If anyone is interested, and it’s OK to post it here, this is one of many similar videos and accompanying narratives I’ve done using IF (posting in a FB group, not named). It’s long and drawn out on purpose.
I’m not advertising the video in any way, just thought you might like to peruse…
When Henri Giffard built his 3 horsepower, 143 foot long steam powered passenger carrying airship in 1852, I don’t think he would have ever anticipated that just 166 years later we would be where we are in terms of aviation, more specifically commercial aviation. To think that we are now able to fill a Boeing 777-300 with 396 passengers and fly over 8,500 nautical miles high above the earths surface is far in terms of advancements from say, for example, the classic well known 1903 first ever flight conducted by the Wright Brothers. Granted, their plane wasn’t made out of 3 million cutting edge parts and accessories - it was made of wood but it started flight as we know it and from there developed into the flying machines we see in the skies today
There are quite a few types of modern commercial aircraft from the smaller Embraer E170 to the mammoth Airbus A380. Generally, Boeing and Airbus are taken as being the big guns of the commercial aviation world and most of the planes you see in the air will more than likely be made by one of the 2 bigger manufacturers. The Boeing 777, for example, has been a hit in the world of commercial aviation. It’s versatile, big, fuel efficient and can do some serious mileage carrying many people. It’s an aircraft I have always found adequate. I’ve watched it progress with interest over the years from the original 777-200 to the -300 and -8 and 9 versions and the more modern X and lettered variants within the standard number including LR and ER. LR is a "long range" version of the standard aircraft and ER is the even more "extended range" version, which can fly further than the LR also increasing in size by rule of thumb as the number increases - the 777-200 is bigger than than the 777-300, for example. Airlines around of the world operate these things in both passenger and freight format, in varying liveries and setup depending on requirements for that particular aircraft or operator.
One of the airlines that has quite a few of these is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the flag carrier for the Netherlands. It operates 29 Boeing 777 aircraft. Those who know KLM will be familiar their blue and white livery in different shades. The airline does, however, have one differently painted Boeing 777 in its fleet. It’s the "Orange Pride" special edition version. It’s a one off paint job on an aircraft registered PH-BVA, which it operates on various routes around the world using Amsterdam as its hub. It’s a special paint job there to give a unique livery for people to see and basically to hold one unique plane in its fleet to catch the eye. I’ve always liked the standard KLM livery as it’s not garish, so this one off orange version did make me take a step back a bit but it’s still a decent paint job and pretty well incorporated into the standard livery colours.
One of the various destinations that this particular plane does fly to and from every now and again is Atlanta in the USA. Let’s replicate this on the flight simulator and see whats what.
We will be departing on flight KLM255 from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS: EHAM), Amsterdam, Netherlands bound for Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL: KATL), Georgia, USA on a Boeing 777-306ER registration PH-BVA. Flight time is expected to be around 9 hours and and we’ll be cruising at 33,000 feet over the North Atlantic and into the South East side of United States of America.
For those who may not have seen these flight sim videos in the group before it’s worth a little general explanation as to what we have here. It’s a global simulator, offering every airport in correctly placed positions in and around the globe including accurate labelling of all airports, runways and airspace including restrictions where needed to keep with real aviation rules in actual places. Real life scenery and global mapping is in place as well. It’s a live sim which means other people are using it at the same time as us on a global basis - all the planes we see on the map and planes flying about "for real" are other users just like us, doing what they do and going about their flights. When zooming out on the map we can’t see all the users in the world as it will only show you users within a certain range of your aircraft and those you would have to take into consideration in a real life situation and with that when navigating around. Air Traffic Control is in place as well, which can be operated live by other users if they have chosen to do so at the time at that particular airport or if not it just remains as the standard universal communicator without any live user ATC operation.
Pre flight checks and setup will include making sure there is an adequate fuel level to complete the flight and a surplus supply just in case - plenty in the tanks. We’ll preset up the autopilot functions to take us to Atlanta at 33,000 feet. I have differing views on the autopilot functions. It’s a great feature to take us across the world at a set altitude between 2 specific airports and it works well in keeping the plane steady for sure, but at the same time I like to keep a good degree of manual handling of the aircraft. I like to take the helm at every opportunity so take off and landing will be fully manual. We will deploy the autopilot functions one by one after take off with fixed heading to keep us straight down the runway initially, followed by engaging auto altitude function once a rough initial pitch and yoke combination is found followed finally by the navigation function to take us to the USA. Once pushing the NAV button the plane will change course and head for its destination accordingly. The landing will be fully manual and the autopilot will be fully disengaged when near the airport on landing.
OK, I think we’re just about ready to go now. Passengers are settled with a glass of apple juice and a few are already asleep. Let’s work those 2 General Electric GE90-115B engines and take to the sky. Turbulence could be expected as we cross between land and water so just in case I will keep the seat belt signs on until we are at a constant. Once we have departed the Netherlands and passed over the U.K this flight will be over mostly open ocean until we eventually hit the outskirts of Canada and then into the U.S, so we’ll take the opportunity to vary camera angles a bit, have a close look at the plane, and maybe vary the time of day settings as well.
The 777-300 is a tricky one. I’ve flown various aircraft in these group videos before ranging from small Embraer, Airbus A318, A319, A320, A321, A330, A380, the smaller Boeing 737 and larger 787 Dreamliner and 747 but this one feels different. I’ve flown the 777 in a couple of these videos, once in December 2017 using the 777-200 from the Dominican Republic to Mexico and in the same month the 777-300 from Dubai to the Maldives. Every time the 777-300 commands more respect, simply because it can be quite tricky and it’s a hefty piece of kit. The 777-200 by comparison on the sim is a lot easier and actually feels lighter and a bit smaller (which it is in real life as well), but the 777-300ER feels (and is) large. With that, extra careful planning is always needed to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible. It’s a fast plane, for sure, but it’s also heavy and due to being an ER version (extended range) and everything has to be bigger in turn such as fuel tanks, capacity and other parts. The Airbus A380 we flew to Dubai a while back actually felt easier to handle on take off, which was surprising, probably because it was a much bigger plane and slightly slower climber and therefore a bit less inclined to veer off suddenly at the slight adjustment of the angles.
A fair amount of practice has paid off with the 777-300. Whilst the normal adjustments to the pitch, yoke and throttle on initial climb were needed to make sure the plane flew as smoothly as possible, it was quite a smooth take off compared to some of my previous attempts. You can’t chuck this plane around - you have to treat it gently and not jolt it about. In return, it will offer a good ride. Slowly increasing throttle and rotation on take off without climbing too steep or hammering the engines too much is how to get this 777-300 to respond well. You have to build it up nicely. It kind of suits it as a long haul aircraft really. It’s almost talking to you saying:
"We’ve got a long journey ahead, no need to rush".
Some (but not all) international aviation rules and regulations specify that you shouldn’t be exceeding 250 knots at or below 10,000 feet so we always try to adhere to those rules. Once hitting 10,000 feet we can open the taps more until we reach comfortable combinations of variables and settle down more at cruise altitude. Once we reach higher altitude things generally settle down more and as the instruments and technology find their place in the sky with the particular environment and outside elements present at that time. Once we are at cruise and have reached a constant, we can adjust the throttle a bit to make sure we are fast enough and at the same time keeping fuel economy at its optimum. Aviation fuel isn’t cheap.
Whist on the subject of the external environment, we have a fair amount of information available to us when selected, such as pressure, temperature, winds, distances to various waypoints, speeds et cetera (et cetera - Latin, meaning similar items to follow). On the fixed vertical left hand side of the HUD (head up display) we have the airspeed. This has warning limits in place which help keep to the 250 knots at or below 10,000 and also monitor speed throughout the flight. There are advised maximum tolerances as well. Generally 350 knots is a maximum into the climb and when at altitude it will advise you not to exceed certain speeds. This is basically telling you that if you go too fast it will push the plane beyond its airframe safety limits and so it’s best to keep at a safer and more tolerable speed. If this plane is going to last through a couple of decades of constant use then it’s not advisable to keep pushing it to the limit all the time. This is also something that needs to be monitored throughout the flight. As we burn fuel and the plane gets lighter, the speed could potentially creep up with the same throttle levels and go "overspeed", so that’s something to look out for as well. I find it’s always best to keep the speed lower than near the maximum tolerance simply to give a bit of leeway either side. On take off as I crept slightly over 250 knots below 10,000 and 350 knots above 10,000 respectively, but they were just warnings to adjust the throttle to avoid being given an official violation should you continue at the same rate.
Once we are fully into the cruise we can relax a bit more and look at some of the views, though an eye still needs to be kept on the current environment to ensure everything is running as it should be. It was a smooth flight, albeit a few bumps here and there as we cruise over the open ocean and you probably noticed that seat belt signs are briefly put on once in a while to ensure the safety of the passengers during the flight.
There was live ATC at Amsterdam which directed us through ground and tower quite well though a slight delay left us sitting on the runway for longer than I would have liked. Also, if I’m being really picky with the controllers (which I always am) we did come quite close to KLM23 initially after leaving the tarmac which was a Boeing 777-200ER but nothing major. It turned orange on the map to indicate not to get any closer and to make you aware of its close proximity but still I would have like to have seen better departure coordination from the tower to ensure a bigger distance between us.
Airspace over the Netherlands and UK was busy with lots of other users going about their flights. Also, there appeared to be quite a few users flying over the Atlantic and even in the middle of the open ocean we are able to spot other planes going by. A lot of them are on USA to Europe routes so it makes sense that the airspace over the ocean there is also quite busy. It’s quite interesting clicking on the other user icons as they pass by, seeing where to and from they are going, what planes they are using and their flight plans and other information. Fuel flow at cruise started at a rate of 9,038 kg (kilograms) per hour then dropped as time passed (the last time I checked it was at 7,656 kg per hour). Pressure at cruise was 1,013Pa (pascal) and an outside temperature of minus 57 degrees centigrade, increasing and decreasing slightly over the duration of the flight.
After the vast open space of the Atlantic open ocean, it was a welcome sight to see land again as we cruised over the Canadian island of Newfoundland and over waters in between the Canadian and American regions with an opportunity to take in some of the views of various coastlines before finally hitting the USA mainland flying over New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Virginia and North Carolina and onto Atlanta, Georgia. I did partake in quite a lot of map observation as well in this flight, observing the plans, aircraft, airports and surroundings. A lot of camera panning and viewing was done to make the best of the scenery. As we are nearing our destination it gets a bit bumpy over North Carolina so the seat belt signs go on and stay on from there. I was pleased with the landing as we made our descent and engage flaps and mix the landing variables to slow the aircraft down to the correct speeds and make our approach onto runway 26R. On touchdown the spoilers help slow us down as they pop up when we hit the runway and the reverse thrust is there to slow this thing down quickly and smoothly albeit a minor crosswind on touchdown with a small adjustment to heading required. We find a parking spot at the huge airport relatively near the runway and shut down the engines as this plane will be staying here overnight until heading back. Our flight time of 8 hours 56 minutes was spot on within the actual real flight timeframe.
On my ongoing quest to iron out the creases in these videos and attention to detail, I couldn’t help but notice an error on my part. I referred to this as "Flight KL255". After further inspection of available information, it appears that this is actually flight number KL621, not KL255. KL255 is actually the callsign used on this flight, not the flight number. Callsigns are often the same as the flight number but sometimes not, as is the case here. This is basically a way of making sure 2 flights don’t have the same identities and in order to give the flight a more bespoke identifier as the flight number and callsign can often be different. Luckily, I put what I thought was the flight number into the callsign section by mistake instead of what I thought was the callsign number, but in making the error of putting the flight number into the callsign section, our callsign actually turned out to be correct on the ATC because what I thought was the flight number turned out to be the correct callsign number, which was put into the correct section. Result.
Also, the ATC now offers varying accents for different users in order to make it look a bit more realistic. This feature is a brand new developed update, and it wasn’t until the recording had started that I realised the correct selection hadn’t been made and I was assuming the role of an Australian lady, as opposed to a British male which you can hear in the ATC conversation. It doesn’t make any difference anyway so we’ll just roll with that.
As mentioned before, the 777-300 has proven quite tricky on the sim in the past but the more you fly it the more you know how to handle some of its attributes that make it a bit harder than the other aircraft. Just to be sure as some extra practice and a refresher prior to this flight I took a few hours out and flew it last night from Atlanta to Washington to get a general feel for the airspace and flying environment. There were quite a few users around the Atlanta area and indeed around the Washington area and a few scattered here and there. You can see them on the map but as mentioned earlier, only the ones within a relevant distance. I messed up the landing a bit by going in too fast into Washington on that flight and the go around was needed but again it means that the flying skills for the 777-300 are being practiced, honed and implemented to ensure smoother future flights. I’m not sure if it was noticeable, but in its true style the 777-300 didn’t let me off lightly. As we are into the final descent I took my eye off the figures for a moment whilst messing around with the cameras and before you know it’s gone over the 250 knots mark for long enough to issue a violation. Never mind, more lessons learned about the 300ER.
It’s quite a statement, but this plane, in this livery, is my new favourite on the simulator. Over the time and flights spent trying to conquer its difficult traits, it has gained my respect. You need to treat it as it gently and it gives you a good flight experience in return. By comparison, when I took screenshots the 15 hour direct flight from London to Perth in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner back on 8th April 2018, I never really completely mixed with the plane in that 15 hours. It was too laden with technology, too much geared towards minimal user input and with that, too easy to become lazy with. It was a capable plane for the mammoth direct flight to Australia for sure but the 787-9 Dreamliner lacked something. Something that the 777-300ER has. It can be difficult, it throws challenges at you, it needs attention and you need to manually handle the thing and take the controls every now and again without the computers adjusting everything for you. This plane is a plane.
Have a watch of the 9 hour 11 minute video.