Reader Question–MSFS Auto-Update

I have another reader question to explore today with everyone.  It’s a rather interesting one and honestly it’s one of my very own pet peeves about Microsoft Flight Simulator.  Here’s a snippit of the email I received a few days ago. 

Hello, I recently stumbled onto your blog site and found your content to be extremely helpful as I slowly wade into the world of flight simulation.  I read your recent “Reader Question – Where are the Widebodies” posting and it inspired me to email you with my very own question to see if you can shed any light.  Like many I’m sure, I don’t have a lot of time to devote to flight sim.  I have a young family and once I’m home from work, have dinner and help get the kids all in bed, I generally enjoy taking a short flight a few times a week.  I have even less time on the weekends as the kids all seem to have different activities and sometimes at opposite ends of town. Anyway, I was hoping to spend a quiet Friday evening flying my favorite PMDG 737, but instead the entire time was spent downloading updates.  By the time MSFS finished updating, it was time for bed as I had an early start the next day.  So my main question is why are these updates forced on us and is there any way to disable them?  My sim has been working just fine and I would have rather waited until a more convenient time to apply the updates, if that is even possible.  Thank you for your time.  George

Oh boy!  I for one certainly understand George’s frustration.  While I’m retired and don’t have kids that need to be shuttled around from one extra curricular activity to another….when I decide to sit down and fly….I want to fly!  Over the past four decades that I’ve enjoyed the hobby of flight simulation starting on the Commodore 64 all the way through each generation of Microsoft Flight Simulator and throughout each of the versions of Prepar3D….MSFS is the very first which has had this auto-update mechanism built in that upon launch and regardless whether you want  to update or not, you are forced to download/install the updates. 

During the Prepar3D (P3D) years, I would make it a matter of practice to always wait several days, perhaps even several weeks before downloading and installing an update.  Generally speaking, it could take several days, perhaps even a week or two before 3rd party developers could provide patches to their products to make them compatible with the most recent P3D update.  In addition, by deferring an update also allowed time to research the various forums to determine if the update caused any game breaking issues which could require a hot-fix to resolve. 

Having said all that, Microsoft Flight Simulator is a completely different sim from all those in the past.  Part of what makes MSFS the gold standard (in my opinion) is the fact it’s cloud based.  All the beauty and majesty we experience while flying around the virtual world is streamed down to our PC’s on an “On-Demand” basis.  The cloud based design allows for a much smaller footprint on our SSD’s or HDD’s and only needs to download the data specific to the location we’re flying.  As a result it’s necessary for all client machines connecting to the MSFS systems to all be running the same version of the base software.  Thus why we have the mandatory updates. 

I have read some comments on various forums and other social media platforms that suggest one can avoid the mandatory update process by disconnecting your network connection, start up MSFS and then reconnect once in the main menu.  While I’ve not tested this process, I believe avoiding updates is not the best practice in the long run and may lead to issues especially if you connect to the MSFS multi-player environment. 

Of course this cloud-based setup can lead to issues which we experienced a few months ago where many users experienced unexplained performance and CTD (crash to desktop) issues over several long days. I wrote about my own experiences in a blog posting titled “And Just Like That” where I discussed the issues I had experienced and my belief at what caused these issues. 

If I’m honest, I do have some long-range concerns regarding what may or may not happen as MSFS ages beyond the next several years.  There is a rather surprising number of simmers who still fly FS9 and FSX on a daily basis even though these platforms are almost two decades old.  While both Microsoft and Asobo appear to be fully committed to the success of MSFS 2020.  But depending on their long-range plans, it might not be possible to use MSFS in the year 2040 if something else has taken its place or God forbid the program is completed shelved.  Let’s face it, it costs a lot of money to operate the data centers and cloud solutions which allow us to fly around the virtual skies.  The powers that be at Microsoft will need to see a solid return on this investment over the years to come.  But hey, this is probably a discussion to have at a later day in time. 

Bottom line (and in closing), as I’ve stated many times before, I believe Microsoft Flight Simulator is the gold standard of all flight simulator platforms available today and I also believe, will be so for some time to come.  Despite the pain points we occasionally have to suffer through, when it works (and for me it works flawlessly 99.999% of the time) it brings me more enjoyment than I’ve ever experienced in my long history with flight sim. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog posts.  Until next time….

Happy Flying!

Jerry

MSFS Beta and Should You Participate

There are many reasons why the user community of Microsoft Flight Simulator or just about any major gaming title (simulation or otherwise) should participate in the various beta or early adopter updates released from time to time.  While in a perfect world, the developer behind any gaming title should have the resources to perform system testing to rule out major issues, the hard truth is most do not and there’s almost no way for any developer to test all the possible scenarios including hardware configurations and 3rd party add-ons/mods which all can and mostly likely will have an impact in the finished product.  In actuality, the developer (in this case Microsoft/Asobo) will perform their very best due diligence to ensure the update performs on a few different hardware configurations and generally leaves it up to 3rd party developers and mod creators to “shoe horn” their add-ons around what they’ve been provided.  So our participation in these beta programs (especially when feedback is sent back to the developer) is instrumental in the overall wellbeing of the gaming title.

Generally speaking, most 3rd party developers will participate in the beta programs for obvious reasons. But they do not receive the beta version in advance of the general public.  In other words, 3rd party developers like PMDG and Fenix only have access to the beta when it’s been made available to all of us.  The 3rd party devs will utilize the time between when the beta is released and it becomes GA (General Availability) to work out any issues with their add-on.  Of course in many situations this all becomes a fast moving target as there may be many iterations of the beta.  The time a 3rd party developer spends adjusting their add-on to function correctly with the beta could become a complete waste of time as changes are made and pushed out during the beta cycle.  In other words, in some cases the only way of truly knowing if a 3rd party add-on is going to work is to wait until the beta has become GA and been released to the entire community. 

Over the years, I’ve participated in many beta programs for all sorts of gaming titles.  Some have been positive, wonderful experiences of being able to gain access to new functionality or performance enhancements before everyone else.  But in a few cases these beta experiences have become an absolute nightmare.  In many cases the only way to escape the beta is to complete reinstall the current live version. As you can probably imagine this can be an extremely time consuming process.

A few weeks ago, Microsoft/Asobo began their open beta for the upcoming SU11 update and the word on the street is the experience hasn’t been an easy one.  Especially with some 3rd party aircraft and live weather.  Some 3rd party developers will do their best to provide solutions or workarounds for their products for the beta cycle, but most simply can’t and won’t guarantee functionality on a beta installation.  On the bright side, with regards to the SU11 beta, some users have reported experiencing a significant performance improvement from SU10. 

If you’re wondering if participating in the MSFS beta program is right for you, I would say it depends.  If you mainly fly default aircraft or if you still fly P3D/XPlane then participating in the SU11 beta  (or any future beta release) is probably OK for you.  However, if MSFS is your sole flight sim platform and you’re an every day flyer of add-on aircraft like the Fenix A320 or the PMDG 737, then I would highly suggest you hold off.  Bottom line, if you want full system compatibility between MSFS and 3rd party aircraft, then stay on the current live MSFS build.  Otherwise you may be in for a surprise when you attempt to fly your favorite 3rd party aircraft in the beta build. 

As always, thanks for reading.

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Flight Simulator Choices In The Year 2022

Unlike other simulation based genres such as agricultural sims, trucking sims (just to name two) these have very little choice and are ruled by two different developers with GIANTS controlling the ag sim with Farming Simulator and SCS ruling the trucking space with American and Euro Truck Simulator.  This lack of competition, while good for the developers is of course bad for us consumers.  But the same can’t be said for the choices available in the flight simulation space.  

In recent weeks, Laminar Research released X-Plane 12 in early access. Of course Microsoft Flight Simulator surprised everyone in 2019 and released MSFS 2020 during the summer of 2020 and Lockheed Martin of course has their Prepar3D version 5 (unclear if there will be a v6), so the flight simulation community has choices when it comes to selecting a platform to build around.  But which is best and which platform is the right one for you? 

In the year 2022, it’s really difficult to specifically state which flight simulation platform is the absolute best.  It’s much like Coke versus Pepsi.  Each have their loyal, dedicated fan base and each produce a quality product.  But of course we all know that Coke is the best and certainly the one I prefer.  Smile

For many of us who have been in the hobby of flight simulation for many, many years we grew up with the various offerings from Microsoft.  When Microsoft abandoned their popular Flight Simulator way back in 2009, the only two choices were either to make the move to Prepar3D or move to X-Plane.  For me, and I’m sure many like me who had made a sizeable investment in FSX add-ons, the clear choice was to go the way of P3D as most add-ons for FSX would work.  Developers made their products available for P3D as quickly as they could and some didn’t charge for the update.  Of course others made the jump to X-Plane and never looked back. 

Certainly before Microsoft re-entered the scene with Flight Simulator 2020, both Prepar3D and X-Plane were very similar in what each offered and many 3rd party developers were supporting both platforms.  But this has certainly changed in recent years and from what I’m seeing the vast majority of 3rd party developers have completely shifted their focus to MSFS and have slowly decreased their development efforts away from P3D and in some cases X-Plane as well. 

Now it must certainly be said that prior to MSFS, X-Plane had a much more active community driven focus towards the freeware development of add-ons than the P3D community.  With P3D everything pretty much shifted to payware as the only option for enhancing the simulator.  Of course in the past two years since MSFS has been around the community focus has returned and we’ve seen some really awesome add-ons released for the new platform as freeware with lots more to come. 

With all that said, what advice can I give to those trying to choose a flight simulation platform?  In all honesty, I believe of the three platforms I’ve mentioned (MSFS, P3D and X-Plane) really it boils down to just two choices with the first being Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 and X-Plane.  But allow me to explain why I’ve removed Prepar3D from the list.

Prepar3D has never been intended to be used in the home/personal entertainment category.  From the very beginning, Lockheed Martin was unable to market/distribute the P3D flight simulation platform for anything other than commercial and flight training purposes.  While this never stopped anyone from purchasing the sim (I’m proof of that), the very simple fact is P3D has always been intended as a training sim.  Regardless if Lockheed Martin introduce a version 6 of the sim, I don’t feel P3D will ever be enhanced to the point of what we’re seeing with Microsoft Flight Simulator and since the debut of MSFS along with the quality of add-on, study level aircraft from Fenix and PMDG (more will come) Lockheed Martin is losing a lot of their customer base which used P3D as an off-ramp when FSX was no longer a viable option.  As already mentioned, many 3rd party developers have fully embraced MSFS and are moving full steam ahead in developing quality add-ons for that platform.  Of course, many users will stay with P3D and I’m sure Lockheed Martin will continue to support the platform regardless if there is a v6. 

As I mentioned at the top of the writing, X-Plane 12 has just released.  From what I’ve seen, read and heard….this latest version isn’t going down as I’m sure Laminar Research had hoped.  As I’m not an X-Plane fan, I have no intention of purchasing the sim.  But from some of the videos I’ve watched, those who are showcasing the new sim have mostly been disappointed in what they are seeing.  Of course, it must be said that this is a early release version and most likely things will change. 

Now I know there are a lot of unbelievers when it comes to Microsoft Flight Simulator.  As I’ve mentioned in previous blog postings, even I had my doubts regarding the new platform.  But over time, I believe the sim has matured into a quality flight simulator that I believe to be the “Gold Standard” of the available flight simulation platforms available today.  Both Microsoft and Asobo are committed to the project and I believe what we’re seeing from MSFS today is only the beginning.  In addition, from a cost perspective, MSFS requires a lot less investment to make the ground textures mirror that of the real world.

The 800 lb Gorilla

To address the 800 lb gorilla in the room, many will argue and say that X-Plane (at least historically) has always featured the best, true to life flight dynamics of any of the available sims.  I personally can’t argue either way on this statement.  I’m not a real world pilot, I’m not training to be a real world pilot and personally unless the difference gap was huge, I really don’t care.  It simply means nothing to me.  The aircraft I primarily fly in MSFS (Fenix A320, PMDG 737) compensate for any weakness in the flight dynamics department and I enjoy every single minute of my time in the sim and in those aircraft.

But What About…

Yes, there are two other flight simulator platforms that I have yet to mention in this posting, specifically Aerofly FS4 and DCS World.  DCS World, of course is an awesome flight simulator if you enjoy simulating military flight ops and honestly has some of the very best visual simulations of any platform.  I personally don’t spend a lot of time in DCS, but I do use it from time to time.  If military ops is something you really enjoy, then DCS World will be your best bet. 

Unfortunately, I personally don’t have any experience with Aerofly FS4.  While the platform does have some 3rd party development support with some add-ons, I don’t consider it broad enough to be considered above P3D, X-Plane or MSFS.  In addition, unlike P3D, X-Plane or MSFS, Aerofly FS4 does not include the entire world as part of the base package.  Additional regions must be purchased separately. 

In closing, if you’ve been in the hobby of flight simulation for some time and are already using and enjoying Prepar3D or X-Plane, then I certainly understand why you may choose to remain on those platforms.  But if you are new to the hobby, I highly recommend you do your homework and give consideration towards Microsoft Flight Simulator as I believe this is the very best and certainly will be for many years to come.

Thanks for reading and as always….Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

And just like that…

Beginning on Friday, 19 August and continuing through the weekend hundreds, perhaps thousands of MSFS users from all around the world began experiencing issues where Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 would CTD (crash to desktop).  Unfortunately, around the same time FSDreamTeam released their GSX Pro MSFS Add-on.  As users were installing GSX Pro the issues causing the CTD’s were also showing up on the scene.  This gave a false sense that the CTD’s were being caused by GSX Pro when in actuality GSX Pro was certainly not the issue.  The proof of this became apparent when users began posting their CTD experience on the MSFS forums.  While some had just purchased GSX Pro, the vast majority had not. 

My Own Experiences

During this same timeframe I had installed GSX Pro and I also was experiencing CTD issues.  However, I had also made the decision to also begin the process of reinstalling Windows 10 and MSFS as I discussed in my “Saying Goodbye to P3D…For Now” blog posting.  This rebuild process took place on Friday and before I had even installed MSFS, I ensured Windows 10 was fully patched.  On Saturday morning with MSFS installed and fully configured with all my add-ons reinstalled, I attempted to load up a flight.  During the process of launching MSFS, my PC would CTD three times in a row.  On the 4th attempt, MSFS launched successfully and I was able to conduct a flight from DEN to SLC.  While I managed to complete the flight without a CTD, the performance of the sim was sluggish with stutters during the approach and landing phase.  The experience throughout the weekend was pretty much the same.  MSFS would often CTD while loading up and on two occasions I experienced a CTD after landing and while taxing to the gate.  For the most part, my own experiences matched up with what many others were also experiencing.

Crickets

For much of the weekend as more and more users posted their CTD experiences in this thread on the MSFS Forums, the silence from anyone at Microsoft or Asobo was deafening.  While there were a few official community forum admins posting occasionally, nothing was really happening with regards to any official communication and recognition of the issues.  Funnily enough, even as of today, Wednesday 24 August neither Microsoft or Asobo have officially made any comments.  Yet, the issue has apparently been resolved. 

The Fix

On Tuesday, the community began to hear via the MSFS Forum admins of a possible fix to the CTD issues.  The fix is as follows:

1.  Check for MS Updates, apply/install any updates available.
2.  Restart the PC  (More about this in a minute)
3.  Launch MSFS and Fly

Of course the community took the advice and low and behold it worked.  But is it as simple as this?  Is this really all that was required?  Do you mean to tell me that we could have all saved countless hours, gray hairs and the stress of watching a multi-hour flight vanish before our very eyes as we’re on final approach into XYZ airport? 

The Placebo Effect

For my own setup, the above “fix” was simply a placebo.  It didn’t do anything to address the root cause of the CTD’s and poor performance and I knew that as soon as I read it.  Like I said at the beginning, I had just reimaged my PC.  My PC had installed ALL MS updates available.  In addition, and this is important….I also disable the Windows 10 “Fast Boot” option when I build/rebuild a PC and you should also considering doing it as well.

The “Fast Boot” option was introduced as a feature in Windows 10.  It does exactly what it says on the tin.  With the feature enabled (and it’s enabled by default) when you perform a shut down of the Windows 10 OS, it keeps many elements of the Windows OS in a state of hibernation thus saving time when starting up.  The problem with leaving this enabled is any problem (regardless of how minor it might be) that exists with drivers, kernel, etc. will remain to be a problem each time you start your PC.  As the old PC saying goes, if you experience an issue….just reboot and 99.9% of the time that issue will go away.  But with Fast Boot enabled, unless you actually perform a “Restart” you are just bringing those same issues back. With Fast Boot  disabled, a shut down (which we all do to save electricity) will do the same as a restart.  On boot, everything gets refreshed.

If you are interested in learning how to disable Fast Boot on your PC, just Google it.  You’ll find all the info you need on how to disable this feature that really isn’t that much of a feature.

What I really think happened?

I have two possible ideas.  My first thought is on Friday, Microsoft/Asobo made an untested change to the backend servers which caused these issues.  After all, some users were successful at getting MSFS to work without CTD by disabling live weather, traffic etc.  Or, another scenario is something within these same backend servers got corrupted in some way that was eventually resolved by Microsoft/Asobo either late Monday or sometime on Tuesday. 

Most likely we will never know for sure.  The root cause analysis will never be revealed by Microsoft and that’s just the way things work. 

Concerns Going Forward

From the very beginning of my experience with MSFS, I’ve had concerns with a few things about the new sim.  First, I’m not a big fan of the automatic update features where you are forced to take sim updates when they are available.  This will become a much bigger issue for us as more and more 3rd party add-ons are introduced.  While the updates are made available to everyone in the form of a beta, not all 3rd party developers have the resources to act immediately to how the sim is changing and evolving.  We’ve seen with Prepar3D where a new update will break 3rd party add-ons for a period of time until these can be updated.  Generally speaking, these periods of time are only a few days to a week or two at most, but it is an issue.  I would like to have the choice as to whether I take an update today or perhaps delay it until the 3rd party developers have had some time to perform their own patches/updates.

Second, I’m also concerned about just how much MSFS relies on the online infrastructure hosted by Microsoft/Asobo.  Again, comparing it to P3D….once I install and configure P3D to my liking, it just works regardless to what is happening at Lockheed Martin. 

Finally, I’m also concerned with the parallel development of MSFS for both PC and Console players.  While this may sound harsh to console players, I’m a PC gamer and while some games can certainly be enjoyed on the console platform, many can not.  MSFS on a console just will never be the same experience as that of the PC and I feel those of us on PC could be held back as a result of this parallel development concept. 

The Future IS MSFS

In closing, a resounding YES, MSFS is the future of flight simulation.   When I think back to where this hobby has come from to where it is now…OH MY GOD!  I have personally experienced it all.  Starting in the early to mid 1980’s on the Commodore 64 throughout all the Microsoft branded flight simulators over the years, Prepar3D and now MSFS.  It’s a great time to be alive and be involved in this hobby.  I just hope my concerns become null and void. 

As always, thank you for reading.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

JT

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.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYDM9kwzy8M[/embedyt]

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

Microsoft Flight Simulator–Two Year Anniversary

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.

August Expectations

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.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

PMDG Boeing 737-700

I learned a long time ago to never….absolutely never say never.  Yes, my friends.  I broke down and pulled the plug and purchased the PMDG Boeing 737-700.  Yes, I had previously stated that I had no interest in the –700 since the virtual airline I’m involved with is an American Airlines based VA and American only flies the 737-800.  While we have codeshare airline agreements with Alaska (who do still operate the –700) and most recently GOL Airlines (who also operate the type), the main reason I pulled the trigger on the PMDG 737-700 was mainly due to the desire to fly the PMDG in MSFS.

After having exclusively used the awesome Fenix A320 in MSFS for the past several months (since its release day) and flying over 100 flights, I was seriously missing flying my PMDG.  One morning I fired up P3Dv5, loaded up the PMDG 737-800 and departed DFW airport.  Almost immediately my eyes said NO…Stop This Maddness!  I was quickly reminded as to the many reasons I enjoy the hobby of flight simulation so much. 

While P3D has provided me years and thousands of hours of flight simulation enjoyment.  It just no longer ticks all the boxes for me from a visual eye-candy perspective.  But with the delays in PMDG bringing their 737-600 to market and knowing the 737-800 could still be several months away from release, I just needed to have a PMDG aircraft in MSFS. 

I quickly killed the flight, rebooted my PC and purchased and downloaded the PMDG Boeing 737-700 for MSFS and installed an American Airlines livery.  I loaded it back up in DFW and departed towards my destination.  While American Airlines never operated the –700, my VA allows for this aircraft substitution and the value in having it and flying it outweighs the fact this is an entirely fictional aircraft for AAL.

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Since that first day a few weeks ago, I’ve flown over a dozen flights in the –700 and mostly love the experience thus far.  I say mostly, only because I do still believe in the current state (version 3.00.00.25) the Fenix A320 is a more complete aircraft….but the PMDG 737-700 is still very much fun to fly and only lags behind by a very small percent (in my opinion). 

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Now I have absolutely no plans to purchase the 737-600 which could be released any day now.  While according to PMDG news updates, they are working on the 737-800 in tandem with the –600 and Robert Randazzo even stated the –800 could be ready to release at the same time or even ahead of the –600.  I know from a business perspective, PMDG will most likely release the –600 first and then after some delay the –800 will release.  Otherwise, if PMDG releases the –800 ahead of the –600, then the sales of the –600 will be very minimal.  Most likely the sales of the –600 will be minimal anyway compared to that of the –700.  Personally, I believe PMDG should have followed their strategy from P3D and released the –600 as an expansion for the –700 and then release their –800 with an expansion to the –900.  But I digress…

In any event, I’m absolutely loving having both the Fenix A320 and the PMDG 737-700 in my virtual hangar for Microsoft Flight Simulator.  While I do miss my PMDG 777, PMDG 747 and the QualityWings 787…the time I have available for flights at this moment somewhat limits me to the shorter-haul flights which the A320 and B737 are designed for.  I know in time these other awesome aircraft will one day be available in MSFS.

What are your impressions of the PMDG 737-700 for MSFS?  I’d love to hear them in the comments. 

Until next time….

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Fenix A320 for MSFS

It’s been a while since I took the time to write a flight sim blog post. I’ve been busy with lots of DIY projects and just enjoying the spare time I have flying.  As I discussed soon after the release of MSFS, I decided to continue to fly Prepar3D v5 for all my airliner flights and have enjoyed Microsoft Flight Simulator mostly for General Aviation flying.  While I recognized from the very beginning that MSFS was going to be the new flight simulator standard, I saw no immediate need to begin flying airliners in the platform until just recently for several reasons.

First, while I did briefly play around with the FBW A320 in MSFS and will admit that what that team accomplished with the FBW A320 project is truly amazing, I didn’t see it replacing the FSLabs A319, A320, A321 I had in P3Dv5.  Second, from a short-haul perspective….I had everything I truly needed between the FSLabs and the PMDG 737.  I truly was waiting for something to grab my attention to the point where it would suck me right into MSFS.  Third, I must admit that I’m super spoiled with using Chaseplane to handle all my camera views in P3D.  The MSFS camera view system is seriously lacking when compared to Chaseplane and as I’ve been a Chaseplane user from the very beginning, old habits are truly difficult to break.

While I’ve been anxiously awaiting PMDG’s release into MSFS, I was slight disappointed in their release strategy.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand the reason behind releasing the Boeing 737-700 first, followed by the 737-600 then finally the 737-800 followed by the 737-900.  After all, had PMDG released the B738 first, they might have struggled with getting the sales on the –700/-600.  But, for me personally I’m just not interested in owning a –700 or –600 variant.  My primary interests are in the 737-800 and the 737-900.  As I fly mostly American Airlines with some Alaska Airlines flights mixed in.  But I digress as this blog post is supposed to be about the Fenix A320.

I began hearing about the Fenix A320 project a few months ago.  I’ll be honest, I really didn’t pay much attention to it until the last 60-90 days before release.  But the more I read about it the more I anxiously awaited its release and realized this could be the airliner to finally bring me more into MSFS. After all, I absolutely love the visuals (eye candy) in MSFS over P3D and truly want to do more airliner flying in the new sim. 

The Fenix A320 was a day one purchase for me and since the release, install and setup…I’ve flown nothing but the Fenix in MSFS.  I’ve successfully logged 24 flights in the Fenix and absolutely love it.  I’ve managed to setup the MSFS camera system to a point where I can use it and have been having fun.  I’ve flown a variety of short flights (1-2 hours) and several longer flights of 3-4 hours.  Both the Fenix and MSFS have performed flawlessly.  I’ve also started adding a few airports into MSFS from both some freeware selections on Flightsim.to and a few payware options where I’ve had discounts from previous P3D purchases.  While I’m not ready to uninstall P3D as I plan to fly P3D tomorrow in the Boeing 777, I’ll do the majority of my short-haul operations, and certainly all my Airbus flying in MSFS. 

Final thoughts on the Fenix A320.  I don’t like to “Never Say Never”, but if the devs behind the Fenix project remain true to their word and release the additional engine types and sharklets for the A320 and if they also produce (in time) an A319 and A321, I’ll be a Fenix customer from this point forward and won’t even consider any future FSLabs purchases in the A319/A320/A321 categories.  But of course time will tell. 

As always, thank you for reading. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Around the World Adventure–Flight Day 6

Note:  This is a fictional flying adventure using Microsoft Flight Simulator.  Any similarities to real world events, people and places is strictly for the purpose of the story.  While a trip like this might not be possible (or even a good idea) due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, I’m omitting this from this adventure.  At this time in all our lives, we need a little break from reality from time to time. 

Flight Day 6

To date our general flight routing has been with the goal of reaching South America.  All previous countries we’ve landed in or over-flown have been countries I’ve previously visited in the flight sim.  We’ve finally reached the portion of the trip where I’ve not (at least in the past 4-5 years) visited.  So today’s flight is taking a bit of a shortcut from Tocumen direct to Ecuador (bypassing Columbia).  Over the next few weeks the hope is to pickup all the remaining countries I need to visit to make South America 100%.  This plan also includes a flight down to Antarctica.  Once this has been achieved, we’ll turn and fly along the eastern coast as we make our way north towards the Caribbean.  While I’ve visited most of the Caribbean islands before, we’ll do a little island hopping to pickup the ones I’m missing and using that path as a shortcut to get back to Florida and the east coast of the US.

MPTO SETN

leg 6

Today’s flight is just under 500nm, but will be the first over open water as we’re taking a bit of a shortcut and flying direct from Panama City, Panama to Esmeraldas, Ecuador. 

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The Mooney Ovation has been performing flawlessly and is certainly up to the task.

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The Pacific Ocean is looking pretty calm, but keeping our eye on the clouds ahead of us. 

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As expected, had to climb above the clouds to avoid a small storm. 

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Runway ahead.  I think we’ll beat the rain. 

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On the ground in Ecuador.  As we’ve been pushing ourselves a bit hard over the past few days, we’re going to spend 2-3 days here exploring the area before proceeding towards Peru. 

Thanks for following along with my around the world adventure. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

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