Reader Question–Should I invest in rudder pedals

Our first reader question of 2023 comes to us from Spencer who is relatively new to flight simulation.  He’s asking a fairly common question regarding whether he should invest in a set of rudder pedals.  Before I get to my answer/opinion, first allow me to tell a story. Way back in the early days of my own flight simulation experience, I spent a ton of time in the sim with only an inexpensive joystick.  At some time in either the very late 90’s or perhaps early 2000’s, I purchased my first yoke.  It was the CH Products Flight Sim Yoke and incredibly I still use it today.  Yes, it’s held together quite well and has saw me through many generations of flight sim platforms including FS9, FSX, P3D versions 2 – 5 and now MSFS.  It’s at least 23 years old (could be as much as 24-25) and with the exception of needing to adjust my null zones a little higher due to it being less sensitive in its old age, it still works really well.  I subscribe to the theory that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it or in this case, don’t replace it. 

Now back to that inexpensive joystick I used over a quarter century ago.  Like I said, it was cheap…but it worked and while it didn’t include a “twisting action” to control the rudder, I just simply used the “auto-rudder” settings in the sim to get around this.  Of course, when I upgraded to the CH Products Yoke I still had to continue to use the “auto-rudder” settings inside the sim as I had no additional control over the rudder action. 

Within a few weeks of adding the yoke, I then purchased my first set of rudder pedals.  Way back in the early 2000’s we really didn’t have a huge selection of add-on hardware like we do today.  I paired the CH Products Yoke with a set of CH Products rudder pedals and of course turned off the “auto rudder” feature.  I couldn’t believe how much this pairing improved my flight simulation experience.  To this day, I still use this same combination of hardware.  However, my first set of pedals stopped working after about 5 years and I replaced with the same. 

So to get back on track, even if you currently use a joystick with a “twisting action” to control the rudder function of the aircraft, I truly believe your overall experience and certainly your immersion will be greatly increased by adding a set of rudder pedals to your flight sim setup. 

As for recommendations, I’ve read a lot of really great reviews on the Thrustmaster TPR Pendular Rudder Pedals, but these require a pretty hefty investment of about $600.00.  The lesser quality version of the Thrustmaster TFRP Rudder Pedals are around $130.00.  Another higher end model that is also a favorite among fellow flight simmers is the Honeycomb Charlie Pedals.  These sell for $349.00, but are sold out at the present time from the manufacturer. 

For me personally, when/if my CH Products pedals finally stop working I will most likely replace them with something in the $130 – $200 range unless I can get a good deal on the TM TPR pedals I mentioned earlier. 

Bottom line and to close this out, I believe rudder pedals are a must have for any flight simulation enthusiast.  I really don’t believe I could, nor would want to fly without them. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

The Joy of Freeware

Once upon a time, there was an abundance of various freeware add-ons available to the flight simming community.  During the late 1990’s and very early 2000’s the amount of freeware (as compared to payware) was huge.  Actually the amount of payware content was actually pretty scarce.  Of course I’m talking about the time period when Flight Simulator 98, Flight Simulator 2000, Flight Simulator 2002 and Flight Simulator 2004 (FS9) were in their hay day. 

With the rise of FSX in 2006, third party developers (of whom, many are still in business today) came onto the scene and began producing the most excellent payware products from airport sceneries, ground based textures, weather add-ons and of course some really awesome aircraft.  Unfortunately this is the same time period that we began to experience a decline in freeware alternatives.  Or should I say “Quality” freeware alternatives. 

The freeware decline continued through the life span of the Prepar3D reign.  However, for the most part the X-Plane community during this time frame did have a very active modding community which produced some really good freeware add-ons, but for me I just never could enjoy X-Plane the way I had enjoyed FSX or P3D.  As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I had a fairly sizeable investment in FSX/P3D that I just couldn’t ignore and was most likely the reason I never considered X-Plane a substitute.  But I digress…

Fortunately, for those of us who are fans of the Microsoft Flight Simulator family (including P3D) the introduction of the new Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS) platform has brought about a renewed interest in quality freeware add-ons.  Almost from day one of the release of MSFS back in August of 2020, fellow flight sim enthusiasts have been releasing quality freeware add-ons for the new platform.  Of course one of the absolute best freeware additions has been the Airbus A320 mod from the FlybyWire team.  This team took the default Airbus A320 which was included in MSFS and over time have created a freeware version that rivals that of just about any payware, study-level aircraft on the market today.  The Microsoft Flight Sim family of platforms (including P3D) has never seen this level of quality in a freeware product and the FBW team won’t just stop at the A320.  They are hard at work in creating an Airbus A380 model from the ground up which hopefully will be released sometime in the Q2 or early Q3 2023 timeframe.  I honestly can’t count the number of previously announced A380 projects which have been announced over the years for P3D that have never made it beyond the planning stages and the FBW team will have one in our sims very soon. 

Of course there are hundreds if not thousands of other freeware add-ons available for MSFS including various utilities, aircraft liveries and airport mods.  There are a few airport mods I’m using in my sim today that rival the quality of work we typically see from payware developers.  I frequently check the Flightsim.to website which has become the “go-to” place for creators to host their freeware add-ons. 

Why is Freeware so important to the community?

First and foremost, not everyone can afford to spend their hard earned money on all the various payware that has and will be released for MSFS.  Due to the willingness of these freeware developers to devote their time to creating quality add-on alternatives for the community at zero cost, this allows everyone the opportunity to enjoy the hobby without a huge investment.  In addition, I also believe the vast catalog of freeware options is helping to keep the prices of payware at a more affordable price level.  I believe we’ve already experienced the impact of this with the Fenix A320.  The Fenix A320 is available for an incredibly low price of just £49.99. 

The Quality of Freeware Alternatives

As I’ve already mentioned, we’re already witnessing examples of freeware being on-par with payware options.  In addition to the FBW A320 I’ve already mentioned, another example is the recent release of the Doha Hamad International Airport (OTHH) which released in early December at the price tag of €19.99 by MXI Design.  An absolutely stunning freeware version has been available on Flightsim.to since May 2021 which not only includes the OTHH airport but also various enhancements covering much of the city of Doha is included. 

However, it must also be said that not all freeware is created equal.  But of course the same must also be said about payware options (but I’ll save those comments for another article).  One of the major challenges with some of the freeware airports that I’ve run into has been centered around issues when MSFS has been updated through the various Sim Update versions and the time it takes for the freeware developers to make the various adjustments needed.  Of course, this is not an issue isolated to the flight sim community. We see the same issues with other games which allow mods to be used like ATS, ETS2 and Farming Simulator.

In closing, as someone who has been been enjoying the flight simulation hobby for over four decades and has witnessed freeware come, go and come back again…I’m extremely excited for the future of MSFS with successful freeware efforts at the very heart of the platform. I hope you are as well.

Until next time….

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Is Prepar3D Dead?

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  The annual Navigraph flight sim survey results were released just before the holidays and the survey says…..P3D is dead!  In all honesty, I’m not surprised.  After all, many of the top 3rd party developers have all but stopped creating add-ons for P3D and have moved to Microsoft Flight Simulator.  This year over 25,000 of your fellow flight sim enthusiasts participated in the survey (up by over 1,000 from the 2021 survey).   The 2022 version of the survey included 67 questions ranging from VR Headsets, graphic cards and of course which flight simulator platform is most popular. 

Just to show a comparison, I’ve posted screenshots from both the 2021 and the most recent 2022 survey.  These results show a continued downward trend with the use of P3D and a continued rise with MSFS. 

2021 Survey Results

survey 2021

2022 Survey Results

survey 2022

Of course I realize not all flight sim users participated in the survey and certainly not all P3D users participated.  Some MSFS users are still flying P3D at this time due to the lack of long-haul, widebody aircraft which I discussed back in November 2022 in my reader question response for “Where are the widebodies?”  But the continued rise in popularity of MSFS and the subsequent decline of P3D certainly can’t be ignored. 

While there are rumors floating around the flight sim community that Lockheed Martin is looking into utilizing the Unreal Engine for a future release, the same more than a decade old problem is still a possible concern.  Of course I’m talking about the way that P3D is licensed and the EULA or End User License Agreement which looms over the P3D franchise. 

In summary, when Lockheed Martin acquired the intellectual property and source code for the Microsoft ESP product, an agreement was signed which limited how Lockheed Martin could sell and distribute the Prepar3D platform.  This licensing agreement restricted Lockheed Martin from offering a “For Personal, Home Entertainment” license.  This of course had an impact on the pricing for not only the sim itself, but also for many of the 3rd party add-ons.  Specifically PMDG changed their pricing structure from what had been established on the FSX platform.  Of course, Lockheed Martin could release a completely brand new product developed on the Unreal Engine and thus render the agreement with Microsoft null and void. 

Regarding the rumor about P3D using the Unreal Engine, Lockheed Martin has publicly stated the following:  “We have no plans to make major architectural changes that would undermine existing third party add-on compatibility with the platform”.  I firmly believe this statement tells us that Lockheed Martin has no plans to use the Unreal Engine at this time. 

In any event, I honestly believe the future for Prepar3D (at least for the majority of flight simulation enthusiasts) will continue to decline further during the new year.  As most of us expect, PMDG will release their Boeing 777 for MSFS sometime in 2023.  Most likely this won’t happen until the later part of the year. But once this does happen, most who are still  hanging onto P3D just for the 777 will most likely make the move to MSFS.  In addition, many other widebody aircraft are due to release for MSFS (example the Airbus A380) in 2023.  Microsoft/Asobo will continue to further enhance the MSFS platform beyond the current capabilities which will continue to increase the gap between MSFS and the other platforms. 

Does all this mean you must abandon P3D?  Absolutely not, fly what you want to fly….however, my advice to anyone who is new to flight simulation is to use caution when choosing to further invest money through 3rd party add-ons for the P3D platform.    Any add-ons purchased today for P3Dv4 or P3Dv5 would most likely be obsolete if LM were to move forward with the Unreal Engine concept at some point in the future.

In closing, I realize this article might read as if I’m hating on P3D.  That couldn’t be further from the truth as for myself and many others like me, P3D served as an important bridge between the days of FSX and MSFS.  But the reality is Microsoft/Asobo really hit the ball out of the park when they developed/released MSFS and through that effort progressed the flight simulation community further than had been done since the very beginning of the franchise.  Regardless of which camp (P3D or XPlane) you favor, MSFS can’t be ignored as to what this platform brings to the flight simulation community and where it stands over two years after its release. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

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