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.
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!!!
If you’re new to the world of Prepar3D v4 or just new to flight sim in general, you might be wondering which add-ons I would recommend purchasing to enhance the flight sim. Yes, P3D is pretty awesome just by itself, out of the box. But after a while, you might want to take your flight sim experience to the next level. When that time comes, there are a few add-ons which I personally believe (my opinion) one should own to help give you that additional level of immersion we all seek from our flight simulation experience. Here’s my Top 5, Must Have Add-ons for Prepar3D v4 which I believe will enhance your flight sim experience.
I’m really not sure when this wonderful little add-on was developed and released to the flight sim community. I’ve known about it and used it since the FS9 or FS2004 days. Considering FS9 was released way back in 2003, it’s one of the oldest, longest serving add-ons that I know of. When I build or rebuild my flight sim machine, FSUIPC is one of the very first add-ons I install.
What is FSUIPC? FSUIPC stands for Flight Simulator Universal Inter-Process Communication. In a nutshell, FSUIPC essentially allows various third party applications to communicate with and in some cases even control the flight sim platform (FS9, FSX, FSX : SE and all versions of P3D). I often just refer to it as the Swiss Army Knife of the flight sim world. In my opinion, FSUIPC is the hardest working, third party add-on EVERYONE truly needs and it’s why it ranks at the top of my list.
For the most part, much of what the casual flight simmer will need out of FSUIPC can be handled in the freeware or unlicensed version. However, if you want to truly open up all that FSUIPC can do including far better third party controller (yoke, pedals, throttles) support, flight auto-save functions, networking multiple PC’s together and much, much more…then you’ll want to purchase the license to open up this additional functionality. An FSUIPC license for P3D v4 is available at simMarket for 29.99 Euro. Trust me, it’ll be the best ($36.49 US based on current exchange rate) you’ll spend on P3D.
A really huge part of my overall flight sim enjoyment comes from the enhanced immersion levels that add-on applications provide to P3D. Yes, while P3D (just like FSX) has built in weather functionality…most find it to be rather weak. I’ve been a user of ActiveSky for a very long time. While opinions may differ regarding what third party application is best for displaying cloud textures, there is rarely any argument that ActiveSky is the very best on the market for real-time depiction of weather in the simulator. I also love using it to recreate flights using historical weather. For example, let’s say it snows in Denver but I’m not home to fly in real time. I can fire up P3D and set ASP4 for a specific day and that will be the weather I see in the sim. Pretty cool. ActiveSky for P3D v4 (ASP4) is available from several online retailers for 49.99 Euro ($60.83 US based on current exchange rate).
Speaking of cloud textures etc. I’ve been very happy with ActiveSky Cloud Art. It works seamlessly with ASP4.
There will come a point in time where you’ll want to further enhance your ground textures. Orbx (again my opinion) is the very best scenery add-on you can buy for P3D v4 and they offer a lot of awesome scenery. If you’re on a budget, I recommend starting with the Orbx FTX Global Base Pack. This add-on pack includes upgraded textures and autogen for the entire world. While the Orbx FTX Global Base Pack will set you back $99.95 AUD ($74.61 USD), you’ll find a couple of dozen freeware airport add-ons available from the Orbx website which work with FTX Global.
Then as you continue to build out your Orbx collection, I would recommend FTX Global Vector as this product will begin to introduce accurate coastlines, rivers, lakes and roads. Then as you begin to round out the collection, add the various regions such as Central Rockies, Northern Rockies, Southern Alaska etc.
A2A Cessna 172/PMDG 737-800
A brand new (out of the box) install of P3D will give you access to a few different general aviation aircraft including the Carenado Beechcraft Bonanza, Mooney Acclaim and Mooney Bravo just to name a few. However, if tubeliners (passenger airliners) are your thing, then you’ll need to seek these out as either third party freeware or payware add-ons. A few weeks ago I wrote about default/freeware aircraft options available for P3D v4. Please review that for details regarding freeware aircraft.
Most new virtual pilots will either be interested in general aviation or jetliner type flying. If both of these interest you, excellent. Unfortunately, I really don’t know enough about helicopter options to provide any level of detail as it’s just not something I’m really interested in. But I absolutely love both GA and jetliners as there are times I enjoy flying high and fast, and other times low and slow.
The A2A Cessna 172 and the PMDG 737-800/900 are two payware, study-level aircraft which are both extremely fun to fly…but at the same time fairly easy to learn. Both will provide hours and hours and even more hours of entertainment regardless of your primary fixed-wing interest.
The A2A Cessna 172 for P3D v4 (depending on P3D license level) will cost you $49.99 – $79.99 and is a professional level simulation of the real C172R. The feature list is quite extensive including an immersive pre-flight inspection system, maintenance hangar, visual real-time load manager and my favorite is it’s designed to be flown “By The Book” simulation.
The PMDG 737-800/900 for P3D v4 will cost you $89.99. The Boeing 737-800/900 base package will allow you to experience an airliner simulation unlike any in the history of simulation with this feature rich and magnificently detailed simulation of the Boeing 737NG.
While there are hundreds of different scenery, aircraft and utility add-ons to consider adding to P3D v4 to enhance your simulation experience, the last add-on I’m going to recommend is a Navigraph subscription. Navigraph provides the international flight simulation community with tools and software like those available to the real world aviation industry. I personally recommend the Navigraph Ultimate subscription which runs 75 Euro paid annually. While this may seem like a lot of money for an annual subscription, it provides unlimited access to BOTH their FMS data service and to their charts applications.
The Navigraph FMS data is available for all addons (including the above mentioned PMDG 737) during all AIRAC cycles in one year. An AIRAC cycle is 28 days, so you’ll receive 13 updates in the calendar year ensuring all your add-ons stay current based on real-world data.
Access to Navigraph Charts provides professional, worldwide and updated Jeppesen charts for the flight simulation community. These charts are accessible in their suite of Charts Apps including iPad, Android and their Charts Desktop client which works for both Windows and MacOS. All the charts, in one easy place.
Like many other hobbies, the flight sim hobby can become a very expensive hobby very quickly. I often compare it to photography. It’s been proven many times that a beautiful photographic image can be made with just a pin hole camera, yet once the photography bug bites you, you soon find your camera bag stuffed full of accessories you just can’t live without. Flight Sim is pretty much the same way. Just pace yourself and enjoy. I hope this list helps you “take off”.
Until next time…