Default/Freeware Aircraft in P3D v4
Before I get going with this article, let me just clarify who the target audience is for this default/freeware aircraft in P3D v4 article. I’m NOT writing this article for the seasoned, hard-core flight sim enthusiast who most likely will read the title of this piece and even without reading the article immediately pass judgement on the author and/or on others who may actually benefit from the information it contains. I’m writing this piece for those who don’t buy into the hype that only sophisticated, complex, study-level, payware aircraft is the end all, be all in our hobby. Not every individual who is new to our wonderful hobby can immediately afford to drop money for whatever sim platform they have chosen, then turn around and drop even more money on payware aircraft.
Once upon a time…
Once upon a time all we had available to us were default aircraft. I spent dozens, hundreds of hours back in the early 1980’s flying around Meig’s Field on my Commodore 64 in a Cessna. It’s all we had and we made do. I vaguely remember at some point subLOGIC released additional scenery disks which included more airports and larger regions to explore. As I moved from the C-64 to a PC in the early 90’s things began to change. But change really didn’t start happening until the dawn of the internet age and around the time of Flight Simulator 95 (1996), Flight Simulator 98 (1997) and then Flight Simulator 2000 (late 1999).
Actually, I believe it was the release of Flight Simulator 2000 which we owe the biggest amount of gratitude for as it was this particular release which brought about the largest amount of improvements and helped to launch the online network SATCO, which eventually became VATSIM in 2001. It was also FS2000 which brought us the Concorde and the Boeing 777 as default aircraft.
Freeware is Cool
Freeware began making the flight sim scene through early websites created by Avsim and Flightsim.com. Even online networks like CompuServe offered the ability to upload/download and share various freeware add-ons. My earliest memories of good, quality freeware aircraft was from a group called Project OpenSky or POSKY for short. I believe of all things (not including Microsoft Flight Simulator) that could be singled out as the #1 draw of bringing more enthusiasts into the flight sim community, it would be POSKY. POSKY had the very best freeware models available anywhere. You wanted to fly a Boeing 727, 737, 747, 757 etc. POSKY had it and the community supported them. Some of my fondest and earliest memories of flying on the VATSIM network in the early days were flying POSKY aircraft.
Birth of Payware
I honestly can’t remember when I first began to see payware aircraft hitting the market. I can tell you the first payware aircraft I ever purchased was the Level-D 767 and I absolutely loved it. I would take a wild guess and say it was around 2002/03 timeframe. Next was the iFly 737 NGX as it was released before PMDG released their NGX and honestly the rest were purchased as they became available.
Payware kill the freeware star?
Just a little play on words there and another musical reference. The more you read my articles the more you’ll see small references to my favorite decade of music. But in all seriousness, there was a period of time where both the freeware and payware markets were healthy, vibrant and lived together in harmony. But at some stage the unfortunate thing began to happen. As payware aircraft began to gain in popularity, the decline of good, quality freeware (and those who were developing it) also began the slow decline. Today, it’s difficult to find descent looking and performing freeware aircraft for Prepar3D (especially v4). But I’ll share a website with you shortly that may be changing all this.
The Advancement of Default Aircraft
If you look back at the different versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator, each new release offered something new. The earlier versions all focused around single engine aircraft. Today I view this as all part of my overall sim-based learning as one must crawl before we can walk. I think it was sometime in the very early 90’s before the 747 appeared as a default aircraft in MSFS. One thing I remember about the MSFS default aircraft is they always performed really well. Some of the POSKY aircraft I mentioned earlier was more or less based on the default aircraft and performed equally as well.
But if you’re a fan of the tubeliner, and you’ve just purchased Prepar3D…you’ll be disappointed as you won’t find a Boeing 737, 747, 757 etc. in the fleet of default aircraft. But of course, there’s an important reason for this…as P3D isn’t licensed for entertainment purposes even though I firmly believe the majority of licensed users fall directly into that category. But let’s not go down that rat hole.
Freeware Still Lives Here
As I mentioned at the top of this article, not everyone can afford to shell out the cost of the new sim (P3D v4), then rush out to purchase their favorite Boeing or Airbus airliner. While I’m of the opinion that most payware (even study level category) is far superior in performance and provide a higher level of immersion and overall enjoyment than freeware, I must admit that I’m impressed with the selection of freeware aircraft available from Rikoooo.com. I’m not really sure how long this site has been operational, but I see more and more folks posting screenshots on Facebook from some of the freeware aircraft options available. There’s even a pretty descent Airbus A380 which I’ve installed and spent a little time playing around with.
No Time for Study
As I was writing this article, I saw a Facebook comment posted in one of the flight sim groups I follow. The individual posting mentioned the fact that he really didn’t have time to study, the study level aircraft. He didn’t want to spend the necessary time to flip switches, program a complex FMS. He wanted to basically fly and that’s how he defined his level of enjoyment. I take my hat off to this individual for recognizing what he wants from his time in the sim. But if did get me thinking and I’ll share my thoughts next week. I also plan to document/create a short series of tutorials breaking down how I learn and fly the more complex, study level, payware aircraft. After all, if I can do this….anyone can do this.
I’ve already started drafting the frame work for next weeks article. I think the title will be something like “The Joy of Study Level Aircraft” (or something like that). It’s shaping up to kick start a short series of tutorial articles on the processes I go through when flying these types of aircraft. Yes, you’ll need to devote a bit more time….as one does need to do a little switch flipping and FMS programming, but I believe the satisfaction is much greater in the long run and I’ll explain why I believe this as well. But between now and then, let me leave you with something most of my YouTube viewers will have heard me say more than once in my videos.
There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy a simulation based game. Only each individual (YOU) can determine what they want from the time they spend playing. If a default or freeware aircraft model does that…then you’ve checked all the boxes and don’t let anyone tell you different.
Until next time…
Enjoy Flight on YOUR TERMS!