Top Add-ons for MSFS in 2022

As Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS) celebrated its second anniversary earlier this summer, we’ve seen some really incredible add-ons release for the new platform.  These new add-ons have truly helped to make MSFS the gold standard this year and certainly made it possible for me to make the switch from Prepar3D v5.  While I’ve owned MSFS since its release in 2020, I only used it for the occasional VFR flying as I felt the sim just wasn’t ready for me to make the switch full-time as I mostly fly IFR and simulate airliner operations.  However, with the release of several quality study-level type aircraft this year, I’ve made the move to MSFS and extremely happy I did. 

Of course, any “Top” style list is going to be mainly based on the viewpoint and opinion of the individual compiling the list.  This list should certainly be viewed with that in mind.  However, I truly believe the individual items I’m going to list out today have been crucial to the advancement of Microsoft Flight Simulator in making it what it is today and as I’ve previously stated, I believe MSFS is now officially the gold standard of all other flight sim platforms. 

Fenix Airbus A320

It should be said, the FBW A320 project which debuted shortly after the release of MSFS will certainly go down in history as the top freeware, near study-level add-on for MSFS. However, for me….it was the release of the Fenix A320 that gave me reason to take a serious look at MSFS and using it along with P3D (albeit for a short period of time) as I simulate airliner operations in the Airbus A320. 

From my day one experience with the Fenix A320, it became clear this aircraft would quickly become one of my favorite airliners to fly and to this day it remains a top favorite. 

PMDG Boeing 737-800

While PMDG were the first to release a true study-level aircraft to MSFS, I was slow to purchase their first, the 737-700.  At the time of the release, I didn’t plan on purchasing the –700 as I felt once the –800 was released the –700 wouldn’t be used much.  However, as time went by I struggled to enjoy P3D (compared to MSFS) when flying the PMDG 737-800, and made the decision to go ahead and add the 737-700 to my virtual hangar.  However, once the 737-800 released it became a day one purchase and one that I’ve truly enjoyed flying in MSFS. 

The Boeing 737-800 has been and remains to this day my favorite aircraft in the sim and PMDG has done an outstanding job in simulating this workhorse of an aircraft.

GSX Pro

Back in the late summer timeframe, I wrote a review on GSX Pro.  Now some 4+ months later I can say this add-on is as great as it ever was with FSX/P3D and really adds the extra level of immersion I want in the sim. 

iniBuilds Airbus A310

Without a doubt the iniBuilds Airbus A310 must be included on any list of “Top Whatever” for the year 2022.  We first heard that iniBuilds were planning to bring their Airbus A310 into MSFS late last year and early this past summer we learned that it would be released as part of the Microsoft 40th Anniversary Update or SU11 and it would be a free upgrade.  While the A310 doesn’t impress me as much as the Boeing 777, it is one of the first wide-body, long-haul capable aircraft to be released for the platform.  After all, it’s been a long two years of not having a complex wide-body aircraft in the sim. 

New Navigraph Charts 8

Navigraph recently released their brand new Navigraph Charts 8.  The new features which include worldwide VFR charts coverage, drag and drop rubber band route construction, seamless zoom down to the gate level and 3D globe projection has really made Navigraph Charts a must have for any serious flight simulation enthusiast.

FSLTL – FS Live Traffic Liveries – Model Matching for VATSIM

FSLTL or FS Live Traffic Liveries could actually win an award for the most needed add-on for MSFS in the year 2022.  While we’ve had VATSIM model matching for MSFS via the AIG one click installer for some time, the AIG install/setup/configuration process is perhaps one of the most convoluted install processes known to man.  While there are some shortcuts that help to speed the process up, it’s still mostly a PITA to get going.  However, earlier this year FSLTL came along and greatly simplified the process of getting model matching to work with VATSIM.  If you haven’t checked out the new FSLTL model matching for VATSIM, I encourage you to stop what you’re doing and check it out NOW.  You can find more information about FSLTL here

Various Airport Sceneries

We had some really awesome airport sceneries released this year, far too many to list here.  A few that come to mind for me which I’ve really enjoyed are San Antonio (KSAT) by iniBuilds, Anchorage (PANC) by SimWings, San Jose (KSJC) by Orbx, London Heathrow (EGLL) by iniBuilds and finally Austin (KAUS) by Dominic Design Team.  Different people will have different reasons for purchasing and installing 3rd party payware airport sceneries.  For me, I tend to purchase the airports I enjoy flying into and out of fairly frequently.  The few I’ve listed are my favorites from this year.  I think if I were to pick my absolute favorite it would have to be the newly released Austin, Texas (KAUS).  Austin was released on 7 December and it was a day one purchase for me.  I’ve flown into AUS many times in the real world and it’s one of my top airports to fly to/from in the sim. 

Looking ahead to 2023

I personally believe if you felt 2022 was a good year for MSFS (after all it was the 40th Anniversary) then 2023 will be even better.  If all goes as planned, we should see the awesome PMDG 777 hit the virtual skies.  Unless something sneaks in before hand, the PMDG 777 will be our first modern high-fidelity, study level, wide-body, long-haul aircraft in the sim.  This aircraft is the missing piece for my full enjoyment of the sim and I’m sure will being countless hours of simming entertainment to us all. 

In addition, I truly believe we’ll also see the Airbus A380 from the FlyByWire Development Team.  While I know we’ve heard about A380 projects from various developers over the years that all seem to have been vaporware, the FBW team is hard at work in bringing this wonderful aircraft to MSFS sometime in the year 2023.  Actually, based on all that I’ve read….I think we could actually see the FBW A380 in the Summer or early Fall of 2023.  Of course, the FBW A380 will be freeware….but it should be (or eventually will be) just as amazing as the FBW A320 in time. 

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog articles.  I certainly hope you find the content interesting, informative and helpful.   As this will most likely be the last blog posting for 2022, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

Until next year….

Happy Flying and see you all in the new year!!!

Jerry

Reader Question–MultiPlayer Networks

Here’s another reader question/comment that was submitted a few days ago.  I think this will be helpful to those who are thinking about taking their simulation experience to the next level.  While my comments to the general question will reference American Truck Simulator/Euro Truck Simulator 2, most of my key points will be directed towards Flight Simulator.  So let’s get started with the question and then my general comments.

Hello.  I found your blog site after a few Google searches regarding a recent issue I experienced after connecting to the VATSIM network for the first time.  In all honesty, I’m fairly new to Microsoft Flight Simulator.  But many years ago I did use FSX but never tried VATSIM.  I’ve been watching YouTube videos and Twitch streams and VATSIM seems really cool. But my first experience wasn’t an easy one and I’m really confused.  Basically I connected to VATSIM and wanted to experience seeing other aircraft in real world liveries and just fly.  The first issue I discovered was that I didn’t see other aircraft in their respective real world liveries and I also angered the controllers and other pilots when I attempted to take off without permission.  I was hoping my VATSIM experience would be similar to ATS where I could just do whatever I wanted to do until such time as I could get my head around all the procedures.  Needless to say, I don’t think VATSIM is for me but wanted to see if you had any pointers for me. 

First things first.  The VATSIM online network is NOT like the online networks for ATS or ETS2.  Yes, you’re right….for the most part with ATS/ETS2 you can connect and just do your thing pending it doesn’t violate the terms of service of TruckersMP.  In other words, as long as you don’t crash into other players or block roads/intersections then most likely you’ll be fine.  Of course, you’ll see plenty of idiots doing the very things I encouraged you to avoid, but when they are caught they are generally served with a ban.

But like I said, other than TruckersMP and VATSIM both being online multiplayer networks…that’s really where the similarities end.  The online networks for flight simulation including VATSIM, IVAO, PilotEdge and POSCON are all serious, by the book online multiplayer networks.  Before connecting to any of these networks you really need to have an understanding of a few important things.

First, you really need to have a solid understanding of the aircraft you are flying.  In other words, you should be able to taxi, take-off, fly and navigate based on a pre-determined filed route including SIDS/STARS and finally land, taxi and shut down the aircraft.  While I’ve been flying on the VATSIM network for more than two decades, I rarely fly using a new aircraft until such time that I’ve put in the time required to learn it properly. 

Second, you really need at the very least a basic understanding of the procedures required for filing a flight plan, requesting ATC clearance and just a general understanding of all the radio communications needed during a flight.  While there may be times you’ll find no controllers logged in, this doesn’t mean you can just do what you want to do.  Regardless of ATC availability…one should always operate his/her aircraft in such a manner that doesn’t impact other online pilots. 

It may all sound like a lot of stuff to learn, but if I can do it…then anyone can learn the ins and outs of VATSIM or any of the other online networks for flight simulator.  My advice is to search YouTube for VATSIM tutorials.  You’ll find hundreds of hours of content to get you started.  Second, I would encourage you to connect to the VATSIM network, make sure your plane is parked at a gate or some other remote parking area and tune into the various frequencies and just LISTEN!  You’ll hear how other pilots are requesting clearance and communicating with ATC.  Don’t give up….keep learning and keep trying.  But bottom line, please understand that the online networks are for serious users who want to simulate the real world operations. 

Now, you mentioned when you did login all the other aircraft did not appear in the real world liveries as you had hoped they would.  There is an easy solution for this and allow me to direct you to the FSLTL (Flight Sim Live Traffic Liveries) website.  You’ll also find YouTube videos on how to setup FSLTL so that when you connect to VATSIM you’ll see other aircraft as you would expect. 

Finally, I also have several “how to” articles I’ve written over the years which can be found here.  Alternatively you can navigate there by clicking the Flight Menu and clicking Flight Sim Tutorials.  A few that might help you initially will be The Basics of VATSIM, IFR versus VFR and Your First Flight

Also, understand this final important thing.  Everyone….including myself and everyone else you’ll find on the VATSIM network have been exactly where you are today.  We’ve all been brand new and we’ve all made mistakes.  From time to time we may even still make a mistake.  But bottom line is we’ve all been brand new at this.  The vast majority of individuals you’ll encounter will go out of their way to help someone new.  Especially when that new person has a desire to learn and improve. 

I hope this helps you and I hope it helps anyone else that may read this article at some time in the future.  The flight simulation community for the most part is comprised of likeminded individuals who all have a passion for aviation and we’re all extremely helpful to those who are new. 

I hope to see you flying the friendly VATSIM skies very soon. 

Until next time….

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Reader Question–ATS vs ETS2

Here’s a first for the GBS Blog, a reader question regarding the differences between American Truck Simulator and Euro Truck Simulator 2 both by SCS Software.  It’s certainly understandable as to why this is a first as I really haven’t blogged much in recent years about either of the two titles, but I do have a few articles which are still popular based on Google search analytics and as a result has brought a new reader to the GBS Blogs.  While I don’t claim to be an expert in any of the simulation based games I feature on this blog site, I do enjoy helping others and will continue to do so to the best of my ability for as long as I enjoy the titles.  So with that said, let’s dive into the question.

Hello Jerry,  I stumbled onto your blog site a few days ago and found one of your older articles that you wrote regarding the ATS Mod Sort/Load Order.  This article was extremely helpful to me as I had been experiencing some issues and had been just generally confused on just how to sort my mods for best experience in ATS.  I’m relatively new to ATS as of this past summer and having a blast driving around the various maps.  Like you, I’m really loving the new Texas DLC and believe it’s been one of the best DLC releases.  At least that is my opinion.  Anyway, my question for you (if you have time) is other than geographical differences, what are the differences between ATS and ETS2? Is one more challenging than the other? As I do enjoy ATS, do you think ETS2 would also be enjoyable?  Thank you for your time and thank you for the blog site.  Jim

Jim asks some valid questions, especially for anyone who might be new to either of the two “Truckin” Sims by SCS Software.  As of the time that I received Jim’s message, ETS2 was on sale for 75% off at $4.99.  I provided Jim with the answers to the questions he asked and let him know about the sale.  He confirmed with me a few hours later that he took advantage of the sale and now owns his own version of ETS2.  But allow me the opportunity to share the feedback I provided to Jim along with a few other insights. 

First, absolutely yes….if one enjoys ATS, I do believe they would also enjoy ETS2.  Obviously as Jim was already aware, the main differences between ATS and ETS2 is the region.  ATS being American Truck Simulator depicts trucking within the US and of course Euro Truck Simulator 2 depicts trucking within Europe.  The similarities with how the two games function are essentially identical with the new player needing to grind his or her way through various levels, earning as much money as you can to then purchase your first truck and begin building your trucking empire.  But after that….the two are vastly different. 

As most may know, ETS2 was released over 10 years ago and over the past decade the base game map has grown tremendously through the release of DLC’s and an active modding community called ProMods.  Obviously with ETS2 being an older sim compared to ATS, there’s a lot more map available to drive.  However, the scaling between ATS and ETS2 is slightly different.  ATS scaling is set to 1:20 while ETS2 is 1:19.  But this scaling difference is barely noticeable in the grand scheme of things.  Unfortunately, due to the age of ETS2…some of the original release areas are starting to show their age with some areas being outdated.  SCS Software is generally pretty good at providing map updates to correct these sorts of issues so most likely it’s just a matter of when it will get done versus if it will get done.

Obviously as ETS2 is depicting truck driving within Europe, the trucks and trailers are very different from what we see in ATS and of course what we see driving up and down the highways.  In ATS the roadways are generally nice and wide where turns are made fairly easy.  The same can’t always be said about ETS2 as the roads in Europe are often extremely narrow which is why you don’t see conventional style trucks.  The trucks within ETS2 are all cab-overs and the trailer length is also much shorter to their American counterparts.  However, I find most of the pickup/delivery locations to be easier to navigate in ETS2 due to the shorter truck/trailer lengths.   ETS2 also incorporates a few features such as ferry crossings between mainland Europe to the UK as well as the Channel Tunnel rail crossing between England and France. 

Bottom line is I enjoy both ATS and ETS2.  While I tend to spend more time in ATS, I do still very much enjoy ETS2.  My advice (if your budget allows) is to try out ETS2.  I really don’t believe you’ll be disappointed. 

Until next time…

Happy Trucking!!!

Jerry

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