Airbus A320 & Boeing 737 NG Guide Advice


Hi folks,

As some of you may already know, I’m hard at work on two guides for the PMDG 737 NG and the FSLabs A320 add-ons for FSX. I plan on doing these guides in parallel with an almost identical structure, so one can easily compare how both aircraft differ systems-wise (also explaining Boeing vs Airbus design philosophy). The guides would explain the cockpit layout, the pre-flight planning, and a complete flight from cold start to landing.

I was wondering, for the tubeliner experts among you, what important points should be mentioned that you wished you had known when you first started? I know there are a lot of tutorials on youtube of varying quality and I noticed that it’s very easy to learn stuff wrong. Therefore, I’d like to know what things I should put the emphasis on and what useful tricks I could add.


it’s important to note with the 737 that there is no philosophy behind the cockpit design. It’s a hot mess from the 1960’ intertwined with technology and design philosophy’s up until the mid 2000’. It’s amazing what a breath of difference there is between the 73/789 or the 78/89 when it comes to coherent design.

Systems wise, the 737 suffers from the fact that a lot of parts were certified in the 1960/70’ and had no inherent reason to change over time. Hence why you will find a mix of technology throughout the aircraft(although a modern one is pretty much FBW).

I think I am getting a bit off-track now and I can only really speak from the MX perspective on these machines. Let me know if you need any visual material though! Happy to help out!


I bet that @smokinhole could offer some good input, if he has time.


They use completely different approaches to achieve surprisingly close performance. Snark is correct: the NG (even the upcoming Max!) is/are a little old fashioned ergonomically. On the other hand, they are very simple. The electrical, hydraulic, fuel and environmental systems can be understood in just a few days.

It takes that amount of time to master the flight control laws alone on the airbus. In return, the airbus gives you a supremely logical and comfortable flight deck.

These things are rarely parked side by side in the hangar waiting for us to choose. But if you have that luxury, take the 737 if you enjoy hand-flying and appreciate the simplicity of a 1978 Toyota Celica. Take the airbus if you value comfort and prefer managing over manipulation. I find joy in both but prefer the 737 because I still get a huge thrill from flying the thing. An airbus person would likely find that sentence to be a tad pathetic.

As far as specific differences go, there is no way to address that without very specific questions. There is just too much to mention here


You asked about guides. I can’t be of help on the Airbus because my days on it are years in the past. But the best 737 guides come from retired Continental pilot Bill Bulfer

Bulfer Guides


Not in the least. :slight_smile: (not this one, at any rate)

My own first airline experience was on the 737-200 and -300. There are probably still my finger nail scratch marks along the side of the fuselage where they dragged me away from the last one I flew.

I’m too interested in what @Chuck_Owl will come up with on his own to try and influence this project too much, plus I do not have any of those add ons to be familiar with what is “functional” in the simulator or what is not.

But if he wants a source, there’s this (if he hasn’t already found it)…


I don’t use it, but I know it is very popular at least with new FO’s on the Airbus. Might have something useful, I dunno.


Oooh good suggestion, how about this one?

it’s a bit of a mix between pilot and technician tips, but it has a ton of interesting tid bits on my favourite, the -200. Perhaps its useful for the NG generation too.


Well, having different perspectives (especially from pilots) is a must if a guide creator wants his work to be somewhat relevant. I’d like to hear your thoughts.


It is a good point, or you wouldn’t have asked in the first place. I thought if I stayed quiet and read your guide I might learn something! :grinning:

@smokinhole has already pointed out that the word “philosophy” is not all that applicable to Boeing (I can’t remember ever seeing it in a 737 manual, IIRC), but it does tend to litter Airbus publications.

Of course, it is your call, but I’d personally suggest using the FCTM for information, as a primary source for any guide, followed by QRH for some operational stuff. Some important points.

A general to specific method would probably be appropriate.

Airbus bases their “philosophy” on four “Golden Rules” (used to be more, but they cut them down recently). I’d state them. I’m not looking for them right now, so here they are off the top of my head (so order and specific words might not be exact)…

  • Fly, navigate, and communicate, in that order (fairly straight forward, huh?)
  • Use the correct level of automation for the task at hand.
  • Know your Flight Mode Annunciator at all times.
  • If things on automation are not going as expected, take over immediately.

That last point, LOL! I’ve watched friends on the VS let autopilots do the oddest things to their flight trajectory, without disconnecting it, so that one is not so “doh!” obvious, it seems, to some sim players.

When familiarizing readers with the panels’ controls, also try to emphasize flows. The QRH Normal Procedures will help here, too, and expanded definitions can be found in the FCOM Normal Procedures section.

There’s a tendency I have noticed with sim players to dive straight into the MCDU and get route programming. Yeah, fine, it has probably got its attractive, but it is pointless if you don’t know where you enter the loop in executing it. There’s an Airbus process for this, and the aircraft is designed to be flown as much as possible on automation. My point; avoid the trap of making a guide into an advanced instruction read on MCDU programming.

As much time as is given to the MCDU should also be given to;

  • FCU, with a clear description of the “Managed” and “Selected” levels of automation.
  • FMA, including the significance of its color coding.
  • FD and FPV.
  • ND symbology.
  • Warnings/Cautions levels, with associated visual and aural annunciation.
  • ECAM

Some time can be given to Normal, Alternate, Direct, Mechanical Back Up, and Abnormal Attitude Flight Control Laws, but save a brief description that protections exist, what they are, what they do, and that they degrade as certain associated systems fail, I don’t feel a great big FBW description is essential. Just enough about each protection so that a player, for example, understands what has happened if they invoke Alpha Floor, and how to get out of it, would probably suffice.

Memory items (there are not many) and Limitations, of course (FCOM).

Finally, there is also the use and programming of FLEX T/O thrust. A small briefing on flat ratings, TFlexMax, and TRef might be in order. There’s a really nice little chapter about Thrust Ratings in the Performance section of the FCOM, which would be a fine reference.

I do believe the FCTM, QRH, and FCOM are available in generic form on the internet.

I don’t want to rabbit on for ever, and I’d quite understand if you think some of this is superfluous to a quick start guide. These are just my thoughts, as you asked for them. Hope it helps, and my thanks for your attention… :slightly_smiling_face:


That is all very sound advice for flying any modern airplane.


C_P has hit the ball out of the park. If you are a baseball fan that should be pretty exciting. In my case it just makes my eyes glaze over the way they do when I go clothes shopping with my wife. I don’t want to discourage any effort to make a simulation more real to its users. But I have dived down this rabbit hole before and found some futility in the experience. For about a year I helped a tiny bit as a beta testor for the excellent x737 project for X-plane. (It’s FREE!) I also spent a bunch of time in the forum answering questions and explaining procedures in as much detail as time would allow. The questions were good. Some were very esoteric. Nearly all of the questions were highly asstute technically but way off the mark operationally.

And that was the rabbit hole. One can study and push buttons and count rivets and get a lot from the experience. But you have to remember that these procedures don’t happen in a vacuum. They happen in a very dynamic environment with humans interacting constantly and occasionally under stress. The procedures and flows vary dramatically from airline to airline. I’ve been flying 737s for 20 years now. If I were to quit United and go to Southwest I would procedurally be starting from nearly zero. The whole thing, except for the actual cockpit, would be entirely foreign to me. And it would take months before I’d be completely comfortable in the new position.

And it was because of the real-world differences, the crew interactions, the stress of NY TRACON during peak traffic on a stormy day, dealing with a weak FO (or Captain) and so on, that I tried to implore the x737 fans to not get so into the weeds with mimicking actual airline operations. That suggestion consistantly landed with a big thud of course. But I was nonetheless convinced that people would learn more, and have more fun, if they worked within the limits of a single-pilot simulation using procedures that properly fit the simulation instead of trying to shoe-horn real-world multi-crew techniques into a virtual world where those procedures make absolutely no sense.


Now let me add what I would find useful. And basically it would be exactly what C_P suggested. Let’s say that I decide to go back to the 'bus. It’s been 20 years. I remember practically nothing but I’d like a bit more preparation before training begins. I would need a somewhat accurate A320 with an functioning FCU (MCP? I don’t remember) and at least some plausibility in the most common functions of the MCDU. Further, I would really appreciate a small 200 page manual that get’s me off the ground, over a few waypoints, transitions onto an arrival and lands me on the correct piece of concrete. Just the basics. This is what we have with the DCS A-10 manual. Trying to copy airline procedures would mean thousands of pages very few of which will be of use in a functionally limited sim. But give me something for the sim that attempts no allusions regarding the real thing and then I will be armed with useful knowledge that will really pay off once the company teaches me how to fly it the company way. Again (he’s obviously a smart guy) C_P pointed towards what might be the most useful thing a sim pilot can learn: the Flows. They are the secret sauce to making something complex something simple. Two sets for each task (preflight, before taxi, etc): One for the systems (mainly overhead panel) and one for the box.


after a lot of thought. I think the most important item to put into the guide is that this…

Isn’t a reality

If only i knew before training…:cry:


It is if you are Tony Stark’s pilot…


Au contraire, that’s exactly what I wanted: a way to know what’s relevant operationally speaking within the scope of the simulation.


Yes, let’s not leave out the requirements for Mile High Club membership, LOL. Not that they would differ significantly between manufacturers.


Hey man, there’s worse thing. Like fixing lavatories. People are disgusting and there’s urine everywhere. Every. Where.


I hear you on all of that. My guess is that @Chuck_Owl is tackling exactly these tendencies to “rivet count”, as you accurately put it, and direct such nerdiness on the right track to obtain some proper enjoyment from the sim. I wish him the very best of luck and success.

Glad you mentioned it, completely slipped my mind. You probably remember the Airbus recommended DIFSRIP. Gets the MCDU tasks out of the way quickly and efficiently so you don’t have to keep coming back to the thing halfway through your briefing. The flow is in the FCTM.

So, is the “mile” requirement nautical or statute? Is it measured as a height gain from take off, or amsl? Is it in indicated altitude, corrected true altitude, or density altitude (you know, for “performance” reasons). E6B time, @chipwich ? :slight_smile:

Off topic-ish, now. Was in the Fright Stimulator last night. All the serious things you “never” see normally, but that would probably get you if you did see them without having rehearsed it this way. Interesting session, maybe even fun, I’d say.

Sorry, company policy does not let me say where this is, but I can say it gave me some post session insomnia. Over on the music thread is what I listened to for winding down purposes, lol!


You can’t fool me, I’d recognize that IOS anywhere :slight_smile:


For me the most important thing to master, and at the same time the most interesting thing about modern tubeliners, was the FMC / FMS.

Whitout this its just any other aircraft imho.