A Pilot’s Life Storyteller Series–S1, E4

My R&R break in Ketchikan has drawn to a close and it’s time for me to get back to work.  Perhaps not as much as I want to, but truly need to.  It’s quickly approaching the end of the month of May (as I’m writing this) and as we only get paid once per month, I need to rack up as many flight hours as possible.  This flight back to Seattle will be the last flight of the month.  As also mentioned on the S1, E2 update, this flight also completes my current schedule with Alaska.  I will receive another schedule upon my return to Sea-Tac.  I’m still thinking about my future and most likely will discuss that next time.

Present Day

I truly enjoyed the past few days I’ve spent in Ketchikan.  But it’s time for me to return back to work.  Once again we have beautiful weather here and this will be a late afternoon departure back to Seattle.  While the Ketchikan area has many endearing qualities, I think the people are what I truly like about my visits here. 

Flight Details

Today we’re operating Alaska flight 9248 with non-stop service from Ketchikan back to Seattle.  This flight originated in Anchorage and many of our passengers were part of that flight.  Our flight departs at 19:35. Our planned fuel for this trip is 15,743 lbs and our take-off weight is 149,457 lbs. with a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet.  Block time is 2 hours. 



Let’s get going…

We’re in our standard livery today for this B738.  We’re ready to go and just waiting on the ground crew to disconnect ground services and get the tug connected.  Time is money…


Cleared to start engines and engine #2 is spinning up. 


As we taxi up the hill towards runway 11, the sun is setting. 


We’re lined up and waiting for our take-off clearance.  We had a departing Cessna in front of us.  While we have no worries from his lack of wake turbulence, the last thing that pilot wants to see in his rear-view mirror is a Boeing 738.  Winking smile  But he’s headed for Sitka, so he’ll be turning and proceeding NW soon.


With the departing Cessna out of the way, it’s wheels up for Alaska 9248. 


Continuing our climb up to FL350. 


Beautiful weather for flying.


That just about does it for the sun for this day. 


And now for the wing view. 


Of course the problem with flying at night is…..

Cleared to land runway 16L at Sea-Tac.


Just a few more seconds…..


There we go…a smooth touchdown. Yea…I suppose it’s also good to be back home. 


Parked at the gate and beginning our shutdown checklist. 


As previously stated, this flight marks the end of my schedule.  We get 10 flights scheduled to us at one time.  My new schedule set has me returning back to Las Vegas, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City and finally back up to Juneau. 


As I don’t want to commit to any decisions at this time, I most likely will take the Las Vegas flights out and back.  I should then be close to the end of the 7 day waiting period on my Sr. First Officer contract and will look at all my options.  The deciding factors will be hourly salary and routes.  As you can tell from the image below, these are the flights I’ve completed with Sun Country (based in KMSP) and Alaska (based in Seattle).  I’d also still love to get hired by a 5 star airline like American, United etc.  Time will tell.


Thanks for reading.  I’ll keep you posted on my decisions.  Talk to you once again soon.


If you are interested in experiencing your own “A Pilot’s Life”, I highly recommend the A Pilot’s Life, by SimBitWorld add-on for Prepar3D, FSX and X-Plane.  You can learn more about the A Pilot’s Life by visiting the SimBitWorld website and/or purchase APL at SimMarket.  Also, please read my full review of A Pilot’s LIfe here.

Flight Simulator:  Prepar3D v4.5 (hotfix 1)
Aircraft:  PMDG 737-800
Airline: Alaska Airlines (ASA)
Airport Scenery: KSEA Drzewiecki Design, Orbx Ketchikan
Terrain Scenery: Orbx Global Base, Orbx Vector, Orbx openLC North America, Orbx NA Pacific Northwest, NA Pacific Fjords
Sky/Cloud Textures: REX 5 SkyForce and REX 5 Environment Force
Weather Generation: ActiveSky (ASP4)
Flight Planning: SimBrief, Navigraph, FlightAware, FlightRadar24

Note:  If you are interested in any of the above mentioned add-ons.  Visit my P3D Add-ons directory for links.

Duplication of Effort – Is it a bad thing?

While I’ve been thinking about this subject for a few weeks, I really was prompted to actually sit down at the computer and pour my thoughts into WordPress for you all to read.  The subject of this writing has to do with add-on developers duplicating each others efforts.  Understand, I’m not referring to stealing, copying or anything underhanded. 

Earlier today the flight simulation community learned a brand new Las Vegas, KLAS airport scenery had been released by scenery developer FlyTampa.  I’m familiar with FlyTampa and own two of their add-on airports including TNCM (St. Maarten) and KTPA (Tampa).  On my wish list I have Amsterdam (EHAM), Chicago Midway (KMDW), Boston (KBOS) and with the word MAYBE beside it I now have Las Vegas (KLAS). 

For the past 8+ years I’ve owned the add-on scenery for Las Vegas from FSDreamTeam.  For the most part, I’ve been very pleased with their scenery.  As a matter of fact, I’ve been so pleased with FSDreamTeam that I own a total of 16 of their add-on airport sceneries.  The only developer which tops them in the number of products I own would be Orbx.  Anyway…

Back to the Question at Hand

Generally speaking, as consumers, we see duplication of effort everywhere we look.  Go to the grocery store and you’ll find multiple brands of products that essentially do the exact same thing.  Out on the highway, you’ll see different types of automobiles which all do the exact same thing.  Even in the very industry we simulate through flight simulation we have Boeing versus Airbus and American versus United.  Let’s also not forget we have Prepar3D versus XPlane.  I think the saying, “Variety is the Spice of Life” comes to mind here.  Also, competition is always a good thing. 

But is competition such a good thing in our hobby?  I’d say YES and NO! 

In the example of FSDreamTeam’s Las Vegas, it’s been out for about 10 years.  Originally developed for both FSX and FS9 (Flight Simulator 2004) and made compatible for Prepar3D (including v4) it is starting to show its age.  Having said that, much of the other FSDT scenery I own (with exception of KMEM and KSDF) were all purchased for FSX and FSDT has updated them for P3Dv4 at no out of pocket cost.  Said in another way, the vast majority of the 16 products I own from FSDreamTeam were purchased 7-10 years ago and the developer has worked to make them compatible with P3Dv4 and I didn’t have to spend any money.  This is one reason why FSDT has remained one of my favorite developers and why I try to support them every chance I get. 

Back to the competition question and why I say it’s both a good thing and a bad thing.  First let’s get the bad out of the way.  When I hear of an add-on developer creating airport scenery for an airport which already exists via another developer, I think to myself just how many other airports in the world which we don’t have represented with accurately detailed add-on scenery?  In other words, instead of recreating an airport that already exists by an established developer…why not select another airport? 

As for the reasons why it can be a good thing, well in the case of FSDT’s KLAS which was developed for FS9/FSX, FlyTampa’s KLAS is 100% P3Dv4 including PBR textures which of course is the brand new buzz word around the P3D community.  LOL  No, PBR doesn’t stand for Pabst Blue Ribbon…it stands for Physical Based Rendering and in simple terms PBR offers lighting techniques that treats light the way it really behaves in the real world.  When applied to an aircraft (as an example), the materials which make up the aircraft look more realistic. 

As I said…

Competition is a good thing.  Not only can it help to keep the cost to the consumer low, it also can assist in keeping everyone on their toes.  But if you blink….then bad things can happen.  In the case of FSDreamTeam and their KLAS scenery…THEY BLINKED and FlyTampa pounced. 

Like any other piece of software, FlyTampa didn’t decide last week or last month to develop their version of KLAS.  Most likely it’s been in the works for some time.  As I’ve stated before in other writings, compared to other gaming communities…the flight simulation community is rather small.  These 3rd party development teams are also small in size.  The PMDG wiki page states there are 8 employees.  So these things take time.  But in the case of FSDT, I see no signs they were planning to make any major updates to KLAS and with the recent hype around FlyTampa’s version, I’m most certain FSDT won’t bother.

Bottom Line

There’s very little brand loyalty in the flight sim community.  If my wife sends me into the store to purchase a cold soda, I better come out with a red can in my hand.  In other words, she drinks coca-cola or she’ll go without and I’ll get one of those looks if I even think otherwise.  You know the look I’m talking about.  Right?

On a related note, FSDreamTeam has been in the process of developing a version 2 for Chicago O Hare KORD.  I believe it’s been in the works for almost two years.  As is the case with most projects like this, no release date is known at this time.  FSDT’s KORD will be amazing and it’s badly needed.  However, another relatively new developer called Skyline Sim announced they were working on their own KORD (and other airports as well).  Time will only tell…

For now, I plan to pull the trigger on FlyTampa’s version of Las Vegas.  I’ll uninstall FSDT’s version and continue moving forward. 

Until next time…

Viva Las Vegas!


A Pilot’s Life Storyteller Series–S1, E3

Thank you for returning for another edition of our “A Pilot’s Life” Storyteller series.  When we were last together (S1, E2) I had just completed a flight from Seattle up to Ketchikan, Alaska.  I mentioned I planned to spend a few days of R&R while there.  So this edition won’t really be so much about the APL application as it’s just going to serve as a brief break from flying jets and give me some time to enjoy flying a little lower and slower and taking in all the eye candy that is this region of Alaska and Canada.

Present Day

I’ve been in Ketchikan the past couple of days and have just one full day before I’m due to return back to Seattle on Alaska flight 9249.   This will complete my third schedule set with Alaska and I’ll apply for a new set and then see how things look once I’m eligible to apply for other airlines.  But this week has all been about having some fun.  The weather has been truly amazing with VFR flight conditions each day.  So far I’ve managed to spend some time flying, fishing and just doing a little exploring.  Mostly I’ve been able to relax and enjoy my time off.  They say “membership has its privileges” and rightfully so.  This is a pretty darn good life if you ask me. 

As this is my last full day, I thought I would rent a Cessna 182 and depart Ketchikan and head east to Stewart, British Columbia, Canada.  As I’m also trying to make friends where I can, I asked if there was anything which needed to go to or picked up from Stewart.  As long as it would safely fit in a 182, I’m happy to take it.  I’m really just planning to fly to Stewart, land and have lunch.  Perhaps stroll through town and then head back to Ketchikan. 

Doug (the guy that works at the rental desk) knows a guy that knows a guy that knows this other guy.  Anyway, there is a package on Annette Island which needs to go to Dawson Creek.  The timing isn’t an issue and they figure someone in Stewart will move it along.  So the plan will be to depart Ketchikan, fly the 18nm to Annette Island, load the package and then head 76nm northeast to Stewart, BC.  Sounds like a fun day. 


Of course, we’re not going to fly as the crow would.  Especially not on the second leg.  I’ll take the safer and longer route and fly along the Portland Canal which makes up the border between the US (Alaska) and British Columbia (Canada). 

It’s mid-morning and I show up at the Ketchikan rental facility and directed down to the lower level where my Cessna 182 is waiting for me.


As I’m taxing up the ramp, I see another Alaska 737-800 has just arrived.  Most likely from Seattle. 


The wind this morning is out of the north, so we’ll be departing runway 29. 


Holding short runway 29 awaiting an approaching DHC-2 Beaver on final. 


We’re issued our take-off clearance and we get moving.  We were allowed to do a 180 degree turn and proceed direct to Annette Island. 


Runway in sight, first leg is almost in the books. 


We accept the package and quickly resume our travels.  My stomach is already growling.  I’ve heard there is a little cafe that makes a great burger in Stewart.


We’re back in the air and made our way across Duke Island and the Revilagigedo Channel. We’re now entering the canal.  At this point in our flight we experienced a bit of turbulence as we crossed the channel.  But all seems smooth for now. 


Besides my stomach rumbling, we’re in no hurry and making great time.  This second leg is obviously made longer since we didn’t go direct.  But hey…I’m on vacation and the weather is amazing.  So are the views.


At this point in the flight I’ve switched the auto-pilot off and just enjoying hand flying the aircraft along the canal.  The air is nice and smooth. 


I begin the descent into Stewart and the ride gets pretty bumpy and choppy. 


The approach is an easy one.  But at this point in the flight I’m feeling some pretty gnarly cross-wind action.  Each time I think about taking a screenshot, I’m reminded I need to concentrate. 


On the ground, safely….not too sure just how hungry I am at this point.  But I’m sure once I park up and walk around a bit I’ll feel better.


Just spoke to the guy in the yellow shirt.  He landed about 10 minutes before I did.  I swear I saw him kneel down and kiss the ground just a minute ago.  LOL  It was a fun approach and landing.  I’m thankful for rudder pedals. 


Time to go find that $100 hamburger now.  That older gentleman sitting down over there will take the package from me. 


It’s been a fun, short and very adventurous flight.  Looking forward to the return later this afternoon, then it’s back in the Boeing 738 and back to Sea-Tac. 

Thanks for reading!



If you are interested in experiencing your own “A Pilot’s Life”, I highly recommend the A Pilot’s Life, by SimBitWorld add-on for Prepar3D, FSX and X-Plane.  You can learn more about the A Pilot’s Life by visiting the SimBitWorld website and/or purchase APL at SimMarket.  Also, please read my full review of A Pilot’s LIfe here.

Flight Simulator:  Prepar3D v4.5 (hotfix 1)
Aircraft:  A2A Cessna 182
Airline: n/a
Airport Scenery: Orbx Ketchikan (PAKT), Orbx Stewart (CZST)
Terrain Scenery: Orbx Global Base, Orbx Vector, Orbx openLC North America, Orbx NA Pacific Northwest, NA Pacific Fjords
Sky/Cloud Textures: REX 5 SkyForce and REX 5 Environment Force
Weather Generation: ActiveSky (ASP4)
Flight Planning: SimBrief, Navigraph, FlightAware, FlightRadar24, SkyVector

Note:  If you are interested in any of the above mentioned add-ons.  Visit my P3D Add-ons directory for links.

Microsoft Flight Simulator

As I often say, unless you’ve had your head under a rock the past 48-72 hours, you’ve certainly heard about the BIG flight sim news.  No, the biggest flight sim related news to break over this past weekend didn’t come from the halls of FSExpo19.  As the curtains were all about to close on what appears to have been another extremely successful FlightSimExpo, Microsoft (yes…Microsoft) was making an announcement waaaaay over on the other side of the country,  at the hugely popular E3 gaming conference in Los Angeles that they were returning to the flight simulation market in 2020 with Microsoft Flight Simulator.

My Initial Reaction

The first I heard of this was on Sunday afternoon.  I was kicked back in my lazy boy recliner and saw a Facebook post stating something about a new version of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.  My first thought was someone’s made a YouTube video and in true “click bait” fashion titled it that way and all it will end up being is P3D with a ton of addons.  But….but…much to my surprise that was not the case.

The Website

In addition to the E3 announcement, Microsoft has a fancy website and an “Insider Program” already setup to support the announcement.   On this website it states, “Microsoft Flight Simulator is the next generation of one of the most beloved simulation franchises.  From light planes to wide-body jets, fly highly detailed and stunning aircraft in an incredibly realistic world.  Create your flight plan and fly anywhere on the planet.  Enjoy flying day or night, and face realistic, challenging weather conditions”

The Video

Take a Deep Breath and slowly Exhale……

Here’s what we know so far.  Not much!   It appears Microsoft Flight Simulator will release sometime in 2020.  It appears it will be available for both XBOX and Windows 10.  It appears (based on the info available) the video was “captured in real-time 4K”.  In the grand scheme of things this really isn’t enough information to even warrant talking about it,  yet here we are….talking about it! You literally will not find a single flight sim community NOT talking about it.  It’s everywhere…yet what we know is…not much!

Opinions, Opinions…

In addition to not really knowing much (at this stage) about this new Microsoft Flight Simulator everyone has opinions.  Yes, this includes yours truly.  Of course I do!  Simply, you can’t have been involved the hobby as long as I have and not have an opinion or three.  I’m human…I do and I’m going to share a few of my thoughts with you.  Whether you care to read them, agree with them is up to you.  Here goes….

Negative Nancy

There seems to be a lot of criticism from some regarding the opinions and comments made by others with regards to this announcement.  A lot of what I’m reading which would fall into this category is being made by those who have only been involved in this hobby 5 minutes.  They weren’t around a decade or more ago to read/hear about all the things Microsoft Flight Simulator was to become.  They weren’t around when the hype surrounding Microsoft Flight could be cut with a knife and the giant sucking sound which occurred when all the excitement evaporated when reality set in.

Most who will read the words I’ve written can be grouped into the hardcore flight simulation community segment.  We’ve all grown up through the various iterations of the wonderful Microsoft Flight Simulator product and were all equally let down when it became no more.  Yet, we tightened our laces and settled into one of two courts with that being Prepar3D and the second being X-Plane.  Some are successfully straddling the fence of both and there’s a small segment which have stayed behind with FSX or FSX Steam Edition and yes, as funny as this may sound….a portion are still stuck on the FS2004/FS9 island.  But regardless, we all shed our tears for what was Microsoft Flight Simulator and we’ve moved on.  So yes, we have a right to our opinions and we have a right to be somewhat skeptical of this new project. 

Niche Community

You’ve often heard myself and others talk about what a niche community we have.  It’s true!  The flight simulation community isn’t as big as some might want to make it out to be.  While competition is a good thing, over saturation isn’t so much.  Can our community support three major flight simulation platforms?  I’m not so sure, but could Microsoft have a trick up their sleeve?

I Love History

As previously stated, our community is small compared to other popular “gaming”communities.  While many of us don’t consider our flight simulation to be a game, by the way it’s not…it’s a simulator.  We still get compared to other communities.  Anyway….

Despite the fact there are a few other simulator options out there, the two major players at this point in time are Prepar3D and X-Plane.  Before we dive too deep in discussing these, let’s take a minute or two for a history lesson.

Microsoft released FSX in 2006 and FSX Acceleration (SP2) a year later 2007.

Microsoft sold the intellectual property (IP) including source code for the commercial use side of FSX SP2 to Lockheed Martin in 2009. 

Lockheed Martin released Prepar3d v1 in November 2010. 

Microsoft released Microsoft Flight in February 2012 (the same year the Mayans got the end of the world wrong).

In 2014, Dovetail Games announced a license agreement with Microsoft to distribute Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition. FSX : SE was released in December 2014. 

In 2014, Dovetail Games also announced their plans to develop a “next generation” flight simulation product further developed on Microsoft’s technology and bring this to market in 2015.  However, Flight Sim World wouldn’t come to fruition until 2017.  In April 2018, Dovetail announced Flight Sim World development would be closed.

In a nutshell, while Flight Sim World was supposed to be the next generation flight simulator product developed on Microsoft technology, the end result wasn’t what the hard core flight simulation community wanted or needed. 

Will Microsoft Flight Simulator Take Flight Again?

With the history lesson out of the way, I’ve gotta say that from what I see in the 1 minute and 44 second trailer…I’m amazed, I’m impressed and I’m highly, highly optimistic.  Let me repeat that…I’m highly optimistic!  But as I stated earlier, what we actually know beyond what our eyes are taking in just isn’t that much.  For example….

What about our current add-ons which have been developed for FSX/P3D?  Will they work?  Who knows.  However, if I were to take a really big guess (and that’s all it really is at this point) I would say NO!  No, our current add-ons won’t work.  Especially not right out of the gate.  The next question folks will ponder is, will it cost to get current add-ons for the new sim?  We just don’t know.

But let me say this about “our current add-ons”.  I constantly see complaints (especially in the FSX/P3D communities) about the fact that P3D is just a rebranding of sorts of FSX.  While it is, it also isn’t.  Meaning, Lockheed Martin have done some really awesome things to make P3D v4.5 what it is today and P3D v4.5 is truly lightyears from FSX.  But…..but…I firmly believe in order for us to truly turn that corner and reach a point that we can say “THIS…THIS RIGHT HERE…Is the next generation flight simulator”, well….we’re gonna have to say goodbye to all those ancient and archaic add-ons we’re so desperately trying to hold onto.  Enough is enough. 

Having said that, (again because we just don’t know much at this point) will 3rd party scenery actually still be needed? Of the scenes depicted in the short trailer, are we looking at default?  If so, dang…that’s impressive for default scenery.  But my guess is, out of the box Microsoft Flight Simulator will have some heavily detailed areas and others not so much.  But again…we just don’ t know.

The information available today does confirm we can fly anywhere on the planet.  So most likely this will be just as inclusive as FSX was.  But does this mean every airport, every city, every town will be modeled?  Again….we just don’t know.  Of course, there is speculation some data might actually be streamed into the sim as one flies along.  But at this point we really just don’t know.

But visually impressive/immersive scenery is only part of the equation.  The hardcore flight simulation community will also expect the same impressive/immersive experience in the aircraft as well.  At this point in time, there’s no evidence proving or disproving this important fact. 

Bottom line and this is just my opinion.  If (and that’s a really big IF) Microsoft Flight Simulator provides us both the visuals and the level of immersion we have come to expect from Prepar3D and X-Plane, then I believe this could (at some point in the future) live up to being called the next generation flight sim.  But can our little community support a big three concept?

The Ace in the Hole

Several years ago I discussed at great depth the confusion surrounding a topic that I’m going to bring up once again.  This topic is possibly…the ace in the hole that Microsoft needs to have any success.  Obviously, success might simply be “If you build it, we will come”…back.  But as I pointed out earlier, it’s gotta be done right.  An arcade game isn’t what we’re looking for.  But back on topic…

Could Microsoft actually force a change in how Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D is sold?  What am I talking about?  Of course, I’m talking about that 800 lb. Gorilla sitting over there in the corner called EULA or End User License Agreement. 

Reflecting very briefly on that history lesson from a few moments ago, in 2009 when Microsoft sold the commercial side of FSX to Lockheed Martin the intention was P3D would not be marketed as “Personal Consumer Entertainment” software.  However, nothing has prevented individuals like myself to purchase, download, install and use P3D v1, P3D v2, P3D v3 and now P3D v4.  While we can make every attempt to pick a few words out of the existing P3D EULA which gives us a right to use the software (training, simulating and learning), the very bottom line is many of us are using P3D for “personal consumer entertainment” purposes only, which is exactly how we all once used Microsoft FSX.  My fear is the right set of attorneys in the right courtroom could argue that Lockheed Martin is operating outside of the agreement established by Microsoft.  Hey, if an individual was able to sue a fast food establishment (and win) many years ago because the hot coffee she ordered through the drive thru in which she accidentally spilled on herself, then certainly anything might be possible here.

Bottom Line

We simply don’t know much!  It looks dang good and if done right, it could be a success and win many of us back to the Microsoft family. This will especially be true depending on Prepar3D v5.  Which like MSFS, we also don’t know a lot about.  As more information becomes available, I’ll certainly provide my opinion along with everyone else.  But just remember…I have my opinions and you will have your opinions.  These may be the same, may be similar or might be completely worlds apart.  But at the end of the day, they are just that.  Opinions!

Until next time…

Happy Flying!


A Pilot’s Life Storyteller Series–S1, E2

Thank you for returning for another edition in the “A Pilot’s Life” Storyteller series.  I’m still trying to work out the title format I’ll use.  For now, I’m going with Series 1, Edition 2.  In each of these updates, I’ll spend a little bit of time catching you up on flights I don’t cover in detail.  This way you are somewhat aware of the progress I’m making as I continue my APL career. 

After arriving at Sea-Tac from our flight from San Francisco (S1, E1), I had a trip out to Salt Lake City and back to Sea-Tac that same day.  These two flights increased my APL XP up to 235.20.  I have just over 414 XP points to accumulate until I’m eligible for my promotion to the rank of Captain.  (See below)


In addition, this trip up to Ketchikan and back will complete this assigned schedule set.  As I can’t consider options from other airlines at this time, I’ll need to accept at least one more schedule with Alaska.  If you are new to APL or not familiar with how it works, once you accept a position at a new airline or you receive a promotion during your employment with an airline, you can’t accept a new offer until a period of 7 calendar days have passed.  As I was promoted to Sr. First Officer on 26 May, I will not be eligible to accept or apply for any other jobs until 2 June. 


As for my plan after 2 June, well…..I really don’t know.  I first will take a look at the job offers I receive.  If these are lucrative enough, I will certainly consider them.  The challenge for me is with 3rd party add-on scenery.   The add-on airport scenery I own is mostly concentrated in the USA.  So accepting a job with any of the major US based carriers will certainly give me plenty of opportunities.  However, accepting a job with a European (or any other region) will certainly give me some interesting route opportunities which obviously will lead to some interesting stories to tell.  Again…time will tell. 

Present Day

The day has come for my flight up to Ketchikan, Alaska.  A number of years ago, I spent some time up in Ketchikan piloting small bush and float planes hauling paying customers to secluded hunting and fishing spots.  While there isn’t much money to be made (certainly compared to a commercial airline pilot), I could certainly see myself returning back to the slower life which can be found in places like Ketchikan and Juneau at some point in the future.  But of course, time will tell.   

The flight today is an afternoon flight out of Sea-Tac in the Boeing 737-800.  We’re in our special livery titled “Spirit of the Islands”.  You can read more about this special livery here or watch the short video below.  The livery honors the Aloha State. 

The weather today in Seattle is in rare form.  Today is one of those days where (while it’s a great day to fly) you are almost wishing you were flying so you can actually get outside and do something.  But I need the work as I am still paying off the student loans.  The great news is I have arranged for a few days R&R in Ketchikan.  I am going to visit some friends for a few days and will catch a flight back to Seattle later in the week.  Weather permitting, I might even rent a float plane and do some exploring. 

Flight Details

Today we’re operating Alaska flight 179 with non-stop service between Seattle to Ketchikan, Alaska.  Our flight is scheduled to depart at 16:30 from gate N13.  Our planned fuel for this trip is 17, 111 lbs. and our take-off weight is 148,985 lbs.  Our cruising altitude today is FL340 and we have a block time of two hours, three minutes. 

Flight Plan:  BANGR9 PANGL QQ PR/N0338F 160 V309 ANN


Walk Around

As the turnaround at Sea-Tac is a quick one today, I’m conducting the walk around while the bags are going in.  But all looks good with our aircraft today. 


Looks like that’s one heavy suitcase.  I’d offer him a hand, but you know…union rules and all that.  Remember, bend at the knees. 


These guys are good.  But of course with Sea-Tac being our main hub, you would expect nothing less.  Catering, fueling and the last of the bags are going on.  Time to get rolling. 


It’s time to push back

It’s a busy day today at Sea-Tac.  We have company traffic flying in and out, plus an American and Delta are also preparing to pushback. 


We’ve been cleared for engine start.  Starting Engine #2.


Good engine start on #2, starting engine #1


As we taxi out to 16L, a Virgin America (now of course Alaska Airlines) Airbus lands.  I guess we haven’t got around to painting that aircraft just yet. 


Alaska 179, Line up and Wait 16L


Positive Rate, Gear Up!


Beginning our right turn to join the SID.


Wing shot…..Oh Yea!


The view from the office.


Climbing out over Vancouver Island.  The views are rather impressive this afternoon.


Beginning our descent.  We’re about to cross over Annette Island and the Annette Island Airport (ANN) is visible through the clouds.  ANN served as the major airport from the WWII era until the early 70’s. 


Slowing our speed as we continue to descend.  The appearance of the water is very calm. 


The approach into Ketchikan for runway 11 brings us in almost parallel to the airport, then fly  out approx. 25 nm.  Then we do a easy 180 degree turn.  Starting to make our turn now. 


Looking forward to spending a few days flying around Ketchikan and exploring. The weather forecast is calling for excellent VFR flying conditions.


Completing our 180 degree turn.  As we roll out the runway should be directly in front of us. 


We’re cleared for the approach runway 11.


Cleared to land, runway 11


Clear of the active and beginning our downhill taxi.


Just as we roll in, a company 737-800 is about to pushback for Anchorage. 


At the gate and shutting down.  In just a few minutes I’ll begin my short vacation break in one of my favorite places in the world.  I think before I head to the hotel, I’ll walk down and see if there are any aircraft to rent. 


Well that just about does it for this edition.  I certainly hope you are enjoying reading these as much as I’m enjoying flying and writing about my adventures.  I hope you’ll check back next week for another adventure.  It might just be a mini-adventure as I rent an airplane and fly around Ketchikan before heading back down to Seattle.  Talk to you soon.



If you are interested in experiencing your own “A Pilot’s Life”, I highly recommend the A Pilot’s Life, by SimBitWorld add-on for Prepar3D, FSX and X-Plane.  You can learn more about the A Pilot’s Life by visiting the SimBitWorld website and/or purchase APL at SimMarket.  Also, please read my full review of A Pilot’s LIfe here

Flight Simulator:  Prepar3D v4.5 (hotfix 1)
Aircraft:  PMDG 737-800
Airline: Alaska Airlines (ASA)
Airport Scenery: KSEA Drzewiecki Design, Orbx Ketchikan
Terrain Scenery: Orbx Global Base, Orbx Vector, Orbx openLC North America, Orbx NA Pacific Northwest, NA Pacific Fjords
Sky/Cloud Textures: REX 5 SkyForce and REX 5 Environment Force
Weather Generation: ActiveSky (ASP4)
Flight Planning: SimBrief, Navigraph, FlightAware, FlightRadar24

Note:  If you are interested in any of the above mentioned add-ons.  Visit my P3D Add-ons directory for links.


Before I get too deep in the weeds with this blog posting, let me first start off by saying a BIG THANK YOU to every single VATSIM member.  Regardless if you are a pilot, ATC, supervisor, management, technical development team etc.  Thank YOU!  I say this because I believe the success of VATSIM is down to each and every one of US.  Regardless of how many years you’ve been a member, regardless of how many hours you have accumulated on the network and regardless of your position within the VATSIM network….VATSIM is and always will be successful because of each and every one of us. 

Secondly, I do want to call out a few individuals.  These are folks I personally didn’t know until recently.  But in some way over the past 48-72 hours I’ve interacted with via Facebook, Discord or my own blog site and helped me get everything going so I could participate in the Sunday session of the Audio for VATSIM test during FSExpo19.  These individuals are: Matthew Ciafarani, Aidan Stevens, Mats Edvin Aaro and Gary Oliver. 

Finally, if you missed the previous blog posting which I detailed all the issues/frustrations I experienced in attempting to get started titled “Audio for VATSIM – FSExpo Beta Bust”, then take a few minutes to bring yourself up to speed and also read the comment left by Gary Oliver.  The issues which prevented me (and several others) from joining in on the Saturday testing are explained in Gary’s comment and are all certainly understandable.  I earn my living in the IT world and yes…”Stuff” happens.  I want to once again state for the record that I didn’t write the FSExpo Beta Bust post as a way to “hate” on VATSIM.  I believe it was well received by VATSIM management and serves to document my experiences.  That’s it!

Audio for VATSIM

By late Saturday evening I had finished up my running around, completed the chores on the “honey do” list (guys you know this has to be a priority) and settled back in the lazy-boy with a movie in the DVD player and the wife happy.  With the help of the folks mentioned above had access to both the Audio for VATSIM (AFV) Discord server and the AFV website.  I had the updated vPilot client downloaded and pretty much everything set. 

The main testing on Sunday was scheduled to begin at 1330z (7:30 AM MT).  I woke up around 6:30 and made my first stop the coffee pot.  Nothing ever really happens until I receive my first application of java in the morning.  With coffee in hand, I proceeded down to the man-cave and powered on the Beast Mark V and the other PC’s I use for flight sim.  My flight sim setup is a little more complicated as I run other applications in a networked setup to offload some of the CPU processing where I can.  Anyway, I quickly got the AFV vPilot client installed, configured and installed a brand new Southwest 737-800 livery for the event. 


New Southwest B738 in the Heart livery.  Parked at KMSY.

The Big Easy

I decided to fly the same flight/route which I had signed up for on Saturday.  I loaded up Prepar3D v4.5 and the PMDG 737-800 in the Southwest Airlines “Heart Livery” at the Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, Louisiana (KMSY).  While I didn’t have any ATC at time of departure, I did have company on the ground with an Air Canada Airbus at the nearby gate. 


Pushback complete and ready for taxi. 

I completely forgot about voice UNICOM, but went ahead and typed my intentions out via text.  It wasn’t until I got airborne that I heard another pilot speak on 122.80.  I must say, if everyone remains on their best behavior, then voice UNICOM will be awesome. 


Southwest Flight 1066 wheels up


Making our left turn to join the departure route.  Mississippi river and Lake Pontchartrain in the background. 

Once I reached my cruising altitude of FL350 and out over the Gulf of Mexico, I was able to tune into Atlanta Center and could hear through my own headset the new “Audio for VATSIM”.  I was blown away.

AFV Benefits

There’s more to the new Audio for VATSIM than what meets the eye EARS.  Of course the major benefit has been a long time coming and I’ll discuss more about this in a minute.  The two images below represent those who (at the time) were connected to the beta VATSIM server where the FSExpo AFV tests were being conducted.  I had just departed from KMSY (climbing through 17,000 for FL350) and you can see my audio range is represented by the red circle around my aircraft position.  These circles essentially represent our VHF transceiver range. 


Upon reaching my TOC (FL350) my audio range is much greater.  With regards to voice UNICOM, I’ll only hear other pilots which fall into my VHF radio range.  Likewise, the same applies to picking up ATIS reports.  While I initially had my reservations about voice UNICOM, after more thought on the subject I believe it will be a good thing in the long run.  Yes, it will get abused…but I also know that VATSIM will hold those who abuse it accountable. 

While voice UNICOM does slightly break the immersion for those who fly commercial jets, our level of immersion is also broken anytime we fly today with out constant ATC coverage.  Voice UNICOM will certainly be a major benefit to VFR flight, of which I certainly hope to do more of.


ATIS Audio

I’ll let you in on a little secret.  For the past several years I’ve actually loathed the ATIS audio.  I stopped “listening” to ATIS audio a very long time ago.  This doesn’t mean I don’t pickup ATIS info, I just preferred to either receive it via text in vPilot or grab the text info from VATSpy.  I know it’s an age thing and I know my ears are paying me back from that Van Halen concert back in the late 1980’s.  But wow…what a concert and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world.  But I digress….

Yea…my hearing isn’t what it used to be and the ATIS audio of the past was most like listening to the adults speak on Charlie Brown.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, have a listen to this

But I’m really pleased to say that with the new audio codec, ATIS audio is very pleasing and easy to understand.  Here’s the ATIS info from Mickey Mouse International…err, I mean Orlando International Airport. 

Let your ears be the judge

I recorded a short segment of my flight once I reached Jacksonville Center airspace.  In the span of approx. 7 minutes, 30 seconds you’ll hear several audio transmissions between ATC, myself (Southwest 1066) and several other pilots.  These were all flights arriving into Orlando KMCO during the early stages of testing on Sunday morning. 

What do you think?

While there was one pilot with much lower audio levels than anyone else, I could still make out what he was saying.  I believe once the new Audio for VATSIM becomes the new normal and everyone has a chance to adjust their audio levels, this new system will truly enhance all the wonderful things about flying in a multiplayer ATC environment. 

For me, this is the very best thing to happen to VATSIM in its (and my) 18 year history.  While I’ve been amazed at what my eyes have witnessed over the years, the lack of a truly powerful and supportive audio system has been been a major let down.  The team responsible for developing and bringing the new Audio for VATSIM into reality deserve very accolade we can give them.  Audio for VATSIM will propel the VATSIM network well into the future and beyond.

The Million Dollar Question!  When?

As we know, the testing which took place this past weekend during FSExpo19 was not the only testing held for the new audio system.  However, this weekends event was by far the largest.  From both what my ears experienced as well as what I’ve read on their Discord channel…I don’t think we’re very far away from having AFV into full production.  However, at this particular time there have been no firm announcements.  We can only speculate if we’re just days/weeks away, more than a month or ????  I have a feeling we’re closer than we might think. 

Well, that just about brings this posting to a close.  I will have a few blog posting updates this week (pending I find the time to write them).  I plan to document my thoughts on a few newsworthy items of recent and will be digging through all the info I can find on product news from FSExpo19. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!


Audio for VATSIM–FSExpo Beta Bust

Before I get started, I want to make clear my intentions as to why I’m writing this particular article.  While I’m clearly disappointed, I place blame towards no one. 

Like many in the flight simulation community, my time can be limited at the best of times.  As an IT Manager, I often work 45-50 hour weeks (and I call that an easy week).  The time I carve out for my hobbies (and I have several) also has to share space with the time I spend with my family and often I’ll sacrifice sleep to fit in a flight.  After all, I’ll have plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead. 

Audio for VATSIM FSExpo test

I first learned about the planned large scale Audio for VATSIM beta test which was being held in conjunction with FSExpo a few weeks ago.  I even discussed it here.  I was excited.  As an individual who has been flying on the VATSIM network since the beginning and someone who has accumulated over 2000 hours (and I realize that’s nothing compared to some other folks), I’m curious to see/hear the future of this wonderful multiplayer platform first hand.  I was looking forward to writing about it and had even planned to record some snippits of the audio so you all could hear for yourself, just what we have to look forward to. 

If I’m not mistaken, I learned of the FSExpo AFV test via a Facebook post on the VATSIM FB page.  The announcement was a accompanied by a fancy graphic (see below) and the graphic linked you to a webpage which had been especially created just for the event/testing. 

Image may contain: text

Last weekend (1 June), the organizers of this even opened up the availability for anyone who was interested, paying attention etc. to go out and book slots for this event.  Those who were successful at booking a slot would automatically be entered into the beta and could experience the new Audio for VATSIM system.  I set aside some time last weekend and promptly when the time arrived, I booked my slot for early Saturday morning (12:20z 6:20 AM MT) from KMSY to KMCO (New Orleans to Orlando). 

It’s all about the details

As a guy who truly understands “details”, I read everything I could on the AFV FSExpo website.  The VATSIM team made it clear that “Routing information would be available 6-12 hours before the event”.  I also read through the list of FAQ’s.  (posted below)

  • What is this thing?
    Beta testing of our new Audio For VATSIM solution of course! We’ll be live at FSExpo beta-testing and demonstrating our new solution, book a flight to join us!
  • Who can book a slot?
    Any VATSIM member in good standing can book a slot! You DO NOT need to have already participated in a beta test. All who book a slot will be added to the beta.
  • When is this going down?
    June 8th and 9th. Check the home page for a fancy little countdown!
  • Where can I fly?
    You can book a slot between any of the event airports listed on the bookings page. The live portion will be taking place at FSExpo in Orlando.
  • Do I need to be at FSExpo to participate?
    Nope! You can fly at home in your pajamas!
  • Why are you guys doing this?
    We want to give you, the membership, an opportunity to experience what we’ve got in store and give us valuable feedback so that we can deliver the best voice solution possible.
  • Can I have a refund?

Nothing in the FAQ’s or on the website mentioned anything about how/where to get the software for the beta nor did it state anything about joining a special Discord server. 

On Friday evening (the eve before the event), I kept checking the website and even as late as 10:30 PM, hadn’t received any email regarding the routing or anything else.  Since I had got up at 4:30 AM that morning, I was pretty exhausted and went to bed just after 10:30 PM.  I set my alarm for 5:00 AM Saturday morning and figured and hour and 20 minutes would be enough time to pour some coffee down my throat and get everything setup. 

Cockle Doodle Doo

No, I don’t have a rooster.  But the alarm went off as planned and I got up and proceeded downstairs to the coffee pot.  Like a good coffee pot, it had already warmed up the water and all I needed to do was insert the K cup and pull the handle.  Within 60 seconds I’d have a cup of strong, black coffee.  Ahhhhhh…OK the day can begin. 

I grabbed my laptop and pulled up my email client.  I had a total of six emails from VATSIM which had arrived just before midnight.  (see below)


The first one (booking confirmation) while only received today, should really have been received last weekend when I booked the flight and the other five emails are just duplicates of each other and instructing me of my route and a link to pre-book the flight.

Dancing in the Dark

I’ll admit, I honestly wasn’t entirely sure how this beta test event would work.  While I assumed I would need to download/install something…I also thought that it might be possible that the VATSIM folks in some “behind the scenes” process and based on my VATSIM PID could route my connection to the beta system.  Like I said…I didn’t know and I remind you of the FAQ above, nothing there stated anything which could be helpful in better understanding this. 


Things really didn’t start to go sideways until I attempted to pre-file my flight plan via one of the above 5 emails and the embedded link they contain.  When trying to pre-file, I received a pop-up error stating I wasn’t logged in (even though I was) and the hashtag of #BLAMEAIDAN.

I’m Not Alone

I don’t think I’m alone in my confusion.   In the days leading up to this event, I saw many posts on the VATSIM Facebook page asking “how will we be informed” and all replies more of less stated an email will be received 6-12 hours before the event.  Nothing was ever mentioned about Discord.

Bottom Line

I’m not upset….no, really!  I’m not.  Many of the VATSIM folks working on the beta replied to my Facebook post and offered their assistance.  However, by this time it was already 15 minutes past my departure time I realized I wouldn’t have time to install the beta client and get my flight all setup again and also fly it (assuming there would be delays etc.) and also meet my Saturday morning commitments. 

Instead, my reason for writing this is A. to document my overall experience in exactly what I encountered in the days/hours leading up to the event and I suppose B. to also set my mind (and anyone else) who feels they too were very much in the dark on exactly what to expect and when to expect it.  I have a feeling (through no fault of those wanting to participate) that not everything went off exactly as planned on the VATSIM side. 

My hope is this Audio for VATSIM test today during FSExpo is 1000% successful and I hope that the timeframe of when AFV will become reality for ALL is very, very short.  The old audio codec needs to be put out to pasture and soon. 

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a wonderful Saturday. 

Until next time….

Happy Flying!!!


P.S.  If you are still reading (and I hope you are), don’t forget to come join my new Flight Sim Helpers Facebook community.  The goal with Flight Sim Helpers is to …..well….HELP those who might need it.  The flight sim hobby has been very good to me and I’m just wanting to give something back.  Also, take the time to bookmark the Flight Sim Helpers website where many helpful FAQ’s are being added with more to come. 

My Top 10 Payware Aircraft for Prepar3D v4

Hello Ladies, Gentlemen and Children of all ages…  I truly appreciate all who take the time to read the content I publish in written format on my blog site.  I realize the written word is so prehistoric in terms of all things new media.  After all, we have podcasts, vlogs, livestreams etc.  But the old blog site continues to received many thousands of visits each month and I very much enjoy writing and sharing…so thank you all for taking the time to read the ramblings of a middle aged man. 

Pay special attention to the subject line and notice the use of the word “My”.  This list hasn’t been compiled using some scientific method to include every single payware aircraft available for P3Dv4.  It’s just my very own Top 10 list of my favorite payware aircraft for Prepar3D version 4.  Yes, I own each of these and try to fly them on a regular basis.  The operative word in that sentence is “try”.  I’ll explain that later.  Let’s get started with MY Top 10 Payware Aircraft for Prepar3D v4.

Honorable Mention – CaptainSim 757

I’ve opted to list an 11th listing which I’ve thrown into the honorable mention category and it somewhat pains me to do so.  In my long history of flight sim and my nearly as long history of payware aircraft, I’ve had a somewhat contentious relationship with CaptainSim.  But I so much adore the Boeing 757 that when no other options were available, I plopped down my hard earned money and purchased their rendition of the aircraft.   While I had a terrible, terrible, terrible (did I say terrible) experience with their version of the 777 and I still believe their 777 flies like a brick, CaptainSim has come along way to improving the 757.  While I don’t agree with their pricing strategy, CaptainSim (at this time) is the only option for a 757 in P3Dv4. 

Note:  In between the time I actually wrote this article and published it, QualityWings did release their Boeing 757 which was originally developed for FS9 and FSX.  So technically there are now two B757’s for P3Dv4.  

#10 – Carenado C208B Grand Caravan with Cargomaster Expansion Pack

While Carenado may not be known for developing truly study level aircraft, usually their attention to detail in producing both a beautiful aircraft and one that handles well in the air is good enough to give me several hours of fun.  The Carenado C208B Grand Caravan with the Cargomaster expansion pack was perhaps my 2nd or 3rd purchase from Carenado and it remains one of my favorite aircraft to fly.  I enjoy loading it up in the Fedex livery and doing some Caribbean island hopping.  While I own a variety of Carenado aircraft and soon plan to add their latest release of the ATR 42-500 series aircraft.  I think this one will also be a fun plane to fly around the Caribbean in. 

#9 – Carenado Fokker 50

Just like I stated with the Carenado Grand Caravan, the Fokker 50 is beautifully detailed and flies well.  This aircraft has made the list due in part to the fact that I’ve flown on this same aircraft so many times between London City Airport and Antwerp, Belgium.  Unfortunately, when my wife and I were in Antwerp last summer (summer of 2018) the airline, VLM shut down operations just after we landed back in England.  Talk about timing!  So now we’ll most likely go by rail via the Eurostar which will be a brand new adventure I’m sure. 

#8 – Majestic Bombardier Dash-8 Q400

I would suspect this aircraft would rank much, much higher on other’s lists (if they were to compile one).  There are a few reasons why this aircraft ranks where it does on my list and it really has nothing to do with the aircraft itself.   You’ve heard the saying…”It’s not you, it’s me” right? 

So I was a bit late acquiring the Majestic Bombardier Dash-8 Q400.  When I did purchase it, it was for P3D v3.  Soon after purchase my life got busy (as it sometimes can do) and I never really got around to learning the aircraft.  Then when P3D v4 came out, I tried to upgrade but that was during the time when the FlightSimStore was having their issues which I discussed here and again here.  I finally managed to secure the upgraded version of the Q400 for P3D v4.  I’ve just not dedicated the time required to learning this awesome aircraft.  Perhaps if I can learn to fly this beauty properly, she would rank much higher on my list.  But until then….here we are!

#7 – QualityWings Boeing 787 Dreamliner

This is one aircraft which in the real-world I’ve yet to have the opportunity to fly.  The 787 ranks lower on my list simply due to the fact the other seven are more of a favorite than this one.  While it took the team at QualityWings a mini-lifetime to bring this beautiful aircraft to Prepar3D v4, it was worth the wait.  With the recent updates, the QW Dreamliner is truly a dream to fly and one I do enjoy flying every chance I get.  Now before I leave the subject of QualityWings, I truly wish they would hurry up and bring their Boeing 757 to P3D v4.  As soon as they do, I’ll purchase it and drop the CaptainSim in a heartbeat.  

#6 – PMDG Boeing 747-400 v3 (Queen of the Skies II)

While it only took me a few minutes to jot down ten aircraft (11 if you count the honorable mention), it’s now getting down to the truly difficult part.  Really from the Dreamliner all the way down to the #1, it really all boils down to just how frequently I fly these aircraft.  As I truly love the immersion experience the flight simulation hobby gives to me, I also enjoy simulating real world flights.  It’s just really, really hard to consider flying the magnificent Boeing 747-400 on a two hour flight.  But then again…there’s always cargo operations. 

The Boeing 747-400 will always be a very special aircraft for me.  In my lifetime, I’ve flown on several.  The first was on a United Airlines when I flew from San Francisco to Tokyo.  I’ve since flown on a British Airways 747-400 another three times with a fourth coming up this summer when my wife and I will once again travel across the pond from Denver to London Heathrow on the British Airways 744.  While she’s starting to get really long in the tooth, it’s still the most magnificent aircraft I’ve ever had the chance to fly on. 

#5 – PMDG Boeing 777

I recently counted the number of trips across the pond (US to UK) which I’ve completed in my life.  That number is eleven with my twelfth crossing coming up later this summer.  The Boeing 777 holds a special place in my heart (and on this list) as it was in an American Airlines Boeing 777-200 that I made my first transatlantic crossing back in 2001.  It was this trip which introduced me to my beautiful wife.  Since that first trip, I’ve flown on British Airways 777 several times before they began using the 747-400 on the Denver to Heathrow route. 

Of course, the 777 ranks here for much the same reason as the 747.  But I do tend to fly a lot of domestic Fedex routes and they are always fun to fly.  I truly love this aircraft.

#4 – FlightSimLabs Airbus A320/A319

Longtime and regular readers of my blog postings will certainly recall a time where I actually said I would never own the FlightSimLabs Airbus aircraft.  A few months later I changed my mind and wrote about the reasons for changing my mind.  I’m grouping the FlightSimLabs Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft together as they are very much the same aircraft, just slightly different variants.  Both are awesome to fly and both get taken out of my virtual hangar from time to time for shorter routes when I want to simulate flying for American, British Airways etc.  While I’ll always stand firm in the frustration felt with their earlier business practices, I firmly believe they have turned that corner and this team of developers are doing some really awesome things.  I look forward to their A321 variant and will add it to my virtual hangar upon release. 

#3 – Milviz DHC-2 Beaver

I  absolutely love flying in the wilds of Alaska with this awesome looking and equally performing aircraft.  An aircraft like this allows me to appreciate the shear beauty of the wonderful Alaskan scenery and with the float plane variant, there’s no place I can’t go.  Just as it says on the Milviz website, the DHC-2 Beaver embodies the ‘can-do’ attitude that’s made this iconic bush plane a symbol of hard work for nearly 70 years.

#2 – A2A Cessna 172

The finest study level general aviation aircraft available for Prepar3D v4 (also for earlier versions and FSX) which you’ll find on the entire interwebz is the A2A Cessna 172.  I’m really not sure you can call yourself a flight sim enthusiast unless you own this aircraft.  While A2A also offers (and I own) the Cessna 182 and Piper Cherokee 180, the Cessna 172 is aircraft I truly love to fly.  I will often load it up at Centennial Airport (KAPA) which is only a few miles from my home and office and fly around the Denver area. 

#1 – PMDG Boeing 737

There’s a reason why both #1 and #2 on this list also appeared in my “Top 5, Must Have Add-ons for Prepar3D v4” article I wrote last fall.  I must also admit that while I do very much enjoy flying low and slow in the above mentioned A2A Cessna 172, my main flight simulation passion is and has been for a very long time with jetliners/tubeliners.  As it happens, the PMDG Boeing 737 happens to be my favorite, my go-to and my workhorse aircraft of choice and for many reasons.

First, versatility.  This aircraft can practically go anywhere pending you account for fuel usage.  As it’s popular with many different airlines, you’ll find a wide range of liveries available to simulate your favorite airline.  It’s also a really easy and forgiving study level aircraft to start with.  I can literally load up P3Dv4 with any variant of the PMDG 737 and within 10-15 minutes I can be taxing toward the active runway with everything running/programmed and ready for flight.  Last, but certainly not least….the PMDG Boeing 737 is easy on frames which means you don’t need to have as powerful of a PC to still be able to enjoy a payware, study level aircraft.   

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it.  My Top 10 plus an honorable mention just for the heck of it.  Really with the exception of the #1 (PMDG 737) and #2 (A2A C172) the other listings could just about fall in any other order.  Meaning, they all are top-notch payware aircraft and a whole lot of fun to fly.  When asked, or even when I’m not asked…I always recommend both the A2A Cessna 172 and the PMDG Boeing 737 to those who are just starting out in flight simulation.  As previously stated, both are truly awesome aircraft and both will give you that “As Real As It Gets” experience.

I think I’ll work on a “Top 10” Airport Add-on list next.  Stay tuned…

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!


A Pilot’s Life Storyteller Series–S1, E1

Welcome to the first series and first edition of “A Pilot’s Life” Storyteller Series.  For more context on what this storyteller series is about, please read Return of the Flight Sim Storyteller.  This will bring you up to speed and set the stage for this first edition. 

Commercial Break

LOL  OK….I figure this is as good a place as any to plug my new Flight Sim Project, Flight Sim Helpers.  Flight Sim Helpers is my way of giving back to the community which has been so good to me for over 35 years.  The concept of Flight Sim Helpers, is to help those who are just starting out in the wonderful hobby of flight simulation.  However, regardless if you are brand new or a seasoned veteran, all are welcome.  I’m actually hoping to recruit others who are knowledgeable in FSX, P3D and X-Plane to serve as moderators and subject matter experts.  If you are interested, please let me know.  For now, please visit and join the Flight Sim Helpers Facebook Group and also check out the Flight Sim Helpers website.  Thank you and I’ll now proceed with the story.

Present Day

Once again I had an overnight layover in the Bay Area.  This time at SFO.  I enjoyed a nice steak at the hotel in celebration of my new promotion.  Looking at my schedule, I’m due to fly back to Seattle then out to Salt Lake City and then back up to Ketchikan, Alaska.  Oh…my favorite.  But I need to get through the next few days first. 

The crew shuttle picks us up at our hotel at 4:30 AM sharp.  It really feels like we only just arrived.  But I had the rest required by the FAA and anxious to get back to sunny Seattle (NOT).  It’s been raining all up and down the West Coast of the US the past several days.  We have a great crew with us today, so we expect no issues.  Of course I’m dreaming of my next promotion which will finally have me at the rank of Captain.  But  I’ve gotta grind it out from 212 XP up to 650 XP for this one.  But XP points do come a little quicker with each promotion.  As a comparison, at FO I earned just a little over 5.0 XP on KSEA to KOAK.  However, with Sr. FO on the flight from KSEA to KSFO, I earned almost 8 XP.  As soon as I get paid (end of the month), I’ll purchase a mobile phone which will earn me a 10% XP bonus each flight. 

Flight Details

This morning my captain and I will be operating Alaska flight 1737, non-stop service from San Francisco to Seattle.  Our flight is scheduled to depart at 6:00 AM from gate 52B.  Our planned fuel for this morning is 16,720 lbs and our take-off weight is 148,143 lbs.  Our cruising altitude will be FL360 and we have a block time of 2 hours, 9 minutes.  We anticipate departing from runway 28L. 



Walk Around

As Sr. First Officer, it’s my job today to conduct the walk around inspection of our Boeing 737-800.  This is the first flight of the day for this aircraft and the bags and cargo haven’t arrived yet. 


Almost done, checking all lights and this aircraft is looking good. 


Here Comes the Bags

Obviously we can’t go anywhere without our passengers and all their bags. 




Time for push-back

With our passengers, bags and a small amount of cargo loaded onto our Boeing 737-800, it’s time to close the doors and push back from the gate.  The skies are looking a bit rough this morning, but we expect no departure delays this morning. 


After a brief taxi, we have arrived at runway 28L. 


ASA 1737 is wheels up and on our way to Sea-Tac.


Making our right turn and headed east towards OAK.


The  obligatory wing shot. 


Making our way along the SID or Standard Instrument Departure, just a slight chop as we continue our climb.  We’ll keep the cabin crew in their seats a bit longer, but reports are smooth skies above FL200.


It’s complete cloud cover as we make our way through northern California and into Oregon. 


At FL360, we can relax a few minutes before we need to start planning our descent and arrival into Seattle. 


Monitoring a thunderstorm as we cruise above Portland. 


As we begin our approach and descent into the Seattle area, a little drag is required to meet the speed restrictions of the STAR or Standard Terminal Arrival Route.


Runway 34C is in sight.  No auto-land required today.  The Sr. First Officer has control. 


I think it’s going to be a beautiful day in Seattle today.  This makes a nice change.


Clear 34C, Cross 34R and taxi to the gate.  Note the other Alaska B738 which arrived just before us.


Parked at the Alaska terminal Sea-Tac. 


I’m due to report to another aircraft and Captain for a rotation down to Salt Lake City and back in the Boeing 737-900.  Since I only have default scenery for SLC, I will return with my “A Pilot’s Life” Storyteller Series in a few days for my trip to Ketchikan, Alaska.  That’ll be fun. 

Until then…

Happy Flying!



If you are interested in experiencing your own “A Pilot’s Life”, I highly recommend the A Pilot’s Life, by SimBitWorld add-on for Prepar3D, FSX and X-Plane.  You can learn more about the A Pilot’s Life by visiting the SimBitWorld website and/or purchase APL at SimMarket.  Also, please read my full review of A Pilot’s LIfe here

Flight Simulator:  Prepar3D v4.5 (hotfix 1)
Aircraft:  PMDG 737-800
Airline: Alaska Airlines (ASA)
Airport Scenery: KSFO FlightBeam, KSEA Drzewiecki Design
Terrain Scenery: Orbx Global Base, Orbx Vector, Orbx openLC North America, Orbx NA Pacific Northwest, NA Northern California
Sky/Cloud Textures: REX 5 SkyForce and REX 5 Environment Force
Weather Generation: ActiveSky (ASP4)
Flight Planning: SimBrief, Navigraph, FlightAware, FlightRadar24

Note:  If you are interested in any of the above mentioned add-ons.  Visit my P3D Add-ons directory for links.

PACX by TFDI Design – A Review

TFDI Design released their brand new PACX or Passenger and Crew Experience add-on application for FSX, FSX SE Prepar3D (v1-v4) and X-Plane (10/11) on Friday, 31 May.  I had been hearing about this add-on for a few months and in recent days (leading up to the release) the drums began beating louder and I must admit that I was intrigued and looking forward to adding this to my flight sim experience. 

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.

Within 15-20 minutes of the initial release of PACX, I had completed my purchase, downloaded the installer and started the installation process.  I wish I could say that PACX installed error and trouble-free, but I’d be lying.  It was anything but trouble-free. 

Living On The Edge

As I discussed before, my greatest fear is having my entire Prepar3d setup literally destroyed by one developers poor application installation technique or design.   I must admit that at one point during the PACX installation, I began sweating and I’m sure my wife thought I had hit my thumb with a hammer as my vocabulary dipped into the realm where generally you only find sailors.  But in the end it all worked out.  Well…mostly.

Lack of Documentation and Early Access

Unfortunately, in the early hours of the PACX release there was absolutely no documentation.  Nothing…Zilch, Zero.  The TFDI Design team has stated this was by design as they suspected there would be changes made to the application based on initial feedback.  Sorry Charlie…this is no excuse!

PACX is super simple in its design and functionality.  However, not every flight simmer is at the same level of experience when it comes to these things.  The TFDI team should have included at the very least a one page “Quick Start Guide” just to fly over the specifics of the application.  But they chose not to do this and I believe this to be very poor judgement on their part.

PACX has been released as an Early Access product.  Which typically means it will change and evolve over time.  This also means there will be many additional issues/bugs flushed out in the process.  When developers release products in an early access release state, they depend on their customers to report and document issues to the best of their ability.  Think of it as a partnership between customer and developer. 

Installation Issues

This was my very first purchase from TFDI Design.  While I’ve been eyeing their Boeing 717, I’ve been so busy flying other aircraft that I just didn’t feel it would get any use.  So as I was noodling around their website searching for my download, I noticed they had something called the TFDI Design Add-On Manager.  I’m a HUGE fan of add-on/download managers and have been working on an article which I hope to release at some point in the future.  So I downloaded the TFDI Design Add-On Manager only to find that was a waste of my time.  The PACX application is stand-alone (WHY???) and not managed via their add-on manager.  Again I ask WHY????

Finally I found the PACX download and life was starting to look up.  Briefly! 

Like any other flight sim add-on, I kicked off the installer as admin.  Normally it all goes smoothly. But as the installer began doing its thing, I began to experience issues.  The first issue caused a Windows BSOD (blue screen of death) related to C++.  Once I rebooted and kicked off the install again, it breezed through the C++ install but then attempted to install FSUIPC 5.  Keep in mind I’m an FSUIPC Fan Boy and believe EVERYONE should not only use FSUIPC, but also OWN IT!  FSUIPC is one of the oldest and longest supported add-ons for FSX/P3D out there and it does so much. 

Anyway, as I already had it installed I would have desired that PACX recognize this fact and just skip attempting to install it.  But oh well…can’t have everything.  But then more drama.  PACX then attempted to install FSUIPC 4.  FSUIPC 4 is the 32 bit version of FSUIPC for P3D versions 3 (and older) and FSX.  I absolutely, positively DO NOT have any of these simulators installed on my system and absolutely, positively DO NOT have a need for FSUIPC 4.  But PACX still tried to ram it down my throat.  Why???? The workaround is to just cancel out during the FSUIPC 4 install attempt.  Otherwise you’ll receive errors as FSUIPC 4 will not detect a 32 bit version of any sim installed.  Again, just cancel out and all will be fine.

Burning Through Activations and the first HotFix

Gotta love hotfixes!  Unfortunately, the TFDI Design team only allows us 3 activations.  Between the previous mostly unsuccessful attempts at installing PACX, I had burned though my three allowed activations.  So when the TFDI Design team had released their first hotfix update, I was unable to apply it and had to open a ticket through the TFDI website and request my activation count be reset. 

While I understand the reasoning behind limiting the number of activations, I’m really not sure why it’s necessary to require the license to be re-inserted when applying a patch.  Most other add-ons don’t require this.  So if this is going to be required each time, then TFDI needs to reset our activation account prior to the release of these patches.  However, you can easily check the amount of activations you have left in the client area of the TFDI website. 

Giving Credit where Credit is Due

The TFDI Design team had reset my activation count within 15 minutes of me submitting the ticket.  So good for them as it appeared they were on the ball.  In addition, the team was also very responsive in their support forums as well.  Unfortunately, many of us all experienced the same issues but not all were able to get past them. 

Did someone order a sunroof?

As I began to recover from the unsuccessful installation attempts and get things pointed in the right direction,  I loaded up an Alaska Airlines PMDG 737-900 flight from KSEA to KLAS.  I loaded up all my accompanying add-ons, started vPilot for VATSIM and then kicked off PACX.  Much to my surprise, once the flight attendant began speaking a giant hole opened up in my PMDG 737 flight deck just above the captains seat. 

Before – All normal.  No Hole.


After – Boom!  Did someone say sunroof? 


The giant window to God didn’t prevent the PMDG 737 from functioning and while I had plenty of oxygen, I just couldn’t get over the fact my immersion was 1000% blown from this experience.  So I posted this issue on the forums, went to bed.  I’ll admit….I wasn’t very pleased with this purchase (at this time)…but was willing to allow a brand new day the opportunity to restore my faith in TFDI.

Hello Saturday

Managed to get a good nights sleep and woke up fairly early.  I headed downstairs, fired up the gaming machine and with coffee in hand, grabbed my laptop and tuned into the TFDI Forums.  I was hopeful I might find a solution to my sunroof problem. 

While I didn’t find a solution (at least one that would permanently address the issue) another simmer had experienced the same and told me what he did to resolve.  Basically the hole which appears has something to do with the HUD.  After realizing this, it did make sense because the HUD is no longer there. 

The workaround is to go into the PMDG 737 FMS, go to PMDG Setup > Aircraft > Equipment > Next Page until you see HGS Installed.  Set it to NO, then back to YES.  This will magically repair the hole and allow for maximum immersion to return.

Do you have to do this for every flight?????  No, as of Sunday 2 June, the TFDI Design Team released another PACX patch ( which has resolved this issue from occurring. 

What the heck is PACX Anyway Jerry?

Yes, I realized I’ve been rambling on discussing all the struggles I had and really haven’t explained what this add-on is all about.  PACX is Passenger and Crew Experience.  Basically it’s an updated version of FSPassengers (if you are familiar with that older add-on).  As the name implies, PACX simulates the overall flight experience of both your passengers as well as the crew.  In addition, it allows for direct communication with passengers and dynamic, varied announcements.  You can read more about all the features of PACX from the TFDI Design website.

General Use

As I stated before, PACX is a fairly simplistic in operation and actually quite rich in functionality.  When the application is running, it will look like the image below.  There are various settings you can customize by clicking the gear icon.  For example, I had to increase the volume and also set it to never auto disappear.  As I use multiple monitors in my sim setup, I just have it displayed on my third monitor where I have other applications such as A Pilot’s Life, ActiveSky, ProjectFly etc. 


To get started with a flight click Start.  This will bring up the “Start A Flight” dialog box.  Enter in the departure ICAO, Arrival ICAO, Time to Departure, Flight Time, Cruise Altitude and Flight Number.  Select the aircraft type from the drop down menu and customize the passenger account via the slider.  If your aircraft is equipped with Wi-Fi you can tick that box.  Not entirely sure what that does, but I love Wi-Fi access on a flight, so why not!  But this would have been where a nice one-page quick start guide would have been handy. 

Click OK to begin. 


Depending on what other add-ons you might be running (GSX for example) you might need to tweak the time to departure slightly.  GSX tends to load passengers and cargo really slow (in my opinion).  I’m still trying to figure out the right time to use. 

As you are flying along, you can click the Airplane icon for a current status.  It will show your expected arrival time and passenger satisfaction.  The expected arrival time will be determined by how accurate your time of departure and flight time entries were in the setup screen.  I love happy passengers!


Upon landing at your destination, you’ll be presented with this report after you press END on PACX.  Looks like one of my passengers was “quite thirsty”.  You can also upload this report which will be stored on the TFDI Design website. 


From the TFDI Design website, I can see my total stats and my uploaded flights. 


Clicking on View for my first flight I can see all the details.


Final Thoughts

Despite the struggles I experienced in installing PACX and the issue with the 737 sunroof (now fully resolved), I’m actually impressed and excited about the future of PACX.  I’m hopeful that the TFDI Design team will continue to develop PACX and enhance it beyond what it currently is.  I’d love to see tighter integration with the aircraft where PACX will recognize the use of the PMDG seatbelt sign switch versus also having to toggle it from within PACX.  Also, as PACX will also allow 3rd party application support, I’d love to see an integration between A Pilot’s Life and PACX. 

Obviously, I’ve spent just a small amount of time with PACX and as of this writing, have only completed two flights.  But I do see myself using PACX to add extra immersion to my flights.  While these types of applications are not for all virtual pilots.  I believe PACX to be worth the investment if you would like to add Passenger and Crew Experience to your flights.  The TFDI Design team have proven to me they are a serious team of developers doing great things for the flight simulation hobby.  I look forward to watching this small company grow and further develop awesome add-ons to further enhance our experiences. 

Just a reminder,

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.

Thanks again for reading this review of the Passenger and Crew Experience (PACX) by TFDI Design.  If you haven’t already, I would love your support in my efforts to grow a new flight simulation community called Flight Sim Helpers.  Please visit and join the Flight Sim Helpers Facebook Group and bookmark the FSH website.  Thank you!

Until next time….

Please sit down, buckle your seatbelt and enjoy the flight. 



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