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. 

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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

Saying Goodbye to P3D…For now

My current gaming machine is just a little over 4 years old.  Amazingly, it still runs really well.  When I built it back in 2018, I used the latest and greatest components I could.  Amazingly (once again), the machine performs well with the current simulation based games I enjoy playing.  This even includes the new Microsoft Flight Simulator.   Anyway, I designed the machine to use a 1 TB NVMe SSD as the main drive along with a few SSD’s.  At the time of the initial build, I was running P3Dv4 and it was installed on the NVMe drive. 

When P3Dv5 released, I knew it would be several weeks before all the add-ons would catch up, so I installed it on the largest SSD (500 GB).  I ran both versions of P3D for several month with this intention of eventually doing a complete OS reset, then locate P3Dv5 to the NVMe drive.  Before that happened, MSFS released and I kicked the can down the road and delayed the OS reset and just uninstalled P3Dv4 to free up enough space on the NVMe drive for MSFS. 

For the first 18 months of the life of MSFS, I really only used it for GA flying.  But all that changed once the Fenix A320 and the PMDG 737-700 released a few months ago.  Since that timeframe, I’ve only used P3D a few times.  Meanwhile I was adding more 3rd party airport sceneries to MSFS and as a result watching the available space on the NVMe drive get lower and lower. 

On Thursday, I purchased and attempted to install the new GSX Pro from FSDreamteam.  Like many others, I ran into issues immediately after installing.  After reading forum threads and Discord messages, I finally gave up and decided to go to bed and sleep on it.  Oddly enough, I woke up fairly early this morning and decided it was time to refresh the OS and essentially make the move to MSFS 100% and for now, give P3D the BIG Heave Ho. 

Now, while GSX Pro has some challenges and some of the issues experienced on the first day appear to be related to their download servers….but I believe my own issues were a combination of having remnants of P3Dv4, along with P3Dv5 and MSFS.  While it should certainly be possible for everything to live in harmony…something was wrong and I felt just doing a Windows 10 reset was my absolute best option.  Like I said, the available space on my main SSD was becoming a serious issue.

It’s been a long day and I’m not 100% done.  But I’ve managed to get Windows 10 reset, fully patched with all updated hardware drivers installed.  The most time consuming part of the entire process has been reinstalling MSFS.  That took the better part of two hours just to download then apply the updates.  Next getting the Fenix A320 and PMDG 737-700 installed and finally all the add-on airports reinstalled.  I even took time to get the AIG liveries along with VATSIM model matching installed.  (That’s also a very time consuming process, but I had these things backed up so I didn’t have to start from scratch).  One of the last items I installed was GSX Pro and it installed without issue and works as perfectly has it can at this point in time.  I’ll explain more about this in a future blog post. 

As for the future of P3Dv5.  For now it will remain uninstalled.  To be honest, and I’ve said this before in other blog postings, I really only have time for short-haul flights.  While I do love the PMDG 777, 747 and the QualityWings 787, I really don’t have the time to enjoy them to their full potential.  Not to mention, (and I’ve also said this before) that the eye-candy factor is seriously lacking in P3Dv5 compared to MSFS.

Possible Final Thoughts about P3D

My interest in P3D really didn’t start until Lockheed Martin released version 3 in 2015.  I had dabbled briefly with version 2, but didn’t officially leave FSX behind until v3.  At that time most of the 3rd party developers were getting more seriously involved with Prepar3D and it just seemed like the right time to move over.  Of course, when P3Dv4 arrived in 2017 that officially ushered in the 64 bit compatibility we had all been dreaming of.  Finally one could get the true potential from the sim without fear of the dreaded OOM errors which were quickly followed by at CTD. 

When Prepar3D version 5 was released on April 14, 2020 we were in the early stages of the COVID Pandemic and I was working from home.  At this time we knew about the new Microsoft Flight Simulator and I seriously contemplated just staying on v4 knowing/believing MSFS would be the future.  But after a few weeks I finally pulled the trigger and purchased P3Dv5.  After all, I felt it could be at least a year (if not longer) before MSFS would be at a point where study level aircraft would be available and I wanted to experience the latest and greatest for whatever period of time it might be before making the move to MSFS. 

Getting into P3Dv5 from a financial perspective was really only the cost of the sim.  Again, to the best of my memory….99% of the add-ons I had been using in P3Dv4 were made available with P3Dv5 installers at no cost and I certainly got my monies worth out of v5.  All-in-all, as a hard-core flight simulation enthusiast I’m thankful to Lockheed Martin for making P3D available after Microsoft abandoned us.  While I tried XPlane sometime before P3Dv4, but having been such a long-time Microsoft Simmer I just couldn’t get into it.  In any event, at the time Prepar3D v5 was “As Real As It Gets”. 

I know many simmers discount MSFS.  Especially around the flight modeling.  But for me, this is a minor issue and is almost a non-issue with the Fenix and PMDG aircraft we have today.  I believe these issues will all evolve in time and MSFS WILL BE the very best home flight simulation platform. 

Final Thoughts

Just a little over 24 hours later and the rebuild is done.  I completed my first test flight in the Fenix A320 from TPA to CLT.  No major issues. I actually learned something today which I was not aware of with MSFS.  But all the settings including graphic settings, sim settings and controller settings/bindings are all saved in the cloud.  So when you reinstall MSFS, all these settings that often require lots of testing and tweaking to get things the way they were are just the same as before.  This saved lots of times and no doubt allowed me to get my first flight in much quicker. 

Thankfully I landed just when I did as 5 minutes after I shut down my engines and filed my PIREP, my electricity went out.  Thankfully my sim machine is on a UPS and I was able to safely shut down.  But my plans for flight #2 will have to wait a bit.  Until then….thanks for reading. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!  (Once power is restored)

Jerry

Microsoft Flight Simulator–Two Year Anniversary

In just a few days, 18 August 2022, Microsoft will celebrate the two year anniversary since the release of Microsoft Flight Simulator.  During the summer of 2019 and somewhat out of the blue, Microsoft announced they were working on the new version of their extremely popular Microsoft Flight Simulator.  I use the words “Out of the Blue” because most in the flight sim community were not aware of this news and it came to us with excitement and even some speculation.  Many of the blog postings I wrote here on my blog were very much mixed with my own personal excitement but also with guarded concerns.  After all, Microsoft had abandoned Flight Simulator and as a result many of the long-time fans of the sim had moved over to Prepar3D or X-Plane.  For the most part, I was certainly happy with the direction Prepar3D was moving in and was having a lot of fun in the sim. 

As we approach the two year anniversary of the release of the new Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS) I can happily say that much of the concern or speculation I once held towards the title have been dismissed.  After all, earlier this summer when the Fenix A320 and PMDG 737-700 released for MSFS, I began flying MSFS almost exclusively.  I still occasionally fly P3D when I have a need to fly the PMDG 777 or the QualityWings 787.  But I would say this is perhaps only 1 out of 100 or so flights that I do this.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the time I spend in MSFS and the experience gets better and better.  As a matter of fact, I changed my mind on the decision not to purchase the PMDG 737-700 (I initially said I would hold out until the 737-800 released) as the few times I tried flying the 737-800 in P3D, I just didn’t enjoy the experience.  While MSFS may have some limitations, the overall beauty of the sim makes up it.  Plus the addition of the Fenix A320 and the PMDG 737-700 (and soon to be released 737-800) have been instrumental in keeping me flying MSFS and essentially letting P3D gather dust. 

About those concerns…

The concerns and speculation many of us long-time flight simulation enthusiasts once had for Microsoft and Microsoft Flight Simulator have (in my opinion) to be null and void at this point.  In all honesty, while it did take me about a year and a half to fully embrace MSFS for my jetliner use, I was convinced that the efforts of both Microsoft and Asobo would truly turn MSFS into the future of flight simulation we have been longing for.  It just took some time for some of the more advanced airliners to make it into the sim and of course it took some time for Microsoft to work out a few bugs.  But as I’ve mentioned a few times, I’ve been enjoying the hobby of flight simulation since the early 1980’s.  The advancement of flight simulation over these past 35+ years is truly amazing.  The dedication I see from Microsoft, Asobo and all the many 3rd party developers certainly have me convinced that Microsoft Flight Simulator earns the right to say “As Real As It Gets” and will only continue to get better as time goes by.

August Expectations

While August is about half way done, I believe we’ll see some amazing things happen this month.  First and foremost, Microsoft/Asobo have been working hard on the sim update 10 release.  While I haven’t participated in the beta, I’ve heard from many simmers who say that SU10 addresses many of the bugs we’ve been plagued with and moves the sim one step further ahead with better performance and features which many 3rd party developers can take advantage of.  While I’m not a fan of Microsoft’s “Must Update Features”, I am anxiously awaiting SU10 and hope the update/upgrade process works as smoothly as all the previous updates have. 

In addition to SU10, I believe we will see the PMDG 737-800 release this month or early September.  The 737-800 is my all-time favorite aircraft to fly in the sim and I’ve missed having it.   Yes, the 737-700 is just a bit smaller,  but I want my 738 and I want it as soon as possible.  I know many of you do as well. 

Finally, I also believe we will soon have FSDreamTeam’s GSX available to us during the month of August.  For those that don’t know, GSX is the ground services component to flight simulation.  GSX controls all aspects of cargo and passenger loading, including the visuals for baggage/cargo being loaded onto the aircraft along with fueling, catering and that much important de-icing during the winter months.  In addition, GSX also does a really good job with aircraft pushback services which are truly lacking in MSFS at the present time. 

The Future Remains Bright

I believe we’ll continue to see some truly amazing things come to MSFS in the later half of 2022 and early 2023.  I’m hopeful SU10 paves the way for Chaseplane to finally come to MSFS and of course we might….just maybe see the PMDG 777 before end of year or perhaps very early 2023. Time will certainly tell.  It’s certainly a great time to be alive and a great time to be a flight simulation enthusiast. 

As always, thank you for taking the time to read and I look forward to returning with a blog post in a few weeks to document my experiences with SU10, PMDG 737-800 and hopefully GSX.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

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