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Commercial Aircraft Review

Take Command! IXEG 737 Classic

Add-on: Realistic presentation of Boeing 737-300 Series
Publisher | Developer: X-Aviation | IXEG
Description: Accurate Reproduction of Boeing 737-300 Series
Software Source / Size: Install / approximately 1.2Gb (unzipped)
Reviewed by: Jude Bradley
Published: October 14th 2016
Hardware specifications: - Intel Core i7-47900K @ 4.4 GHz
- 32GB RAM @ 2400MHz
- Gigabyte NVidia GTX 970 4GB
- Saitek Pro-Flight Yoke and Rudder pedals
Software specifications: - Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
- X-Plane 10.50
- Skymaxx Pro 3.3.2
- IXEG Classic 737-300 version 1.07

Introduction

“Who or what is IXEG?” I hear you say. Well according to their website, and other sources, they are a team of 5 core members who have experience in both engineering and real-flying and have come together as a team to produce one of the best aircraft out there in the X-Plane world. This mammoth project was originally announced back in August 2010 and was 6 years in the making! Let’s face it, if you want to make a sure winner in the flightsim world, well the 737 and A320 are the way to go ,but be warned, you really need to make an excellent model these days as the competition is definitely heating up. 2016 is the year for X-Plane with such additions as the x737 and the MD-80 being added to the virtual shelves. When I announced to the editor that I wished to write a review for this aircraft, she replied “Is it as good as the main competitor, I replied that it’s definitely in the PMDG territory for sure! Well, let’s take a look and see! The list of features of this aircraft is given below:

  • Detailed exterior 3D model
  • Highly accurate landing gear and flaps animation
  • Realistic exterior and interior lighting effects (HDR required to see the full beauty)
  • Animated 3D pilots
  • Several liveries to choose from
  • Different variants sported (winglets and cockpit instrumentation)
  • System simulation without limits – if it´s in the cockpit, it´s working as in the real plane
  • Accurate 3D cockpit with life-like texturing and weathering effects
  • Custom tuned flight model – lift, drag, thrust, ground-effect, ground model
  • Realistic performance values – it is possible to plan flights with official charts
  • Flight-management-system with dual CDU operation
  • LNAV and VNAV including official procedures, restrictions
  • Custom sounds, including warning sounds
  • Realistic precipitation effects on windows (rain, ice, snow) that react to the wipers
  • EGPWS terrain display
  • Weather radar system with tilt, showing X-Plane´s precipitation, ground returns, allows overscanning
  • Custom flight controls, including ground, flight and roll spoilers
  • Realistic sound for opening cockpit windows
  • Intuitive interface systems with pop-out graphical user interface
  • Includes our own quick-start guides and tutorial missions
  • Custom push-back procedure, ground power supply, ground pneumatic supply
  • Frame-rate friendly use of textures and 3d modeling techniques

I have to say that IXEG have been very honest at this point and on their forum it states “Things that are NOT going to be in V1.0”:

Aircraft visual 3D model

    • Operating doors (passenger, service, cargo) – omitted due to time constraints, definitely planning to add later.
    • Ancillary vehicles (catering, fuel truck, loading crew) – we have a basic push-back truck and a GPU, the rest will not be added since there is no easy way to make it look/move “realistically” (without knowing where buildings etc. are).
    • Wingflex – not added because it’s a lot of effort and the real wings don’t flex much. Might be added at a later stage, dependent on user feedback.
    • Fully fleshed out galleys and cabin interior. Omitted due to time constraints, definitely planning to add later. For now a basic, low-res placeholder 3D cabin is in place.
    • Cockpit entry mechanism and moving cockpit door. Omitted due to time constraints, definitely planning to add moving cockpit door later, the security entry mechanism will not be added, due to security reasons.
    • Deployable emergency slides. Omitted due to time constraints, planning to add later.
    • Deploying oxygen masks. Omitted due to time constraints, planning to add later.
    • Sound effects/visual model for passengers and their (assumed) behaviour. Too complex a simulation of it’s own, most likely won’t be added for fear of having something repetitive or cheesy.
    • Cabin crew interaction. Omitted due to time constraints. Planning to have basic interaction, for opening doors, for example. Need to get sound-samples first, basic infrastructure in place, though.
    • “Eyebrow windows”. We could possibly add those later, but they require a lot of effort (cut 3D model, add windows, etc.). Down on the priority list, but once we run out of things to fix, who knows …..

FMS

    • Pilot entered HOLDS. While we have database-inherent holds (like at the end of a missed approach), we won’t feature the HOLD page where you could enter all sorts of HOLDS. Omitted due to time constraints, definitely planning to add later.
    • RTA feature. Omitted due to time constraints, planning to add later, but low priority.
    • OFFSET feature. Omitted due to time constraints,planning to add later, but low priority.
    • ABEAM points (after shortcutting route, for example). Omitted due to time constraints, definitely planning to add later. You CAN enter stuff in the FIX page, and “find” a PBD point that way (enter a fix, enter a radial and a distance to see the green radial and distance-circle).
    • Entering user created waypoints (point-bearing-distance, for example) and using those in the flight-plan. Omitted due to time constraints, definitely planning to add later.
    • Entering descent wind forecast (normal wind entry on PERF INIT page possible).
    • Display of “RTE DATA” on EHSI/map, i.e. showing ETA and restrictions next to waypoint. You can see that on the LEGS page, for now. Omitted due to time constraints, definitely planning to add later.
    • Automatic entry of performance data (weight, etc.). We might include that for the “ready to fly” scenario, not decided yet. For now it must be entered manually, if FMS performance assistance is desired (not mandatory).
    • Fully working PROGRESS page – we started to code it, but much of the things shown are placeholders. We expect this to be one of the first things we will add soon after release.
    • GUI
    • Dedicated flight-planning software. We feel that this is not necessarily within the scope of our add-on. We model the plane like you get it after delivery from Seattle (+ free lifetime fuel!). There are plenty of flight-planning solutions out there, we include a basic “ballpark” fuel calculator.
    • Complex and visually appealing load+trim software. We feel that clicking empty seats to fill them and pulling sliders to load cargo is fun for a few times – but really all you get is a weight and a center of gravity. And you might just as well set those directly in the gui. We have simple sliders and click-buttons for that (or you can use the default X-Plane menus).
    • No way to output any CDU, EADI or EHSI onto an external device like iPad or such. Would like to have that (especially for cockpit builders), though. Exception: it is possible to use AirFMC, available at the Apple App Store.
    • No pop-out 2D displays of flight instruments/CDU/EFIS to make reading or entering stuff easier, no hiding of yoke to not obscure view. We feel that the ergonomics (or lack of) an airliner cockpit is an important part of the experience, so we don’t want to “help” too much. We have “preview pop-ups” of the EHSI when making changes on the EFIS control panel to help you see if you have the right setup.
    • No mouse wheel scroll support for turning knobs. We are pretty happy with the click-hold and drag system, but if user demand is strong, we might add mousewheel scroll support later on.

Warning systems

    • TCAS. Omitted due to time constraints, definitely planning to add later. This is a VERY complex system, and to get it right (including all the modes, synchronized avoiding behaviour of both TCAS systems involved in the conflict, multiplayer aircraft, correct EADI display) will take a long time. You can hear the basic X-Plane audio warning, but no symbology or resolution advisory for now. The system is also very rarely used in real flight (fortunately), so the return on investment (development time) is very low.
    • EGPWS look-ahead feature (sheer-cliff protection). We do depict the terrain on the map, with correct colour shading. But the “Terrain ahead” and “Obstacle” warnings won´t be given for “look-ahead” scenarios. All other (conventional) modes are there, so you will get the “Terrain, Terrain”, but later than the look-ahead warning would be issued. Omitted due to time constraints, possibly planning to add later.

Other systems

  • Wxr radar returns can only be displayed on the left EHSI/map. Omitted due to time constraints, definitely planning to add later.
  • Terrain colour display can only be shown on the left EHSI(map. Omitted due to time constraints, definitely planning to add later.
  • Flight attendant panel 1L. Including cabin light switches, ground service switch. Omitted due to time constraints, definitely planning to add later. The ground service switch can be “moved” through a sidebar menu.
  • Operating CB´s. We decided that most CB´s will never be moved in normal operation. We will add moveable CBs with the yellow collar later (to be used in abnormal situations), and possibly some others as well (standby altimeter vibrator!).
  • Automatic startup/shutdown “macros”. Won´t add that. This plane is about realistic operation (it´s not hard!). If not desired, just select “ready to fly” or “turnaround-state”.
  • IRS using “false” position. It is not possible to deliberately enter a “false” position and have the IRS align to that. The entry will be rejected unless reasonably close to the real position. In the real plane the GPS would also “correct” your wrong entry (if close enough) or warn you. A position far from the old “shutdown” position would be rejected once. A wrong latitude would be detected during the alignment process…It would be a lot of coding effort to maintain a “wrong” position with the corresponding effects (map-shift, etc.).
  • A dedicated way to fly the same plane together in multiplayer. Note that SmartCopilot has made great progress in making our plane flyable with a crew of 2, and while not perfect yet, it is working very well, going by user reports.
  • The plane’s controls and radios were tested with dedicated Saitek Hardware. So mapping axis to speedbrake and flap lever should now work, as well as controlling the comms and nav radios. It is also compatible with XPUIPC and many users have set up a great variety of hardware to work well with the plane.

Interesting facts on the Boeing 737 Classic

First produced in 1967, the fuselage was based around the 707/727 with 3 abreast seating which is standard on medium-haul aircraft nowadays. The launch customer for the 737 was Lufthansa which required an aircraft capacity of 100 seats. None of these original 737-100 are in service anymore.
The next variant, the 737-200 was ordered by United Airlines who specified a longer aircraft for increased capacity of up to 136. Unbelievable as it seems now, the 737 production in it’s early days
Faced closure as only 37 units were placed on order and only due to the STS program being cancelled, was enough resources poured back into the 737 project. At this time, 13,000 have been ordered and over 9000 have been built so far.

The 737-300 was the first “Classic” variant to be released to service, and the launch customer was USAir. This version was powered by the CFM56 which also powers the A320 family, and because of the extra diameter of this engine compared to the original Pratt and Whitney engines, the newer engines were mounted forward of the wing, instead of directly below it, and some of the ancillary equipment to the sides of the engine, giving it a distinctive shape. The CFM56-3B-1 which was the variant powering the 737-300 gave 20,000 lbf (89 kN) of thrust.

First flown in 1984, a total of 1113 737-300 were built and the last production aircraft ZK-NGJ was delivered to Air New Zealand in December 1999. Quite a production run!
As of last year (July 2015), over 400 737-300’s were still in service.

Installation

The installation in this case is a bit different from the standard X-Plane procedure. Normally, you just unzip the downloaded files and place in your desired Aircraft Subfolder such as “Heavy Metal”. In this case however, you are given a 20Mb “starter file” which pulls down the rest of the installation package and by default, and point it to the X-Plane 10 path on your OS which then installs the files into the\ X-Plane 10\Aircraft\X-Aviation\IXEG 737 Classic\ location.

It’s important to follow this exactly and not place the files into your own custom location, or you will get a notification error “Detected an unsupported file path. Please make sure this aircraft is installed in [your X-plane folder]/Aircraft/X-Aviation/IXEG 737 Classic/” when updating any hotfixes.

Once the plane is installed you will need to activate it through the X-Aviation Servers with your username and password that you used to purchase the aircraft.

The aircraft comes with some basic liveries already installed (list below)

  • Air Berlin
  • Air France
  • Air Italy
  • America West
  • British Airways
  • Condor
  • Delta Retro
  • Iberia
  • IXEG
  • Jet2
  • Linjeflyg
  • Lufthansa
  • Lufthansa Retro
  • Norwegian
  • SAS
  • Southwest New
  • Transaero
  • United (tulip)
  • US Air
  • Varig

But there are at present 169 liveries On the X-Pilot forum, and 191 on the X-Plane.org site.

Below are a selection of liveries as an example of how good these are:

Documentation

The IXEG 737 comes with the following documentation, found in
X-Plane 10\Aircraft\X-Aviation\IXEG 737 Classic\Documentation which consists of 10 pdf files namely:
– Introduction
– Interface Guide
– Pilot Quick Reference Handbook
– Bug Reporting guide
– and in the folders Quick Start Guides, you have First Flight and Start Up from Cold and Dark,

and you have a Tutorials Folder which contains:
– Tutorial Flight 1 – Basic FMS and navigation
– Tutorial Flight 2 – Autopilot and Flight Director
– Tutorial Flight 3 – Radar Anti Ice EGPWS
– Tutorial Flight 4 – Full Flight with FMS

I would really recommend that you take some time to read these manuals and guides as they are very useful. If you plan on reporting bugs, the Bug Reporting guide is a must-read.

Walk-around

Lets start with the walk-around as per SmartCockpit document. This is a condensed version of the real one since we are just viewing the features of the aircraft.

Starting from the main door, (733.31) we see the static ports and TAT and pitot probes are unobstructed, and we move onto the aircraft nose-wheel doors and compartment are clear, and no leaking fluids are present and the tyre condition is good.

We also check the windshield has no marks or damage, and the wipers are in place and in good condition. We then check the FO side for the same Pitot and TAT sensors and ensure they are clear of debris. We then inspect the landing lights and engine and leading edge of the wing for any damage and that they are clear of foreign objects.

We then check the fans of the engine to check there is no damage or leaks of any nature, then move on to the static wicks and flaps. We inspect the main-wheel tires and wheels for damage and that the gear-pins are out and no obvious damage to the structure. We move onto the hatches and access points and ensure they have no damage and check the elevator tabs and probes for wear and tear, and lastly the APU cover.

A look around the office

For me personally, I don’t worry too much about what goes on behind the flight-deck, as I believe the important stuff is in front of you. The first thing to hit you is how clear and crisp the fonts and displays on the panels are.

This is a well-used aircraft and you can almost smell the oily metal in front of you, and when you pull the windshield and foot-air you can almost feel the breeze at your feet!

If you are thirsty, well, reach down and grab a cup of coffee, including coffee spill marks down the pedestal – all provided at no extra cost! They have done their work well in positioning the yoke as it seems to be placed perfectly with no need to hide it as in some products.

As expected, all lights are functional and the map- lights also swivel as they do in Jack’s Flyjsim model. While on the subject of lights, what I love in particular is the “Background Light” which has a florescent light effect which flickers on when turned up full ( I could do this all night long without even flying the aircraft!).

There are old oil and fingerprint marks all over the cockpit, and evidence to show some cleaning effort by the pilots on the test annunciators where there was an attempt to clean the lights with fingertips leaving a small circular mark on the push-buttons. The rudder-pedals are worn and shiny with age, and the yoke shows the many years of hand-flying that this plane has done.

All the switches have simulated wear and tear and you can clearly see where the original paint on the switches has been worn down by many hundreds of fingers over the years.
All the lettering and fonts on the flightdeck are clear and readable, both from close-up and further away. Something which cannot be said for most other aircraft at this time.

For this review, I did two typical routes that Aer Lingus fly, EGCC-> EIDW-EGLL using this addon livery (kindly supplied by wakeyZ).

EGCC SID ASMIM L975 WAL UL10 PENIL UL70 BAGSO STAR EIDW
EIDW DEXE1A DEXEN UY124 MOGTA UY53 NUGRA BNN1B EGLL

Creating a flight plan can be done in two ways. You can either pick the long way, which involves creating a plan from scratch, e.g: entering waypoints and airways, and then save the plan into the FMC, then add the SID and STAR and respective runways, for each individual flight, or you can use a website such as SimBrief and create a text file and save as below:

NB: Save in a text editor as .fpl, not txt! Or you will run into problems. Ensure to save in the below location: \X-Plane 10\Aircraft\X-Aviation\IXEG 737 Classic\coroutes\

In my case, I created a file with the contents EIDW DEXEN UY124 MOGTA UY53 NUGRA EGLL removing the SID and STARS entries, but adding the departure and arrival airport to the “head” and the “tail” of the text and saving it with .fpl extension. I used notepad++ in this case, and carefull not to save as .txt, but instead, scroll up to the very top of the file type to *(all file types)

You can then load this up from the FMC and add the departure/ SID and Arrival Airport/STAR

For my first flight I took off from Manchester runway 9L at dusk which is always my favourite time to fly in X-Plane and headed towards the WAL waypoint and over the Irish Sea to Dublin. Once I had the aircraft cleaned up (flaps and gear retracted), I climbed to the cruising altitude of FL220. The FMC followed the path nicely and I could sit back and enjoy the view. At the TOD (Top of Descent), I reset the altitude to FL80 and used the speedbrake to control the decent. For the most part, this wasn’t necessary, as the IXEG followed the descent profile quite well. From there to the EOD (End of Descent at 3000 ft), it was plain sailing and over How the Head lined up with Runway 280 which is the default runway for Dublin (EIDW). After setting the ILS frequency on both radios to 110.35 and course to 279, the IXEG captured the ILS beautifully and performed an ILS autoland with no hitches.

The next day, bright and early, I proceeded with my second flight, this time from Dublin to London Heathrow which is a much longer flight, approximately 268 nm as compared to the EGCC-EIDW flight which has a distance of approximately 150nm.
This gave me more time to look around and explore the aircraft rather than just see how it followed the FMC. The sounds as you advance the throttles is something else, and the various rattles and bangs of the aircraft as it begins its takeoff roll really add to the immersion factor here.
The sound from the air-conditioning is loud, but according to their support forums, this the correct level, it’s just that we as virtual fliers are not used to the real volumes. IXEG as a request, added extra volume settings for us users who like to hear the outside world as well. The trim-wheel noise, well let’s just say, you get used to it very quickly, but it’s always there in the background.

Once leveled off, we can relax a bit, take in the view, and enjoy the complimentary cup of coffee that IXEG kindly supplied. The cockpit lights in the IXEG are excellent and can be finely tuned to suit your needs depending on the time of day and weather. The map light can be swivelled according to your taste and needs. This is a major strength in X-Plane which keeps me coming back to this sim time and time again.

At the top of descent it’s time to change the ALT again, and you might notice the 3 Landing Gear lights illuminate, as the throttles are retarded. Not to worry, this is not a gear configuration error, but an advisory that the landing gear is not down and locked, and either or both forward thrust levers are retarded to the idle range.

Below 10,000 ft, it’s time to switch on the landing lights, and plan for the approach.
I had expected the aircraft to turn nicely from BNN to line up with the ILS, but this did not happen.
In the end, I had to use the heading mode to correct the course so I could use the approach correctly.
Once down to 2500 ft on the last leg, the ILS then worked as expected, and I used this opportunity to practice hand-flying the approach. It was not as daunting as I thought it would be and the throttle responded easily to my commands. Nice and easy is the hint here, making only small corrections as needed. As an aside, if you are having difficulty with flap retraction/extension, then this script may help somewhat, as there are no null zones in X-Plane if you use hardware such as the Saitek Throttle quadrant.

On touchdown, the armed speedbrakes activated and brought the aircraft to a standstill. All in all, it was a satisfactory flight experience with a few surprises thrown in at the last minute.

Speedbrake Reversal issues
If you have issues where the speedbrake is revered compared to all other aircraft – in my case, I have the Saitek throttle set, try using the ixeg_set_speedbrake_axis.lua script from and follow the below instructions:

Just copy the file into your x-plane/Resources/plugins/FlyWithLua/Scripts folder. Edit the file with a text editor and change the “speedbrake_axis_assignment” variable to whatever your speedbrake (spoiler) axis assignment is inside X-Plane. You can get the axis number from the “initial_assignments.txt” file which is in the x-plane/Resources/plugins/FlyWithLua folder.

You need of course, to reload X-Plane 10 again for the settings to take effect.

Many many thanks to x-pilot member Jean Joubert for the script!

How about at night?

As dusk falls, this airplane really shows it’s true colours (if you’ll pardon the pun), as does X-Plane in general. There is no sudden transition when the lights are activated as in some cases in FSX.
The runway, taxi lights and navigation lights are excellent and very clear, and the interior lights are something to dream about.

If there’s one reason to move, or consider moving to X-Plane, well this is it.

Performance

On my system, I am getting 30 fps with the IXEG parked at the gates. Considering this is quite a large airport and in tandem with the Skymaxx Pro, this is for me an excellent result. Of course, your mileage can vary greatly depending on your aircraft, your cloud settings, your individual rendering settings and of course lastly but not least – your hardware.

Summary

I cannot be but blown away by how smooth this aircraft is, the knobs and buttons move flawlessly and the framerates are excellent. True, there are some and bugs still present, but it is not at final yet, and updates are being provided on a fairly regular basis.

At this point in time, it’s my all-time favourite aircraft, and a real pleasure to hand-fly. I keep going back to this plane over and over again for the sheer joy I get from it. The immersion factor is superb on this model and it’s the Gold Standard in X-Plane at this time. Moving back to FSX seems – well- dated. They really produced a winner this time, and the IXEG 737 will give pleasure for many years to come.

The graphics are excellently done, and night-time flying is out of this world. The sounds are excellent and I have no complaints on that score. They spent many years with this aircraft in development and are currently working on release version 1.1, and according to X-Aviation, there will be some system updates as well as bug fixes.

If there is one add on aircraft you are going to purchase this year, then you won’t be disappointed with this one.

I had one occasion to contact support regarding license slots, and their support site was very courteous and helpful. I have had no regrets with this purchase.

More information can be found at the dedicated X-Aviation web page. Price at time of writing is USD 74.95.

With Greetings,
Jude Bradley

 

6 Comments

  1. Wolflobo

    Great review, well done. Tks Wolflobo

    Reply
  2. glennchambers

    I too am very happy with this plane. I fly it the most in fact all the time except when I am using my Linux machine as unfortunately it does not work in Linux.

    This plane seems expensive but it is way worth it as the immersion is fantastic.

    Great review by the way.

    Reply
  3. Arthur

    Thanks for this comprehensive review. Will there be an update when the version for X-plane 11 comes out?

    Thank you in advance.

    B.R.,

    Arthur

    Reply
    • Angelique van Campen

      Hi Arthur,

      I hope Jude can and will find the time. I can ask him, but can’t guarantee anything!

      Reply
    • jude

      Yes,there will.
      First version 1.1 should be out this week, and this will be a simple compatibility update to keep it flying.Then a new update will be developed solely for XP11, No ETA for the X-Plane 11 version yet though.

      Reply
  4. Peter Finlay

    AirFMC does not work 100% with IXEG the magenta flight plan indication does not show up which makes it worthless.The provision of data refs and commands are few when trying to program external panels.We have been promised an update since Sept 2016 non forthcoming.EADT 737 far better product and its free

    Reply

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