Threshold Exclusive: FlightFactor 757 FPDS Releasing this Week + Developer Interview

September 5, 2019

We've partnered up with FlightFactor and StepToSky to bring our readers an exclusive look at their new Flat Panel Display System ahead of release, which they are touting to release this week.

Threshold was the first to report on the systems upgrade for their 757 package back in April, which has since seen significant coverage via FlightFactor's new Twitter page. The FPDS system replaces traditional steam gauges with more modern LCD displays, comparable to those found on the 737 NG series.

Further information on pricing is available at the bottom of this article.

We contacted developer FlightFactor/StepToSky developers Denis Maslov (den_rain) and Roman Berezin (Ramzzess) earlier this week for a chat about the incoming upgrade, to which they gladly obliged.

Note: We do not include the full interview with Roman and Denis here (due to its size). You can view the full interview, in which all topics are covered, here.

So, Denis and Roman, welcome to Threshold!

>> First question: FlightFactor is one of the largest X-Plane brands out there. How did you come to be involved in this company, and where did you begin your X-Plane development journey?

Denis: Ok, it was several years ago. I was, and still am, a virtual pilot of the X-AiR (now X-Airways) virtual airline, and as a pilot, I saw many problems and inconveniences pilots face, so I decided to try to improve the situation and started to learn programming.

The first projects were X-NavAIDs-Tools (now obsolete) and X-CSL-Package, the traffic model library for IVAO for X-Plane. That was the beginning of my journey.

I and my friend Alex created StepToSky, and as a team we received an offer from Ramzzess (FlightFactor founder) to work together, and initially joined the 757/767 project.

>> Evidently the FPDS systems upgrade is not your first with the brand, so what other projects have you been involved in under FlightFactor? Which were your favourites to work on?

Denis: Personally I'm responsible for the improvements of the navigation systems, e.g. fmc, autopilot, irs, cdu, efis, etc. Also I'm responsible for several other things, like internal dev-ops.

>> The Flat Panel Display System upgrade is your latest project - could you please give us a rundown of what is added in this big new update?

Denis: It's a whole new integrated EFIS system! Four LCD displays with integrated symbol generators, three DCUs (Data Concentrator Unit) with integrations to other airplane systems which contain some internal logic, and two DCPs (Display Control Panel) which are connected to the left and right displays - to control range, baro setting, map modes etc. Also, there is a new DCP Altn button for source switching, to select alternate DCP control on each side. Finally, a new standby instrument ISFD (Integrated Standby Flight Display).

Of course, the new displays can be popped up and out, including the ISFD. EICASes cannot yet, but we have plans to add this feature to EICASes in the future.

Pop-up displays in the FPDS upgrade.

>> Through a little research, we've found a few different types of retrofitted displays on 757's currently (for example, some have bezels between the PFD and ND, some do not) - what sort of specification are the ones included in this update? Which airlines would we find these new screens on?

Denis: I believe you are talking about the FPDS - Flat Panel Display System from IS&S and the LDS - Large Display System from Collins. First the one we have implemented has four separate displays. Several airlines have this setup, for example FedEx, Icelandair, etc.

>> The question that’s seemingly on everyone’s lips at the moment - what’s the plan on a release date for the FPDS upgrade?

Denis: As for today, September 04, then we plan to do it on this week.

Comparison between New and Old.

>> Finally on the topic of FPDS: Some in the community have expressed discontent for the upgrade fee to be included, what is FlightFactor’s response/view on this?

Roman: it is important to understand that we now do this (work on X-Plane add-ons) as a full time job, as it has become complicated and complex. Thus, the time spent on an add-on, update or any work for that matter has to be valuated. Obviously, the "industry" has a standard, which we by the way, helped to set. We were one of the companies to release a large airliner (the 777, 8 years ago) and we set the standard of "free updates". Obviously, when we ship a product, we intend to update it for free, at least for the duration of the current X-Plane major version (in practice planes like the SSJ, 777 and A350 have been freely updated though the v9-v10-v11 transition). That said, it is important to understand that we intend to improve and develop only the "stated core functionality" of the product. Thus, any improvement of the autopilot, graphics or sounds is logically free as part of the ongoing update process.

On the other hand, an addition of a new fuselage like the 757-300 with its own dynamics, sounds and 3d, is not part of that process. Same with the FPDS. We have never said that FPDS will be part of the product, we never thought of it in the beginning, therefore it is a "separate product" or a "payware addition".

Please note, that the original packages will still be available for purchase and people who bought them can upgrade to the new, more complete product packages, with no loss of money. Simply put, we are not forcing the upgrade on anyone, but we also can't provide it for free. The time spent developing the new 3D and systems, could have been spent on a new plane, which no one would expect to be free, right :)

FlightFactor have kindly informed us that the cost of the FPDS upgrade will be $20.00 USD and will be available from the Store this week. Below is a diagram outlining the options customers have when purchasing the 757 Professional and its various add-on packages.

We focused on the FPDS side of things during this portion of the interview, but due to its large size, the rest of our chat is viewable in this dedicated article.

We go on to discuss some interesting topics: How things run on the day-to-day at FlightFactor, the logistics of their multi-national organisation, their thoughts on Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 and our reader requested question - what about the 777 version 2?

You can learn more about the FlightFactor 757 FPDS system in a previous article. Alternatively, if you don't own the FlightFactor 757, you can purchase it for $72.00 USD here.

Special thanks to Denis and Roman for being so accommodating for this interview - best of luck with the FPDS release!

Threshold encourages informed discussion and debate - though this can only happen if all commenters remain civil when voicing their opinions.