Hello Ladies, Gentlemen and Children of all ages… I truly appreciate all who take the time to read the content I publish in written format on my blog site. I realize the written word is so prehistoric in terms of all things new media. After all, we have podcasts, vlogs, livestreams etc. But the old blog site continues to received many thousands of visits each month and I very much enjoy writing and sharing…so thank you all for taking the time to read the ramblings of a middle aged man.
Pay special attention to the subject line and notice the use of the word “My”. This list hasn’t been compiled using some scientific method to include every single payware aircraft available for P3Dv4. It’s just my very own Top 10 list of my favorite payware aircraft for Prepar3D version 4. Yes, I own each of these and try to fly them on a regular basis. The operative word in that sentence is “try”. I’ll explain that later. Let’s get started with MY Top 10 Payware Aircraft for Prepar3D v4.
Honorable Mention – CaptainSim 757
I’ve opted to list an 11th listing which I’ve thrown into the honorable mention category and it somewhat pains me to do so. In my long history of flight sim and my nearly as long history of payware aircraft, I’ve had a somewhat contentious relationship with CaptainSim. But I so much adore the Boeing 757 that when no other options were available, I plopped down my hard earned money and purchased their rendition of the aircraft. While I had a terrible, terrible, terrible (did I say terrible) experience with their version of the 777 and I still believe their 777 flies like a brick, CaptainSim has come along way to improving the 757. While I don’t agree with their pricing strategy, CaptainSim (at this time) is the only option for a 757 in P3Dv4.
Note: In between the time I actually wrote this article and published it, QualityWings did release their Boeing 757 which was originally developed for FS9 and FSX. So technically there are now two B757’s for P3Dv4.
#10 – Carenado C208B Grand Caravan with Cargomaster Expansion Pack
While Carenado may not be known for developing truly study level aircraft, usually their attention to detail in producing both a beautiful aircraft and one that handles well in the air is good enough to give me several hours of fun. The Carenado C208B Grand Caravan with the Cargomaster expansion pack was perhaps my 2nd or 3rd purchase from Carenado and it remains one of my favorite aircraft to fly. I enjoy loading it up in the Fedex livery and doing some Caribbean island hopping. While I own a variety of Carenado aircraft and soon plan to add their latest release of the ATR 42-500 series aircraft. I think this one will also be a fun plane to fly around the Caribbean in.
#9 – Carenado Fokker 50
Just like I stated with the Carenado Grand Caravan, the Fokker 50 is beautifully detailed and flies well. This aircraft has made the list due in part to the fact that I’ve flown on this same aircraft so many times between London City Airport and Antwerp, Belgium. Unfortunately, when my wife and I were in Antwerp last summer (summer of 2018) the airline, VLM shut down operations just after we landed back in England. Talk about timing! So now we’ll most likely go by rail via the Eurostar which will be a brand new adventure I’m sure.
#8 – Majestic Bombardier Dash-8 Q400
I would suspect this aircraft would rank much, much higher on other’s lists (if they were to compile one). There are a few reasons why this aircraft ranks where it does on my list and it really has nothing to do with the aircraft itself. You’ve heard the saying…”It’s not you, it’s me” right?
So I was a bit late acquiring the Majestic Bombardier Dash-8 Q400. When I did purchase it, it was for P3D v3. Soon after purchase my life got busy (as it sometimes can do) and I never really got around to learning the aircraft. Then when P3D v4 came out, I tried to upgrade but that was during the time when the FlightSimStore was having their issues which I discussed here and again here. I finally managed to secure the upgraded version of the Q400 for P3D v4. I’ve just not dedicated the time required to learning this awesome aircraft. Perhaps if I can learn to fly this beauty properly, she would rank much higher on my list. But until then….here we are!
#7 – QualityWings Boeing 787 Dreamliner
This is one aircraft which in the real-world I’ve yet to have the opportunity to fly. The 787 ranks lower on my list simply due to the fact the other seven are more of a favorite than this one. While it took the team at QualityWings a mini-lifetime to bring this beautiful aircraft to Prepar3D v4, it was worth the wait. With the recent updates, the QW Dreamliner is truly a dream to fly and one I do enjoy flying every chance I get. Now before I leave the subject of QualityWings, I truly wish they would hurry up and bring their Boeing 757 to P3D v4. As soon as they do, I’ll purchase it and drop the CaptainSim in a heartbeat.
#6 – PMDG Boeing 747-400 v3 (Queen of the Skies II)
While it only took me a few minutes to jot down ten aircraft (11 if you count the honorable mention), it’s now getting down to the truly difficult part. Really from the Dreamliner all the way down to the #1, it really all boils down to just how frequently I fly these aircraft. As I truly love the immersion experience the flight simulation hobby gives to me, I also enjoy simulating real world flights. It’s just really, really hard to consider flying the magnificent Boeing 747-400 on a two hour flight. But then again…there’s always cargo operations.
The Boeing 747-400 will always be a very special aircraft for me. In my lifetime, I’ve flown on several. The first was on a United Airlines when I flew from San Francisco to Tokyo. I’ve since flown on a British Airways 747-400 another three times with a fourth coming up this summer when my wife and I will once again travel across the pond from Denver to London Heathrow on the British Airways 744. While she’s starting to get really long in the tooth, it’s still the most magnificent aircraft I’ve ever had the chance to fly on.
#5 – PMDG Boeing 777
I recently counted the number of trips across the pond (US to UK) which I’ve completed in my life. That number is eleven with my twelfth crossing coming up later this summer. The Boeing 777 holds a special place in my heart (and on this list) as it was in an American Airlines Boeing 777-200 that I made my first transatlantic crossing back in 2001. It was this trip which introduced me to my beautiful wife. Since that first trip, I’ve flown on British Airways 777 several times before they began using the 747-400 on the Denver to Heathrow route.
Of course, the 777 ranks here for much the same reason as the 747. But I do tend to fly a lot of domestic Fedex routes and they are always fun to fly. I truly love this aircraft.
#4 – FlightSimLabs Airbus A320/A319
Longtime and regular readers of my blog postings will certainly recall a time where I actually said I would never own the FlightSimLabs Airbus aircraft. A few months later I changed my mind and wrote about the reasons for changing my mind. I’m grouping the FlightSimLabs Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft together as they are very much the same aircraft, just slightly different variants. Both are awesome to fly and both get taken out of my virtual hangar from time to time for shorter routes when I want to simulate flying for American, British Airways etc. While I’ll always stand firm in the frustration felt with their earlier business practices, I firmly believe they have turned that corner and this team of developers are doing some really awesome things. I look forward to their A321 variant and will add it to my virtual hangar upon release.
#3 – Milviz DHC-2 Beaver
I absolutely love flying in the wilds of Alaska with this awesome looking and equally performing aircraft. An aircraft like this allows me to appreciate the shear beauty of the wonderful Alaskan scenery and with the float plane variant, there’s no place I can’t go. Just as it says on the Milviz website, the DHC-2 Beaver embodies the ‘can-do’ attitude that’s made this iconic bush plane a symbol of hard work for nearly 70 years.
#2 – A2A Cessna 172
The finest study level general aviation aircraft available for Prepar3D v4 (also for earlier versions and FSX) which you’ll find on the entire interwebz is the A2A Cessna 172. I’m really not sure you can call yourself a flight sim enthusiast unless you own this aircraft. While A2A also offers (and I own) the Cessna 182 and Piper Cherokee 180, the Cessna 172 is aircraft I truly love to fly. I will often load it up at Centennial Airport (KAPA) which is only a few miles from my home and office and fly around the Denver area.
#1 – PMDG Boeing 737
There’s a reason why both #1 and #2 on this list also appeared in my “Top 5, Must Have Add-ons for Prepar3D v4” article I wrote last fall. I must also admit that while I do very much enjoy flying low and slow in the above mentioned A2A Cessna 172, my main flight simulation passion is and has been for a very long time with jetliners/tubeliners. As it happens, the PMDG Boeing 737 happens to be my favorite, my go-to and my workhorse aircraft of choice and for many reasons.
First, versatility. This aircraft can practically go anywhere pending you account for fuel usage. As it’s popular with many different airlines, you’ll find a wide range of liveries available to simulate your favorite airline. It’s also a really easy and forgiving study level aircraft to start with. I can literally load up P3Dv4 with any variant of the PMDG 737 and within 10-15 minutes I can be taxing toward the active runway with everything running/programmed and ready for flight. Last, but certainly not least….the PMDG Boeing 737 is easy on frames which means you don’t need to have as powerful of a PC to still be able to enjoy a payware, study level aircraft.
Well, there you have it. My Top 10 plus an honorable mention just for the heck of it. Really with the exception of the #1 (PMDG 737) and #2 (A2A C172) the other listings could just about fall in any other order. Meaning, they all are top-notch payware aircraft and a whole lot of fun to fly. When asked, or even when I’m not asked…I always recommend both the A2A Cessna 172 and the PMDG Boeing 737 to those who are just starting out in flight simulation. As previously stated, both are truly awesome aircraft and both will give you that “As Real As It Gets” experience.
I think I’ll work on a “Top 10” Airport Add-on list next. Stay tuned…
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.
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.