So my last official update thread here was back in October- and it is hard to believe two months have already passed since that post. Maybe it is true what they say about time going faster as you get older… Uh oh…
This post was originally slated for release on Friday 14DEC12, but as the news of the day unfolded, I decided to wait a few days and come back when it seemed more appropriate.
The past couple of months have been incredibly busy for everyone at PMDG- and by the time you get to the bottom of this update you will understand why. If you have been around this forum for a few product release cycles you already know that we tend to get really quiet as we reach the end of heavy development, and then we start talking again as the airplane transitions into various testing ranges prior to release.
This has nothing whatever to do with anything OTHER than, “Rob is usually too tired to be pleasant OR entertaining after months of 14-16hr days.”
(Darn- I just killed off another round of conspiracy theory bingo… Sorry!)
Okay- so here is what I have on tap for you in this pre-Christmas update:
- 777 progress update
- So you want to be a PMDG Tester?
- 747-400v2.0 progress update
- DC-6 progress update
- Xplane development update
PMDG 777 PROGRESS UPDATE:
The PMDG 777 is coming along really nicely.
As it stands right now, we have a very robust, very comprehensive simulation of the 777 on our hands and we are nearing the end of the development process where we are adding new behaviors to the airplane. Shortly we will be transitioning to a period of very detailed verification/correction that will be followed by a very thorough beta testing process.
If it gives you an idea how far along the 777 is: We have started to move a few of the key developers off the 777 and on to their next projects and this is a really good sign for all of you that are awaiting release of the PMDG 777!
With development projects like these, we don’t give you any release dates until we are very close to release- because we honestly cannot project precisely when we will step back and say, “yes- this is finished.” (And while some like to criticize the amount of time it takes us to bring a full simulation to market- we take our time with such things because the little details are very important...) The development process at PMDG always continues until we feel that we have a finished product on our hands.
As we transition from outright development and into verification/testing/tweaking/fixing/verifying again, we will be using (literally!) tens of thousands of pages of documentation page-by-page and line-by-line to be certain that the details are correct and that the airplane and subsystems respond accurately and effectively within FSX. When we are finished, you should be able to get precisely the same response to your inputs and controls with the PMDG 777 as you would from an actual 777. Even right down to the little nuanced details.
This part of the testing process takes place in-house (because it is really a development process more than it is a testing process) and it will be followed by the release of the airplane to our Technical Advisors team. Our Tech team is comprised of folks who have a tremendous amount of experience flying or maintaining 777s, and many of these folks have already been selected and we have verified their credentials, employment qualifications and history. They are very eager to get going with this magnificent airplane!
So how close are we to release? Closer than we were when you started to read this.
Oh- and see? Now we are even closer!
And even closer….
Okay- in all seriousness- we are starting to talk internally about the release schedule- and THAT usually doesn’t start to happen until we are pretty comfortable with the status of the airplane under development. Just to be clear however- we are not expecting the release before Christmas or New Year- so please go enjoy the holiday with your loved ones!
So how much “stuff” have we packed into the product? Lots!
The PMDG 777 is to the Boeing 777 what the PMDG 737NGX was to the Boeing 737NG series. We have packed this simulation to the gills with realism, detail and features that will allow you to experience the sheer awesomeness that is flying the 777. We have a few very neat features that we are eager to show you in screen captures and video, but that will happen a bit later because we are still cleaning up some areas and we don’t want to share images that don’t really show you the details!
How detailed will the PMDG 777 be?: The 777 will be as detailed as the NGX in all areas- and more detailed in some others. Let me give you some examples just from the areas of the product that I have been working with, of late:
The actual 777 has something to the tune of 1100 possible EICAS messages that might appear on the upper and lower screens. Of these, approximately 800 are messages that might be seen by pilots, with the remainder being messages largely reserved for display during maintenance diagnostic processes. Of the “800 or so” messages that a crew might see during a career operating the 777, we anticipate that nearly all of them will be present in the airplane when you first fly it.
But the message are not just fancy placeholders- we have put a tremendous amount of time and energy into modeling sensor systems, transducers, data processes, bit tests, loop tests and the like… The 777 is a very smart airplane and if the failure of a particular piece of equipment does not require pilot attention right away, you may just see a status message appear on the lower display with no further indication to raise the attention of the crew… If something a bit more urgent fails, it will appear as required in the EICAS message area of the upper display, along with the requisite status messages on the lower STAT page…
We have developed the 777 with an even broader spectrum of potential failures modeled in the failure system and these failures are weighted for statistical accuracy based on real world fleet performance data. That means transient messages, intermittent warnings and failures that bring the real world into your simulation… (And of course- if you don’t follow the QRH… you might have further undesired consequences!)
I mentioned that the 777 is a smart airplane: We have built in the very sophisticated logic structures that allow the airplane to reconfigure itself “on the fly” in the event of failures. For nearly all types of failures, the airplane has automated methods to ensure redundancy and to protect dispatch reliability- and these behaviors are modeled in the simulation, as you would expect!
(For example, failure of certain systems in the air will not be brought to the pilot’s attention- instead they will announce themselves upon landing… This is done to keep the crew from becoming distracted with items that do not impact the operational capability of the airplane and thus do not require crew intervention, but they do require correction once the airplane is on the ground.)
To give you some other details: We have modeled the entire fly-by-wire system as part of the PMDG 777 package. The entire flight control system including the Normal, Secondary and Direct modes, along with the various changes in behavior and operating limitations that those modes place on the flight control system are modeled. For example, the flight controls configure themselves a certain way while the airplane is operating in Normal mode, but if a sequences of failures causes the airplane to enter Secondary or Direct modes- the airplane is going to fly differently, configure differently, and respond slightly differently to control inputs!
The components of the FBW system are accurately modeled, from the electrical connections in the system to the ACE units, PSUs, to the backup batteries to keep the controls running normally through hiccups in power availability... It is all there! Did you lose the entire center hydraulic system? Then you also lost some features in your flight controls and this will be reflected in the airplane performance and on the system displays.
But the really nice feature of the 777 is that even with all of these options and things to break- this airplane is capable of maintaining incredibly high levels of dispatch reliability due to its ability to reconfigure and continue the mission… We can’t wait for you to see it in action!
Okay, so when do we start showing her off to you?
It won’t be too long! We are still cleaning up some detail work- so I am holding off on previews… I know some of you would love to see the in progress stuff- but we really prefer showing you the fun stuff when it is nearly finished...
It won’t be too much longer however!
SO YOU WANT TO BE A PMDG TESTER?
We get quite a bit of email from folks asking if they can join our beta team- so I thought I would put this comment out here in the open for everyone to see… First, please understand that we are not currently recruiting beta testers… On those rare occasions where we do have an opening, we generally approach someone from inside this forum who is known to us and who has a long history of participating in the forum in a manner that makes this forum a beneficial place for other simmers.
Next, we are always looking for technical advisors. Right now we are still interested to add 777 or DC-6 qualified pilots and mechanics to the Technical Advisors team which will be up and running during the next few weeks. If you have verifiable qualification to fly the 777 or DC-6, or if you have verifiable work history maintaining them- then please reach out to us via our support portal at http://support.precisionmanuals.com
PMDG 747-400v2.0 Update:
The 744 is moving along in development- and I can’t even begin to express how truly excited I am to tell you that this project will give us all a 744 that is on the same quality and feature level as the NGX and the 777…
We have moved some of the 777 development team over to this airplane- and it is not lost on us that we probably did the 777 and 744v2.0 in the wrong order because the 744 is a simpler airplane from an automation point of view…
I am sorely tempted to share some images of this one with you, but I think I will hold off until after the 777 release so that we can keep ourselves focused on the first tasks at hand…
If you have a fondness for the 744- this simulation is going to knock your sox off!
DC-6 PROGRESS UPDATE:
The DC-6 has gotten a bit held up because of it’s position behind the 777 on the resource chain. This being the case, I anticipate it coming available for release sometime after the 777 release.
If you like old airplanes like we do- then this one will definitely tickle your funny bone…
XPLANE Development Update:
I mentioned awhile back that we were beginning the process of bringing onboard a developer to run the Xplane development process in house at PMDG. We have had Chris Powell with us for few months now and he has been leading the Xplane development process since hitting the ground back in October…
We have selected the airplane that will be our first release for the Xplane marketplace- and that project is well into development, although it is taking longer than we would otherwise like. Xplane is a completely new platform for us- and as such we are still fumbling and feeling our way through various tasks that come as second nature to us in FSX.
You may recall that I said earlier that we will not be announcing the Xplane project until it is nearly finished… We made this decision in order to prevent ourselves from getting locked into a particular simulation when we might decide later on that a different airplane was more conducive to Xplane conversion and our own learning process with the new (to us) simulator platform. I am glad we made that decision, because just such a change took place a few months back- and we have a really great new airplane coming for you on the Xplane platform.
What happens after the first Xplane project releases? We’ll start working on the second one. :-D
We are moving out of the “heavy lifting” period of 777 development, and into the detail review period. This means I’ll begin spending a bit more time and energy here in the forum which will please some. (And displease others! Ahahahahh)
There is a period in every project of this type during which we just don’t have a whole bunch to say- and these past few months have been that period. There isn’t much exciting to read in a post that tells you “yeah- we coded some more today.”
The wait is nearly over now- and we are very excited about it!
To round things off, I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas on behalf of all of us here at PMDG- please be safe during the holidays- and stay tuned in here during the week, as I'll have more 777 details to describe for you. This will be a working holiday for some of us at PMDG, after all!