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….
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
2022 Survey Results
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…
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.
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!!!
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….
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…
I have another reader question to explore today with everyone. It’s a rather interesting one and honestly it’s one of my very own pet peeves about Microsoft Flight Simulator. Here’s a snippit of the email I received a few days ago.
Hello, I recently stumbled onto your blog site and found your content to be extremely helpful as I slowly wade into the world of flight simulation. I read your recent “Reader Question – Where are the Widebodies” posting and it inspired me to email you with my very own question to see if you can shed any light. Like many I’m sure, I don’t have a lot of time to devote to flight sim. I have a young family and once I’m home from work, have dinner and help get the kids all in bed, I generally enjoy taking a short flight a few times a week. I have even less time on the weekends as the kids all seem to have different activities and sometimes at opposite ends of town. Anyway, I was hoping to spend a quiet Friday evening flying my favorite PMDG 737, but instead the entire time was spent downloading updates. By the time MSFS finished updating, it was time for bed as I had an early start the next day. So my main question is why are these updates forced on us and is there any way to disable them? My sim has been working just fine and I would have rather waited until a more convenient time to apply the updates, if that is even possible. Thank you for your time. George
Oh boy! I for one certainly understand George’s frustration. While I’m retired and don’t have kids that need to be shuttled around from one extra curricular activity to another….when I decide to sit down and fly….I want to fly! Over the past four decades that I’ve enjoyed the hobby of flight simulation starting on the Commodore 64 all the way through each generation of Microsoft Flight Simulator and throughout each of the versions of Prepar3D….MSFS is the very first which has had this auto-update mechanism built in that upon launch and regardless whether you want to update or not, you are forced to download/install the updates.
During the Prepar3D (P3D) years, I would make it a matter of practice to always wait several days, perhaps even several weeks before downloading and installing an update. Generally speaking, it could take several days, perhaps even a week or two before 3rd party developers could provide patches to their products to make them compatible with the most recent P3D update. In addition, by deferring an update also allowed time to research the various forums to determine if the update caused any game breaking issues which could require a hot-fix to resolve.
Having said all that, Microsoft Flight Simulator is a completely different sim from all those in the past. Part of what makes MSFS the gold standard (in my opinion) is the fact it’s cloud based. All the beauty and majesty we experience while flying around the virtual world is streamed down to our PC’s on an “On-Demand” basis. The cloud based design allows for a much smaller footprint on our SSD’s or HDD’s and only needs to download the data specific to the location we’re flying. As a result it’s necessary for all client machines connecting to the MSFS systems to all be running the same version of the base software. Thus why we have the mandatory updates.
I have read some comments on various forums and other social media platforms that suggest one can avoid the mandatory update process by disconnecting your network connection, start up MSFS and then reconnect once in the main menu. While I’ve not tested this process, I believe avoiding updates is not the best practice in the long run and may lead to issues especially if you connect to the MSFS multi-player environment.
Of course this cloud-based setup can lead to issues which we experienced a few months ago where many users experienced unexplained performance and CTD (crash to desktop) issues over several long days. I wrote about my own experiences in a blog posting titled “And Just Like That” where I discussed the issues I had experienced and my belief at what caused these issues.
If I’m honest, I do have some long-range concerns regarding what may or may not happen as MSFS ages beyond the next several years. There is a rather surprising number of simmers who still fly FS9 and FSX on a daily basis even though these platforms are almost two decades old. While both Microsoft and Asobo appear to be fully committed to the success of MSFS 2020. But depending on their long-range plans, it might not be possible to use MSFS in the year 2040 if something else has taken its place or God forbid the program is completed shelved. Let’s face it, it costs a lot of money to operate the data centers and cloud solutions which allow us to fly around the virtual skies. The powers that be at Microsoft will need to see a solid return on this investment over the years to come. But hey, this is probably a discussion to have at a later day in time.
Bottom line (and in closing), as I’ve stated many times before, I believe Microsoft Flight Simulator is the gold standard of all flight simulator platforms available today and I also believe, will be so for some time to come. Despite the pain points we occasionally have to suffer through, when it works (and for me it works flawlessly 99.999% of the time) it brings me more enjoyment than I’ve ever experienced in my long history with flight sim.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog posts. Until next time….
The highly anticipated, much desired (especially by me) Texas DLC for American Truck Simulator is finally available. As many of my long-time readers will know, for many years the only simulation base gaming I did was flight sim. Sometime around 2015 I branched over to Farming Simulator and my first experience with a trucking simulator was ETS2 sometime in late 2015. So when I heard the news that SCS Software would be releasing American Truck Simulator I was extremely excited.
ATS debuted in February 2016 and it was an immediate purchase for me. I enjoyed the experiences of driving a semi-truck up and down California, Nevada and eventually Arizona when that free DLC released in June 2016. The ATS map began to grow as new states were released as DLC with New Mexico (Nov 2017), Oregon (Oct 2018, Washington (June 2019), Utah (Nov 2019), Idaho (July 2020), Colorado (Nov 2020), Wyoming (Sept 2021), Montana (Aug 2022) and of course finally Texas released on 15 November 2022.
Photo credit: SCS Software
As you can see from the DLC release dates I mentioned in the second paragraph, the Texas DLC has been a long time coming. While I had experienced driving in Texas with ATS with the Coast-to-Coast map mod, I had really been looking forward to the Texas DLC as Texas is my birth state and where I lived for about half my life. I still have family and many friends living in Texas and I knew SCS Software would do a great job with the map DLC. They certainly didn’t disappoint.
It had been a few months since I had spent time playing ATS, but my truck was in Denver and I decided I would accept a job from Denver to Austin. My wife and I had previously driven this route about a month ago to go and see my dad, so I was looking forward to experiencing it in ATS. Of course the first several hundred miles were in Colorado and New Mexico which I had explored many times before. But once I reached the Texas state line just before Dalhart it all became a very pleasing experience.
Once reaching Texas, my route took me through Dumas to Amarillo, then southeast to Ft Worth on US 287 where I picked up I-35W then on to Austin passing first through Waco. The only slight disappointment was just how quickly the Austin skyline comes into view. Now I lived many years in the Central Texas area and I have family still living just north of Austin. As I rolled south out of Waco you quickly come to the interchange of I-14/190. This interchange is actually in a town called Belton. Belton is situated just south of Temple. Neither Temple or Belton are recognized by ATS, but as soon as you pass the junction of I-35 and I-14, the skyline of Austin immediately comes into view and in the real world, this distance is about 50 miles. But of course, I do understand the way ATS is scaled down and with that said it’s all OK.
All-in-all, I’m very pleased with the Texas DLC and since release I’ve been spending much of my time exploring the Lone Star State in all her glory. Texas is large enough that you can do some great runs up, down or across the state.
So what’s next for American Truck Simulator? As we know, SCS will be moving north from Texas with Oklahoma being the next planned DLC release. I’m sure we’ll then see Kansas, followed by Nebraska as we make our way further north into the Dakotas. These next few states will all tie in nicely with the existing states to the west and provide some excellent driving opportunities. As compared with the development time a large state like Texas required, we should see OK and KS coming much quicker. But let’s face it, at the pace SCS is releasing state DLC’s, we’re still a VERY long time away from seeing the entire lower 48 in the map. But of course if you want more, then for now check out the Coast-to-Coast mod.
Well it’s time to pick up another load and make my way down towards Houston. I certainly hope you’re enjoying the Texas DLC for American Truck Simulator as much as I am.
Until next time…
Hello to all my loyal readers. I recently received an email from one of my long-time blog subscribers that I wanted to answer and share with the rest of you. I figure many of you might be wondering the same thing as well…so let’s get started.
I hope you and your family are doing well. You might remember me from many years ago. I’ve been a subscriber of your blog site from the very beginning and you helped me with some issues I had been experiencing with FSX and the PMDG 737 about 10 years ago. Like you, I recently made the transition to Microsoft Flight Simulator and have been having so much fun in the PMDG 737-800 and the Fenix A320. I’m amazed at just how far flight sim has come over the past decade. I’m curious if you have any insight into when we might see our first study level widebody long-haul aircraft? By the way, thank you so much for the article you published back in September about using caution when purchasing add-on aircraft for MSFS. I had been tempted to purchase the Captain Sim 777, but I vaguely remember you writing an article about that plane many years ago in FSX. Anyway, I hope all is well and I look forward to hearing from you soon. Randy
Before I get into answering Randy’s question about “Where are the widebodies” allow me to just briefly explain exactly what a wide-body aircraft is in relation to Microsoft Flight Simulator. By definition, a wide-body aircraft is any aircraft which is wide enough to accommodate two passenger aisles with seven or more seats abreast. Popular wide-body aircraft are the Boeing 747, 767, 777, 787 or the Airbus A310, A330, A350, A380. The typical wide-body aircraft I just referenced are also sometimes referred to as long-haul aircraft due to their range. In comparison, a narrow-body aircraft (like the Boeing 737, 757 or Airbus A320 series) has a single passenger aisle. Of course, in modern day aviation we’re seeing many narrow-body aircraft replacing their wide-body counterparts on transatlantic routes. But I digress….
Now in some respects, I personally have only started missing the wide-body aircraft I knew and loved in P3D and were lacking in MSFS when SU10 released in late September. The reason I say this is before SU10, MSFS would typically crash on most users after 3-4 hours of flight due to a memory leak that has existed in the sim for some time. But with this issue now resolved, I’m truly looking forward to the availability of my favorite wide-body, long-haul aircraft so I can stretch my wings and do some transatlantic flights in MSFS. I’m currently tracking the progress on several planned wide-body aircraft which I want to share what information I’ve learned with all of you. Let’s get started!
iniBuilds Airbus A310-300
Depending on when I actually finish this article and publish it, the first wide-body aircraft I want to discuss is the Airbus A310-300 which will be part of the Microsoft Flight Simulator 40th Anniversary Update (Sim Update 11) which is scheduled to be released on 11 November. SU11 will include the much anticipated Airbus A310-300 which was developed in partnership with Microsoft/Asobo by iniBuilds. The iniBuilds A310-300 will be the first complex, immersive wide-body aircraft for the MSFS platform and will (at least temporarily) fill the void in the wide-body category.
Other Future Wide-body Releases
Unfortunately, all we really know about possible future wide-body aircraft releases for MSFS are simply the what and by who. In other words, we have a general idea on what the aircraft type will be and who is developing it. But as for as expected release timeframe….well that’s anybody’s guess at this point in time. So let’s break this down by developer and I’ll share with you what I know about each.
Out of all the wide-body, long-haul aircraft that we know about currently being developed for Microsoft Flight Simulator, the PMDG 777 and 747 are perhaps the most anticipated (especially the 777). PMDG long ago announced the release order for their MSFS products which included the 737-700, 737-600, 737-800 and finally the 737-900. As we all know, only the –700, –600 and –800 have been released at the time of this writing. The –900 is long overdue but we certainly know that PMDG is burning the midnight oil to get it out to us as soon as possible. We’ve also been told that once the complete 737 series has been made available (including the EFB) the next aircraft we will see from PMDG will be the Boeing 777, followed by the Boeing 747 and then finally the Boeing 737 MAX.
While I’m sure the PMDG team can multi-task and have some individuals working on the 777 alongside the 737-900, but if I were a betting man, I would wager we won’t see the PMDG Boeing 777 until late Q3 or Q4 of 2023 at the earliest. Of course, we could all be surprised and see it appear earlier….but PMDG is a developer that prides itself on only releasing their products only when they are 100% ready and as bug free as humanly possible. So with all that said, I seriously don’t believe we’ll see the PMDG Queen of the Skies (747) until sometime in 2024.
If you are relatively new to flight simulation you may not have heard of TFDi. They are a small developer who are behind such add-ons as PACX and if you fly for a virtual airline you may also use their Smartcars flight tracker to log your VA PIREPs. A few years ago, TFDi released their Boeing 717 for FSX and P3D and we’ve known for some time they have been working on an MD-11. Their MD-11 for MSFS has been getting a bit of attention in the past few weeks and the expected release timeframe could be as early as the end of September 2023.
The team at Aerosoft have been working on their Airbus A330-300 for quite some time and judging from the information I’ve seen on their forums and other social media outlets, we could actually see the Aerosoft A330-300 in Q2 or Q3 of 2023.
When it comes to the Airbus A380 we’ve heard of several teams attempting to develop the aircraft for P3D. Each of these efforts have sadly evaporated into thin air. However, the team that is behind the highly successful FBW A320 in MSFS are developing an open source Airbus A380 for MSFS. While there is no release date currently available for this highly anticipated aircraft, the team are steadily making progress. You can learn more about the FBW A380 from the FlyByWire Facebook page. Based on what I’ve seen I believe it might be safe to say we could see this beast of an aircraft come to MSFS sometime in 2023.
Unfortunately, all we know about the QualityWings 787 Dreamliner is the team has plans to eventually bring it to MSFS. While I understand why developers don’t want to provide key details behind expected release dates, QualityWings has (in my opinion) dropped the ball and gone completely silent the past several months. But this is really nothing new from QualityWings. They’ve gone dark before for months and then out of the blue will surprise us with some news and images. Could we see the QW Dreamliner sometime in 2023? I hope so, but I’m also not going to get my hopes up based on the fact that we haven’t had an update on any progress in a very, very long time.
While this last aircraft isn’t a wide-body, this aircraft is absolutely one of my favorites behind the Boeing 737 and 777. The team at Bluebird Simulations is developing a Boeing 757 (in conjunction with Justflight). There will be two variations of the 757. One will be a simplified version and the second will be a more complex version. The plan is to release a passenger variant in both the 757-200 and 757-300 versions. A cargo variant is planned but will be released as an expansion add-on. I believe the expected release timeframe is Q2 or Q3 in 2023.
As we are quickly approaching the end of what I have said has been an incredible year for Microsoft Flight Simulator, I truly believe 2023 will far surpass what we’ve experienced this year as far as add-on aircraft is concerned. The sim itself is stable and it’s exciting to see the level of commitment from not only Microsoft/Asobo….but also from all the 3rd party developers who are working extremely hard to bring us all the extra bells and whistles we desire in a flight simulator. For someone like myself who has been involved in the hobby of flight simulation for almost four decades, this is truly a great time to be alive and be involved in this wonderful hobby.
Thank you all for taking the time to read. If I hear updated news on any of the aircraft I mentioned above, I’ll certainly share that information right here on my blog site.
Until next time…
There are many reasons why the user community of Microsoft Flight Simulator or just about any major gaming title (simulation or otherwise) should participate in the various beta or early adopter updates released from time to time. While in a perfect world, the developer behind any gaming title should have the resources to perform system testing to rule out major issues, the hard truth is most do not and there’s almost no way for any developer to test all the possible scenarios including hardware configurations and 3rd party add-ons/mods which all can and mostly likely will have an impact in the finished product. In actuality, the developer (in this case Microsoft/Asobo) will perform their very best due diligence to ensure the update performs on a few different hardware configurations and generally leaves it up to 3rd party developers and mod creators to “shoe horn” their add-ons around what they’ve been provided. So our participation in these beta programs (especially when feedback is sent back to the developer) is instrumental in the overall wellbeing of the gaming title.
Generally speaking, most 3rd party developers will participate in the beta programs for obvious reasons. But they do not receive the beta version in advance of the general public. In other words, 3rd party developers like PMDG and Fenix only have access to the beta when it’s been made available to all of us. The 3rd party devs will utilize the time between when the beta is released and it becomes GA (General Availability) to work out any issues with their add-on. Of course in many situations this all becomes a fast moving target as there may be many iterations of the beta. The time a 3rd party developer spends adjusting their add-on to function correctly with the beta could become a complete waste of time as changes are made and pushed out during the beta cycle. In other words, in some cases the only way of truly knowing if a 3rd party add-on is going to work is to wait until the beta has become GA and been released to the entire community.
Over the years, I’ve participated in many beta programs for all sorts of gaming titles. Some have been positive, wonderful experiences of being able to gain access to new functionality or performance enhancements before everyone else. But in a few cases these beta experiences have become an absolute nightmare. In many cases the only way to escape the beta is to complete reinstall the current live version. As you can probably imagine this can be an extremely time consuming process.
A few weeks ago, Microsoft/Asobo began their open beta for the upcoming SU11 update and the word on the street is the experience hasn’t been an easy one. Especially with some 3rd party aircraft and live weather. Some 3rd party developers will do their best to provide solutions or workarounds for their products for the beta cycle, but most simply can’t and won’t guarantee functionality on a beta installation. On the bright side, with regards to the SU11 beta, some users have reported experiencing a significant performance improvement from SU10.
If you’re wondering if participating in the MSFS beta program is right for you, I would say it depends. If you mainly fly default aircraft or if you still fly P3D/XPlane then participating in the SU11 beta (or any future beta release) is probably OK for you. However, if MSFS is your sole flight sim platform and you’re an every day flyer of add-on aircraft like the Fenix A320 or the PMDG 737, then I would highly suggest you hold off. Bottom line, if you want full system compatibility between MSFS and 3rd party aircraft, then stay on the current live MSFS build. Otherwise you may be in for a surprise when you attempt to fly your favorite 3rd party aircraft in the beta build.
As always, thanks for reading.
Unlike other simulation based genres such as agricultural sims, trucking sims (just to name two) these have very little choice and are ruled by two different developers with GIANTS controlling the ag sim with Farming Simulator and SCS ruling the trucking space with American and Euro Truck Simulator. This lack of competition, while good for the developers is of course bad for us consumers. But the same can’t be said for the choices available in the flight simulation space.
In recent weeks, Laminar Research released X-Plane 12 in early access. Of course Microsoft Flight Simulator surprised everyone in 2019 and released MSFS 2020 during the summer of 2020 and Lockheed Martin of course has their Prepar3D version 5 (unclear if there will be a v6), so the flight simulation community has choices when it comes to selecting a platform to build around. But which is best and which platform is the right one for you?
In the year 2022, it’s really difficult to specifically state which flight simulation platform is the absolute best. It’s much like Coke versus Pepsi. Each have their loyal, dedicated fan base and each produce a quality product. But of course we all know that Coke is the best and certainly the one I prefer.
For many of us who have been in the hobby of flight simulation for many, many years we grew up with the various offerings from Microsoft. When Microsoft abandoned their popular Flight Simulator way back in 2009, the only two choices were either to make the move to Prepar3D or move to X-Plane. For me, and I’m sure many like me who had made a sizeable investment in FSX add-ons, the clear choice was to go the way of P3D as most add-ons for FSX would work. Developers made their products available for P3D as quickly as they could and some didn’t charge for the update. Of course others made the jump to X-Plane and never looked back.
Certainly before Microsoft re-entered the scene with Flight Simulator 2020, both Prepar3D and X-Plane were very similar in what each offered and many 3rd party developers were supporting both platforms. But this has certainly changed in recent years and from what I’m seeing the vast majority of 3rd party developers have completely shifted their focus to MSFS and have slowly decreased their development efforts away from P3D and in some cases X-Plane as well.
Now it must certainly be said that prior to MSFS, X-Plane had a much more active community driven focus towards the freeware development of add-ons than the P3D community. With P3D everything pretty much shifted to payware as the only option for enhancing the simulator. Of course in the past two years since MSFS has been around the community focus has returned and we’ve seen some really awesome add-ons released for the new platform as freeware with lots more to come.
With all that said, what advice can I give to those trying to choose a flight simulation platform? In all honesty, I believe of the three platforms I’ve mentioned (MSFS, P3D and X-Plane) really it boils down to just two choices with the first being Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 and X-Plane. But allow me to explain why I’ve removed Prepar3D from the list.
Prepar3D has never been intended to be used in the home/personal entertainment category. From the very beginning, Lockheed Martin was unable to market/distribute the P3D flight simulation platform for anything other than commercial and flight training purposes. While this never stopped anyone from purchasing the sim (I’m proof of that), the very simple fact is P3D has always been intended as a training sim. Regardless if Lockheed Martin introduce a version 6 of the sim, I don’t feel P3D will ever be enhanced to the point of what we’re seeing with Microsoft Flight Simulator and since the debut of MSFS along with the quality of add-on, study level aircraft from Fenix and PMDG (more will come) Lockheed Martin is losing a lot of their customer base which used P3D as an off-ramp when FSX was no longer a viable option. As already mentioned, many 3rd party developers have fully embraced MSFS and are moving full steam ahead in developing quality add-ons for that platform. Of course, many users will stay with P3D and I’m sure Lockheed Martin will continue to support the platform regardless if there is a v6.
As I mentioned at the top of the writing, X-Plane 12 has just released. From what I’ve seen, read and heard….this latest version isn’t going down as I’m sure Laminar Research had hoped. As I’m not an X-Plane fan, I have no intention of purchasing the sim. But from some of the videos I’ve watched, those who are showcasing the new sim have mostly been disappointed in what they are seeing. Of course, it must be said that this is a early release version and most likely things will change.
Now I know there are a lot of unbelievers when it comes to Microsoft Flight Simulator. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog postings, even I had my doubts regarding the new platform. But over time, I believe the sim has matured into a quality flight simulator that I believe to be the “Gold Standard” of the available flight simulation platforms available today. Both Microsoft and Asobo are committed to the project and I believe what we’re seeing from MSFS today is only the beginning. In addition, from a cost perspective, MSFS requires a lot less investment to make the ground textures mirror that of the real world.
The 800 lb Gorilla
To address the 800 lb gorilla in the room, many will argue and say that X-Plane (at least historically) has always featured the best, true to life flight dynamics of any of the available sims. I personally can’t argue either way on this statement. I’m not a real world pilot, I’m not training to be a real world pilot and personally unless the difference gap was huge, I really don’t care. It simply means nothing to me. The aircraft I primarily fly in MSFS (Fenix A320, PMDG 737) compensate for any weakness in the flight dynamics department and I enjoy every single minute of my time in the sim and in those aircraft.
But What About…
Yes, there are two other flight simulator platforms that I have yet to mention in this posting, specifically Aerofly FS4 and DCS World. DCS World, of course is an awesome flight simulator if you enjoy simulating military flight ops and honestly has some of the very best visual simulations of any platform. I personally don’t spend a lot of time in DCS, but I do use it from time to time. If military ops is something you really enjoy, then DCS World will be your best bet.
Unfortunately, I personally don’t have any experience with Aerofly FS4. While the platform does have some 3rd party development support with some add-ons, I don’t consider it broad enough to be considered above P3D, X-Plane or MSFS. In addition, unlike P3D, X-Plane or MSFS, Aerofly FS4 does not include the entire world as part of the base package. Additional regions must be purchased separately.
In closing, if you’ve been in the hobby of flight simulation for some time and are already using and enjoying Prepar3D or X-Plane, then I certainly understand why you may choose to remain on those platforms. But if you are new to the hobby, I highly recommend you do your homework and give consideration towards Microsoft Flight Simulator as I believe this is the very best and certainly will be for many years to come.
Thanks for reading and as always….Happy Flying!!!