Once upon a time, there once existed a spirit within the flight simulation community where talented individuals created many marvelous things to enhance the base simulator application. Everything from navigational aids, enhanced airport scenery and aircraft. At one time in our not so distant past, the quality freeware offerings outnumbered payware. As the base simulator began to evolve (circa FS9 –> FSX timeframe) the quality freeware began to decline and the rise of payware took hold. While I won’t pretend there’s absolutely no freeware available for P3D, I will tell you that the quality content is very few and far between.
Of course the X-Plane community has, for years and still very much to this day, enjoyed a very strong community spirit around freeware/shareware concepts. Many of the X-Plane users in the virtual airline I belong to have spent little to almost no money to enhance their simulation experience. Arguably, one of the very best freeware aircraft models ever known to exist is the Zibo 737. The Zibo 737 Project, led by a team of developers to expand the capabilities of the default 737 in X-Plane. Many who fly both the PMDG 737NG and the Zibo 737 will tell you the differences between the two are hardly noticeable. Others might describe the Zibo 737 as being on-par with Aerosoft quality. Either way, it’s a fantastic aircraft and absolutely free. Who can argue with free?
With the launch a few weeks ago of the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, many were bracing themselves (and their wallets) for an onslaught of payware add-ons. After all, if you’ve spent the past decade or more flying study level aircraft the excitement of a brand new simulator may wear off fairly quickly once you climb into the flight deck of the default Airbus A320. Sure….it’s pretty. But within just a few minutes you realize you’ve taken a huge step backwards in the level of immersion as most features are labeled as Inop. I’ve even stated several times that for me, MSFS2020 will most certainly become my go-to flight simulator, but only once aircraft models from PMDG, FSLabs, QualityWings etc. become available. This won’t be happening this year. Most likely this won’t be happening until sometime late in Q1 2021 or perhaps even early Q2 2021.
In just the past week or so, there’s been news about a project underway to create a “Zibo” like experience with the default Airbus A320 in MSFS2020 called the MS2020 A32NX Project. I can tell you from first hand experience that what this team of developers have been able to do in the short time since the release of MSFS2020 has certainly piqued my interest in both MSFS2020 and the default Airbus A320 from an airliner perspective.
Understand, the project is still very much a work in progress. But they’ve certainly managed to excite me in such a way that I can certainly see myself flying the A320 in MSFS2020 on the VATSIM network very soon. Certainly much sooner than I originally believed would be possible.
Want to learn more?
Of course you do! I’d suggest watching the video I’ve embedded below which will bring you up to speed on the progress already made as well as what’s in-store for the very near future. The video description area will provide you with the links to download the mod and how to join the project’s Discord server so you can stay informed on the team’s progress. I hope this news excites you as much as it does me.
Thank you for reading this article. It’s much appreciated. For those who are thinking the MSFS2020 A320 project will never be on-par with the likes of the FSLabs A320, you are probably correct. However, as previously stated….the FSLabs Airbus series is most likely 4-6 months away from being available. I’d be willing to bet, the team working on the MSFS2020 A320 project will (in time) bring this up to a level of quality and realism as what we currently see with the Aerosoft A320 and perhaps beyond.
Many are asking if the same might also happen with the default Boeing 747 and Dreamliner. Unfortunately, due to the DRM status of these two aircraft…this may never be possible. But I suppose one should never say never.
Thanks for reading. I’ll soon provide an update to my experiences with the latest MSFS2020 patch. Stay tuned….
I wanted to briefly draw your attention to a couple of YouTube videos which have recently been released by Chewwy94 (AKA Matt) who in my opinion is one of the best Flight Sim YouTube/Twitch content creators. I’ve been watching and following Matt for several years. His content is both educational and entertaining.
Matt recently released two new videos showcasing the default Airbus A320 which will be one of the featured aircraft in the brand new flight simulator from Microsoft. Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS2020) releases on 18 August and I believe will become the new standard for flight simulation.
While it may be a few months before I fully embrace MSFS2020 as my go-to sim (due to the delayed release of study level aircraft), I fully believe MSFS2020 will introduce many new individuals to the wonderful world of flight simulation. Being new once myself, (albeit a very long time ago) I cut my teeth on default aircraft and I firmly believe that is the best way to first grasp the art of flight simulation. Once one masters the basics, then there is plenty of time to learn more advanced aircraft.
Anyway….back on point!
The two videos I would like to showcase discuss the new flight planning features in MSFS2020 as well as a full flight from Manchester to London Heathrow in the default Airbus A320. As Chewwy94 clearly points out in the flight video, the Airbus A320 still has a few opportunities (aka bugs) to be worked out and I’m sure the team at Microsoft are burning the midnight oil to get everything sorted.
Thanks Matt for taking the time to showcase MSFS2020 on your channel and for all your efforts in helping so many (myself included) to get the most from this wonderful hobby. You truly are a legend!
Please take the time to check out the Chewwy94 YouTube and Twitch channels. His content is worthy of a Subscribe, Like, Follow etc. etc. etc.
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.
As mentioned in the last tour update, our travelers since leaving Australia, have been bouncing from one island to the next. Most of their activities have been focused on various island style activities. One might think our group has had enough ocean fun…but that’s just not true. Our next destination is Cape Town, South Africa. What’s so interesting about Cape Town (especially when it comes to the ocean)? Well…it just so happens this blog posting (completely by luck) will drop on the day before the 30th installment of the Discovery Channel’s popular Shark Week. And just off the shore of Cape Town, you’ll find something very special. The Great White sharks off the coast are some of the largest sharks on the planet and they do something a little different down here. They breach and leap out of the water. It’s truly an amazing sight…but you’ll really need a bigger boat with these guys. If you’ve never heard of the breaching Great White Sharks, then check out this YouTube video.
History of City
Cape Town is a coastal city in South Africa. It is the second-most populous urban area in South Africa after Johannesburg. Cape Town is the capital and primate city of the Western Cape province. Located on the short of Table Bay, Cape Town is the oldest urban area in South Africa and was developed in 1652 by the Dutch East India Company as a supply station for ships sailing to East Africa, India and the Far East.
History of Country
South Africa, known officially as the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa and includes over 1,700 miles of coastline stretching along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans. South Africa is the largest country in southern Africa and the 25th largest country in the world by land area. The population of South Africa is estimated to be near 56 million and is the world’s 24th most populous nation.
History of Airport
Cape Town International Airport (FACT) is the primary airport serving the city of Cape Town and is the second-busiest airport in South Africa and the third busiest in Africa. Opened in 1954 to replace the previous airport, FACT provides direct flights to South Africa’s other two main urban areas of Joburg and Durban as well as to smaller airports with South Africa. The air route between Cape Town and Johannesburg was the world’s 9th busiest air route in 2011 with an estimated 4.5 million passengers.
History of Airline
South African Airways is the flag carrier of South Africa. Founded in 1934, South African Airways flies to 38 destinations in 26 countries in Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Asia and Australasia. The airline has a strong presence in Southern Africa. Their current fleet consists of an all Airbus passenger fleet including the Airbus A319, A320, A330 and A340. They do own three older Boeing 737-300 freighters which are leased from Star Air Cargo.
Our travelers have spent the past several days exploring the Johannesburg area, including a safari tour and overnight stay in Kruger Park. I believe all had an enjoyable stay, but it’s time to once again move on. Up to this point in our tour, our routing has taken us northwest as we traveled through Singapore and Indonesia, then we turned southwest towards Maldives and have been traveling mostly a southwesterly direction. This will be the last leg (for a while) that we head in a southerly direction. Once we depart Cape Town, out progress will be northwest and northeast until we reach Norway. But for now, our direction remain southwest so let’s get started.
We’re back in the Airbus A320 and shuttling a South African Airways aircraft down to Cape Town. This happens to be a real-world flight. Meaning, South African Airways operate an Airbus A320 between Joburg and Cape Town in real life. It’s a late afternoon departure with a flight time of 2 hours, we should arrive in Cape Town just before dinner.
Lined up and waiting for our take off clearance from ATC.
Up, up and away and goodbye Johannesburg.
Making our turn to the southwest to join the departure out of FAOR.
Could be a stormy night for the residents of Joburg.
A bit of a bumpy climb, but ATC were accommodating and vectored us around the strongest of the storm cells.
Our livery shot as we’re just about above the storm and clouds. The sun is setting fast.
The sun has set.
High above South Africa with the warm glow of the setting sun just visible along the horizon.
The view from the office at FL360.
The city lights of Cape Town, South Africa.
On short final into FACT.
ActiveSky Weather Engine
ActiveSky Cloud Art
Envtex & Envshade
FlightSim Labs Airbus A320 (South African Airways livery)
Orbx Global Texture
Route Planning Tools
Navigraph Charts Desktop
Our travelers have a busy few days exploring Cape Town. Soon we’ll depart and begin our northerly trek. The next leg will be the longest leg of the entire tour as we travel from Cape Town, South Africa to Libreville, Gabon which is 2,122 miles away. For this next leg, we’ll be in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner which should help make the almost 5 hour, 20 minute flight breeze bye.
Until next time…Watch out for those jumping sharks!
If you also follow along with my Discord channel, you know I mentioned just before the US Independence Day holiday that my wife had surprised me with a get-a-way to the mountains. This was in celebration of our 11th wedding anniversary. The few weeks leading up to the holiday were hectic both with work and at home. We had a few home repair issues to deal with and I had two work related trips in June that were hectic and stressful. July is no different from the work side of things. But as we’re back from the mountains, it’s time to do a little flying and resume where we left off with our tour.
As we begin our 10th leg of this 46 leg journey, we now have two different Airbus airframes we can use. I’ll mix in the A320 and the smaller A319 from time to time as we continue to also fly Boeing aircraft as well. While I feel most comfortable in Boeing equipment, I’m starting to gain a better appreciation for the Airbus. This leg we’ll be flying the Airbus A320.
History of City
Dzaoudzi (don’t even ask me how this would be pronounced) is a commune in the French overseas department of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean and is located on the small island of Petite-Terre. The commune once held the recognition as being the capital city of Mayotte, but in 1977 the capital was moved to Mamoudzou on the island of Grande-Terre. The commune is the home to 14,311 people (as of the 2012 Census)
History of Country
Mayotte consists of one main island, Grande-Terre, a smaller island, Petite-Terre and several islets around these two. The area of Mayotte is approx. 144 square miles and has a population of 256,518 as of the 2017 Census. While Mayotte is an integral part of France, the majority of the inhabitants do not speak French as a first language.
History of Airport
Dzaoudzi-Pamandzi International Airport is located in the commune of Dzaoudzi. It is the only airport in Mayotte with scheduled services, mainly to destinations within Africa and to metropolitan France. The airport currently can service aircraft up the Boeing 777 size. A new runway (15/33) to the west of the current runway is being planned and will be 2,600 meters in length to accommodate aircraft such as the Boeing 747 and the Airbus A380.
History of Airline
Air Mauritius is the flag carrier airline of Mauritius. The airline is the 4th largest carrier in Sub-Saharan Africa and has an important standing in the European, African and Indian Ocean regional markets.
After a couple of relaxing days in Mauritius, once again it’s time for our travelers to depart on the next leg of the long, around the world journey. We’re picking up a brand new Airbus A320 which had been ferried to Mauritius from the Airbus factory in Tianjin, China. Yes, it still has that “new” airplane smell to it. This is an early morning departure and hopefully we’ll get out before the storms open up. In the photo below, our Airbus A320 is being fueled for the journey. The new update to GSX and the features of the FSLabs A320 handle fueling automagically with nice eyecandy to watch.
Our passengers have just arrived by bus and will immediately board the awaiting A320.
We can’t push-back until the last of the bags have been loaded.
Finally, the last bag was loaded (I believe that was mine) and now the ground crew will push us back while I begin the engine start procedure of the Airbus A320.
Small airports mean short taxi distances. Looks like the sun might just burn off these clouds after all. We’re ready to go on runway 14.
The FSLabs A320 is a joy to hand fly. I’ve found the learning curve to be just slightly more difficult than the PMDG 737. But then again, I have spent the majority of my simming time flying Boeing aircraft. So learning the Airbus ways of doing things is similar to learning a second language.
The A320 offers two different types of engine variants. This particular aircraft uses the IAE (International Aero Engines) V2500 and they are doing an excellent job.
The beautiful Air Seychelles livery looks amazing on the A320.
Another wing shot as we fly over Madagascar. I wonder how those Penguins are fairing?
Another view of the coastline of Madagascar as we’re beginning our descent. Not much longer to go.
Just off the portside, we see a smaller island with a mountain and the main island mentioned earlier. The smaller island (one with the mountain) contains the airport. Our approach will take us around that smaller island.
The view from the captains seat of the larger island.
Our turn to final is coming up very soon. Note the PAPI lights of the airport behind us.
Again, the FSLabs A320 is a joy to hand fly. Admittedly, I rolled out of that turn just a bit low. But no worries, there’s nothing but water under us and we’ll be just fine.
Two reds, two whites…we’re alright.
On the ground and it looks like it will be an awesome day.
Our travelers will depart the smaller island later today by ferry to the larger island where their hotel awaits them. A few days here, then we’ll depart and travel the 1200nm’s to O. R. Tambo International Airport in South Africa. Since departing from Broom, Australia…we’ve been hopping from one island to another. The next half dozen legs will keep us on the African continent as we begin our eventual northern journey up the western coast of Africa and into Europe.