Reader Question–MSFS Auto-Update

I have another reader question to explore today with everyone.  It’s a rather interesting one and honestly it’s one of my very own pet peeves about Microsoft Flight Simulator.  Here’s a snippit of the email I received a few days ago. 

Hello, I recently stumbled onto your blog site and found your content to be extremely helpful as I slowly wade into the world of flight simulation.  I read your recent “Reader Question – Where are the Widebodies” posting and it inspired me to email you with my very own question to see if you can shed any light.  Like many I’m sure, I don’t have a lot of time to devote to flight sim.  I have a young family and once I’m home from work, have dinner and help get the kids all in bed, I generally enjoy taking a short flight a few times a week.  I have even less time on the weekends as the kids all seem to have different activities and sometimes at opposite ends of town. Anyway, I was hoping to spend a quiet Friday evening flying my favorite PMDG 737, but instead the entire time was spent downloading updates.  By the time MSFS finished updating, it was time for bed as I had an early start the next day.  So my main question is why are these updates forced on us and is there any way to disable them?  My sim has been working just fine and I would have rather waited until a more convenient time to apply the updates, if that is even possible.  Thank you for your time.  George

Oh boy!  I for one certainly understand George’s frustration.  While I’m retired and don’t have kids that need to be shuttled around from one extra curricular activity to another….when I decide to sit down and fly….I want to fly!  Over the past four decades that I’ve enjoyed the hobby of flight simulation starting on the Commodore 64 all the way through each generation of Microsoft Flight Simulator and throughout each of the versions of Prepar3D….MSFS is the very first which has had this auto-update mechanism built in that upon launch and regardless whether you want  to update or not, you are forced to download/install the updates. 

During the Prepar3D (P3D) years, I would make it a matter of practice to always wait several days, perhaps even several weeks before downloading and installing an update.  Generally speaking, it could take several days, perhaps even a week or two before 3rd party developers could provide patches to their products to make them compatible with the most recent P3D update.  In addition, by deferring an update also allowed time to research the various forums to determine if the update caused any game breaking issues which could require a hot-fix to resolve. 

Having said all that, Microsoft Flight Simulator is a completely different sim from all those in the past.  Part of what makes MSFS the gold standard (in my opinion) is the fact it’s cloud based.  All the beauty and majesty we experience while flying around the virtual world is streamed down to our PC’s on an “On-Demand” basis.  The cloud based design allows for a much smaller footprint on our SSD’s or HDD’s and only needs to download the data specific to the location we’re flying.  As a result it’s necessary for all client machines connecting to the MSFS systems to all be running the same version of the base software.  Thus why we have the mandatory updates. 

I have read some comments on various forums and other social media platforms that suggest one can avoid the mandatory update process by disconnecting your network connection, start up MSFS and then reconnect once in the main menu.  While I’ve not tested this process, I believe avoiding updates is not the best practice in the long run and may lead to issues especially if you connect to the MSFS multi-player environment. 

Of course this cloud-based setup can lead to issues which we experienced a few months ago where many users experienced unexplained performance and CTD (crash to desktop) issues over several long days. I wrote about my own experiences in a blog posting titled “And Just Like That” where I discussed the issues I had experienced and my belief at what caused these issues. 

If I’m honest, I do have some long-range concerns regarding what may or may not happen as MSFS ages beyond the next several years.  There is a rather surprising number of simmers who still fly FS9 and FSX on a daily basis even though these platforms are almost two decades old.  While both Microsoft and Asobo appear to be fully committed to the success of MSFS 2020.  But depending on their long-range plans, it might not be possible to use MSFS in the year 2040 if something else has taken its place or God forbid the program is completed shelved.  Let’s face it, it costs a lot of money to operate the data centers and cloud solutions which allow us to fly around the virtual skies.  The powers that be at Microsoft will need to see a solid return on this investment over the years to come.  But hey, this is probably a discussion to have at a later day in time. 

Bottom line (and in closing), as I’ve stated many times before, I believe Microsoft Flight Simulator is the gold standard of all flight simulator platforms available today and I also believe, will be so for some time to come.  Despite the pain points we occasionally have to suffer through, when it works (and for me it works flawlessly 99.999% of the time) it brings me more enjoyment than I’ve ever experienced in my long history with flight sim. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog posts.  Until next time….

Happy Flying!

Jerry

Texas is finally here…

800px-Flag_of_Texas_svg  The highly anticipated, much desired (especially by me) Texas DLC for American Truck Simulator is finally available.  As many of my long-time readers will know, for many years the only simulation base gaming I did was flight sim.  Sometime around 2015 I branched over to Farming Simulator and my first experience with a trucking simulator was ETS2 sometime in late 2015.  So when I heard the news that SCS Software would be releasing American Truck Simulator I was extremely excited. 

ATS debuted in February 2016 and it was an immediate purchase for me.  I enjoyed the experiences of driving a semi-truck up and down California, Nevada and eventually Arizona when that free DLC released in June 2016.  The ATS map began to grow as new states were released as DLC with New Mexico (Nov 2017), Oregon (Oct 2018, Washington (June 2019), Utah (Nov 2019), Idaho (July 2020), Colorado (Nov 2020), Wyoming (Sept 2021), Montana (Aug 2022) and of course finally Texas released on 15 November 2022.

Texas_Road_map_big

Photo credit: SCS Software

As you can see from the DLC release dates I mentioned in the second paragraph, the Texas DLC has been a long time coming.  While I had experienced driving in Texas with ATS with the Coast-to-Coast map mod, I had really been looking forward to the Texas DLC as Texas is my birth state and where I lived for about half my life.  I still have family and many friends living in Texas and I knew SCS Software would do a great job with the map DLC.  They certainly didn’t disappoint.

It had been a few months since I had spent time playing ATS, but my truck was in Denver and I decided I would accept a job from Denver to Austin.  My wife and I had previously driven this route about a month ago to go and see my dad, so I was looking forward to experiencing it in ATS.  Of course the first several hundred miles were in Colorado and New Mexico which I had explored many times before.  But once I reached the Texas state line just before Dalhart it all became a very pleasing experience. 

Once reaching Texas, my route took me through Dumas to Amarillo, then southeast to Ft Worth on US 287 where I picked up I-35W then on to Austin passing first through Waco.  The only slight disappointment was just how quickly the Austin skyline comes into view.  Now I lived many years in the Central Texas area and I have family still living just north of Austin.  As I rolled south out of Waco you quickly come to the interchange of I-14/190.  This interchange is actually in a town called Belton.  Belton is situated just south of Temple.  Neither Temple or Belton are recognized by ATS, but as soon as you pass the junction of I-35 and I-14, the skyline of Austin immediately comes into view and in the real world, this distance is about 50 miles.  But of course, I do understand the way ATS is scaled down and with that said it’s all OK.

All-in-all, I’m very pleased with the Texas DLC and since release I’ve been spending much of my time exploring the Lone Star State in all her glory.  Texas is large enough that you can do some great runs up, down or across the state. 

So what’s next for American Truck Simulator?  As we know, SCS will be moving north from Texas with Oklahoma being the next planned DLC release.  I’m sure we’ll then see Kansas, followed by Nebraska as we make our way further north into the Dakotas.  These next few states will all tie in nicely with the existing states to the west and provide some excellent driving opportunities.  As compared with the development time a large state like Texas required, we should see OK and KS coming much quicker.  But let’s face it, at the pace SCS is releasing state DLC’s, we’re still a VERY long time away from seeing the entire lower 48 in the map.  But of course if you want more, then for now check out the Coast-to-Coast mod.

Well it’s time to pick up another load and make my way down towards Houston.  I certainly hope you’re enjoying the Texas DLC for American Truck Simulator as much as I am. 

Until next time…

Happy Trucking!!!

Jerry

Reader Question–Where are the widebodies?

Hello to all my loyal readers.  I recently received an email from one of my long-time blog subscribers that I wanted to answer and share with the rest of you.  I figure many of you might be wondering the same thing as well…so let’s get started.

Hello Jerry,

I hope you and your family are doing well.  You might remember me from many years ago.  I’ve been a subscriber of your blog site from the very beginning and you helped me with some issues I had been experiencing with FSX and the PMDG 737 about 10 years ago.  Like you, I recently made the transition to Microsoft Flight Simulator and have been having so much fun in the PMDG 737-800 and the Fenix A320.  I’m amazed at just how far flight sim has come over the past decade.  I’m curious if you have any insight into when we might see our first study level widebody long-haul aircraft?  By the way, thank you so much for the article you published back in September about using caution when purchasing add-on aircraft for MSFS.  I had been tempted to purchase the Captain Sim 777, but I vaguely remember you writing an article about that plane many years ago in FSX.  Anyway, I hope all is well and I look forward to hearing from you soon.   Randy

Before I get into answering Randy’s question about “Where are the widebodies” allow me to just briefly explain exactly what a wide-body aircraft is in relation to Microsoft Flight Simulator.  By definition, a wide-body aircraft is any aircraft which is wide enough to accommodate two passenger aisles with seven or more seats abreast.  Popular wide-body aircraft are the Boeing 747, 767, 777, 787 or the Airbus A310, A330, A350, A380.  The typical wide-body aircraft I just referenced are also sometimes referred to as long-haul aircraft due to their range.  In comparison, a narrow-body aircraft (like the Boeing 737, 757 or Airbus A320 series) has a single passenger aisle.   Of course, in modern day aviation we’re seeing many narrow-body aircraft replacing their wide-body counterparts on transatlantic routes.  But I digress….

Now in some respects, I personally have only started missing the wide-body aircraft I knew and loved in P3D and were lacking in MSFS when SU10 released in late September.  The reason I say this is before SU10, MSFS would typically crash on most users after 3-4 hours of flight due to a memory leak that has existed in the sim for some time.  But with this issue now resolved, I’m truly looking forward to the availability of my favorite wide-body, long-haul aircraft so I can stretch my wings and do some transatlantic flights in MSFS.  I’m currently tracking the progress on several planned wide-body aircraft which I want to share what information I’ve learned with all of you.  Let’s get started!

iniBuilds Airbus A310-300

Depending on when I actually finish this article and publish it, the first wide-body aircraft I want to discuss is the Airbus A310-300 which will be part of the Microsoft Flight Simulator 40th Anniversary Update (Sim Update 11) which is scheduled to be released on 11 November.  SU11 will include the much anticipated Airbus A310-300 which was developed in partnership with Microsoft/Asobo by iniBuilds. The iniBuilds A310-300 will be the first complex, immersive wide-body aircraft for the MSFS platform and will (at least temporarily) fill the void in the wide-body category. 

Other Future Wide-body Releases

Unfortunately, all we really know about possible future wide-body aircraft releases for MSFS are simply the what and by who.  In other words, we have a general idea on what the aircraft type will be and who is developing it.  But as for as expected release timeframe….well that’s anybody’s guess at this point in time. So let’s break this down by developer and I’ll share with you what I know about each. 

PMDG

Out of all the wide-body, long-haul aircraft that we know about currently being developed for Microsoft Flight Simulator, the PMDG 777 and 747 are perhaps the most anticipated (especially the 777).    PMDG long ago announced the release order for their MSFS products which included the 737-700, 737-600, 737-800 and finally the 737-900.  As we all know, only the –700, –600 and –800 have been released at the time of this writing.  The –900 is long overdue but we certainly know that PMDG is burning the midnight oil to get it out to us as soon as possible.  We’ve also been told that once the complete 737 series has been made available (including the EFB) the next aircraft we will see from PMDG will be the Boeing 777, followed by the Boeing 747 and then finally the Boeing 737 MAX. 

While I’m sure the PMDG team can multi-task and have some individuals working on the 777 alongside the 737-900, but if I were a betting man, I would wager we won’t see the PMDG Boeing 777 until late Q3 or Q4 of 2023 at the earliest.  Of course, we could all be surprised and see it appear earlier….but PMDG is a developer that prides itself on only releasing their products only when they are 100% ready and as bug free as humanly possible.  So with all that said, I seriously don’t believe we’ll see the PMDG Queen of the Skies (747) until sometime in 2024.

TFDi

If you are relatively new to flight simulation you may not have heard of TFDi.   They are a small developer who are behind such add-ons as PACX and if you fly for a virtual airline you may also use their Smartcars flight tracker to log your VA PIREPs.   A few years ago, TFDi released their Boeing 717 for FSX and P3D and we’ve known for some time they have been working on an MD-11.  Their MD-11 for MSFS has been getting a bit of attention in the past few weeks and the expected release timeframe could be as early as the end of September 2023. 

Aerosoft

The team at Aerosoft have been working on their Airbus A330-300 for quite some time and judging from the information I’ve seen on their forums and other social media outlets, we could actually see the Aerosoft A330-300 in Q2 or Q3 of 2023. 

FlyByWire

When it comes to the Airbus A380 we’ve heard of several teams attempting to develop the aircraft for P3D.  Each of these efforts have sadly evaporated into thin air.  However, the team that is behind the highly successful FBW A320 in MSFS are developing an open source Airbus A380 for MSFS.  While there is no release date currently available for this highly anticipated aircraft, the team are steadily making progress.  You can learn more about the FBW A380 from the FlyByWire Facebook page.  Based on what I’ve seen I believe it might be safe to say we could see this beast of an aircraft come to MSFS sometime in 2023. 

QualityWings

Unfortunately, all we know about the QualityWings 787 Dreamliner is the team has plans to eventually bring it to MSFS.  While I understand why developers don’t want to provide key details behind expected release dates, QualityWings has (in my opinion) dropped the ball and gone completely silent the past several months.  But this is really nothing new from QualityWings.  They’ve gone dark before for months and then out of the blue will surprise us with some news and images.  Could we see the QW Dreamliner sometime in 2023?  I hope so, but I’m also not going to get my hopes up based on the fact that we haven’t had an update on any progress in a very, very long time. 

Bluebird Simulations

While this last aircraft isn’t a wide-body, this aircraft is absolutely one of my favorites behind the Boeing 737 and 777.  The team at Bluebird Simulations is developing a Boeing 757 (in conjunction with Justflight).  There will be two variations of the 757.  One will be a simplified version and the second will be a more complex version.  The plan is to release a passenger variant in both the 757-200 and 757-300 versions.  A cargo variant is planned but will be released as an expansion add-on.  I believe the expected release timeframe is Q2 or Q3 in 2023. 

In Summary

As we are quickly approaching the end of what I have said has been an incredible year for Microsoft Flight Simulator, I truly believe 2023 will far surpass what we’ve experienced this year as far as add-on aircraft is concerned.  The sim itself is stable and it’s exciting to see the level of commitment from not only Microsoft/Asobo….but also from all the 3rd party developers who are working extremely hard to bring us all the extra bells and whistles we desire in a flight simulator.  For someone like myself who has been involved in the hobby of flight simulation for almost four decades, this is truly a great time to be alive and be involved in this wonderful hobby. 

Thank you all for taking the time to read.  If I hear updated news on any of the aircraft I mentioned above, I’ll certainly share that information right here on my blog site. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

MSFS Beta and Should You Participate

There are many reasons why the user community of Microsoft Flight Simulator or just about any major gaming title (simulation or otherwise) should participate in the various beta or early adopter updates released from time to time.  While in a perfect world, the developer behind any gaming title should have the resources to perform system testing to rule out major issues, the hard truth is most do not and there’s almost no way for any developer to test all the possible scenarios including hardware configurations and 3rd party add-ons/mods which all can and mostly likely will have an impact in the finished product.  In actuality, the developer (in this case Microsoft/Asobo) will perform their very best due diligence to ensure the update performs on a few different hardware configurations and generally leaves it up to 3rd party developers and mod creators to “shoe horn” their add-ons around what they’ve been provided.  So our participation in these beta programs (especially when feedback is sent back to the developer) is instrumental in the overall wellbeing of the gaming title.

Generally speaking, most 3rd party developers will participate in the beta programs for obvious reasons. But they do not receive the beta version in advance of the general public.  In other words, 3rd party developers like PMDG and Fenix only have access to the beta when it’s been made available to all of us.  The 3rd party devs will utilize the time between when the beta is released and it becomes GA (General Availability) to work out any issues with their add-on.  Of course in many situations this all becomes a fast moving target as there may be many iterations of the beta.  The time a 3rd party developer spends adjusting their add-on to function correctly with the beta could become a complete waste of time as changes are made and pushed out during the beta cycle.  In other words, in some cases the only way of truly knowing if a 3rd party add-on is going to work is to wait until the beta has become GA and been released to the entire community. 

Over the years, I’ve participated in many beta programs for all sorts of gaming titles.  Some have been positive, wonderful experiences of being able to gain access to new functionality or performance enhancements before everyone else.  But in a few cases these beta experiences have become an absolute nightmare.  In many cases the only way to escape the beta is to complete reinstall the current live version. As you can probably imagine this can be an extremely time consuming process.

A few weeks ago, Microsoft/Asobo began their open beta for the upcoming SU11 update and the word on the street is the experience hasn’t been an easy one.  Especially with some 3rd party aircraft and live weather.  Some 3rd party developers will do their best to provide solutions or workarounds for their products for the beta cycle, but most simply can’t and won’t guarantee functionality on a beta installation.  On the bright side, with regards to the SU11 beta, some users have reported experiencing a significant performance improvement from SU10. 

If you’re wondering if participating in the MSFS beta program is right for you, I would say it depends.  If you mainly fly default aircraft or if you still fly P3D/XPlane then participating in the SU11 beta  (or any future beta release) is probably OK for you.  However, if MSFS is your sole flight sim platform and you’re an every day flyer of add-on aircraft like the Fenix A320 or the PMDG 737, then I would highly suggest you hold off.  Bottom line, if you want full system compatibility between MSFS and 3rd party aircraft, then stay on the current live MSFS build.  Otherwise you may be in for a surprise when you attempt to fly your favorite 3rd party aircraft in the beta build. 

As always, thanks for reading.

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Flight Simulator Choices In The Year 2022

Unlike other simulation based genres such as agricultural sims, trucking sims (just to name two) these have very little choice and are ruled by two different developers with GIANTS controlling the ag sim with Farming Simulator and SCS ruling the trucking space with American and Euro Truck Simulator.  This lack of competition, while good for the developers is of course bad for us consumers.  But the same can’t be said for the choices available in the flight simulation space.  

In recent weeks, Laminar Research released X-Plane 12 in early access. Of course Microsoft Flight Simulator surprised everyone in 2019 and released MSFS 2020 during the summer of 2020 and Lockheed Martin of course has their Prepar3D version 5 (unclear if there will be a v6), so the flight simulation community has choices when it comes to selecting a platform to build around.  But which is best and which platform is the right one for you? 

In the year 2022, it’s really difficult to specifically state which flight simulation platform is the absolute best.  It’s much like Coke versus Pepsi.  Each have their loyal, dedicated fan base and each produce a quality product.  But of course we all know that Coke is the best and certainly the one I prefer.  Smile

For many of us who have been in the hobby of flight simulation for many, many years we grew up with the various offerings from Microsoft.  When Microsoft abandoned their popular Flight Simulator way back in 2009, the only two choices were either to make the move to Prepar3D or move to X-Plane.  For me, and I’m sure many like me who had made a sizeable investment in FSX add-ons, the clear choice was to go the way of P3D as most add-ons for FSX would work.  Developers made their products available for P3D as quickly as they could and some didn’t charge for the update.  Of course others made the jump to X-Plane and never looked back. 

Certainly before Microsoft re-entered the scene with Flight Simulator 2020, both Prepar3D and X-Plane were very similar in what each offered and many 3rd party developers were supporting both platforms.  But this has certainly changed in recent years and from what I’m seeing the vast majority of 3rd party developers have completely shifted their focus to MSFS and have slowly decreased their development efforts away from P3D and in some cases X-Plane as well. 

Now it must certainly be said that prior to MSFS, X-Plane had a much more active community driven focus towards the freeware development of add-ons than the P3D community.  With P3D everything pretty much shifted to payware as the only option for enhancing the simulator.  Of course in the past two years since MSFS has been around the community focus has returned and we’ve seen some really awesome add-ons released for the new platform as freeware with lots more to come. 

With all that said, what advice can I give to those trying to choose a flight simulation platform?  In all honesty, I believe of the three platforms I’ve mentioned (MSFS, P3D and X-Plane) really it boils down to just two choices with the first being Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 and X-Plane.  But allow me to explain why I’ve removed Prepar3D from the list.

Prepar3D has never been intended to be used in the home/personal entertainment category.  From the very beginning, Lockheed Martin was unable to market/distribute the P3D flight simulation platform for anything other than commercial and flight training purposes.  While this never stopped anyone from purchasing the sim (I’m proof of that), the very simple fact is P3D has always been intended as a training sim.  Regardless if Lockheed Martin introduce a version 6 of the sim, I don’t feel P3D will ever be enhanced to the point of what we’re seeing with Microsoft Flight Simulator and since the debut of MSFS along with the quality of add-on, study level aircraft from Fenix and PMDG (more will come) Lockheed Martin is losing a lot of their customer base which used P3D as an off-ramp when FSX was no longer a viable option.  As already mentioned, many 3rd party developers have fully embraced MSFS and are moving full steam ahead in developing quality add-ons for that platform.  Of course, many users will stay with P3D and I’m sure Lockheed Martin will continue to support the platform regardless if there is a v6. 

As I mentioned at the top of the writing, X-Plane 12 has just released.  From what I’ve seen, read and heard….this latest version isn’t going down as I’m sure Laminar Research had hoped.  As I’m not an X-Plane fan, I have no intention of purchasing the sim.  But from some of the videos I’ve watched, those who are showcasing the new sim have mostly been disappointed in what they are seeing.  Of course, it must be said that this is a early release version and most likely things will change. 

Now I know there are a lot of unbelievers when it comes to Microsoft Flight Simulator.  As I’ve mentioned in previous blog postings, even I had my doubts regarding the new platform.  But over time, I believe the sim has matured into a quality flight simulator that I believe to be the “Gold Standard” of the available flight simulation platforms available today.  Both Microsoft and Asobo are committed to the project and I believe what we’re seeing from MSFS today is only the beginning.  In addition, from a cost perspective, MSFS requires a lot less investment to make the ground textures mirror that of the real world.

The 800 lb Gorilla

To address the 800 lb gorilla in the room, many will argue and say that X-Plane (at least historically) has always featured the best, true to life flight dynamics of any of the available sims.  I personally can’t argue either way on this statement.  I’m not a real world pilot, I’m not training to be a real world pilot and personally unless the difference gap was huge, I really don’t care.  It simply means nothing to me.  The aircraft I primarily fly in MSFS (Fenix A320, PMDG 737) compensate for any weakness in the flight dynamics department and I enjoy every single minute of my time in the sim and in those aircraft.

But What About…

Yes, there are two other flight simulator platforms that I have yet to mention in this posting, specifically Aerofly FS4 and DCS World.  DCS World, of course is an awesome flight simulator if you enjoy simulating military flight ops and honestly has some of the very best visual simulations of any platform.  I personally don’t spend a lot of time in DCS, but I do use it from time to time.  If military ops is something you really enjoy, then DCS World will be your best bet. 

Unfortunately, I personally don’t have any experience with Aerofly FS4.  While the platform does have some 3rd party development support with some add-ons, I don’t consider it broad enough to be considered above P3D, X-Plane or MSFS.  In addition, unlike P3D, X-Plane or MSFS, Aerofly FS4 does not include the entire world as part of the base package.  Additional regions must be purchased separately. 

In closing, if you’ve been in the hobby of flight simulation for some time and are already using and enjoying Prepar3D or X-Plane, then I certainly understand why you may choose to remain on those platforms.  But if you are new to the hobby, I highly recommend you do your homework and give consideration towards Microsoft Flight Simulator as I believe this is the very best and certainly will be for many years to come.

Thanks for reading and as always….Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

MSFS Add-on Aircraft Caution

If you’re new to the world of flight simulation, especially since the release of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, did you know that not all add-on, payware aircraft are created equal?  Since the release of MSFS back in August 2020, many quality payware developers have been hard at work in creating study-level, true to life representations into the sim with so many more to come in the future.  I routinely talk about two of my favorites with that being PMDG and Fenix.  But there are a few payware aircraft which have been released in the past few months that in my opinion caution needs to be considered before purchasing. 

There seems to be a trend being set by a few payware developers to be the first to release various add-on aircraft in the Microsoft Marketplace in what many are calling a “cash grab” effort to sell payware aircraft which utilize existing default aircraft models.  CaptainSim was I believe the first when they released their Boeing 777 which utilized the default Boeing 747 systems.  A few months ago, LatinVFR, which are renown for their top-quality airport scenery add-ons, released an Airbus A321 which uses the default Airbus A320 systems and are planning to soon release an Airbus A319 in the same fashion. 

It must be said that those who enjoy MSFS on the console platform are very unlikely to see true study-level aircraft from PMDG, Fenix etc. So I guess I do understand there is a potential market for these aircraft for those on the console platform.  However, if you enjoy MSFS on the PC platform….I’m of the opinion these “Frankenstein” type aircraft are a waste of money and/or certainly not worth the asking price.  Especially when you take into consideration the FBW A320 project is 100% freeware and the Fenix A320 is priced at just over $55 USD. 

Again, the reason why I chose to write this article and publish it, is because I know many have been duped by this and thought they were buying a more complex add-on aircraft.  Of course if none of this matters and you’re really not bothered by the fact these aircraft are not true representations, then by all means add them to your virtual hangar and enjoy them.

As always, thank you for reading and happy flying!!!

Jerry

FSDreamTeam GSX Pro Review

The highly anticipated GSX Pro by FSDreamTeam has finally been released for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 (MSFS) and boy, oh boy….has it made an impact in the flight simulation community.  If you are new to the flight simulation world and have not had the opportunity to use GSX in either FSX or P3D, the you might be wondering what it is, what it does and whether or not you need it in your sim.  I’ll answer these questions and also for those who are already familiar with the product, will discuss why I believe you still need this in MSFS.

Before I start this product review.  Please allow me to get the fine print out of the way. 

The product I am reviewing was purchased by me and for my own personal use.  I receive absolutely no compensation of any form (cash, credit, discounts, promises) for reviewing this product.  I have not contacted, nor have I been contacted by the vendor to provide this product review.  The opinions expressed (good or bad) are my own, your mileage may vary.

What Is GSX Pro?

GSX Pro by FSDreamTeam is an all-in-one ground services add-on for Flight Simulator 2020 (MSFS) and improves all ground services including push-back, catering, refueling, baggage and passenger loading.  GSX Pro adds an extra level of immersion to your overall flight simulation experience. 

FlightSimulator_q1DV6XDcx3

I’ve been a fan of GSX for many years and since making the full switch to Microsoft Flight Simulator a few months ago, had truly been missing this add-on.  For me, GSX ticks all the boxes and provides my flight simulation experience all the immersion necessary to simulate the role of a commercial airline pilot. 

The new version, GSX Pro debuted for MSFS just a few weeks ago and unfortunately the release was troubled by several unfortunate issues which were not entirely the fault of FSDreamTeam.  On the day of release, many users began experiencing poor performance and frequent CTD’s (crash to desktop).  Naturally, when something goes wrong with the sim we can’t help but look at the last thing we tweaked or installed as being the culprit.  This is only natural and I initially jumped to the conclusion that something had seriously gone wrong with the install or there was something seriously wrong with GSX Pro.  However, after some time it became clear that these issues with MSFS were happening to users who had not purchased/installed GSX Pro.  The issues causing the CTD’s and slow performance of MSFS (which to this day are still not completely known) were resolved by Microsoft/Asobo and once again MSFS performed as it should. 

As previously stated, GSX Pro provides an all-in-one ground services function for MSFS.  This of course includes catering, refueling, baggage and passenger boarding and de-boarding, refueling and push-back services.  For the most part it performs all these functions well.  Yes, there are some small quirks which happen from time to time.  While some of these minor annoyances could be caused by MSFS, some of these have been around in the product from the FSX/P3D days.  In my opinion, when I see the baggage carts driving through the engine or through another vehicle, I just chuckle and appreciate the fact I’m alive and able to enjoy this hobby as much as I do.  Remember, AI will never be perfect.  We see these same issues in other simulation based titles and it’s in your best interest to just grin and bear it just as I do. 

All-in-all, GSX Pro is an add-on I rate highly in the “must have” category of flight simulation add-ons.   As I previously said, I had truly been missing GSX Pro after making the switch from P3D to MSFS a few months ago.  As I write this, GSX Pro has been available for about 3 weeks and the level of improvements, bug fixes etc. have brought it up to the standard in which it was for P3D and it will continue to improved over time. 

Do you absolutely need GSX Pro?  If you want to add that extra level of immersion to your flight simulation experience then the answer is an overwhelming YES! 

As always, thank you for reading. 

Until next time….

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

PMDG 737-800 Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

It’s been an absolutely fantastic summer for those of us waiting for study-level aircraft to arrive for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 (MSFS).  First, PMDG released their Boeing 737-700 which was quickly followed by the absolutely amazing Fenix Airbus A320 both in May.  A lot of folks were a bit disappointed in PMDG’s decision to first release the –700 (May), followed by the –600 (July).  But from a business perspective and especially since PMDG modified the way they normally package and sell the 737 this makes a lot of sense.  After all, the vast majority of flight sim enthusiasts really wanted the 737-800 and bringing the –700 out first made a lot of individuals purchase that aircraft (myself included) just to have some variety in the new sim. 

I had planned on not purchasing the –700 or –600 and waiting for the –800.  But as I became more familiar with MSFS, going back to P3D just to fly the 737-800 just wasn’t as enjoyable.  So I did purchase the 737-700 about a month after release and used it, along with the Fenix A320.  I have not, nor do I plan to purchase the –600, even though it was offered at a much lower price.  I just don’t have the need for that airframe.  But I digress….

Within my own virtual hangar, I typically fly the 737-800 about 75% of the time followed by the Airbus coming in at 25%.  After all, the PMDG 737-800 has always been my  favorite narrow-body aircraft and it’s just an absolute pleasure to fly.  So I was really pleased to learn the wait was over and I’ve truly enjoyed the last few days of simming with this awesome aircraft. 

FlightSimulator_7Zf9Yct626

Is the 737-800 Right For You?

Well, really only you can answer that question.  While some were hoping for some sort of discount (especially if they had previously purchased the –700 and –600 variants, this was never something I expected PMDG to offer.  After all, the 737-800 is the most popular variant in the Boeing 737 series.  However, if you purchase the PMDG 737-800 now, it is being offered at an introductory price of $69.99 with the expectation that it will go up to $74.99 later. 

What I can tell you is the PMDG 737-800 is worth every penny at either price point.  Regardless if you’ve previously owned the aircraft in FSX, P3D or both….the PMDG 737-800 is a dream to fly in MSFS.  Additionally, if you are new to the world of flight simulation, the PMDG 737-800 (or any of the other variants) is super easy to learn to fly.  New aviators should check YouTube as you’ll find hours and hours of videos which demonstrate how to fly this aircraft and fly it well. 

-700 or –600 Owners, should you also purchase the –800?

Again, not a question I can really answer for you.  What I can say, is comparing the –800 to the –700…while they are basically the same aircraft with the –800 being almost 20 feet longer, the PMDG 737-800 does include more variants including the standard 737-800 passenger model, a Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) model and two converted freighter versions including the BDSF (Bedek Special Freighter) and BCF (Boeing Converted Freighter).  Along with all the different ground and passenger servicing equipment you’ll need for total immersion regardless of the variant you choose to fly. 

What’s Next From PMDG?

PMDG will release their 737-900 which will complete the 737 series.  While no exact release date is known at this time.  I believe we should expect that in the late September or more realistically in the early October timeframe.  After all, PMDG’s original plan was to release the 737 series in 6 week gaps. 

Once the –900 is out, we can expect the following aircraft types (in this order), Boeing 777, Boeing 747 and then the Boeing 737 Max.  As for expected timeframes, well that’s any one’s guess at this point.  I believe I once read some time ago that the expectation from PMDG would have the 777 available this year.  But I would be very surprised to see that under our Christmas tree this year.  I think the more realistic expectation would be sometime in 2023 (perhaps by summer if we’re lucky). 

Why does it take so long?

For the most part, I believe legacy flight simulation enthusiasts who have been around for a decade or more and evolved through the various sim versions do fully understand that it takes time to bring an airliner of the level of quality we expect from PMDG to a new sim platform.  However, MSFS has attracted a large number of new flight sim aviators to the hobby and these guys and gals are experiencing all this for the first time. 

On some of the forums and Discord servers I participate on, the question is often asked “Why does it take so long for updates?”  Or “Why does it take so long just to add a sharklet or new engine model to an existing aircraft?” Seasoned veterans of the hobby fully understand that there is more to all this then just slapping a sharklet onto a wing or adding a different engine variant under the wing.  In other words, when looking at these study-level versions of popular modern day aircraft, there is a lot more that goes in under the hood than just a simple visual.  Developers like PMDG, Fenix etc. need the time to properly code the differences in flight dynamics, performance and yes the visual representation into the aircraft and of course fully test before they bring them to market.  So be patient….enjoy what you have available now and be thankful when something new comes along.  Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.  I certainly hope you enjoy the new PMDG 737-800 (or any variant) and I hope it brings as much joy to your virtual experience as it does to mine. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

And just like that…

Beginning on Friday, 19 August and continuing through the weekend hundreds, perhaps thousands of MSFS users from all around the world began experiencing issues where Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 would CTD (crash to desktop).  Unfortunately, around the same time FSDreamTeam released their GSX Pro MSFS Add-on.  As users were installing GSX Pro the issues causing the CTD’s were also showing up on the scene.  This gave a false sense that the CTD’s were being caused by GSX Pro when in actuality GSX Pro was certainly not the issue.  The proof of this became apparent when users began posting their CTD experience on the MSFS forums.  While some had just purchased GSX Pro, the vast majority had not. 

My Own Experiences

During this same timeframe I had installed GSX Pro and I also was experiencing CTD issues.  However, I had also made the decision to also begin the process of reinstalling Windows 10 and MSFS as I discussed in my “Saying Goodbye to P3D…For Now” blog posting.  This rebuild process took place on Friday and before I had even installed MSFS, I ensured Windows 10 was fully patched.  On Saturday morning with MSFS installed and fully configured with all my add-ons reinstalled, I attempted to load up a flight.  During the process of launching MSFS, my PC would CTD three times in a row.  On the 4th attempt, MSFS launched successfully and I was able to conduct a flight from DEN to SLC.  While I managed to complete the flight without a CTD, the performance of the sim was sluggish with stutters during the approach and landing phase.  The experience throughout the weekend was pretty much the same.  MSFS would often CTD while loading up and on two occasions I experienced a CTD after landing and while taxing to the gate.  For the most part, my own experiences matched up with what many others were also experiencing.

Crickets

For much of the weekend as more and more users posted their CTD experiences in this thread on the MSFS Forums, the silence from anyone at Microsoft or Asobo was deafening.  While there were a few official community forum admins posting occasionally, nothing was really happening with regards to any official communication and recognition of the issues.  Funnily enough, even as of today, Wednesday 24 August neither Microsoft or Asobo have officially made any comments.  Yet, the issue has apparently been resolved. 

The Fix

On Tuesday, the community began to hear via the MSFS Forum admins of a possible fix to the CTD issues.  The fix is as follows:

1.  Check for MS Updates, apply/install any updates available.
2.  Restart the PC  (More about this in a minute)
3.  Launch MSFS and Fly

Of course the community took the advice and low and behold it worked.  But is it as simple as this?  Is this really all that was required?  Do you mean to tell me that we could have all saved countless hours, gray hairs and the stress of watching a multi-hour flight vanish before our very eyes as we’re on final approach into XYZ airport? 

The Placebo Effect

For my own setup, the above “fix” was simply a placebo.  It didn’t do anything to address the root cause of the CTD’s and poor performance and I knew that as soon as I read it.  Like I said at the beginning, I had just reimaged my PC.  My PC had installed ALL MS updates available.  In addition, and this is important….I also disable the Windows 10 “Fast Boot” option when I build/rebuild a PC and you should also considering doing it as well.

The “Fast Boot” option was introduced as a feature in Windows 10.  It does exactly what it says on the tin.  With the feature enabled (and it’s enabled by default) when you perform a shut down of the Windows 10 OS, it keeps many elements of the Windows OS in a state of hibernation thus saving time when starting up.  The problem with leaving this enabled is any problem (regardless of how minor it might be) that exists with drivers, kernel, etc. will remain to be a problem each time you start your PC.  As the old PC saying goes, if you experience an issue….just reboot and 99.9% of the time that issue will go away.  But with Fast Boot enabled, unless you actually perform a “Restart” you are just bringing those same issues back. With Fast Boot  disabled, a shut down (which we all do to save electricity) will do the same as a restart.  On boot, everything gets refreshed.

If you are interested in learning how to disable Fast Boot on your PC, just Google it.  You’ll find all the info you need on how to disable this feature that really isn’t that much of a feature.

What I really think happened?

I have two possible ideas.  My first thought is on Friday, Microsoft/Asobo made an untested change to the backend servers which caused these issues.  After all, some users were successful at getting MSFS to work without CTD by disabling live weather, traffic etc.  Or, another scenario is something within these same backend servers got corrupted in some way that was eventually resolved by Microsoft/Asobo either late Monday or sometime on Tuesday. 

Most likely we will never know for sure.  The root cause analysis will never be revealed by Microsoft and that’s just the way things work. 

Concerns Going Forward

From the very beginning of my experience with MSFS, I’ve had concerns with a few things about the new sim.  First, I’m not a big fan of the automatic update features where you are forced to take sim updates when they are available.  This will become a much bigger issue for us as more and more 3rd party add-ons are introduced.  While the updates are made available to everyone in the form of a beta, not all 3rd party developers have the resources to act immediately to how the sim is changing and evolving.  We’ve seen with Prepar3D where a new update will break 3rd party add-ons for a period of time until these can be updated.  Generally speaking, these periods of time are only a few days to a week or two at most, but it is an issue.  I would like to have the choice as to whether I take an update today or perhaps delay it until the 3rd party developers have had some time to perform their own patches/updates.

Second, I’m also concerned about just how much MSFS relies on the online infrastructure hosted by Microsoft/Asobo.  Again, comparing it to P3D….once I install and configure P3D to my liking, it just works regardless to what is happening at Lockheed Martin. 

Finally, I’m also concerned with the parallel development of MSFS for both PC and Console players.  While this may sound harsh to console players, I’m a PC gamer and while some games can certainly be enjoyed on the console platform, many can not.  MSFS on a console just will never be the same experience as that of the PC and I feel those of us on PC could be held back as a result of this parallel development concept. 

The Future IS MSFS

In closing, a resounding YES, MSFS is the future of flight simulation.   When I think back to where this hobby has come from to where it is now…OH MY GOD!  I have personally experienced it all.  Starting in the early to mid 1980’s on the Commodore 64 throughout all the Microsoft branded flight simulators over the years, Prepar3D and now MSFS.  It’s a great time to be alive and be involved in this hobby.  I just hope my concerns become null and void. 

As always, thank you for reading.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

JT

PMDG 737-800 Final Approach

Good Sunday morning!  We awoke this morning to some really great news regarding the highly anticipated PMDG 737-800 for Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS).  Essentially, the PMDG Boeing 737-800 is on final approach and should be available sometime between 23 August and 31 August.  This is excellent news for any fan of the 738.  After all, it’s really been a long time coming.  For me personally, this particular aircraft has been the “missing link” in my MSFS setup. 

Along with the release of the PMDG 737-800, some really cool lighting features are also due to be released.  While I’m not 100% certain of this, but I think these lighting features will be available for the other 737 types including the –700 and –600 which have already been released.  In any event, these new lighting features including spotlights and sun visor/shade devices will be extremely helpful to have in the sim.  A new video was released this morning showcasing these new features.  You can view that below.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYDM9kwzy8M[/embedyt]

Until MSFS came along, I really didn’t have much desire to fly during the nighttime hours.  Oh sure, I loved flying into LAS just before dusk, but in previous sims (FSX and P3D) I found the night lighting to be less desirable and harder on my system.  Plus I just really couldn’t see as well.  With MSFS, all elements of light have been drastically improved from the previously mentioned versions and flying at night is something I actually enjoy now. 

In Other News

Most likely you’ve also already heard that Sim Update 10 for MSFS has been delayed a few weeks. Microsoft/Asobo is shooting for mid September for this update.  SU 10 may prove to be one of the greatest achievements we’ve seen thus far in the life of MSFS as it should deliver many performance improvements. 

CTD’s and Other Annoyances

Have you been experiencing multiple CTD’s (Crash to Desktop) in the past few days?  If so, you’re not alone.  Even after my recent sim machine rebuild and reinstall/reconfigure of MSFS, I’ve been plagued with a few CTD’s.  Fortunately, all my CTD events (knock on wood) have been occurring during the launch process for MSFS and not during flight.  There is a very long thread on the Microsoft forums discussing these recent CTD’s and the general consensus is that they have something to do with how MSFS interacts with the servers controlled by Microsoft/Asobo.

While early speculation pointed the finger at FSDreamTeam and the new GSX Pro, there are other users who have experienced recent CTD’s and haven’t purchased GSX Pro nor own any FSDT add-ons.  You can read this rather lengthy forum post here

Well that’s about all I have time for today.  I’m approaching DEN in the Fenix A320 and need to now focus my attention on a safe landing. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

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