JustFlight PA-28R Arrow III

I guess I’m truly bored with waiting for PMDG to release their Boeing 777-300ER. Since I last published my “T-Minus 8 Days and Counting” post, the days are rapidly passing by and I fear my gutsy prediction that we would have the 77W before the VATSIM CTP event on 20 April is going to be a bust.  While I could still be right, I just fear with no progress update over this past weekend from PMDG that the chances are rapidly evaporating before our very eyes. But hey, it can’t be too far away.  So hopefully we’ll have it before the end of May????

In recent weeks I’ve flown the heck out of the PMDG 737, Fenix A320 and both the Horizon B789 and Kuro B788 and have just wanted to do something a little bit different in the sim.  To be perfectly honest, in the past year or so the vast majority of flying that I’ve done in the sim (and I would estimate this to be hundreds of hours) has been flying tubeliners.  By tubeliner I mean the likes of the PMDG 737, Fenix A320 etc.  As some may know I fly for an American Airlines virtual airline and also currently serve as the Dallas/Ft. Worth Hub Manager.  The VA keeps me busy and this year we’re doing another contest to see which hub can score the most points to be crowned HubOps Champion.  Under my watch, the DFW hub has won this title in 2021 and last year in 2023.  We’re looking good to also reclaim the title this year.  But as we have a substantial lead in points, I have a few days to do a few other things in the sim and I’ve chosen to dust off my VFR flying skills.

Other than all the default GA style aircraft that comes with MSFS 2020, the only payware model I had was the Carenado Mooney.  It’s a super easy aircraft to fly and I’ve spent a few hundred hours just cruising around the sim world.  Which by the way, I used the Carenado Mooney Bravo for an around the world adventure back in the days of P3D and I need to complete my journey in MSFS when time permits.  But I digress….

I’ve read some really good reviews on the JustFlight PA-28R Arrow III and decided to make the purchase.  I purchased the bundled deal where I got three different versions of the PA-28 including the Arrow III, Turbo Arrow III/IV.  Just as you might expect from JustFlight, these are really superb models.

Anyway, like I said…I’ve been wanting to brush up my VFR flying and decided to spend a few days doing just that.  For my inaugural flight in the PA-28R Arrow III I decided to head over to England where I started out at Southampton EGHI.  I plotted a course from Southampton flying north towards the Compton VOR.  From there I headed east towards High Wycombe and the Wycombe Air Park/Booker Airport EGTB.  If you are interested, I wrote a review of the Wycombe Air Park back in 2020 which you can read here.


Route plotted in SkyVector (EGHI CPT EGTB)


Southampton, England EGHI (MSFS default scenery)

I really couldn’t be more happy with the purchase of the JustFlight PA-28R.  While I do love the Carenado Mooney, I think this Cherokee is going to become my new GA favorite.  After a few minutes I quickly familiarized myself with the controls and had her purring in no time.  After a quick check of the weather, I taxied to runway 20 and within seconds I was airborne and making my way towards the Compton VOR.

When I fly VFR, low and slow type flights I do enjoy flying in the UK.  I have a real special affinity to the Wycombe Air Park as before my wife moved to the US, she lived in High Wycombe and just a few miles from the airport.  When I would visit we would often go and watch the planes on the weekends.


Before landing at the Wycombe Air Park (EGTB), I take a brief scenic flight down towards Stokenchurch.  


Parked up at the Wycombe Air Park.

Well, as previously stated the new Piper Cherokee has truly been a joy to fly and I’m proud to own this add-on in my virtual hangar.  You too can own the Piper PA-28R Arrow III or the Piper PA-28R Turbo Arrow III/IV or get the entire bundle which includes all three aircraft for a discounted price.

Until next time….

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Fenix A320 Update = Awesomeness

I just realized it’s been over two months since I’ve posted anything to this blog site.  The previous two months (January and February) have been busy months for me and honestly, the time has flown by.  But during this time things have been relatively quiet until just a few days ago. 

While we’ve been anticipating the Fenix development team to release the long awaiting and highly anticipated version 2, block 2 update which includes the IAE engine option and many other fixes, until just a few days ago we didn’t know when that would happen.  Then on Wednesday, 27 February Fenix broke radio silence and informed us all that V2B2 would release on the next day, Thursday 28 February. 

The Fenix team didn’t disappoint.  The Fenix V2B2 update dropped during the afternoon (my time) just as expected and I downloaded, installed and performed a test flight from KDEN to KPHX.  While I’ve always considered the Fenix A320 to be one of the very best high fidelity aircraft available in MSFS, the state of the aircraft before the V2B2 update was certainly not the best that I hoped it would be or become.  However, with the V2B2 update I must honestly say that the Fenix A320 is now, officially better than what we had with the FSLabs A320 in P3D. 

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Fenix A320 (V2B2) arriving into DFW. 

Everything about the Fenix A320 changed with this new update.  First, having the extra engine option wasn’t that big of a deal for me.  I mostly fly American Airlines with the Fenix A320 and they have the CFM’s in some of their A320’s.  But I know for most flight simulation enthusiasts (even myself included) we truly want an “As Real As It Gets” experience and that means not flying an aircraft with an engine option which the real world counterpart doesn’t use.  So for all those who have been flying British Airways with the CFM’s when BAW actually use IAE’s in all their A320’s….I feel your pain and am glad you are all happy now.

Second, the performance factors of the aircraft have changed tremendously for the good with the new update.  I’ve performed several flights since the update and when hand-flying on departure or on final approach, the aircraft is so much more smoother than before.  Specifically on final approach and even more importantly on the final few hundred feet the aircraft no longer handles like a wild bull.  Before the update the final 30-50 feet were extremely nerve wracking as sometimes the aircraft would appear to fall out of the sky and come crashing down on the runway.  This no longer happens since the update. 

Third, the overall performance improvements are also very much appreciated.  While my system wasn’t necessarily struggling to run the Fenix A320 pre-update, I do certainly notice a much smoother experience when flying into highly detailed airports.

Finally, I really love the full GSX integration efforts the Fenix development team have put into the new V2B2 update package.  This integration allows GSX to do it’s thing with little to no extra effort on my part.  I can just sit back and watch the whole thing play out.  It really is sometimes just about all those “little things” that truly matter in the sim. 

If you currently own the Fenix A320 and haven’t updated yet, I would encourage you to do so now.  The new update is truly amazing.  Check out the V2B2 Release, Quick Start Guide and Changelog before flying for the first time.  If you don’t own the Fenix A320, then what are you waiting for?  You will not regret your purchase.

Of course, now we’re in the holding pattern again with regards to Fenix development on the sharklets and the release of the Airbus A319 and A321.  I know that much of the rework done in the A320 V2B2 update was to pave the way for the A319/A321. Now that this is done, let’s hope we’re on short final to receiving those in the somewhat near future.  

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

What’s in store for us in the new year?

We’re in the final weeks of 2023 and it has me wondering that we have to look forward to in the new year.  Of course the biggest possible thing could be the next iteration of Microsoft Flight Simulator.  Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, I’m sure you know that a brand new version of Microsoft Flight Simulator is being released sometime in 2024.  While many do not see this as a good thing, I certainly do.  I believe Microsoft/Asobo have hit certainly roadblocks in MSFS 2020 and the only way to carry it forward is to release a brand new sim which hopefully will have everything we love about MSFS 2020, will have fixed everything we dislike about it and lay the ground work for an even better simulator for decades to come.  While MSFS 2024 is certainly something to look forward to, many of us are still very much in love with 2020 and looking forward to a few new goodies.

PMDG 777

Yes, one of my favorite simulator aircraft should be available to us in the first half of 2024.  While there is no date and it is only my speculation, but I think we will see this in the first quarter of 2024.  But don’t hate on me if that doesn’t work out.  Thankfully we’ve had a really good Boeing 787 Dreamliner to keep us busy the past few months.  But the void created by not having the 777 is a really big one.  Let’s hope I’m right and we’ll see it sooner rather than later in the new year.

Fenix Airbus A319 and A321

In a very much unexpected announcement a few months ago, the devs at Fenix announced that we would soon have their version of the Airbus A319 and A321 before the end of 2023.  I don’t believe they’ll make that deadline since they also had to delay the block 2 of their Airbus A320 which was originally planned to be released at the end of October.  With the delay for the A320 block 2, I would expect the A319/A321 to be delayed until sometime in the first half of the year.  While I would like to be as optimistic about the A319/A321 as I am with the PMDG 777, we’ll just have to see when block 2 comes out and how successful that is to then determine just how much longer it will be before the A319/A321 arrives.

Bluebird Simulations Boeing 757

Bluebird have been teasing us with status updates on their Boeing 757 throughout the last quarter of this year.  While it was originally believed that the 757 would release before the end of the year, Bluebird announced several months ago that would not be possible and they would not rush the product just to get it out to us.  I also believe we’ll see the 757 release in the first half of the year. 

PMDG 737 MAX

Could we have the PMDG 737 MAX before Microsoft 2024 arrives?  Of course we don’t know when MSFS 2024 will drop.  If history repeats itself, then it might happen in the late summer timeframe.  But who really knows.  Robert Randazzo, the CEO of PMDG has stated several times that PMDG have no plans to announce any release date for the MAX.  We’ll just wake up one day and there it will be.  But could this happen in the first or second half of 2024? 

iFly 737 MAX

In the past 24 hours, iFly have teased a few screenshots of their Boeing 737 MAX for MSFS 2020.  To be honest, I haven’t really paid a lot of attention to this product and don’t know just how far along they are in the process.  From what I’ve heard the iFly 737 MAX was successful in P3D and I would imagine we can expect nothing less for MSFS.  I did own the iFly 737 when it released for FSX many, many years ago.  iFly managed to release their 737 before PMDG by just a month or so (if memory serves).  But just as soon as PMDG released their 737, I bought it and never looked back.  So with this said, regardless of what iFly does, I believe I’m going to hold out for the PMDG MAX. 

Bottom Line

We must all practice patience and understand that these are all highly detailed and complex add-on aircraft.  None of these above mentioned developers are known to rush a product out the door just for the sake of releasing it.  They will release when they are ready and as a consumer, this truly is the very best policy. 

I truly believe 2024 will be another really great year for flight simulation.  What a great time to be involved. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Top Add-ons for MSFS in 2022

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.

GSX Pro

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!!!

Jerry

PMDG 737-800 Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

It’s been an absolutely fantastic summer for those of us waiting for study-level aircraft to arrive for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 (MSFS).  First, PMDG released their Boeing 737-700 which was quickly followed by the absolutely amazing Fenix Airbus A320 both in May.  A lot of folks were a bit disappointed in PMDG’s decision to first release the –700 (May), followed by the –600 (July).  But from a business perspective and especially since PMDG modified the way they normally package and sell the 737 this makes a lot of sense.  After all, the vast majority of flight sim enthusiasts really wanted the 737-800 and bringing the –700 out first made a lot of individuals purchase that aircraft (myself included) just to have some variety in the new sim. 

I had planned on not purchasing the –700 or –600 and waiting for the –800.  But as I became more familiar with MSFS, going back to P3D just to fly the 737-800 just wasn’t as enjoyable.  So I did purchase the 737-700 about a month after release and used it, along with the Fenix A320.  I have not, nor do I plan to purchase the –600, even though it was offered at a much lower price.  I just don’t have the need for that airframe.  But I digress….

Within my own virtual hangar, I typically fly the 737-800 about 75% of the time followed by the Airbus coming in at 25%.  After all, the PMDG 737-800 has always been my  favorite narrow-body aircraft and it’s just an absolute pleasure to fly.  So I was really pleased to learn the wait was over and I’ve truly enjoyed the last few days of simming with this awesome aircraft. 

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Is the 737-800 Right For You?

Well, really only you can answer that question.  While some were hoping for some sort of discount (especially if they had previously purchased the –700 and –600 variants, this was never something I expected PMDG to offer.  After all, the 737-800 is the most popular variant in the Boeing 737 series.  However, if you purchase the PMDG 737-800 now, it is being offered at an introductory price of $69.99 with the expectation that it will go up to $74.99 later. 

What I can tell you is the PMDG 737-800 is worth every penny at either price point.  Regardless if you’ve previously owned the aircraft in FSX, P3D or both….the PMDG 737-800 is a dream to fly in MSFS.  Additionally, if you are new to the world of flight simulation, the PMDG 737-800 (or any of the other variants) is super easy to learn to fly.  New aviators should check YouTube as you’ll find hours and hours of videos which demonstrate how to fly this aircraft and fly it well. 

-700 or –600 Owners, should you also purchase the –800?

Again, not a question I can really answer for you.  What I can say, is comparing the –800 to the –700…while they are basically the same aircraft with the –800 being almost 20 feet longer, the PMDG 737-800 does include more variants including the standard 737-800 passenger model, a Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) model and two converted freighter versions including the BDSF (Bedek Special Freighter) and BCF (Boeing Converted Freighter).  Along with all the different ground and passenger servicing equipment you’ll need for total immersion regardless of the variant you choose to fly. 

What’s Next From PMDG?

PMDG will release their 737-900 which will complete the 737 series.  While no exact release date is known at this time.  I believe we should expect that in the late September or more realistically in the early October timeframe.  After all, PMDG’s original plan was to release the 737 series in 6 week gaps. 

Once the –900 is out, we can expect the following aircraft types (in this order), Boeing 777, Boeing 747 and then the Boeing 737 Max.  As for expected timeframes, well that’s any one’s guess at this point.  I believe I once read some time ago that the expectation from PMDG would have the 777 available this year.  But I would be very surprised to see that under our Christmas tree this year.  I think the more realistic expectation would be sometime in 2023 (perhaps by summer if we’re lucky). 

Why does it take so long?

For the most part, I believe legacy flight simulation enthusiasts who have been around for a decade or more and evolved through the various sim versions do fully understand that it takes time to bring an airliner of the level of quality we expect from PMDG to a new sim platform.  However, MSFS has attracted a large number of new flight sim aviators to the hobby and these guys and gals are experiencing all this for the first time. 

On some of the forums and Discord servers I participate on, the question is often asked “Why does it take so long for updates?”  Or “Why does it take so long just to add a sharklet or new engine model to an existing aircraft?” Seasoned veterans of the hobby fully understand that there is more to all this then just slapping a sharklet onto a wing or adding a different engine variant under the wing.  In other words, when looking at these study-level versions of popular modern day aircraft, there is a lot more that goes in under the hood than just a simple visual.  Developers like PMDG, Fenix etc. need the time to properly code the differences in flight dynamics, performance and yes the visual representation into the aircraft and of course fully test before they bring them to market.  So be patient….enjoy what you have available now and be thankful when something new comes along.  Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.  I certainly hope you enjoy the new PMDG 737-800 (or any variant) and I hope it brings as much joy to your virtual experience as it does to mine. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

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