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

FSDreamTeam GSX Pro Review

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. 

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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! 

As always, thank you for reading. 

Until next time….

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

PMDG 737-800 Final Approach

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. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Saying Goodbye to P3D…For now

My current gaming machine is just a little over 4 years old.  Amazingly, it still runs really well.  When I built it back in 2018, I used the latest and greatest components I could.  Amazingly (once again), the machine performs well with the current simulation based games I enjoy playing.  This even includes the new Microsoft Flight Simulator.   Anyway, I designed the machine to use a 1 TB NVMe SSD as the main drive along with a few SSD’s.  At the time of the initial build, I was running P3Dv4 and it was installed on the NVMe drive. 

When P3Dv5 released, I knew it would be several weeks before all the add-ons would catch up, so I installed it on the largest SSD (500 GB).  I ran both versions of P3D for several month with this intention of eventually doing a complete OS reset, then locate P3Dv5 to the NVMe drive.  Before that happened, MSFS released and I kicked the can down the road and delayed the OS reset and just uninstalled P3Dv4 to free up enough space on the NVMe drive for MSFS. 

For the first 18 months of the life of MSFS, I really only used it for GA flying.  But all that changed once the Fenix A320 and the PMDG 737-700 released a few months ago.  Since that timeframe, I’ve only used P3D a few times.  Meanwhile I was adding more 3rd party airport sceneries to MSFS and as a result watching the available space on the NVMe drive get lower and lower. 

On Thursday, I purchased and attempted to install the new GSX Pro from FSDreamteam.  Like many others, I ran into issues immediately after installing.  After reading forum threads and Discord messages, I finally gave up and decided to go to bed and sleep on it.  Oddly enough, I woke up fairly early this morning and decided it was time to refresh the OS and essentially make the move to MSFS 100% and for now, give P3D the BIG Heave Ho. 

Now, while GSX Pro has some challenges and some of the issues experienced on the first day appear to be related to their download servers….but I believe my own issues were a combination of having remnants of P3Dv4, along with P3Dv5 and MSFS.  While it should certainly be possible for everything to live in harmony…something was wrong and I felt just doing a Windows 10 reset was my absolute best option.  Like I said, the available space on my main SSD was becoming a serious issue.

It’s been a long day and I’m not 100% done.  But I’ve managed to get Windows 10 reset, fully patched with all updated hardware drivers installed.  The most time consuming part of the entire process has been reinstalling MSFS.  That took the better part of two hours just to download then apply the updates.  Next getting the Fenix A320 and PMDG 737-700 installed and finally all the add-on airports reinstalled.  I even took time to get the AIG liveries along with VATSIM model matching installed.  (That’s also a very time consuming process, but I had these things backed up so I didn’t have to start from scratch).  One of the last items I installed was GSX Pro and it installed without issue and works as perfectly has it can at this point in time.  I’ll explain more about this in a future blog post. 

As for the future of P3Dv5.  For now it will remain uninstalled.  To be honest, and I’ve said this before in other blog postings, I really only have time for short-haul flights.  While I do love the PMDG 777, 747 and the QualityWings 787, I really don’t have the time to enjoy them to their full potential.  Not to mention, (and I’ve also said this before) that the eye-candy factor is seriously lacking in P3Dv5 compared to MSFS.

Possible Final Thoughts about P3D

My interest in P3D really didn’t start until Lockheed Martin released version 3 in 2015.  I had dabbled briefly with version 2, but didn’t officially leave FSX behind until v3.  At that time most of the 3rd party developers were getting more seriously involved with Prepar3D and it just seemed like the right time to move over.  Of course, when P3Dv4 arrived in 2017 that officially ushered in the 64 bit compatibility we had all been dreaming of.  Finally one could get the true potential from the sim without fear of the dreaded OOM errors which were quickly followed by at CTD. 

When Prepar3D version 5 was released on April 14, 2020 we were in the early stages of the COVID Pandemic and I was working from home.  At this time we knew about the new Microsoft Flight Simulator and I seriously contemplated just staying on v4 knowing/believing MSFS would be the future.  But after a few weeks I finally pulled the trigger and purchased P3Dv5.  After all, I felt it could be at least a year (if not longer) before MSFS would be at a point where study level aircraft would be available and I wanted to experience the latest and greatest for whatever period of time it might be before making the move to MSFS. 

Getting into P3Dv5 from a financial perspective was really only the cost of the sim.  Again, to the best of my memory….99% of the add-ons I had been using in P3Dv4 were made available with P3Dv5 installers at no cost and I certainly got my monies worth out of v5.  All-in-all, as a hard-core flight simulation enthusiast I’m thankful to Lockheed Martin for making P3D available after Microsoft abandoned us.  While I tried XPlane sometime before P3Dv4, but having been such a long-time Microsoft Simmer I just couldn’t get into it.  In any event, at the time Prepar3D v5 was “As Real As It Gets”. 

I know many simmers discount MSFS.  Especially around the flight modeling.  But for me, this is a minor issue and is almost a non-issue with the Fenix and PMDG aircraft we have today.  I believe these issues will all evolve in time and MSFS WILL BE the very best home flight simulation platform. 

Final Thoughts

Just a little over 24 hours later and the rebuild is done.  I completed my first test flight in the Fenix A320 from TPA to CLT.  No major issues. I actually learned something today which I was not aware of with MSFS.  But all the settings including graphic settings, sim settings and controller settings/bindings are all saved in the cloud.  So when you reinstall MSFS, all these settings that often require lots of testing and tweaking to get things the way they were are just the same as before.  This saved lots of times and no doubt allowed me to get my first flight in much quicker. 

Thankfully I landed just when I did as 5 minutes after I shut down my engines and filed my PIREP, my electricity went out.  Thankfully my sim machine is on a UPS and I was able to safely shut down.  But my plans for flight #2 will have to wait a bit.  Until then….thanks for reading. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!  (Once power is restored)

Jerry

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