Reader Question – Upcoming ATC Add-ons for MSFS

We have another viewer question that I wanted to turn into a blog post to give some added visibility to the subject of add-on ATC applications currently being developed for MSFS.  Here goes….

Hello JT, I’ve been an avid reader of your blog site for a few years.  We’ve emailed back and forth many times and you’ve always been very helpful.  You actually turned one of my email questions into a blog post a few years ago when I asked about the auto-update features in MSFS.  Anyway, I have another question for you regarding the new ATC add-on applications I’ve been hearing about for MSFS.  Do you have any details on these?  From what I’ve heard from watching a few videos, it seems like a rather expensive option.  But what can you tell me.  As always, thank you for your help.  George

Hello George and hello to all reading my blog site.  Yes, I do remember your question about the update process for MSFS.  For anyone who might want to read this, you can find it here.

Yes, there are two (that I’m aware of) bolt-on or add-on 3rd party ATC applications currently being developed for MSFS.  One is called SayIntentions.AI and the other is Beyond ATC.  To be really honest with you, I’ve probably conducted more research on the subject of these two applications since receiving your email than I had done in all the time that news about these two offerings have first been announced.  Over the vast number of years that I’ve been involved in the flight simulation hobby, I’ve tried numerous add-on ATC applications for FSX/P3D and while most (perhaps all of these) could be categorized as far superior to the default ATC in these sims, none has really met my full and complete expectations.

However, the two which are currently in development for MSFS does hold some promise of completely changing the way we look at 3rd party ATC applications.  But as you mentioned, both are rather costly options and I’ll break down these costs in just a minute.

For me personally, I tend to shy away from any sort of monthly subscription type of services when it comes to my flight simulation hobby.  There are times that I tend to fly every day and then there are times where I may fly only a few times a month.  It really just depends on what else is going on in my life at the time and also it depends on what other types of games I’m enjoying.  For those familiar with my blog site, I do enjoy other simulation based games like Farming Simulator and American Truck Sim (ATS) and Euro Truck Simulator 2 (ETS2).  There are only so many hours in a given day that I have available to sit down and enjoy these titles and it tends to run a course where I’ll really be wanting to fly for weeks on end and then my attention shifts where all I want to do is Farm or Truck.  Right now, I’m spending all my free hobby time in flying.  But that could change tomorrow.  Anyway, for that reason is why I don’t like to be locked into a recurring monthly cost.

I’ve despised the built-in ATC of just about every flight simulation platform I’ve owned that had this feature built in.  This is perhaps one of the reasons I started flying on the VATSIM network almost 25 years ago.  When there is ATC coverage, you just can’t beat the VATSIM network as it provides both ATC services and also air traffic injection into the sim.  But I certainly understand the drawback to VATSIM (or other online networks like IVAO).  The learning curve can be rather steep for some and many new pilots feel uncomfortable when starting out over the fear of doing something wrong and getting yelled at.  To be honest, I’ve never heard a VATSIM controller yell at anyone who is new to the network unless they are doing some really silly stuff that is impacting the immersion of others.  But I digress…

Features

So let’s discuss the two Air Traffic Control (ATC) add-ons currently being developed for Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS).  But before I go any further, I feel it must be stated for full transparency that the only information I’m privy to is what I’ve been able to get from both their respective websites and what I’ve read online in other forums or flight sim news sites.

Both BeyondATC and SayIntentions.AI appear to be very similar products. Both offer realistic AI voices.  Both use proper FAA and ICAO phraseology and IFR/VFR flight options.  Both will require an active internet connection in order to function. Also, both products are only available for MSFS 2020 and both mention they plan to support MSFS 2024 once that is available.  Finally, both products provide full world-wide 24×7 coverage to over 88,000+ airports across the globe.

Pricing

Now let’s discuss some of the differences between the two add-on ATC products.  First, let’s discuss the 800 lb gorilla in the room and that of course is pricing.  The pricing differences are pretty huge in my opinion.  SayIntentions.AI will cost you $29.95 per month or an annual subscription is available for $299.95.  The features of these plans are identical and provide you with unlimited premium AI voices and everything else I mentioned above.

However, BeyondATC is a one-time purchase of $29.99 and includes access to all the core features and all future updates, along with 50,000 FREE Premium Characters which consists of approx. an hour of speech, unlimited push to talk, their basic voice model which advertises 100+ good quality voices and many accents.  Additional premium voice characters can be purchased for $9.99 which will add 250,000 premium characters enough to last for 15-20 flights.

Finally, from what I can gather both BeyondATC and SayIntentions.AI have plans to include functionality that will not only provide ATC for your flight, but will also control other AI traffic you might have in your sim.  It’s unclear if these products will offer AI traffic or if you’ll need a separate program for that such as FSLTL or FS Traffic.  I use and recommend FSLTL which is 100% free and includes both a traffic injector for offline network flying and use their aircraft models for VATSIM model matching.

Before I move away from the discussion regarding pricing.  I’ve heard developers from both BeyondATC and SayIntentions.AI defend their pricing model due to the high cost for Generative AI services.  Right now the term AI is quite the buzzword.  Over time, like most things, I would expect these costs to fall and both developers have stated their costs would also adapt to these changes.  Thinking about this sort of reminds me of my very first Compact Disc play I purchased way back in the 1980’s.  I think it was around $500 for a single disc player unit.  Today they are obviously much less expensive.

Availability

SayIntentions.AI offers a free demo that provides 24 hours of ATC coverage.  While the demo states it is free, they are actually going to charge you $1 for the access which they say is immediately refunded.  SayIntentions.AI is still in beta and the they will provide ATC coverage to other traffic in a Q2 release.

BeyondATC has not been released and will release in two stages.  The first release will include the ATC features only which provide services to just your aircraft.  The second release (when available) will include the functionality to provide ATC services to other traffic in your sim.

Summary

If I were interested in purchasing a 3rd party ATC program for flying off the VATSIM network, the price alone would steer me towards BeyondATC.  You can visit the BeyondATC website and hear audio samples between the basic set and the premium set of voices.  The basic set sounds far better than anything we’ve ever had for the sim and would probably do the job for me just fine.

Actually, now that I’ve reached this point in the review…I most likely will purchase BeyondATC sometime after the release.  It could certainly supplement my VATSIM experience and provide ATC services when no VATSIM controllers are online.  If/When I do make the purchase, I’ll make sure to provide a full review here.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

JT

P.S.  I’m still holding my breath that sometime in the next 10 days we’ll see the release of the PMDG 777-300ER for MSFS.  A good sign that this might still happen will be when we start seeing Flight Sim Content Creators flying it on Twitch or YouTube. Yes, I check daily and so far no one is broadcasting a pre-release version.  But we still have plenty of time.

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