The Boeing 747-800 series is the latest variant of the Boeing 747 that was originally created in the 1960’s. It looks much like any other stretch of the series, but it is quite different and unlike the Boeing 747-400 which was indeed just a stretch and an engine upgrade, but with a far longer range than earlier series 7-4s.
The B748 – or “Dash 8” as it is known – has a totally new wing and down-rated engines from the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and a new wing on any aircraft is always a big deal as they are the most expensive and hardest part of an airframe to build. It is now also the longest airliner in the world, surpassing the Airbus A340-600 by 3ft – at 250ft overall.
Supercritical Simulations Group (SSG) have just released their B747-8i (Intercontinental) version for X-Plane 9/10 and you might expect this version to be an all new project – yet that is not the case. The basic ACF is a rework of an XPFWProject Boeing 747-400 file from late 2006, and that was done by Stefan Keller (and keep in mind the XPFWP B744 was based on an even earlier file: the default B747 from XP!). SSG was created to take the project forward and joining Stefan is Ricardo Bolognini in charge of Aircraft design and Carlos Garcia doing flight testing.
It is very hard to find anything of the original in this new “new” ACF because almost everything has been redone – and mostly with AC3D (3d software). Stefan notes a few textures and the basic fuselage as all that remains, but even these elements have been reworked with transparent cockpit windows and other internal cockpit details. It is still is, however, a PlaneMaker design with no plug-ins utilized, but this doesn’t mean the Dash-8 is just an average makeover.
The biggest visible change is found in the wings, with their raked, slightly upswept wingtips. These are extremely well modeled and you’ll also note very nice wing flex in flight, while the GE GEnx engines are also very well constructed, with thrust-reversers and nice rotating fans included.
Single slotted outboard flaps and inboard double slotted flaps are present, as are the leading edge slats, and all work appear to work as per the original. You might miss the triple slotted Fowler flaps of a standard B747, but this is supercritical airfoil and the aerodynamics of this wing are radically different than the standard B747 wing, and it is generally speaking cleaner and more efficient – and with “whole” and “clean” being the best words to use.
The early undercarriage still in use is of the stick pin variety but the rear wheels do turn with the nosewheel.
This basic undercarriage is, for the moment (and keep in mind this is a beta release), required until the correctly 3d modelled version is ready and I have no doubt it will be modeled to the same high standard as the rest of the airframe.
And this is not to say that steering doesn’t work, but you really need to use asymmetric throttle on the ground taxiing just as you do in real B747. This is tricky stuff and as this is a very long aircraft you’ll find it needs power to turn, but far less power to go in a straight line. Get this basic technique wrong and you’ll come to an embarrassing stop every time.
Cockpit elements are default X-Plane but as with just about everything else on this B748, it’s a few cuts above the normal. The appearance is slightly bland in daylight yet it is very good at night – with nice lighting noted too – but certainly a hyper-detailed 3d cockpit would fit this project very well. If not, or perhaps in the meantime, the panel needs a little wear and tear, made to look a little more realistic.
The overhead in particular is very well done and many of the systems there are actively modeled. And certainly the primary flight display (PFD) – which on ILS you’ll find crowded with a lot of information not normally found in XP PFDs – and this means you won’t have to scroll down and around looking for the information as it’s right where you need it. I particularly liked the listing of Nav1 and Nav2 frequencies on the PFD, as this means you don’t have to scroll down to double check on the numbers on the quadrant.
Boeing didn’t take the same route found in the 787 DreamLiner displays, so the panels are very similar to the Standard B744 and this for commonality across versions, and the manual says if you can fly one 747 you can fly them all!
The Dash-8 flies very well and SCG’s Carlos Garcia has a similar style to my own: he loves “heavies”, the bigger the better, the harder to fly the better as well, so he knows what a heavy should feel like. The Dash-8 is not heavy like the A380, but it does feel heavy like the 744 – but you have too recall that this aircraft does have that supercritical wing and while it is very efficient it also “feels” different. Carlos has had to take this different wing into consideration while tuning the flight model, and I think he has succeeded very well. Still we have to remember that this a beta release as well, so there may well be more adjustments. The only aspect I feel that needs work concerns the engines: power up and building speed feels just a little too quick and yes, these engines are very powerful but flying heavies typically doesn’t feel like a race car.
Climbing hard with a MTW (Maximum Takeoff Weight), V/S 2500fpm and at 225knts I would expect the engines to be at 102% and then losing power; they do get to that red zone, but in my opinion it should be slightly harder to lift all that weight! The SSG Dash-8 just does all this work a little too effortlessly, and it does finally pull off a lot more speed at altitude, but still I expected just a touch less power. Empty of payload, yes; with a full load out…no.
Landings in a B747 is a tricky business yet even in the lower speed regimes I found it a little fast – even at 60,000lbs. No way could I go under 175 KIAS and if I did I got a stall at flare – and a bad one at that. The book says 158knts and there was no way I could go that slow, even at that weight, and when at higher weights (i.e., 70,000lbs+) I was going 180knts over the fence. So with those speeds it is going to be a tricky business, and while I could do it, it all seems just a little too fast.
The B747-8i comes with three liveries:
The lucid Orange launch livery (also known as “Sunrise”, which is just as bad) but it is a very well done livery.
Cathay Pacific (which is fictional… unless you are a Boeing sales manager)…
And Lufthansa (the First Customer)
All are fine looking but in to my eye a little too clean. Still, this B748i looks very nice in different light levels, and while the night LITs are good the lighting is a little too sharp and bright for me, and makes the modeling look a little wooden. Of course, the real aircraft is not wood!
These included liveries are all for the 748i Dash-8 “Intercontinental” passenger version, but I am sure a few new liveries will pop up at the Org.
BTW, real world sales to date include:
- B747-8 passenger intercontinentals – 36 orders
- B747-8F Freighters – 70, with 10 delivered
I started testing with a flight around Seattle from KPAE (Paine Field) – and just kept going all the way to KLAX! This is a good sign, a sign of liking an aircraft a lot and I indeed liked it very much. And I am sure that Carlos’s long haul numbers are correct at 8000nm (14,815km), and with a max range at mach .85.
And certainly you’ll conclude that this revised SSG project has already changed the aircraft significantly, enough to realize that this ACF is really a far different Boeing 748 than the simply stretched XPFWP 744 of the earlier version, and when complete I doubt there will be much of the original aircraft left. Anyway, for a beta the ACF is already a very well rounded aircraft.
I would be very surprised if the 748 freighter version would not be another good choice to come down the SSG line as well, with my only hope being that we don’t have to wait too long for the new undercarriage!
If you like heavies then it’s my take you’ll really love this “new” Boeing 747-800 International from SSG. It’s great to see something so new coming from such an old file, and in effect this is a bit like keeping a tradition alive, an older part of X-Plane making the journey into XP10 and beyond, and which, when you think about it, is a little like the life of those real Boeing 747s as well!
Thanks for coming along, and we’ll see you again soon! Flightime56