Thursday, November 13, 2008

British Airways Boeing 777-200ER G-VIIT

I've never been able to use the Melvin Rafi Boeing 777, for reasons I'm not entirely sure. This means, for the last four years, the world of 777 flying has been inaccessible to me unless I wanted to use the default plane or one of the AI versions. Which I didn't.

But no more. Project Opensky has finally built a 777 of their own, actually several planes, the 777-200 and the 777-200ER, each available in three engine versions, PW, Rolls Royce Trent-800's, and GE-90. I prefer the version of the plane without the virtual cockpit (VC) because the VC really impacts my frame rates.

For my test flight, I chose the British Airways 777-200ER, tail number G-VIIT pictured above. The Extended Range (ER) version is enhanced with larger fuel tanks and is able to achieve a range in excess of 7500 nautical miles, easily enough to fly from JFK to Tokyo, or London-Heathrow to Singapore. The flight plan I filed was WSSS (Singapore, Changi) to EGLL (London Heathrow), with automatic High-Altitude routing. The flight plan calculated had a total distance of 5,985 nautical miles. Expected flying time: 12 hrs, 45 min.
The fuel load I chose for this flight was 31,650 US gallons, which allowed a worst-case scenario of 5.3 gallons/mile for the overall flight. Expected performance for the plane is 3.6 to 4.1 g/mile, which is roughly the same as the Boeing 767-300 -- very good for a plane this size, and plenty enough reason to explain why the 777 has become so popular with modern airlines.
It isn't really desirable to fly a route this long in one continuous session. The way I flew this particular flight was to arrange a departure time from Singapore of 0330Z, or about 10:30 A.M. local time. This provided for an expected arrival time of (0330 + 1230) or 1600Z, which at London would be 4 P.M. local time. Still daylight, although getting on toward dusk at this time of year. After climbing to an enroute crusing altitude of FL350, I minimized FS2004, turned the monitor off, and went to bed. If you have the general settings option "Pause on Task Switch" turned OFF (unchecked), FS2004 will continue flying as a background task, such as while minimized. This allows you to do other work while the plane flies, or, as I did, just go to bed and get a good night's sleep :)
The next morning, the plane had only travelled about half the route. This is because we were encountering strong headwinds along the route, upwards of 80 to 100 knots at times. The trip was going to take more than the estimated 12 1/2 hours, much more. Fortunately I had packed plenty of fuel, mainly because I had anticipated the possibility of strong easterly headwinds at this time of year. So, I saved the flight and shut down FS for the rest of the day.
I started the flight up again before I went to bed the second night, and let it fly all that night. Finally, the next morning, we were only a few hundred miles from London. I landed safely at Heathrow -- the plane handled beautifully, just as easy to handle as the default 737 -- after logging a total of nearly 15 hours. This was one of the longest flights I had ever made, and at the end, this beast of a machine still had 7,266 gallons of fuel on board!
If you're interested in flying a modern plane with plenty of range, and have the time and abilities to manage such long flights, I think you'll enjoy the Project Opensky Boeing 777-200. Visually beautiful, easy to handle, and with range and flight characteristics typical of the real 777, this will do the job for you.

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