Reader Question – What is CTAF?

Hello to all my loyal readers.  We have a question regarding the use of CTAF on the VATSIM network and I felt it was worthy to share with everyone.

Hello Jerry, I occasionally fly on the VATSIM network and have been curious about the use of the CTAF frequency versus just the standard unicom frequency of 122.800.  Why the change?  And can you share any tips on finding the correct CTAF frequency for any given airport?  Thank you, Dennis.

Well Dennis….you bring up a very good question and one I should have probably addressed long ago.  VATSIM announced back around the first of the year that beginning on 1 March 2024 they would be trialing a new procedure for uncontrolled airspace whereby VATSIM pilots would need to tune into the local CTAF frequency versus just using the old standard UNICOM frequency of 122.800.

What is CTAF?

Let’s first explain what CTAF means.  CTAF stands for Common Traffic Advisory Frequency.  It’s a real world process for carrying our airport advisory practices while operating to or from an airport without an operating control tower.  Each airport will have a unique CTAF frequency which is published on charts for pilots to use.

Why is VATSIM making this change?

As discussed in the VATSIM announcement from earlier this year, VATSIM is trialing this change for North American starting 1 March 2024.  This change is to more closely align with real world operating procedures and to better reduce radio chatter.

When to use CTAF versus 122.800?

Essentially, the use of the published CTAF frequency is only needed when an airport isn’t staffed by an online VATSIM controller.  However, if an airport controller isn’t online, pilots should use the CTAF frequency for their departing or arrival airport.  What I’ve found to work for me is to use the CTAF frequency within a 30-40 mile radius of the airport.  So when departing an uncontrolled airport, I will tune to the CTAF frequency for that airport and announce my intentions.  Once I depart and am above 10,000 feet, I’ll then switch to the old UNICOM freq of 122.800.

How to locate CTAF Frequencies?

There are many different ways to locate the CTAF frequency for a given airport.  Charts are certainly one way.  However, there’s an even better way and that is to type .ctaf xxxx (dot ctaf and airport ICAO) into the VATSIM client message box and hit enter.  A few moments later, you’ll receive a response with the correct CTAF frequency.  Alternatively, you can also use the VATSIM AIP site to search for the correct CTAF frequency.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, not everyone is catching onto the new CTAF process.  The trial is well into its 3rd month and many pilots are still using the old UNICOM frequency of 122.800 when they should be using CTAF.  So…my advice, when flying on the VATSIM network do your best to stay informed to all the current processes and use CTAF.

I hope this helps explain the new CTAF frequency process for VATSIM.  If you are flying on the VATSIM network and doing so in North American, I would encourage you to follow the correct procedures not only for your full enjoyment, but also that of others.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Microsoft Flight Simulator SU15 Update Postponed Yet Again

Yes, the news broke yesterday that due to some issues found during the latest beta build for SU15 (1.37.15.0) which was supposed to originally release back in March, then postponed to 7 May has once again been postponed.  At the time of this writing, there is no new date available.

The issues found have to do with WASM “Missing Content” errors and stuttering/freezing on the Xbox platform.  A new beta update (1.37.17.0) which addresses the WASM “Missing Content” errors as well as a handful of other issues.  As for the Xbox issues, this continues to be under investigation with the hope of a fix being issued sometime next week.

PMDG 777-300ER

Of course, one has to wonder if the highly anticipated release of the PMDG 777-300ER isn’t caught up in these SU15 delays.  While PMDG have stated multiple times that their release strategy for the 777-300ER isn’t dependent on SU15, one still ponders this possibility.  If I’m honest with myself, and if I were responsible for the release of the most anticipated payware aircraft add-on in the past two years….I think I would delay it as well just to be 100% sure there were no undiscovered issues.  Especially considering the number of beta build releases that have been part of the SU15 cycle.

Bottom Line

Someday….perhaps later this month…perhaps early June SU15 will get released and someday after that…perhaps June, perhaps July, perhaps ???? the PMDG 777-300ER will release.  We all just have to wait and see.

Until Next Time….

Wait and See and Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024

I mentioned a little while ago when I wrote about the recent delay to system update 15 for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 that I would take the time to write about the new version of MSFS2024 which is due to release sometime this year. While we don’t have a release date at this time, if history repeats itself (as it often does) we could expect a end of summer timeframe release.  But considering (at least in my opinion) MSFS2020 is absolutely fantastic and should get even better once SU15 drops the wait for me is a non-issue.

A New Sim Really?

Like many, when I first learned that Microsoft/Asobo were working on a brand new sim I was surprised.  Of course if you’ve been around the flight sim world as long as I have, you’ve seen many iterations of the sim.  After all, Microsoft released six different versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator between the years of 1996 and 2006.  Each of these new versions contained new features and functionality from their predecessors and in many ways they each took advantage of the quickly developing PC technology of the day.  I firmly believe this is also why we’re seeing a brand new version of Microsoft Flight Simulator some four years after the successful release of MSFS2020.  Let’s face it, while MSFS2020 released to us on PC in August of 2020, the planning and actual development began many years before.

Most Popular Sim?

As I’ve said before in other blog posts, when MSFS 2020 released, the flight sim community expanded immensely almost overnight.  This is especially true when MSFS2020 became available on the XBox platform almost a year later.  While the flight sim community might still be relatively small and niche compared to other game genres, we have proven to Microsoft and Asobo that we’re here, we’re active and we want the very best flight simulation that can be developed for the home flight simulation enthusiast.

We may never really know if at the time MSFS2020 was released, whether Microsoft had the plans at that time for MSFS2024.  While they may have speculated it would be a popular release, I think the direction the flight sim community wanted Microsoft to take the franchise has proven to be worth their efforts in continuing the franchise for many decades.

All The Benefits

There are many, many benefits to us as consumers of flight simulation add-ons (including both software and hardware) for Microsoft to continue updating the sim for hopefully decades to come.  While the software add-on market has always been relatively strong, the hardware market is also making a huge comeback.  The hardware market had sort of become a bit stale in the last few years before the release of MSFS2020.  Today we have many different hardware developers creating everything from yokes, joysticks, pedals, throttles and all the various components to truly become free of needing to use the mouse and keyboard.  I firmly believe this increase of the number of software and hardware developers is testament to the success of Microsoft Flight Simulator.

MSFS2024

I’m sure everyone has already viewed the teaser videos Microsoft released around the time of the announcement last year.  Much of the new mission content are things I’m really not interested in.  True, while I will probably spend time doing some of them…it’s just not something I’m overly excited about.  For me, what I enjoy about any flight sim is the open world opportunity to fly what I want to fly, wherever I choose to fly it.  But what might we expect to be included in MSFS2024 that we don’t have available today?

New Aircraft

I would expect much of what we consider the default aircraft included in MSFS2020 today will be made available in MSFS2024.  But there are a few new aircraft which should make their way into MSFS2020 such as the Beluga Airbus and Airbus A300M.  But again, these are probably aircraft that I will rarely fly in the sim.  But wait…there’s more to MSFS2024.

Weather Data Capabilities

Asobo have commented in a few of the developer streams of late that MSFS2024 weather data is going to get some changes from what we know about weather in MSFS2020.  Could we finally be able to import historical weather into the sim?  Again, time will tell and this is one of the reasons I’m holding out on purchasing ActiveSky FS which I discussed a few weeks ago.

Freeware Marketplace

Now this I’m potentially excited about.  The amount of good, quality freeware add-ons that we have witnessed come onto the scene with MSFS2020 is exceptional.  While I own a great deal of payware airport sceneries for MSFS2020, I’m using several freeware airport sceneries in some locations as either there is no payware available or the freeware looks and performs better than the payware.  But Microsoft have noticed the demand of freeware content and may one day offer it to be available in the Microsoft Marketplace.  Like I said, I’m really excited about this as while I keep track of all the scenery I have installed in my sim (which you can see here), having this ability to install from Marketplace and hopefully be notified of any updates is a game changer for me.  This of course will also be HUGE for those on the XBox platform.  But we’ll see if this comes to fruition.

Release Date

As I’ve previously stated in this article, at this time we do not know when MSFS2024 will be released.  While history can always be a good indicator of things like this, we really just don’t know.  We may learn more after the FSExpo taking place in June (21-23 June), but I’m going to take a huge guess and say that MSFS2024 will release sometime between August and the end of the year.

Future of MSFS2020

I’ve spoken to many fellow flight simmers and currently it’s about a 70/30 split on whether they’ll move to MSFS2024 once released.  This being approx. 70% saying yes to MFSF2024 and approx. 30% have said they’ll stay on MSFS2020 for now.  But what is the future of MSFS2020?  Well we do know that sometime in 2025, Microsoft/Asobo will release SU16.  With SU16 Microsoft/Asobo might bring some of the features that will be available in MSFS2024 into MSFS2020.  How much or how little just isn’t known at this time.

800lb Gorilla

I can’t close out this article without addressing the 800lb Gorilla in the room and that of course has to do with all the purchased add-ons from MSFS2020.  What will be available?  When will they be available and what will it all cost?

Unfortunately we really don’t have an absolute set of answers to those above mentioned questions.  What we do know is the vast majority of 3rd party developers have publicly stated while they are just as much in the dark as the rest of us concerning when MSFS2024 will release and the amount of changes required to make their add-ons available into the new sim, they all have plans to make them available for MSFS2024 just as quickly as possible.  In addition, most have stated that any already purchased MSFS2020 add-on will not require a full repurchase once available for MSFS2024.  However, depending on the level of effort to bring them into MSFS2024 is simply unknown at this time and therefore I suppose there could be a minimal charge necessary to offset any of this development work.

Once again, if history repeats itself….most 3rd party developers will not have access to MSFS2024 until we all have access to it.  So the clock starts on any work required on these 3rd party add-ons the very same day we all can make our purchase of MSFS2024, download and install it.  While some in our community will be absolute idiots and begin posting in 3rd party developers forums, Discords etc. about when XYZ will be available…I urge everyone to be patient and just wait.  It will happen and it will happen just as soon as possible.

In Summary

For me, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024 will be a day one purchase for me.  I will take the same, exact approach I did with MSFS2020.  I will install it and I will experience it most likely in a default Cessna 172.  I will continue to use MSFS2020 as my primary sim, utilizing the PMDG 737, (hopefully the 777-300ER), the Fenix A320 (and hopefully their A319/A321 as well) and patiently wait.  At such time these aircraft are available in the new sim, I will add them and progressively utilize MSFS2024 more and more,  Then at some point down the road MSFS2020 will be uninstalled and simply forgotten about just like P3Dv5 was.

Oh, One More Thing

Join me in crossing your fingers, toes etc. and perhaps even going so far as asking St. Joseph of Cupertino (Patron Saint of all things aviation) to intercede on our behalf, that from day one, MSFS2024 will open up their camera API functionality so that third party developer //42 can finally bring Chaseplane to MSFS.  While over the past couple of years I’ve managed to get somewhat used to the MSFS default camera system, for those of us that used Chaseplane back in P3D this would be a true game changer if it could be developed for the new sim.

If you’ve made it this far, Thank you!  My apologies for the lengthy blog post, but there was a lot that needed to be shared.  I will continue to share what information I can find on MSFS2024 as soon as more is known.  Of course, I’ll blog about all my experiences in the new sim once it’s on my PC.  What an amazing time this is for those of us involved in the hobby of flight simulation!

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Reader Question – Rotten Attitudes

Your reader emails/questions have been flying in of late. Thank you!  If you have a question for me regarding flight simulation or just an opinion you would like to share, please consider contacting me.  You can use my “Ask Me A Question” form which can be found under Information (at the top).  We do have a fresh question from Jason regarding rotten attitudes within the flight simulation community.  Here’s his comment.

Hello Jerry.  My name is Jason and I’m relatively new to the flight simulation community.  I came aboard with MSFS 2020 (the PC version) about 18 months ago and I truly love the hobby.  Being brand new to flight simulation and also somewhat new to the world of aviation in general, I joined many forums and other social networks dedicated to the hobby.  However, I’ve found the vast majority to be made up of rude and condescending individuals.  Most of the questions I’ve asked have been met with responses such as “Did you do a Google Search” or “Google is your friend”. I’ve also watched hours, upon hours of various YouTube videos and Twitch Livestreams, but find most of these flight sim content creators to be just as rude.  I scratch my head and wonder why on earth they are spending time producing content if they are not willing to help?

Fortunately, I’ve found your website and your tutorials have been instrumental in helping me grasp the basics and you’ve also been very helpful with my email questions.  You might remember I emailed you about 18 months ago when I was struggling with configuring my controller.  Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for all your efforts.  I’m truly loving the hobby and most of that is down to you.  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!  Jason

Sadly, the observations Jason makes in his email to me are so very true.   As most will know from reading my blog over all these years and by the way, this September will mark 14 years that I’ve been blogging about the hobby of flight simulation (and other things), I’ve truly tried my best to help as many people as I can.

In the Beginning

Of course for me personally, my start to this awesome hobby was way back in the early 1980’s. I was a teenager with a Commodore 64 and so wanted to learn how to fly and land my little aircraft.  This was well before the Internet Age we live in today.  But I was fortunate that I had an Uncle who had his PPL and while he knew nothing about a computer, the advice he gave me helped me learn how to depart Meigs Field and fly around Chicago and return back and land.  It was a game changer.  I went back home and one of my friends (who also had a C64 with flight sim) started a crude virtual airline where we tracked our flights on a Big Chief tablet and once a week compared notes.  What I didn’t know then was this was the virtual airline concept that we all know and love today.  But I digress…

Curmudgeons Everywhere

Ha Ha.  First let me define the word Curmudgeon for those who might not be familiar with the meaning.  According to the Webster Dictionary (yes I have a copy on my desk), a Curmudgeon is a bad-tempered person, especially an old one. It’s truly a sad state of affairs that this awesome hobby is chocked full of Curmudgeons.  They literally are everywhere….within all the forums, within all the social media platforms and within many of the Virtual Airlines I’ve come across over the years.

The Dawn of MSFS

Before Microsoft released MSFS 2020 back in August of 2020, the number of brand new flight simmers I encountered through VA’s, forums etc. was relatively low.  However, once MSFS released, the numbers of new simmers entering the hobby exploded beyond anything I had ever experienced before or even could have imagined.  By the way, this explosion of brand new blood into our hobby is extremely good news for the longevity of our beloved hobby.  All these brand new members are spending their hard earned dollars (or their parents hard earned dollars) on the sim platform and all the various add-ons that enhance their experiences.  Many young people are gaining an interest in aviation and will become aviation professionals as a result.  It’s all very good news!

Taking a Step Back

The issue Jason points out in his email to me is valid.  The problem with dismissing questions with a response like “Did you search before asking your question” or “Google is your friend” will often lead individuals to the wrong answer.  Sometimes….a person really doesn’t know or understand the exact phrases or terms they should be searching on to begin with.  This leads to even more frustration and like I said, will often lead to a wrong answer.

Now with that said, I am a firm believer in doing one’s own research as much as possible.  But as I just mentioned, someone new to the hobby might not understand exactly what they need to search on and let’s face it, some of these online forums/communities search features are not the best in the world.  As for Google, yes….Google can certainly be your friend….but it can also lead you down the wrong path.

Purpose of a Forum/Community

I’ve owned and managed many different forums and other online communities over the years.  Regardless of the type of platform the community is operated on, the main and primary purpose of any community should be to unite likeminded individuals and help foster growth within the community.  This includes helping those who desperately need help.

Final Thoughts

At some point in time everyone involved in the flight simulation community was new to the hobby.  Even if an individual is a real world pilot and understands the inner workings of a real world Cessna, Airbus or Boeing aircraft, they might not understand initially how all that knowledge corelates into the world of flight simulation.  So always be kind, be helpful and be respectful.

For those in the community seeking answers to questions, Yes…absolutely do your best to search the various forums, communities and Google can also help find a lot of information.  But when your searching doesn’t provide the fruit of your labor, then ask the question.  But perhaps as you ask your question, formulate the question in such a way that you have searched this, than and the other and still you are left with a question.

As I said at the top of this blog article, if you have questions please consider using the “Ask Me A Question” form.  If I know the answer, or if I can find the answer I’ll be perfectly happy to assist you.

Until next time….

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

MSFS Sim Update 15 Postponed Again

Yes ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, the highly anticipated SU15 or Sim Update 15 has yet again been delayed.  Microsoft announced just a few days ago that while SU15 had been delayed from the original date of March something or another to the end of April, they now believe they need another week or so to get it all polished up before it is ready for our PC’s.   While I’m just as excited and looking forward to SU15 as much as anyone else is, I certainly applaud Microsoft/Asobo on their actions.  The last thing we want is a half-baked update that will cause us more problems.

The Final Update

Unless something changes, SU15 will be the final update to Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 that we’ll see this year.  Yes, that’s right!  Once SU15 is released (and pending that meets everyone’s expectations), we won’t see another system update for MSFS2020 until sometime in 2025. I think the reason for this is perhaps two-fold.  First, we’ve known for some time now that Microsoft and Asobo believe they have developed MSFS2020 just about as far as it can be developed.  Second, of course MSFS2024 is just around the corner.  While Microsoft and Asobo will continue to support MSFS2020 for some period of time after the release of MSFS2024, their focus after SU15 will be focused mainly towards the new sim.  Of course at the present time we do not have a release date for MSFS2024.  Perhaps we’ll learn more during the FSExpo in June.  But until more is known…we’ll just focus on MSFS2020.

Worth The Wait

Yes, I do believe SU15 will be worth the wait.  As I previously stated, it is truly best that Microsoft and Asobo takes all the time they feel they need to get it right.  But if you’re like me and have somewhat forgotten all that we can expect from SU15, here’s a little mental refresher for us all.

Stability and Performance Improvements

Microsoft and Asobo believe the SU15 update will bring us better sim stability and overall better performance with memory utilization.  Hopefully these changes will reduce the amount of stuttering we sometimes experience on short-final.

Better Ground Handling

SU15 promises a bit better friction and rubber simulation with a more realistic feeling when the aircraft is on the ground.  We do know that the developers of the Fenix A320 are eagerly awaiting this update to further enhance the ground physics of the A320 and hopefully other 3rd party developers can take advantage of this in the very near future.

More Live AI Traffic

While this one is not that important to me as I either fly on the VATSIM network or I use the FSLTL traffic injection, but SU15 will include more live AI traffic at the default level.  Of course this will come with a possible cost with performance.  But hopefully the performance improvements already mentioned will counter this impact.

Better land/water masking

SU15 will do a better job with how the water and land meetup and hopefully all the blocky textures and color differences around where water meets land will be a thing of the past.

iniBuilds A320

Yes, for those who are eagerly awaiting the new iniBuilds A320neo, that should finally be available with the SU15 update.  While again this isn’t something I’m that bothered with as I do absolutely love the Fenix A320, for those on the XBox platform you should be getting a really good aircraft in your virtual hangar.  Especially considering those on the XBox platform do have have access to either the Fenix or the FBW versions.

Final Thoughts

I’m hopeful SU15 will deliver all these wonderful things and I’m looking forward to the future to see what MSFS 2024 will bring.  I know a lot of people are still confused as to why Microsoft is releasing another brand new simulator and not just further developing MSFS 2020.  I plan to write about all this in the very near future and share some of the things I’m looking to see in the new sim.  For now, let’s be thankful for what we have and hope SU15 makes things even better until the new sim is here.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Reader Question – Intermediate GA Aircraft Recommendations

As I’ve been doing more VFR GA flights in the last few weeks, I felt I would turn this latest reader question into a blog post for all to learn from.

Hello Jerry.  Another new reader of your awesome blog.  I’ve learned so much and truly appreciate the level of effort you put into your tutorials and your willingness to help so many with our questions.  I’m fairly new to Microsoft Flight Simulator.  Many years ago I enjoyed Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 and spent a few years in FSX then life got in the way.  I retired last year and bought myself a copy of MSFS and have been slowly getting back into the hobby. Anyway….
While I’m interested in simulating/flying all aircraft types, I’ve really been concentrating on flying the default general aviation aircraft in the sim.  But I think I’m ready to take things up a notch and would like to dip my toe into a little more complex GA type aircraft and was wondering if you had any recommendations for me?  Also, what are your opinions of Carenado? Thank you for your time and I look forward to your response.  Thomas

Well Thomas, I absolutely applaud your desire to take a step up in your GA or General Aviation fun.  The timing of your email couldn’t be any better as I have just taken a similar step in MSFS and made a purchase which I can highly recommend to you.  But before I do that, allow me to make a few points for other readers that might be nearing the conclusion as yourself.

For most who are new to any flight simulation platform (MSFS, P3D, X-Plane etc.) I always recommend spending time flying the default aircraft before spending any additional money on payware aircraft.  While I’ve enjoyed this hobby for well over 40 years, some people may quickly lose interest after a few months and go to something else.  When MSFS was released back in August of 2020, I even spent the first year only flying the default GA aircraft while I still spent the majority of my time in P3D.  But if one continues to keep an interest in flight simulation, it’s natural to want to take things to the next level and that is where payware aircraft comes into the picture.

For Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS 2020) the absolute best general aviation aircraft available at the time of this writing is going to be the A2A  Comanche with Accu-Sim.  While I don’t own this aircraft just yet, I have owned several A2A aircraft back in my P3D days including the Cessna C182 Skylane, Cherokee 180 and the Comanche 250.  All three were amazing aircraft.  So I have no doubt the new Comanche for MSFS is just as good.  For GA aircraft, A2A is what PMDG or Fenix is towards tubeliners.  These are highly detailed and somewhat complex aircraft to fly.

As you specifically asked about intermediate GA aircraft, I really think you can’t go wrong with the JustFlight Cherokee family of GA aircraft or more specifically the PA-28R Arrow III.  The reason I said the timing of your email couldn’t be any better, is just a few days ago I wrote a somewhat light review of my most recent GA aircraft purchase and that was the JustFlight PA-28R Bundle.  I’ve been flying these aircraft almost exclusively the past week and really love them.  While I still tend to spend 75% of my time flying tubeliners in the sim, I truly do love the “low and slow” element of flying with a single engine light aircraft.

From my experience over the past few days, the JustFlight PA-28R offers a lot more immersion than what you’ll find with the default GA aircraft or even something like a Carenado payware aircraft which you asked about.  In my opinion, while Carenado creates some truly stunning exterior models the flight dynamics are going to be fairly basic and comparable to any of the default aircraft.

But bottom line and please understand that I am saying this from my own opinions and not being paid or influenced by JustFlight in any way.  But I’ve really been impressed with what they have done with the Cherokee PA-28R family of aircraft.  I’ve owned a few other JustFlight aircraft dating back to FSX and P3D and was not as impressed as what I’ve seen in the PA-28R for MSFS.  It’s a truly fine general aviation aircraft and I’m truly pleased with my purchase and highly, highly recommend it to others.

If you have a question you would like my help with, please drop me a message.  You can easily do this by clicking Information at the top of the page and then click “Ask Me A Question“.  This will open up a form where you can submit your question to me.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

I was wrong, but we move on…

Well, the 2024 VATSIM Westbound Cross the Pond event is history.  By now all those VATSIM servers will have cooled down from the vast amount of traffic they were handling on Saturday during the event and of course PMDG didn’t release their Boeing 777-300ER just before hand.  While this is disappointing, I know from being a PMDG Customer for over 20 years that PMDG only releases when the aircraft is ready to be released.

Looking Forward

There are plenty of things to look forward to in the coming weeks and months.  Immediately on the horizon is the SU15 update from Microsoft.  While SU15 will bring us the new iniBuilds A320neo, what I’m most looking forward to are the expected performance enhancements we’ve been hearing about in SU15.  While SU15 has been delayed from the original target date of 26 March 2024, the new release date is expected to be on 30 April.

Fenix A319/A321

If you already own the awesome Fenix A320, then you also most likely know that the Fenix team have been hard at work to develop both the A319 and the A321 for MSFS.  As mentioned in this press release dated 14 April 2024, Fenix states that their A319 and A321 coming along swimmingly and should be entering beta testing very soon.  While I don’t want to speculate any possible release date…hopefully we could have these two new Airbus aircraft sometime later this summer.

BlueBird Simulations 757

This is a project I’ve mentioned a few times on my blog.  I’m really looking forward to having a quality 757 in MSFS.  While we don’t really have any new news on this aircraft or the release date, BlueBird Simulations have recently confirmed they will be at the FSExpo taking place on the weekend of 21 – 23 June and will be showcasing a preview of their new Boeing 757.  I’m hopeful we’ll see this release before the end of the year.

iniBuilds A350 and A380

The team at iniBuilds are hard at work creating not only awesome airport scenery, they are also working on two very much needed aircraft for MSFS.  While I believe they have every intention on these releasing this calendar year, I believe these would appear somewhat in the later part of 2024 if it happens, or sometime early 2025.  Time will tell….

PMDG 777-300ER

Once again…I was wrong with my anticipated release time for this aircraft.  Honestly, based on where we thought (or at least I had thought) this aircraft was back in early March…the timing just shouted it would be available in time for the VATSIM CTP.  Now I’m honestly scared to speculate.  Especially considering we haven’t heard from Robert Randazzo since the 6th of April.  OK…I’m game.  I’m going to predict we’ll have the PMDG 777-300ER before 1 June.  That’s over a month away.  But I could still be wrong.

Final Thoughts

As we all know, Microsoft and Asobo are hard at work with the development of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024.  While it should be safe to think we’ll have the PMDG 777-300ER and even perhaps other variants of the 777 and possibly even the PMDG 737Max before MSFS 2024 is released, I have a feeling the BlueBird Simulations 757 and the iniBuilds A350 and A380 won’t come out before MSFS 2024.

While MSFS 20204 will be a day one purchase for me, my expectations on when purchased add-ons for MSFS 2020 will be compatible with 2024 may not be a day one thing.  What I mean by this is while I’m very much looking forward to MSFS 2024, I am comfortable in knowing that it may take several weeks or perhaps even months before some of our favorite add-on aircraft and scenery will be made available for the new sim.  But then again, we really don’t know exactly when MSFS 2024 is expected to be available.  Hopefully we’ll all learn more about this after the FSExpo taking place 21-23 June.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

ActiveSky for MSFS

Well blow me down…a few days ago HiFi Simulation Technologies have announced, and somewhat out of the blue I must add, that ActiveSky FS is coming for Microsoft Flight Simulator.  Actually by the time I got around to writing this it is already out.  ActiveSky FS is officially available for MSFS as of 18 April and many of the Twitch and YouTube content creators have already begun showcasing the new weather engine.  Before I provide my opinion, let me say the following.

In the olden days…

Back in my FSX and P3D days, ActiveSky was an absolute must have in the sim.  It was truly a game changing 3rd party product.  When MSFS first came out and because Asobo/Microsoft didn’t open up the API for 3rd party weather systems, HiFi Simulations made the announcement that at that time there would be no way for them to bring live weather into the sim.  I discussed this in greater detail in this blog post titled “Confused in Cleveland – Weather Addon for MSFS“.  According to what I’ve heard, Microsoft has made no changes to the sim as we know it to allow any 3rd party weather systems to function.  So essentially ActiveSky FS must have found a way for it to finally work.  But it appears all ActiveSky FS is doing is reading the METAR and using default MSFS clouds and other weather elements to depict what is going on around you.

After the initial release of Microsoft Flight Simulator almost four years ago, the built-in weather engine wasn’t very solid.  But over the years and especially the last 2+ years that I’ve been using MSFS exclusively, there have been vast improvements made to the weather engine and I personally have been very pleased with what I experience in the sim.  I’ve actually been so pleased with it that I really haven’t felt a need to think about any sort of 3rd party weather add-on.  Which is why the announcement from HiFi Simulation Technologies comes as such a surprise to myself and many others.

My Impressions

First, let me state up front that I do not own ActiveSky FS for MSFS.  Some could argue and question why I would even write a blog post about something that I don’t have any first hand experience with.  While this could be a good argument, I’m stubborn and this is my blog site and I can write about what I want to write about and you can read what you want to read.  LOL  I have plenty of loyal readers of this blog site that look to me for honest reviews and opinions and while I haven’t purchased and used ActiveSky FS, the information I do have is certainly worthy to share.

Like I said, I have viewed several hours of content from both YouTube and Twitch in the past 24 hours and have come to the conclusion that in the grand scheme of things, at this immediate point in time  there is no discernable difference between what I saw with my own eyes when showing MSFS with built in weather active versus with using ActiveSky FS.  If anything….one of the content creators who I watch often, discovered a couple of bugs in ActiveSky FS which are worthy enough to take  a more wait and see approach to this add-on.

I do believe in time, ActiveSky FS would be something I would purchase if and when 3rd party developers such as PMDG, Fenix etc. are able to connect into the ActiveSky FS API for possible weather radar depiction functions which obviously still are missing in MSFS.  However, I just can’t see a reason to spend my money on something that at this time doesn’t offer anything better than the default MSFS weather.  Of course, one other big advantage of ActiveSky FS at this time is the historical weather options which have been sadly missed in the default system.  But this isn’t something I use very often and honestly haven’t missed it that much over these past few years.

The other slightly disappointing fact in my observations with regards to the new ActiveSky FS is their UI or User Interface.  It’s basically the same UI from years ago.  Of course one could say if that works, why change it?  If felt clunky way back in the days of FSX/P3D and still looks the same way today.  Perhaps this is something they’ll change in time.  But who knows.

Like I said, I’ll keep an eye on ActiveSky FS and hopefully in time the product will offer a lot more than what is available in the default MSFS weather systems.  While ActiveSky FS is reasonably priced at $24.99, it’s just not something I’m ready to commit to at this time.  But I would encourage anyone reading this to do their own research.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Reader Question – Bredok3D A380

I realize this is the third “Reader Question” post I’ve made in recent weeks.  Yes, that’s true!  I’ve obviously been holding out waiting for the release of the PMDG 777-300ER as that will be a day-one purchase for me and within a few days I’m sure I would write about it.  So until that happens, and I’m still holding out we’ll have it before CTP on 20 April, (but that is looking less likely) here is another email question/comment from one of our blog readers.

Hello, I’m new to your blog site and have already discovered a wealth of information that has helped me tremendously in my flight sim hobby.  I’m considering purchasing the Bredok3D A380 from the MSFS in-game MarketPlace.  Do you have any experience with this aircraft?  I’ve read that FlyByWire is developing an A380, but as the A380 is my favorite aircraft I’m wondering if the newly released Bredok3D version is worth the money.  I have experience with the Fenix A320 and PMDG 737, is the Bedok3D A380 similar in quality?  Can you help?

Well….to answer your question, No….I do not have any experience with the Bredok3D A380 and I don’t plan to purchase it.  In my opinion it is a waste of money.  To take this one step further, I doubt I would even install this aircraft into my system if it were free or if I were given a copy of it.  I just dislike these Frankenstein type of aircraft that mostly utilize the default aircraft systems (in this case the default A320).  There are just too many developers that have taken this course with releasing add-on aircraft that may look from the outside to be what is advertised, only to find out they utilize the default aircraft.  Another example of this is CaptainSim’s Boeing 777 that when released used the default Boeing 747 systems.

I suppose you could consider me a bit of an add-on aircraft snob.  I don’t mind spending my hard earned money towards something like the Fenix A320 or the PMDG 737 (or hopefully soon to be released B777-300ER), but I’m just not going to waste my money on this trash.  It’s just not worth it in my opinion, especially considering that a freeware version of the A380 will release soon from a reputable developer (FlyByWire) who has a proven track record with their A32NX.

While I can appreciate that the A380 is your favorite aircraft, likewise the Boeing 777 is mine.  I’ve never been tempted to purchase anything other than the PMDG version once it releases and it’s been a really, really long wait as I completely uninstalled P3D about 2 years ago once the Fenix A320 and PMDG 737 released.  So it’s been more than two years since I’ve flown a 777 in the sim.  But the wait will certainly be worth it.

Bottom line and my complete open and honest opinion for you.  WAIT!!!!  Don’t spend your money on the Bredok3D A380 as in the long run I think feel you’ll be disappointed.  Especially when you state that you have experience with the Fenix A320 and PMDG 737.  Trust me, even without flying the Bredok3D A380, I can tell you the level of detail, level of quality and level of immersion in the Bredok3D A380 will be absolutely NOTHING like the Fenix or PMDG and I’m more than certain that the FBW team will blow everyone out of the water with their A380 once released.

If you’re just craving some larger, long-haul type aircraft until the FBW A380 releases, then have a look at the Horizon Simulations Boeing 787-9 or the Kuro Boeing 787-8.  Both of these are fine freeware representations of the Boeing Dreamliner.

There are far too many other quality aircraft which you can fly until the FBW A380 releases.  Have you tried the Horizon Simulations Boeing 787-9 or the Kuro Boeing 787-8?  Likewise, the Headwindsims Airbus A330-900Neo is likewise a fairly descent aircraft which I also have in my virtual hangar.

Scammers/Scamware

Final thoughts on this subject.  Some in the community refer to Bredok3D, CaptainSim etc. as scammers and call their products scamware.  While I’ll stop just short of calling them scammers and development of scamware, I will just say that buyers must beware of what they are getting from these types of developers and this is part of the problem.  Since the release of MSFS 2020, a very large number of newcomers have entered the hobby.  This is a very good thing for the hobby, but these individuals haven’t been around to witness the behavior of developers like this in the past and don’t understand the questions to ask.  They just see a shiny, new Airbus A380 and think that will be a quality aircraft.  Unfortunately, developers like Bredok3D, CaptainSim and many others like them are not going to stop doing what they are doing until such a time that their Frankenstein projects no longer sell.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

JustFlight PA-28R Arrow III

I guess I’m truly bored with waiting for PMDG to release their Boeing 777-300ER. Since I last published my “T-Minus 8 Days and Counting” post, the days are rapidly passing by and I fear my gutsy prediction that we would have the 77W before the VATSIM CTP event on 20 April is going to be a bust.  While I could still be right, I just fear with no progress update over this past weekend from PMDG that the chances are rapidly evaporating before our very eyes. But hey, it can’t be too far away.  So hopefully we’ll have it before the end of May????

In recent weeks I’ve flown the heck out of the PMDG 737, Fenix A320 and both the Horizon B789 and Kuro B788 and have just wanted to do something a little bit different in the sim.  To be perfectly honest, in the past year or so the vast majority of flying that I’ve done in the sim (and I would estimate this to be hundreds of hours) has been flying tubeliners.  By tubeliner I mean the likes of the PMDG 737, Fenix A320 etc.  As some may know I fly for an American Airlines virtual airline and also currently serve as the Dallas/Ft. Worth Hub Manager.  The VA keeps me busy and this year we’re doing another contest to see which hub can score the most points to be crowned HubOps Champion.  Under my watch, the DFW hub has won this title in 2021 and last year in 2023.  We’re looking good to also reclaim the title this year.  But as we have a substantial lead in points, I have a few days to do a few other things in the sim and I’ve chosen to dust off my VFR flying skills.

Other than all the default GA style aircraft that comes with MSFS 2020, the only payware model I had was the Carenado Mooney.  It’s a super easy aircraft to fly and I’ve spent a few hundred hours just cruising around the sim world.  Which by the way, I used the Carenado Mooney Bravo for an around the world adventure back in the days of P3D and I need to complete my journey in MSFS when time permits.  But I digress….

I’ve read some really good reviews on the JustFlight PA-28R Arrow III and decided to make the purchase.  I purchased the bundled deal where I got three different versions of the PA-28 including the Arrow III, Turbo Arrow III/IV.  Just as you might expect from JustFlight, these are really superb models.

Anyway, like I said…I’ve been wanting to brush up my VFR flying and decided to spend a few days doing just that.  For my inaugural flight in the PA-28R Arrow III I decided to head over to England where I started out at Southampton EGHI.  I plotted a course from Southampton flying north towards the Compton VOR.  From there I headed east towards High Wycombe and the Wycombe Air Park/Booker Airport EGTB.  If you are interested, I wrote a review of the Wycombe Air Park back in 2020 which you can read here.


Route plotted in SkyVector (EGHI CPT EGTB)


Southampton, England EGHI (MSFS default scenery)

I really couldn’t be more happy with the purchase of the JustFlight PA-28R.  While I do love the Carenado Mooney, I think this Cherokee is going to become my new GA favorite.  After a few minutes I quickly familiarized myself with the controls and had her purring in no time.  After a quick check of the weather, I taxied to runway 20 and within seconds I was airborne and making my way towards the Compton VOR.

When I fly VFR, low and slow type flights I do enjoy flying in the UK.  I have a real special affinity to the Wycombe Air Park as before my wife moved to the US, she lived in High Wycombe and just a few miles from the airport.  When I would visit we would often go and watch the planes on the weekends.


Before landing at the Wycombe Air Park (EGTB), I take a brief scenic flight down towards Stokenchurch.  


Parked up at the Wycombe Air Park.

Well, as previously stated the new Piper Cherokee has truly been a joy to fly and I’m proud to own this add-on in my virtual hangar.  You too can own the Piper PA-28R Arrow III or the Piper PA-28R Turbo Arrow III/IV or get the entire bundle which includes all three aircraft for a discounted price.

Until next time….

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

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