Earlier this week I made the decision to return back to using the Aerosoft Airbus versions of the A319, A320 and A321 and thus (for now) grounding my FSLabs A319 and A320. While I truly believe the FSLabs versions of the popular Airbus aircraft are certainly more immersive and also more study-level, I’ve been battling some issues with the FSLabs which I’ve not be able to fully address.
Since COVID-19 has me working from home since mid March, I’ve been using the time to enjoy flight sim. No, I’m not constantly flying all day when I should be working. But I do generally start up a 3-4 hour flight in the morning and time it to land during my lunch break. I will often depart for a second flight during lunch and time that to land just after my day has finished. Alternatively, I’ve loaded up a long-haul with a duration of 9-10 hours in the same fashion. During the in-flight time my capable first officer (auto pilot) is flying the aircraft. I’ve been doing this on an almost daily basis since the beginning of the quarantine and as a result have racked up a few hundred hours of flight time this way.
Aerosoft A321 American Airlines
When flying any of my PMDG aircraft (B738, B777 or B744) or the QualityWings B788 the autopilot just quietly controls the aircraft and there are no issues. However, when wanting to fly either of my FSLabs Airbus aircraft, the same can’t be said. Almost every time I fly the FSLabs aircraft I will experience constant auto pilot disconnects. These disconnects (unless I’m paying attention) usually end in with my aircraft doing a nose dive into the ground or water below.
The FSLabs forums do offer pointers on how to control this behavior. The main cause for this is turbulence and I’ve adjusted ActiveSky exactly how the info on the forums suggest. So much so there’s almost very little observed turbulence, yet the AP continues to disconnect. Short of flying without Activesky, I’m just not sure how else to try to resolve this issue. In reading the forums, I’m not the only one that (even when following the recommended settings) continue to experience this behavior on almost every flight.
Most say, this is just the behavior of the Airbus. I’m not a real world pilot and I don’t personally know anyone that is. But none of my Boeing aircraft (and the PMDG aircraft I own are just as study level as the FSLabs) behave in this way. So what I come away with is the tolerances within the FSLabs are just too restrictive as compared to what I’m used to.
So having said all this, I’ve returned to using the Aerosoft versions of the Airbus. In doing so, I’m quite surprised at just how much this aircraft has matured. The last time I seriously used the Aerosoft versions I was on P3Dv3. At that time they were pretty basic, certainly so when I compared them with the FSLabs. I still prefer my PMDG Boeing aircraft and I’m also enjoying the QW Dreamliner. But from time to time I do enjoy flying the Airbus series and for my Monday – Friday flights, the Aerosoft will work just fine. I may even pickup their A330 soon.
Sometimes, we have the idea or the mindset that “I’ll never do ____________” (insert word or phrase) because of this, that or some other reason. I suppose the phrase “Never, Say Never” comes roaring into my head. By the way, did you know the first recorded mention of the words “Never, Say Never” was from Charles Dickens’s Pickwick Papers in 1837. Anyway….I must say that I’ve recently purchased something which I’ve previously said I would never do. I also recognize the topic of this posting is extremely controversial within the flight simulation community. I’ll post some final thoughts at the end of this piece and will welcome any comments (pending they are civil) from my readers. Also, will just remind anyone reading this outside of my blog website (GrizzlyBearSims.com), my writings are syndicated on a few different other websites and the opinions expressed in this piece belong to me and may or may not be the same opinions expressed by the owners of those other websites.
Before I get long-winded, let me just say right off the bat that YES, I’ve purchased BOTH the Flight Sim Labs Airbus A320 and their newly released A319 aircraft. I’ll get into all the reasons for my change of opinions in just a moment. First, let me just provide a little background history regarding both Flight Sim Labs (FS Labs) and their Airbus aircraft.
First Things First
I first heard of FSLabs several years ago when I was researching information regarding home cockpit building and specifically some utilities FSLabs had developed for some third party hardware add-ons. Thanks for FSLabs as their solution helped me get my GoFlight hardware working with the older PMDG 747 in FSX. This was all around the 2009-10 timeframe.
Of course, I’ve also been aware of their Concorde-X and their A320-X aircraft add-ons for many years. I almost purchased the Concorde-X several years ago, but if I’m not mistaken…one of the reasons I didn’t was because I was transitioning from FSX to Prepar3D v2.x and at that point in time the Concorde-X was not compatible. While the Concorde-X is now compatible with P3D v2 and v3, it’s not compatible with v4.
Flight Sim Labs Airbus A320 in American Airlines livery.
If it’s not Boeing…
So you all know the saying, “If it’s not Boeing, I ain’t going”. Yea…I’ve felt that way for a long time both in the real world and also in the virtual sim world. But I have this little issue…perhaps some might say it falls into the superstition category…but typically when time permits I enjoy recreating my real world flights in the simulator. A few years ago I was flying from Denver to Indianapolis on Frontier Airlines for a business trip. The flight was going to be on an Airbus A319 and while I really had no experience with Airbus aircraft in the flight sim, I decided to do a little research. I discovered FSLabs offered an A320 and Aerosoft offered a package including the A318, A319, A320 and A321. At the time, it was sort of a no-brainer decision. I had a desire to fly the real-world Airbus A319 Frontier flight and Aerosoft had the add-on aircraft which was compatible with the sim I was using at the time.
Time Keeps on Slippin’, Slippin’, Slippin’….
…Into the Future. Yes, another musical lyric segue….but now as a few years have passed since my original purchase of the Airbus product, we find ourselves one year post Prepar3D v4 (64 bit) release and while many add-on developers were quick to release their P3D v4 compatible aircraft models, scenery and other add-ons….Aerosoft (as of the time of this writing) still haven’t released their Airbus series for P3D v4. But let me just say that this blog article is not about the Aerosoft Airbus delays.
Back on Topic
And back to my opening sentence of this writing. I’ve expressed my feelings towards the Flight Sim Labs PR debacle both here on my blog as well as in other corners of the web such as flight sim related forums and various Facebook flight sim groups. If you’re not aware of all that has transpired and you don’t care to read my older posting linked above, I’ll just quickly summarize the happenings over the past several months below:
In an effort to prevent pirating of the FSLabs A320X aircraft add-on, FSLabs inserted a bit of malware which only became active if the software was an illegal, pirated copy. FSLabs apologized, explained the reasons and admitted the action taken was “a bit heavy handed”.
A few months later, it was discovered that the FSLabs A320X installer was directly writing files into the system32 and SysWOW64 directories.
Then a little spat began to brew between FSLabs and the folks over at Reddit. Some threatening words and legal action were exchanged.
Finally, someone using the name “RandomRedditor” hacked the FSLabs website and forums.
While the actions taken by FSLabs was and is a major failure on their part, certainly two wrongs will never make it right. Meaning, the individual referring to himself/herself as “RandomRedditor” is just as much in the wrong as FSLabs has ever been (in my opinion).
My Change of Mind/Opinion
Let me state once again for the record, I condemn the actions taken by Flight Sim Labs in their effort of preventing the piracy of their software. However, I also recognize software piracy is wrong and as it relates specifically to our flight simulation hobby is directly damaging it by forcing developers to charge more for their add-ons. In other words, here’s yet another example of honest, hard-working individuals having to carry the burden for those who would rather steal.
Last week I was watching one of my favorite Twitch Streamers from the UK, Chewwy94. If you are unfamiliar with his channel I would encourage you to follow him. He’s an excellent flight sim streamer, he runs a very positive and informative channel and as I said, he’s truly one of the best doing what he is doing. Anyway, Chewwy (real name Matt) was showcasing a pre-release copy of the Airbus A319 from FSLabs. I don’t always have time to catch all of his streams, but it just so happened that I was in Orlando for work and spent the evening watching most of the replay of this particular stream.
Yes, at the very beginning of the stream my attitude matched pretty much what I had said in the past. More or less, that I didn’t plan on doing business with Flight Sim Labs due to their previous antics. But the more I watched, I began to reflect back to my early days with flight simulation. I’m often reminded just how far this hobby has come over the past 35 years that I’ve been flying computer based sims. If you weren’t around in the mid-80’s, here’s a little video I’ve shared previously of about 60 seconds of recorded footage showing subLogic’s Flight Simulator II for the Commodore 64.
Even in the past 18 years (the VATSIM age) the level of added immersion and realism which has been given to all of us by the various developers, has truly helped to bring meaning to the old Microsoft Flight Simulator slogan of “As Real As It Gets”. I had to take a minute to swallow my pride somewhat and realize that what I was actually seeing from my own two eyes on Matt’s stream was something I had never seen before. Yes…truly the future of flight simulation and that future had been developed by Flight Sim Labs.
Two Choices, One Decision
The reality of it all after watching Matt’s stream was I had two choices to make. I could continue down the path I was walking by simply avoiding doing business with FSLabs and hope that at some future time down the road some of the advancements FSLabs had coded into the A319 would make their way into other aircraft models. OR, I could take a lesson from a man who is of far greater importance than anyone I know and show a little forgiveness. After all, I tend to follow the advice of this man as much as I possibly can in my life and it’s worked out well so far.
Yes…I’m the proud owner of both the Flight Sim Labs Airbus A320 and the expansion A319. I’ve been reading, studying and learning this truly “study level” aircraft and will admit that I’ve learned more and have been challenged harder than I have ever been with any payware, “study level” aircraft add-on to date and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The flight sim hobby is more than just about flying virtual aircraft around a virtual world. While I have no interest in learning to fly in real life, I enjoy and very much appreciate the challenge of learning a complex, study level aircraft. Doing so (in my opinion) gives a much deeper appreciation for flight and adds the level of immersion we all seek from our favorite simulation based games. In time, I’ll write a review of the Flight Sim Labs Airbus A320 and A319 and share in greater detail all the immersion I feel should be celebrated by the community.
Finally, I will also add there are still very strong opinions and attitudes expressed by many towards both Flight Sim Labs and also towards those who use their products. I’ve expressed my opinions and my overall reasons for changing my mind and attitude. I welcome any comments on this subject, pending they remain civil and on point. I will not tolerate any hateful comments regardless if they are directed towards FSLabs or directed towards me. My money, my opinions, my decision, my blog site. Thank you for understanding!
Until next time….
P.S. I plan to write a more in-depth, review of the FSLabs Airbus A320/A319 in the coming weeks.