The highly anticipated GSX Pro by FSDreamTeam has finally been released for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 (MSFS) and boy, oh boy….has it made an impact in the flight simulation community. If you are new to the flight simulation world and have not had the opportunity to use GSX in either FSX or P3D, the you might be wondering what it is, what it does and whether or not you need it in your sim. I’ll answer these questions and also for those who are already familiar with the product, will discuss why I believe you still need this in MSFS.
Before I start this product review. Please allow me to get the fine print out of the way.
The product I am reviewing was purchased by me and for my own personal use. I receive absolutely no compensation of any form (cash, credit, discounts, promises) for reviewing this product. I have not contacted, nor have I been contacted by the vendor to provide this product review. The opinions expressed (good or bad) are my own, your mileage may vary.
What Is GSX Pro?
GSX Pro by FSDreamTeam is an all-in-one ground services add-on for Flight Simulator 2020 (MSFS) and improves all ground services including push-back, catering, refueling, baggage and passenger loading. GSX Pro adds an extra level of immersion to your overall flight simulation experience.
I’ve been a fan of GSX for many years and since making the full switch to Microsoft Flight Simulator a few months ago, had truly been missing this add-on. For me, GSX ticks all the boxes and provides my flight simulation experience all the immersion necessary to simulate the role of a commercial airline pilot.
The new version, GSX Pro debuted for MSFS just a few weeks ago and unfortunately the release was troubled by several unfortunate issues which were not entirely the fault of FSDreamTeam. On the day of release, many users began experiencing poor performance and frequent CTD’s (crash to desktop). Naturally, when something goes wrong with the sim we can’t help but look at the last thing we tweaked or installed as being the culprit. This is only natural and I initially jumped to the conclusion that something had seriously gone wrong with the install or there was something seriously wrong with GSX Pro. However, after some time it became clear that these issues with MSFS were happening to users who had not purchased/installed GSX Pro. The issues causing the CTD’s and slow performance of MSFS (which to this day are still not completely known) were resolved by Microsoft/Asobo and once again MSFS performed as it should.
As previously stated, GSX Pro provides an all-in-one ground services function for MSFS. This of course includes catering, refueling, baggage and passenger boarding and de-boarding, refueling and push-back services. For the most part it performs all these functions well. Yes, there are some small quirks which happen from time to time. While some of these minor annoyances could be caused by MSFS, some of these have been around in the product from the FSX/P3D days. In my opinion, when I see the baggage carts driving through the engine or through another vehicle, I just chuckle and appreciate the fact I’m alive and able to enjoy this hobby as much as I do. Remember, AI will never be perfect. We see these same issues in other simulation based titles and it’s in your best interest to just grin and bear it just as I do.
All-in-all, GSX Pro is an add-on I rate highly in the “must have” category of flight simulation add-ons. As I previously said, I had truly been missing GSX Pro after making the switch from P3D to MSFS a few months ago. As I write this, GSX Pro has been available for about 3 weeks and the level of improvements, bug fixes etc. have brought it up to the standard in which it was for P3D and it will continue to improved over time.
Do you absolutely need GSX Pro? If you want to add that extra level of immersion to your flight simulation experience then the answer is an overwhelming YES!
Good Sunday morning! We awoke this morning to some really great news regarding the highly anticipated PMDG 737-800 for Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS). Essentially, the PMDG Boeing 737-800 is on final approach and should be available sometime between 23 August and 31 August. This is excellent news for any fan of the 738. After all, it’s really been a long time coming. For me personally, this particular aircraft has been the “missing link” in my MSFS setup.
Along with the release of the PMDG 737-800, some really cool lighting features are also due to be released. While I’m not 100% certain of this, but I think these lighting features will be available for the other 737 types including the –700 and –600 which have already been released. In any event, these new lighting features including spotlights and sun visor/shade devices will be extremely helpful to have in the sim. A new video was released this morning showcasing these new features. You can view that below.
Until MSFS came along, I really didn’t have much desire to fly during the nighttime hours. Oh sure, I loved flying into LAS just before dusk, but in previous sims (FSX and P3D) I found the night lighting to be less desirable and harder on my system. Plus I just really couldn’t see as well. With MSFS, all elements of light have been drastically improved from the previously mentioned versions and flying at night is something I actually enjoy now.
In Other News
Most likely you’ve also already heard that Sim Update 10 for MSFS has been delayed a few weeks. Microsoft/Asobo is shooting for mid September for this update. SU 10 may prove to be one of the greatest achievements we’ve seen thus far in the life of MSFS as it should deliver many performance improvements.
CTD’s and Other Annoyances
Have you been experiencing multiple CTD’s (Crash to Desktop) in the past few days? If so, you’re not alone. Even after my recent sim machine rebuild and reinstall/reconfigure of MSFS, I’ve been plagued with a few CTD’s. Fortunately, all my CTD events (knock on wood) have been occurring during the launch process for MSFS and not during flight. There is a very long thread on the Microsoft forums discussing these recent CTD’s and the general consensus is that they have something to do with how MSFS interacts with the servers controlled by Microsoft/Asobo.
While early speculation pointed the finger at FSDreamTeam and the new GSX Pro, there are other users who have experienced recent CTD’s and haven’t purchased GSX Pro nor own any FSDT add-ons. You can read this rather lengthy forum post here.
Well that’s about all I have time for today. I’m approaching DEN in the Fenix A320 and need to now focus my attention on a safe landing.
In just a few days, 18 August 2022, Microsoft will celebrate the two year anniversary since the release of Microsoft Flight Simulator. During the summer of 2019 and somewhat out of the blue, Microsoft announced they were working on the new version of their extremely popular Microsoft Flight Simulator. I use the words “Out of the Blue” because most in the flight sim community were not aware of this news and it came to us with excitement and even some speculation. Many of the blog postings I wrote here on my blog were very much mixed with my own personal excitement but also with guarded concerns. After all, Microsoft had abandoned Flight Simulator and as a result many of the long-time fans of the sim had moved over to Prepar3D or X-Plane. For the most part, I was certainly happy with the direction Prepar3D was moving in and was having a lot of fun in the sim.
As we approach the two year anniversary of the release of the new Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS) I can happily say that much of the concern or speculation I once held towards the title have been dismissed. After all, earlier this summer when the Fenix A320 and PMDG 737-700 released for MSFS, I began flying MSFS almost exclusively. I still occasionally fly P3D when I have a need to fly the PMDG 777 or the QualityWings 787. But I would say this is perhaps only 1 out of 100 or so flights that I do this. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the time I spend in MSFS and the experience gets better and better. As a matter of fact, I changed my mind on the decision not to purchase the PMDG 737-700 (I initially said I would hold out until the 737-800 released) as the few times I tried flying the 737-800 in P3D, I just didn’t enjoy the experience. While MSFS may have some limitations, the overall beauty of the sim makes up it. Plus the addition of the Fenix A320 and the PMDG 737-700 (and soon to be released 737-800) have been instrumental in keeping me flying MSFS and essentially letting P3D gather dust.
About those concerns…
The concerns and speculation many of us long-time flight simulation enthusiasts once had for Microsoft and Microsoft Flight Simulator have (in my opinion) to be null and void at this point. In all honesty, while it did take me about a year and a half to fully embrace MSFS for my jetliner use, I was convinced that the efforts of both Microsoft and Asobo would truly turn MSFS into the future of flight simulation we have been longing for. It just took some time for some of the more advanced airliners to make it into the sim and of course it took some time for Microsoft to work out a few bugs. But as I’ve mentioned a few times, I’ve been enjoying the hobby of flight simulation since the early 1980’s. The advancement of flight simulation over these past 35+ years is truly amazing. The dedication I see from Microsoft, Asobo and all the many 3rd party developers certainly have me convinced that Microsoft Flight Simulator earns the right to say “As Real As It Gets” and will only continue to get better as time goes by.
While August is about half way done, I believe we’ll see some amazing things happen this month. First and foremost, Microsoft/Asobo have been working hard on the sim update 10 release. While I haven’t participated in the beta, I’ve heard from many simmers who say that SU10 addresses many of the bugs we’ve been plagued with and moves the sim one step further ahead with better performance and features which many 3rd party developers can take advantage of. While I’m not a fan of Microsoft’s “Must Update Features”, I am anxiously awaiting SU10 and hope the update/upgrade process works as smoothly as all the previous updates have.
In addition to SU10, I believe we will see the PMDG 737-800 release this month or early September. The 737-800 is my all-time favorite aircraft to fly in the sim and I’ve missed having it. Yes, the 737-700 is just a bit smaller, but I want my 738 and I want it as soon as possible. I know many of you do as well.
Finally, I also believe we will soon have FSDreamTeam’s GSX available to us during the month of August. For those that don’t know, GSX is the ground services component to flight simulation. GSX controls all aspects of cargo and passenger loading, including the visuals for baggage/cargo being loaded onto the aircraft along with fueling, catering and that much important de-icing during the winter months. In addition, GSX also does a really good job with aircraft pushback services which are truly lacking in MSFS at the present time.
The Future Remains Bright
I believe we’ll continue to see some truly amazing things come to MSFS in the later half of 2022 and early 2023. I’m hopeful SU10 paves the way for Chaseplane to finally come to MSFS and of course we might….just maybe see the PMDG 777 before end of year or perhaps very early 2023. Time will certainly tell. It’s certainly a great time to be alive and a great time to be a flight simulation enthusiast.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read and I look forward to returning with a blog post in a few weeks to document my experiences with SU10, PMDG 737-800 and hopefully GSX.
Hello and thank you for stopping by. For several years I have wanted to produce more cinematic flight sim productions. However, the amount of time required hasn’t always been something I’ve had a lot of. But times are different now. Of course I love flying and this video was a lot of fun to put together. There will be more soon….
Welcome Aboard to American Airlines flight 777 with non-stop service between Phoenix Sky Harbor International
Airport and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. Your captain for this flight is JT. Please sit back,
relax and enjoy the flight.
PMDG Boeing 737-800 (NGXu)
American Airlines Livery
Lockheed Martin Prepar3D v5
(1) ORBX FTX GLOBAL
(2) ORBX OpenLC North America
(3) Flightbeam Studios KPHX
(4) FlyTampa KLAS
(5) FSDreamTeam GSX Lvl 2
I hope you enjoy watching my videos. If you do, please hit that “Like” button! Also, if you are new to the channel, please SUBSCRIBE. It really does help!
Please visit my blog site https://grizzlybearsims.com You’ll find my complete mod list and various articles and reviews on many of the simulation based games I enjoy playing.
Thank you for watching!
Dreaming in 432Hz by Unicorn Heads (YouTube Music Library)
I recently compiled a My Top 10 Payware Aircraft for Prepar3D v4 listing where I ranked my favorite ten (plus an honorable mention) payware aircraft and why. This list will be similar in style, but will obviously focus on payware, add-on airports. I would encourage you to read my latest article titled “Why Consider Payware Airports” as it answers some of the questions as to why we spend the extra $$$ to add extra scenery to our flight sim.
For the record, I have a fairly large amount of payware add-on airport scenery. Sometime last year I compiled a Google map so I could (at a glance) see what I owned and where I might want to fly so I can enjoy this add-on scenery. At the time of this writing, I own a total of 63 add-on, payware airports and over the course of this article, I’ll give you the rundown of my favorite ten or so. Let’s get started!
#10 – UK2000 London Heathrow (EGLL)
Actually, Heathrow is one of my favorite places in the world. I absolutely love to plane spot here. Both my wife and I enjoy our time we spend in the English Countryside and arriving at Heathrow is truly an awesome experience. Generally on our way back home we’ll arrive a bit early so I can stand in awe and watch Boeing 747’s, 777’s and Airbus A380’s land and take-off to/from destinations all over the world. I’m always amazed at just how efficient this airport operates with the volume of traffic and only two runways.
#9 – FSIMStudios Cancun International Airport (MMUN)
Cancun is one of the newer add-on airports to land in my collection. While I’ve never had the opportunity to visit Cancun in real life, it’s certainly a place I wouldn’t mind going. The team at FSIMStudios have done a fantastic job with the scenery and I’m looking forward to their future work.
#8 – Imaginsim Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (KAUS)
Austin-Bergstrom is another newly acquired add-ons which I picked up a few weeks ago. This is a great airport in real life and it’s nicely modeled in the sim. I really like the work Imaginsim puts into their sceneries and also own Atlanta KATL.
The second largest airport in Bavaria, Nuremberg is beautifully done and is a great airport to pair up with flights from London Heathrow or London City. For the level of detail this add-on also performs really well with little to no impact on sim performance.
#6 – Drzewiecki Design Seattle Airports X (KSEA, KPAE, KBFI and KRNT)
If you’re like me and often enjoy taking delivery of your favorite Boeing aircraft direct from the manufacture, then you’re going to want to add Seattle Airports X to your inventory. Obviously Seattle-Tacoma (Sea-Tac) KSEA is the primary commercial airport servicing the greater Seattle area. A major hub for Alaska and Delta airlines, you’re sure to find lots of flight opportunities into and out of KSEA.
Paine Field, KPAE is the home of Boeing’s Everett Assembly Plant and home of the largest building in the world and where the largest planes in Boeing’s fleet are born including the 747, 767, 777 and the 787 Dreamliner.
Boeing Field, KBFI is where Boeing conducts final preparations for deliver of the 737 aircraft.
Renton Municipal Airport, KRNT is located adjacent to the Boeing Renton Factory that manufactures 737’s. KRNT is the initial point of departure for airplanes produced in the Boeing Renton Facility.
#5 – My Dangerous Airport Collection EGLC, LPMA, LXGB, LOWI and TNCM
I’m grouping these five airports together and calling it “My Dangerous Airport Collection”. Each of these five airports have very unique landing criteria and in the real world some of them require special certification and frequent training.
London City, EGLC Along with Heathrow, this is another airport my wife and I use every 18 months or so as we connect from London to Antwerp, Belgium. Much like Heathrow, this is a great airport to plane spot. London City Airport features a single 4,900 foot runway and only certain aircraft are certified to operate here. This includes ATR 42, ATR 72, Bombardier Q400, BAe 146/Avro RJ, Embraer ERJ 135/170/190 and the Fokker 50. The largest jet aircraft that can operate here is the Airbus A318 which British Airways operates from London City to New York, JFK (with a brief fuel stop in Shannon, Ireland). The return flight operates non-stop from JFK to London City. Aircrew must be certified to fly the 5.5° steep approach. If you’ve never flown into London City and never in that steep of an approach, let me assure you that you can feel the difference. London City, EGLC is developed by UK2000.
Madeira Airport, LPMA this airport is ranked 9th in the world of Most Extreme Airports due to its location and spectacular runway construction. Much of the 9,124 runway is built on stilts. The cross wind action at this airport will test your skills like almost none other. Madeira Airport, LPMA is developed by Aerosoft.
Gibraltar International Airport, LXGB is another one of my favorites. Gibraltar was ranked 5th in the Most Extreme Airports of the world. Just like Madeira, you have the possibility of strong crosswinds, terrain all around you and to top it all off, Winston Churchill Avenue intersects the short 5,511 ft runway and consequently has to be closed every time a plane lands and departs. Gibraltar, LXGB is developed by Aerosoft.
Innsbruck Airport, LOWI The Innsbruck airport offers something for everyone. The airport can handle aircraft up to the size of a Boeing 767 but you’ll most likely see smaller aircraft such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus A319/320/321’s operating in and out. The approach can be both difficult and also breathtaking. Innsbruck, LOWI is developed by Orbx and they have done a fantastic job with both the airport scenery as well as the surrounding area. Of course it blends in with the Orbx Global products.
Princess Juliana International, St. Maarten, TNCM You’ve probably watched videos of aircraft departing and arriving into this extreme airport. Folks hang onto the fence just behind runway 10 and try to keep from being tossed backwards from the jet wash. TNCM features a 7,546 ft runway and until just a few years ago handled Boeing 747’s operated by Air France and KLM on a regular basis. Perhaps today the largest aircraft flying into TNCM is the Airbus A340. St. Maarten, TNCM is developed by FlyTampa.
#4 General Aviation Favorites by Orbx 7S3, WA56 and WA79
Another, but the last grouping of favorites. This one is some of my favorite general aviation favorites by Orbx. I just love loading up my A2A Cessna 182 or Cherokee and exploring the countryside. Each of these airports is within the Orbx FTX regional system so the everything just blends in so nicely. Plus each have a little extra eye candy to enjoy.
Stark’s Twin Oaks, 7S3 is located in Oregon and is a privately owned, public use airpark. I believe this was the first of these I purchased. Developed by Bill Womack, it’s a classic.
Israel’s Farm, WA56 is located in Washington State and you’ll certainly experience the thrill of skimming over the trees, avoid clipping the fence and stopping before you run out of grass.
Walter Sutton’s Private Strip, WA79 I often fly between Israel’s Farm and Walter Sutton’s place and it’s only a short hop from Stark’s Twin Oaks. Another grass strip airfield which will certainly test your skill and nerve.
#3 FlyTampa Las Vegas McCarran International Airport KLAS
When I began identifying the payware airports I owned for this “Top 10” list, Las Vegas wasn’t included. Keep in mind that it may take me a few days to write an article and I often find a creative burst and I’ll start the framework for many articles at one time and then work on them a bit here and a bit there. In the meantime, a new version of KLAS was released by FlyTampa and OMG…it’s amazing. If it weren’t for the reasons I’ll later mention for my #2 and my #1 entries…this airport scenery would be #1. Without a doubt. FlyTampa has completely raised the bar and in my opinion snatched KLAS away from FSDreamTeam. I love FSDT scenery, but what FlyTampa has done with Vega is just simply amazing. Buy it! You’ll thank me later.
#2 FSDreamTeam Dallas/Ft.Worth International Airport KDFW
If I had any way to track the number of flights into or out of a particular airport, I would honestly believe KDFW would be at the very top in the ranking order. In the real world and starting at the age of a young boy, I have very fond memories of going plane spotting at DFW. I saw the Concorde back in the 70’s when it was being operated by Braniff Airways and I’ve watched the airport grow (and the surrounding area) into what it is today. As I became older and began my IT career, DFW was a common sight for me on Sunday afternoons and late Friday evenings for many years.
In the virtual world, FSDreamTeam’s KDFW was one of the first add-on airports I purchased and the first from FSDT. In my mind, FSDT’s KDFW has stood the test of time and is still pretty accurate. One of my favorite routes to fly in the sim is between #1 and KDFW.
#1 FlightBeam Denver International Airport KDEN
For those who know me and/or those who are regular readers of my blog content, it should come as no surprise that I would list Denver International Airport (DIA) as my #1 payware airport. After all, DIA is my home airport and I fly out of DIA both in the real and virtual world often. In just a little over two months, my wife and I will board a British Airways 747-400 and travel to London and I frequently fly out of Denver on American and Southwest. If I’m not careful, I may surpass the number of flights into/out of KDEN in the virtual world as I do enjoy simulating both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines flights. As I previously stated, my favorite route is between Denver and Dallas/Ft. Worth flying the PMDG 737-800 for American Airlines.
Most likely (and just like “My Top 10 Payware Aircraft for P3Dv4” list), I could re-write this posting a year from now, two years from now…perhaps 5-10 years from now and items #10 – #3 would/could change. But I wouldn’t anticipate either of these top 10 lists changing the #2 and #1 items.
While it was easier to compile the aircraft list, it was truly difficult to pull this list together. When I began the framework for the article, I had noted over thirty different airports and through process of elimination I began whacking that list down to what you see here. It truly was a struggle as I own so many really top-notch airport sceneries.
Episode 13 picks up where we left off with episode 12 and is the final leg of our trip. As always, thank you so much for reading.
Welcome to Southwest Airlines flight 1031 with service to Atlanta, Georgia. We’re in the same B737. Our block time for this flight is 1 hour, 55 minutes with a flight time of 1 hour, 27 minutes. Our planned fuel is 14,842 lbs. and our take-off weight is 132,041 lbs. Our cruise altitude is FL380.
This the final leg of a three leg journey will have us back in Atlanta before sunset. We seem to be running slightly ahead of these storms and that’s a good thing. We’re hoping to get out of Fort Lauderdale before a ground stop ruins our day. With all passengers/bags loaded, the aircraft is ready to pushback for another on-time departure.
Taxing out to 10L.
Blasting out of FLL
Making our left turn to join the departure.
The view off the starboard side. The combination of REX SkyForce, REX Environment Force and ActiveSky is doing an amazing job of providing the eye candy for this trip.
ATC vectoring us around the strongest of storm cells. We’re keeping the seatbelt signs on until we get above these clouds. The turbulence is bouncing us around as we continue to climb up to 38,000 feet.
Between cloud layers things have calmed down a bit. Just a few more thousand feet and we should be in the clear.
Smooth skies at last. We’ve turned off the seatbelt sign and released the cabin crew to begin cabin service.
I quite like the new Southwest livery.
Beginning our descent into the Atlanta area.
Joining the approach for runway 27L
Clear to land, runway 27L
Parking up at C6 at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Our day is done and what a day it’s truly been. Once we turn the aircraft over, I have about 90 minutes to grab something to eat and head to gate C14 to take a jump seat flight to Chicago Midway. Tomorrow I will serve as Sr. First Officer for a flight out of MDW to Detroit and back. Then I jump seat out to Oakland where I’ll have three days off before another full day of flights on the west coast. Fun times ahead.
Before I close out this report, let me just show my APL progress thus far. As you can tell from the image below, my total XP is 395.66 and climbing. I have just over 254 XP to go before my promotion to the rank of Captain and the move over to the left seat. As previously discussed, I’m earning $40.25 per hour at Southwest as a Sr. First Officer and now that I’m getting the hours I need, I’m content to stay at SWA for the near future.
With the last payday, I purchased a headset which along with the mobile phone and flight bag is earning me an additional 25% XP on each completed flight. While I really don’t think there is any right or wrong way to build your APL career, in my opinion (at this time) earning extra XP is more important than earning additional money bonuses. So all my salary earnings has been going to building up the XP bonuses.
See you next time.
If you are interested in experiencing your own “A Pilot’s Life”, I highly recommend the A Pilot’s Life, by SimBitWorld add-on for Prepar3D, FSX and X-Plane. You can learn more about the A Pilot’s Life by visiting the SimBitWorld website and/or purchase APL at SimMarket. Also, please read my full review of A Pilot’s LIfe here.
Flight Simulator: Prepar3D v4.5 (hotfix 1) Aircraft: PMDG 737-700 Airline: Southwest Airlines (SWA) ATC: VATSIM Airport Scenery: KFLL FSDreamTeam, KATL Imaginsim Terrain Scenery: Orbx Global Base, Orbx Vector, Orbx openLC North America Sky/Cloud Textures: REX 5 SkyForce and REX 5 Environment Force Weather Generation: ActiveSky (ASP4) Flight Planning: SimBrief, Navigraph, FlightAware, FlightRadar24
Episode 12 picks up right where we left off with episode 11. After a quick turnaround, we’re set to fly the second of three legs today. Thanks for reading…
Welcome to Southwest Airlines flight 2098 with service to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We’re in the same B737 we arrived in from Atlanta. Our block time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with a flight time of 1 hour, 43 minutes. Our block fuel is 15,480 lbs. and our take-off weight is 133,369.
Route: DCT BLVNS Y290 BAGGS JINGL6
I mentioned last time how quickly the MSY ground crew unloaded bags, they are equally as fast in getting them loaded.
With bags loaded, the catering crew is quickly dropping off drinks, ice and some of those wonderful Southwest FREE snacks. Yum
Push back underway. We’ll be in the air again shortly.
We’re not wasting any time…..on-time departure? Check!
Making our turn with the Mississippi River off the left wing.
We look to be running from another approaching storm.
Climbing up to FL370.
Leaving Louisiana direct Gulf of Mexico.
Watching and monitoring a storm over the Gulf.
Land ho…That’s Florida down below.
More lightning down below. Shouldn’t be an issue on the arrival. However, this storm might be a consideration for our third leg up to Atlanta. Time will tell….
On final approach
Short final for runway 10L
On the ground in Ft. Lauderdale.
As was the case in New Orleans, we’re on a tight schedule to deboard our passengers and get the aircraft turned around and headed back to Atlanta. Tune in next time for the 3rd leg of this journey.
If you are interested in experiencing your own “A Pilot’s Life”, I highly recommend the A Pilot’s Life, by SimBitWorld add-on for Prepar3D, FSX and X-Plane. You can learn more about the A Pilot’s Life by visiting the SimBitWorld website and/or purchase APL at SimMarket. Also, please read my full review of A Pilot’s LIfe here.
Flight Simulator: Prepar3D v4.5 (hotfix 1) Aircraft: PMDG 737-700 Airline: Southwest Airlines (SWA) ATC: VATSIM Airport Scenery: KMSY LatinVFR, KFLL FSDreamTeam Terrain Scenery: Orbx Global Base, Orbx Vector, Orbx openLC North America Sky/Cloud Textures: REX 5 SkyForce and REX 5 Environment Force Weather Generation: ActiveSky (ASP4) Flight Planning: SimBrief, Navigraph, FlightAware, FlightRadar24
It’s sometimes funny how articles are born here on my blog site. I began the framework to a “My Top 10 Payware Airport Scenery” article which more or less started off with a question as to why we purchase payware airport scenery and showing examples. I realized this would become a seriously long article, so I decided to split them into two different writings. So let’s get the why out of the way first, then in a few days I’ll release my top 10 list.
Why purchase payware airport scenery?
If you are new to the hobby of flight simulation or perhaps a complete stranger to it, you might wonder why we spend additional money on airport scenery. After all, this is both a valid question and a very good question.
Unlike other simulation based games in my library (FS19, ATS, ETS2) Flight Sim (and this includes FSX, FSX: Steam Edition, All versions of Prepar3D and even XPlane) does include the entire map of the world. As is the case with American Truck Simulator where we either have to wait for SCS to release a new US state DLC or rely on a mod developer, Flight Sim includes an open world to explore. This means that out-of-the-box, you can start up at just about any default airport in the world and fly to just about any other default airport in the world. Most default airports will include all runways, taxiways and buildings which exist in real life. Some of the buildings may even very closely resemble their real-life counterparts. However, as is the case with FSX/P3D…these airports (including runways, taxiways and terminal buildings) are seriously outdated. Let me give you an example of just how outdated some are.
Example – Chicago O Hare International Airport – KORD
As you can see from the chart below which is dated 2006 versus the second image which is more recent, a lot has changed. By default, even in Prepar3D v4, KORD is outdated by over 10 years.
As you can see, Chicago O Hare looks much, much different with some runways removed and others added.
But by default, if you fly into KORD you’ll be landing on runways which may not exist today and this truly confuses things when you are flying online with other pilots and ATC.
To overcome these obstacles, many of us will purchase add-on airport scenery which will update the airport based on what it looked like at the time the add-on was developed. Of course, even these add-on airports can become outdated rather quickly as KORD is once again due to make changes in 2020. So as you can see, it’s almost a never ending struggle to stay 100% current.
Unfortunately, as is the case with Chicago O Hare…the FSX/P3D community finds itself in a holding pattern awaiting an updated version of this awesome airport. The best current add-on version available today for KORD is based on what the airport looked like in 2011 timeframe.
Maximum Immersion and Eye-Candy
While the main reason to update might be to ensure airport accuracy, another reason is what I refer to as maximum immersion and eye-candy. Denver International Airport (KDEN) by default is modeled based on what the airport looked like around 2006. It’s recognizable in FSX/P3D by its iconic tent looking main terminal. But DIA has undergone some radical changes since it first opened in 1995, replacing the old Stapleton Airport.
Is the image below real or a screenshot from P3D? Hard to tell the difference huh? It’s a screenshot compliments of FlightBeam who developed the most recent version of my home airport. This image is from the vantage point of just north of terminal A. Overlooking the international arrival/departure gates used by Lufthansa and British Airways. You can see the iconic tent roof structure over the main Jeppesen Terminal building and directly in front of that the newly opened Westin Denver International Airport Hotel. Maximum immersion – CHECK! Eye-Candy – CHECK!
Photo Credit: FlightBeam KDEN
More than just the airport
Sometimes payware airports come with a little and some with a lot of additional features other than just a detailed airport. As is the case with the brand new Las Vegas McCarran Airport (KLAS) which was recently released by FlyTampa. In this example, not only do we get a highly detailed representation of the Las Vegas airport, but we also get bonus bling of the Vegas Strip. I personally can’t wait to do a nighttime approach into KLAS with this beautiful scenery. Can you say “Viva Las Vegas”?
Photo Credit: FlyTampa KLAS
Photo Credit: FlyTampa KLAS
Photo Credit: FlyTampa KLAS
I recently read a Facebook comment from someone who said something along the lines of “This isn’t airport scenery simulator” when commenting on a post regarding payware scenery. The great thing about this hobby is there’s literally something for everyone. One can simply purchase the flight simulator platform of their choosing and have a ton of fun flying around in the vanilla or default state. Or you can enhance the immersion and take it to a completely different level. The flight sim world is big enough and welcoming enough for all types of individuals. Enjoy the hobby on your terms.
Until next time…
Thank you….Thank you very much (read this in an Elvis accent).
While I’ve been thinking about this subject for a few weeks, I really was prompted to actually sit down at the computer and pour my thoughts into WordPress for you all to read. The subject of this writing has to do with add-on developers duplicating each others efforts. Understand, I’m not referring to stealing, copying or anything underhanded.
Earlier today the flight simulation community learned a brand new Las Vegas, KLAS airport scenery had been released by scenery developer FlyTampa. I’m familiar with FlyTampa and own two of their add-on airports including TNCM (St. Maarten) and KTPA (Tampa). On my wish list I have Amsterdam (EHAM), Chicago Midway (KMDW), Boston (KBOS) and with the word MAYBE beside it I now have Las Vegas (KLAS).
For the past 8+ years I’ve owned the add-on scenery for Las Vegas from FSDreamTeam. For the most part, I’ve been very pleased with their scenery. As a matter of fact, I’ve been so pleased with FSDreamTeam that I own a total of 16 of their add-on airport sceneries. The only developer which tops them in the number of products I own would be Orbx. Anyway…
Back to the Question at Hand
Generally speaking, as consumers, we see duplication of effort everywhere we look. Go to the grocery store and you’ll find multiple brands of products that essentially do the exact same thing. Out on the highway, you’ll see different types of automobiles which all do the exact same thing. Even in the very industry we simulate through flight simulation we have Boeing versus Airbus and American versus United. Let’s also not forget we have Prepar3D versus XPlane. I think the saying, “Variety is the Spice of Life” comes to mind here. Also, competition is always a good thing.
But is competition such a good thing in our hobby? I’d say YES and NO!
In the example of FSDreamTeam’s Las Vegas, it’s been out for about 10 years. Originally developed for both FSX and FS9 (Flight Simulator 2004) and made compatible for Prepar3D (including v4) it is starting to show its age. Having said that, much of the other FSDT scenery I own (with exception of KMEM and KSDF) were all purchased for FSX and FSDT has updated them for P3Dv4 at no out of pocket cost. Said in another way, the vast majority of the 16 products I own from FSDreamTeam were purchased 7-10 years ago and the developer has worked to make them compatible with P3Dv4 and I didn’t have to spend any money. This is one reason why FSDT has remained one of my favorite developers and why I try to support them every chance I get.
Back to the competition question and why I say it’s both a good thing and a bad thing. First let’s get the bad out of the way. When I hear of an add-on developer creating airport scenery for an airport which already exists via another developer, I think to myself just how many other airports in the world which we don’t have represented with accurately detailed add-on scenery? In other words, instead of recreating an airport that already exists by an established developer…why not select another airport?
As for the reasons why it can be a good thing, well in the case of FSDT’s KLAS which was developed for FS9/FSX, FlyTampa’s KLAS is 100% P3Dv4 including PBR textures which of course is the brand new buzz word around the P3D community. LOL No, PBR doesn’t stand for Pabst Blue Ribbon…it stands for Physical Based Rendering and in simple terms PBR offers lighting techniques that treats light the way it really behaves in the real world. When applied to an aircraft (as an example), the materials which make up the aircraft look more realistic.
As I said…
Competition is a good thing. Not only can it help to keep the cost to the consumer low, it also can assist in keeping everyone on their toes. But if you blink….then bad things can happen. In the case of FSDreamTeam and their KLAS scenery…THEY BLINKED and FlyTampa pounced.
Like any other piece of software, FlyTampa didn’t decide last week or last month to develop their version of KLAS. Most likely it’s been in the works for some time. As I’ve stated before in other writings, compared to other gaming communities…the flight simulation community is rather small. These 3rd party development teams are also small in size. The PMDG wiki page states there are 8 employees. So these things take time. But in the case of FSDT, I see no signs they were planning to make any major updates to KLAS and with the recent hype around FlyTampa’s version, I’m most certain FSDT won’t bother.
There’s very little brand loyalty in the flight sim community. If my wife sends me into the store to purchase a cold soda, I better come out with a red can in my hand. In other words, she drinks coca-cola or she’ll go without and I’ll get one of those looks if I even think otherwise. You know the look I’m talking about. Right?
On a related note, FSDreamTeam has been in the process of developing a version 2 for Chicago O Hare KORD. I believe it’s been in the works for almost two years. As is the case with most projects like this, no release date is known at this time. FSDT’s KORD will be amazing and it’s badly needed. However, another relatively new developer called Skyline Sim announced they were working on their own KORD (and other airports as well). Time will only tell…
For now, I plan to pull the trigger on FlyTampa’s version of Las Vegas. I’ll uninstall FSDT’s version and continue moving forward.
I’ve often commented on how much I enjoy the Steam gaming platform update process. Of the Steam games I enjoy (Farm Sim, Truck Sim etc.) when a patch or update becomes available, the Steam client seamlessly (for the most part) installs that update and I don’t need to worry about anything. Likewise, both ATS and ETS2 have even simplified a portion of their mod update abilities via the Stream Workshop. While some gamers might not understand just how wonderful this concept is (for Steam games), it’s only recently made it’s way into the flight sim world.
Historically speaking, anytime we’ve needed to update something in the flight sim arena (FSX and early versions of P3D) it’s been somewhat of an arduous task. Many times applying a service pack or updating scenery would/could lead to issues downstream. I would often forgo taking updates until such time I felt I really either had no choice or perhaps it was time to do a complete and full re-install of everything including Microsoft Windows. But as the title suggests, things have become much, much easier with regards to updating certain elements within Prepar3D v4 and yes….it’s the way it should be.
The P3D update process really couldn’t be any easier than how Lockheed Martin have made it for us. Unless you are absolutely brand new to P3D and only purchased v4 AFTER the latest update (4.1) became available then you probably already know just how easy it is to apply updates. By the way, this same update process existed within v3 (perhaps earlier but I just can’t remember). Essentially you can update P3D by uninstalling only the component you desire to update, then simply install the new updated component. Typically this would be the “Client” component. Complete and easy to follow instructions are available on the P3D website and YouTube also offers dozens (if not more) tutorials on how to safely update the P3D platform.
How we did things yesterday, is not always how we’ll do things tomorrow
Change can be a really good thing! And this is really why I decided to write this article. Upon initial release of P3D v4 some folks began to lose their mind regarding how developers began to change the way add-ons would get installed. Since the dawn of time (as it relates to flight sim) add-ons would get installed in the same directory structure of the sim. This concept worked fine (I suppose), but did present its own set of challenges when it came time to applying updates to the sim. Starting with P3D v4, add-on developers began to utilize the “Documents” method of installing add-ons.
For years the philosophy behind how to build the perfect sim PC consisted of at the very least two hard drives. One HDD which contained the Windows operating system and other applications not related to flight sim. Then a second HDD (preferably SSD) for the sim software. The idea behind this was one could get away with a smaller HDD for Windows and invest their money on a larger/faster and preferably SSD drive to contain the sim and all things related to the sim (scenery, aircraft etc.)
When I built my current gaming machine, I took it one step further and even included a third SSD drive for my Steam games to run on so I could truly keep flight sim separate on its own SSD drive. But with more and more developers moving to the “Documents” method of installing software, things started to get a little tight on my main HDD. Thankfully, if you are also experiencing (or starting to experience) congestion on your main HDD due to more and more add-ons being installed into the “Documents” folder, there is hope for you. You can simply relocate the Documents folder to another drive. As I’m a fan of giving credit where credit is due, I’ll just simply direct you to an already existing YouTube Video which discusses just how to safely accomplish this task.
Now back to the update process discussion….
But it truly gets better…
Oh yes it does! I can’t remember who did it first…perhaps it was PMDG or perhaps it was Orbx, but these were the first two I noticed including a control panel update process for installing incremental updates to their products. Since that time, other developers such as FSDreamTeam and FlightBeam have also moved to this concept and it’s truly amazing.
Specifically speaking about Orbx, I own a lot of Orbx scenery. When I say a lot, I mean….A LOT! Thankfully, Orbx has never charged a fee to upgrade any of their scenery from FSX up to P3D (including P3D v4). Because Orbx has a really large catalog of wonderful scenery, it was somewhat of a daunting task to constantly venture out to their forum site to check when a particular scenery title had made its way to being updated. But through their updated FTX Central client, it knows every piece of Orbx software I own and tells me when that particular title has been updated for V4 or includes an incremental update. As you might have guessed, it really is just as simple as point and click to install scenery or scenery updates.
As I mentioned, both FSDreamTeam and FlightBeam have also developed a similar control panel and it couldn’t be easier to keep everything updated. Thank you to all who have moved to this process.
One can only hope…
that others will follow. I’d love to see developers like Carenado, FlyTampa and others follow suit. Maybe they will….maybe they won’t, but I do feel the developers who have moved in this direction have set the bar which others will be measured against.