set out on my first flight.

One of the things that I embraced from the start was that this flight might not be a success. It can be a downer and doubly so if you’re a sometimes-perfectionist like I am. But I had to set out with the goal of just doing it and going as far as I could with the process. This applies to DCS World modules, general aviation airplanes in any sim, and airliners alike. It’s the completion of the sum total of all of your knowledge that you eventually get to the point where you can pull this off.

The flight

For this flight I decided that a bit of symbolism was appropriate here. One of my first full flights in an airliner happened in Microsoft Flight Simulator back in January of 2021 and it saw me flying the A320neo from Vancouver to Calgary – that flight eventually ended up in a cross country series that saw me fly from coast to coast to coast. I wanted to replicate that memorable flight… but in reverse!

So, setting out from Calgary International (CYYC) I received a route from SimBrief that took me to Vancouver International (CYVR). Putting some of that data into the 737’s FMC, a bit of an unusual thing happened as the FMC seemed to pick up most of my route automatically after I entered the departure and arrival airports. Not sure what happened there but it seemed to work so I was going to go with it.

Before long I was taxiing onto runway 17L for a departure. Power to full and flaps set to position 2 and I was on my way down the runway. Was that the right configuration? I’m still not entirely sure but the V-speeds that the FMC calculated during the startup tutorial that I was following seemed to be roughly accurate – close enough for this newbie sim airline pilot.

At that point I was hand flying the airplane while looking around at the scenery and trying to figure out what was up with the autopilot. The route wasn’t coming up in the way that I had expected and so I had a problem. Messing around in the FMC I was able to convince the airplane to go direct to my next waypoint and that seemed to solve the problem for the time. I need to figure that out better of course!

Next up was getting the autopilot on which took some time and rewatching some tutorials (all the while keeping close eye on my airplane). Soon I had it figured out and pressed the appropriate buttons – experienced 737 pilots will surely note some of my cockpit screenshots have all sorts of things out of order.

At this point, things were starting to go a bit more smoothly. As I neared the top of climb mark I enlisted some help for the second part of my journey. A friend, who just happens to be a 737 pilot, hopped on a Discord channel with me and provided a ton of information on how to fly the aircraft. Not all of it will have immediately sunk in but I learned a lot including the speed override, some tips about the usage of speed breaks in flight (which in the PMDG you just click and it moves into place – key binds optional). I also learned about what the vectors on the programmed route meant – basically that I should be vectored by ATC or in this case self vectored.

We went through a dozen different things before I found myself turning towards the runway, catching the ILS and bringing the aircraft in for a safe landing. This went more or less uneventfully although my landing can definitely use some more practice.

It was exhilarating and complicated and… fun too! I’m still very intimidated by this aircraft and all of the things that it does that I don’t yet fully have under my control. But the first steps are often the most difficult and there are going to be more flights to come.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. CanadaOne says:

    Not a long flight, but a very scenic one.

    I did Vancouver to Whitehorse (real life). Short of flying over the Himalayas, it might be the best flight ever. Whitehorse is still one of my favourite flightsim spots. North to Lake Laberge and then up to Dawson, it’s magnificient.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      That sounds like a good follow up flight!


  2. Sean Lester says:

    yeah! well done. It’s great to be reminded of those early days of flying these addons. You’re right – there’s so much to them but like you learned, so much of it is actually extremely simple – once you understand it! lol. I’m a couple decades on and off with the PMDG 737 and I’m still learning stuff. I hope you keep enjoying it and update us with your progress.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Thanks very much for the support and encouragement! I’m so used to combat aircraft like the ones in DCS and this is similarly complex but very different too.

      But it’s also very fun!


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