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Flying the PMDG 737NG
Friday, 30 December 2005


The PMDG 737NG had been the most realistic and accurate aircraft for Flight Simulator for quite some time - it was even considered a milestone in FS2004 aircraft development when it was released. We now have products that use a more recent technology to represent all of the aircraft's systems in detail and still keep it frame-rate friendly. Despite being somewhat old technology-wise, the PMDG 737NG is still an amazing and complex piece of work which has a steep learning curve but is also great fun to fly. It's definitely the best option for short~medium haul flights!

In this tutorial, I'll guide though a 1 hour flight from the Brasilia Intl. Airport (SBBR), in Brasilia to the Galeao Intl. Aiport (SBGL), in Rio de Janeiro. By the end of the tutorial, you should be able to pre-flight, take-off, climb, cruise, prepare and execute the descent and approach and finally land with the ILS help. I'll try to be as detailed as possible so that you can have a very realistic flight, just like the real pilots!

Before running the simulator, I want you to make sure that you have the latest AIRAC database installed. This database is the "brain" of the FMC, it feeds the aircraft with all the navaids in the world - it's very important that you have the latest cycle installed. Please visit the NAVData - Service website to download the latest AIRAC cycle available. I also want you to download the SBBR and SBGL procedures and place the text files in your "Microsoft Flight Simulator\PMDG\SIDSTARS" directory - the procedures are available here.

** Did you download and install the latest AIRAC Cycle for your PMDG 737NG? Do it now: NAVData - Service ! **
** Did you download and install the SBBR/SBGL procedures? Do it now: Click to donwload ! **

Also take note of the flight route: SBBR (departure airport) -> LUZ3LUZ4 (SID) -> ALINA -> KUNOS -> ESANO -> ORION -> FREIO -> ACNEL -> NOAL (STAR) -> ILS 28 CHARLIE 7 (APP) -> SBGL (arrival airport)

In order to start with a cold and dark cockpit state, load the default Cessna 172 in an empty gate at the Brasilia Intl. Airport (SBBR). Shutdown its engine, battery and avionics; then finally go to the Aircraft > Select Aircraft menu and choose your 737NG's favorite livery! You should also load the correct fuel quantity now - for this flight, we'll use 85% of fuel on the wing tanks and 3.5% of fuel on the center tank. That should result in approximately 15,500 lbs of fuel, more than enough for this leg.


At this point, I expect you to have the cold and dark aircraft parked at a SBBR gate, with the latest AIRAC cycle and the custom procedures installed. You should now be ready to pre-flight the aircraft. We'll now turn on the lights and prepare the aircraft for navigation.

This is how your cockpit should look in at first. Make sure your overhead looks exactly like this before continuing. The first step is to turn on the battery, connect the ground power and turn on the panel/exterior lights. This should illuminate the panel and the wingtips, informing the tower and other aircraft that you have electrical power. Make sure the parking brake is set - this makes ground power available.

1. Turn the battery and standby power on. Panel and position lights should be on to light the cockpit and indicate that the aircraft is powered up.
2. Connect ground power by positioning the GRD PWR switch in the ON position. The aircraft's electrical power should now be supplied by the ground power unit (GPU).

This is the first flight of the day, so we should run a fire warning system test before APU start. Go to the throttle panel...

Move the test switch first to the left and to the right in order to test the system completely. All three fire handles will illuminate, together with the "ENG 1 OVERHEAT", "ENG 2 OVERHEAT" and "WHEEL WELL" lights; a fire horn will sound and the fire warn button will illuminate on the main panel. To stop the horn, push the fire warn button. Also perform the fire extinguisher test by pushing the EXT TEST switch to both right and left positions. All three green lights should illuminate. This is how the aircraft reacts when there is a real fire - exciting, isn't it?!

Now it's time to start up the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). The APU is able to supply electrical power and bleed air to the aircraft, allowing us to climatize the cabin and perform the engine start. Without bleed air, it's impossible to turn on the air conditioning system or start the engines.

1. Turn on the left forward fuel pump, which is from where the APU takes fuel. If you are using the APU for too long, you may also want to turn on the left center pump to prevent fuel imbalance. Note: APU fuel usage is currently not modelled in this aircraft.
2. Push the APU switch down to START position - it will go back to ON and start the APU. Wait for the Exaust Gas Temperature (EGT) to rise and stabilize before applying load.
3. After the APU GEN lights illuminate, turn on both APU generators. The light will extinguish and electrical power will now be supplied by the APU.

Let's now proceed with the overhead setup. Configure the systems from top to bottom, left to right....

1. Turn the Yaw Damper on. The yaw damper prevents the "Dutch Roll" effect and also helps on coordinating turns - almost no rudder input is needed to perform a coordinated turn when yaw damper is on.
2. Turn CAB/UTIL and IFE/PASS (known as galley power) on. This will power up the gallery and the in-flight entertainment devices for passengers.
3. Arm the emergency exit lights.
4. Turn the "no smoking" and "fasten belts" signs on.
5. Because this is the first flight of the day, turn the ignition switch to the "IGN R" position. All other flights will use "IGN L" - never use "BOTH". This selects the right ignitor for the engines - it's doesn't make a difference in the simulator, but you want realism... don't you?
6. Turn the window heat switches on. The cockpit windows will be heated, preventing ice formation and window cracking at cruise level. Don't touch on the probe heat switches yet.
7. Turn electric hydraulic pumps ("ELEC 1" and "ELEC 2") on.
8. Open the isolation valve and turn APU BLEED on. The APU is now providing bleed air for both packs (air conditioning and pressurization) and also for engine start.
9. Set your flight altitude and landing altitude on the pressurization panel. The aircraft will be pressurized automatically based on this setting. A typical cruise altitude for this flight is 36,000ft and the Galeao Airport is 50ft above sea level.

Now the most expected time... configuring the Flight Management Computer (FMC)!

Open the FMC, select the "INIT REF" page and then select < INDEX. Select the "IDENT" page and check if the NAV DATA database is the most recent one. Select the "INIT REF" page again, and fill the "REF" field airport with the departure airport code. Don't enter a gate number in the FMC, this function is not modelled.

A short break on the FMC for weather check...

Open the radio stack and tune the ATIS frequency (127.80) in any COMM radio - you can set up to 4 frequencies, listen to 2 of them simultaneously and talk to just one of them. The ATIS will provide you all the airport and sky information you need: runway in use, altimeter setting, sky condition, visibility, etc. Write down the important information - they will be used later.

After you listen to the ATIS frequency and write down the important information, tune the clearance delivery frequency (121.00). Set the TCAS mode to above (A) and turn the control switch to "test" - you should hear a "TCAS system test okay" message, indicating that the TCAS is operative. Don't put the TCAS in the TA/RA position yet... the antenna emits radiation that can be hazardous to the ground personnel. Note: TCAS is only available for 737-8/900 costumers.

Back to the FMC...

Let's review the flightplan again: SBBR (departure airport) -> LUZ3LUZ4 (SID) -> ALINA -> KUNOS -> ESANO -> ORION -> FREIO -> ACNEL -> NOAL (STAR) -> ILS 28 CHARLIE 7 (APP) -> SBGL (arrival airport)

Now that you know what runway and SID you're using, select the "RTE" page on the FMC, fill in your destination and arrival airport, together with the active runway and the flight number.

Now select the "DEP/ARR" page, select < DEP on the left side of the sceen to view all available SIDs and finally select the LUZ3LUZ4 SID with the ALINA transition.

It's finally time to set up the route we're going to follow. We'll now enter each waypoint and procedure on the FMC, connect the discontinuities and proceed on the pre-flight.

Please advance to the next page...