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Microsoft® Flight Simulator

If you're a fan of—or just wondering about—Microsoft Flight Simulator, check out the information here to help you get more out of virtual flying.

My new book about using PC-based flight simulations to complement flight instruction was published by Wiley in January 2012. For more information about Scenario-Based Training with X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator: Using PC-Based Flight Simulations Based on FAA-Industry Training Standards, visit the title's page at the publisher's website, and the book's page here at BruceAir.

The webinar I presented March 21, 2012, “Using PC-Based Simulations to Complement Flight Training,” is now available as a video that you can stream from the EAA webinars page. The video isn’t high-def, and the webinar hosting software that EAA uses doesn’t support videos and animations, but the presentation does give you an overview of my thinking about where PC-based simulations like X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator fit in among the training and proficiency tools available to instructors and pilots. The presentation, which is based on the new book, also describes how you can use PC-based simulations effectively as part of scenario-based training (SBT).

If you have a copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator as a Training Aid, you can now earn WINGS credit from the FAA by completing a short quiz. You can register for the free online course (really just the quiz) at FAASafety.gov. To learn more about the WINGS program, visit the same site.

If you are curious about using Microsoft Flight Simulator as a training aid, see Flight Simulator in Aviation Training. You can learn more about my books, Scenario-Based Training X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator and Microsoft® Flight Simulator as a Training Aid: A Guide for Pilots, Instructors, and Virtual Aviators, on their pages here at BruceAir.com.

Cessna 172 Panel in FSX

Microsoft Flight

Microsoft has stopped all development of Microsoft Flight, the successor to Flight Simulator X. It was released as downloadable product in the spring of 2012.

No official announcement has appeared at the product’s website, but various sources, including Kotaku, have posted a statement from the company:

Microsoft Studios is always evaluating its portfolio of products to determine what is best for gamers, families and the company, and this decision was the result of the natural ebb and flow of our portfolio management. Many factors were considered in the difficult decision to stop development on "Microsoft Flight" and "Project Columbia," but we feel it will help us better align with our long-term goals and development plans. For "Microsoft Flight," we will continue to support the community that has embraced the title and the game will still be available to download for free at http://www.microsoft.com/games/flight/.

Apparently, most of the team that was working on Microsoft Flight has been laid off, so it’s not clear if Microsoft has any plans for its line of flight (and flight simulation) products. For now, the core of Microsoft Flight Simulator X lives on in Prepar3D, developed by Lockheed-Martin.

Information from Microsoft

The official Microsoft Flight Simulator website (www.FSInsider.com) provides the latest details about the product and articles about specific topics, such as:

The Flight Simulator Learning Center

The Learning Center is the web-like guide to Flight Simulator installed when you set up Flight Simulator on your computer. You can find the Learning Center on the Help menu in Flight Simulator.

It contains hundreds of pages of information, videos, pictures, illustrations, and links that explain the features in Flight Simulator and many important details about real-world aviation.

The Flight Simulator team published excerpts from the Learning Center on the FSInsider website.

Handy Tools and References for Flight Simulator

Using FS FundamentalsThe companion CD that comes with Microsoft® Flight Simulator as a Training Aid: A Guide for Pilots, Instructors, and Virtual Aviators includes many resources to make "flying" Flight Simulator easier and more enjoyable. Even if you don't have the book, you can download the following items here:

Learn as Pilots Do

If you're a virtual aviator who wants more information about real-world flying that will make flying Flight Simulator more enjoyable (and challenging), check out my Aviation Resources page, where you can find links to many excellent publications, including pilot training handbooks, available for free download.

To learn more about how Microsoft Flight Simulator is used in aviation training, see Flight Simulator in Aviation Training here at BruceAir.

FAA Cover Collage

You can also find many excellent free online courses and publications on the website of the Air Safety Institute.

AOPA also offers excellent information on its special page for Flight Simulator aviators.

Joysticks, Yokes, Throttles, etc.

Logitech JoystickMany people ask me about joysticks, control yokes, and other accessories for Flight Simulator. My answer is always to explore the offerings at a computer store (e.g., BestBuy, Fry's, or Wal-Mart) and then decide which device or combination of controls best suits your preferences and budget.

You can find a detailed discussion of flight controls for PCs in Microsoft® Flight Simulator as a Training Aid.

Online retailers such as Amazon.com also provide good lists of the latest accessories for Flight Simulator.

Pilot-supply stores (including ASA, King Schools, and Sporty’s) often offer several types of controllers for PC-based simulations.

To read my reviews of gear for Flight Simulator, including flight yokes and joysticks, see my Product Reviews page.

Saitek offers the X52 Flight Control System and the Pro Flight Yoke System, throttle quadrant, and rudder pedals. The company has also introduced additional accessories, including the TPM (Throttle Prop Mixture) console, and several backlit instrument, avionics, and switch panels.

Saitek Pro Flight Yoke

Saitek TPM

Here's YouTube video from Saitek that shows off its line of products for flight simulation enthusiasts. (Part 2 of the video is here.)

You can read my reviews of the Aviator and Pro Flight Yoke System here at BruceAir.

In July 2011, Saitek announced a line of Cessna-branded controls and accessories for PC-based simulations. An introductory bundle for $449.95 includes the items in the photo below.

Saitek Cessna-branded controls

CH Products makes a popular line of flight yokes, rudder pedals, and other flight controllers. Click the following links to download the latest version of the CH Products controller software and to find more information about configuring CH Products devices.

My review of the new CH Products Eclipse Yoke is here.

Logitech is another leading manufacturer of joysticks and similar accessories.

Thrustmaster also produces a range of joysticks and throttles.

FS two-monitor configuration

Two-monitor setup in Flight Simulator (learn more here—.pdf)

Home Cockpits and Approved FTDs

Those who want to create elaborate (and expensive) virtual cockpits should visit such sources as Precision Flight Controls, GoFlight, Flight Sim Pilot Shop, and popular websites devoted to Flight Simulator, such as the FlightSim Network, and Fly Away Simulation. The truly dedicated hobbyist should visit Cockpit Simulator Builders.

Popular Science recently published “The Fully Loaded Flight Sim,” an article and online slide show highlighting some of the gear you can buy to assemble the ultimate Flight Simulator “fort” in your basement. The story also describes how Australian hobbyist Matthew Sheil built a $230,000 “home cockpit” for Boeing 747 simulator.

To learn more about how Microsoft Flight Simulator is used in aviation training, see Flight Simulator in Aviation Training here at BruceAir.

Some of the leading companies that produce cockpits, instruments, controls, and accessories for use with Microsoft Flight Simulator and other PC-based simulations are:

Aviation Charts and Information

Runway FinderFlight Simulator includes a worldwide Jeppesen NavData® database of airports (nearly 24,000), navigation aids, approaches, and other information. Although the data are about 18 months old by the time they're released in a new version of Flight Simulator, you can fly most approaches and routes using aviation charts available on the Web or from pilot-supply stores.

Virtual aviators in the U.S. may find the online charts available at Skyvector.com and VFRMap.com especially helpful as they plan flights and cruise the virtual skies. For detailed information about specific airports and navaids in the U.S., visit AirNav.com. You may also want to read the articles about paperless charts and sources of aviation information available online that I've written for the General Aviation News.

FAA AeroNav Products has made most its charts and databases available for free download. However, in late 2011, the agency announced that it plans to restrict access, probably in the spring of 2012. More details will be available at the FAA AeroNav Products website.

If you use the latest official aviation charts and information, you'll occasionally run across a closed or new runway, new , or changed frequency that isn't in the Flight Simulator database, but the majority of the thousands of data changes that are cataloged each day worldwide are either temporary or irrelevant when it comes to using Flight Simulator as a training aid.

For more information about this topic, see “The Flight Simulator Database and IFR Procedures” in Chapter 2 of Microsoft Flight Simulator as a Training Aid. I’ve included links to several sources of free online charts and related information on the Aviation Resources page at BruceAir.

Microsoft ESP: Flight Simulator Development Platform

In late 2007, the Flight Simulator team announced Microsoft ESP, a development platform for companies that want to create products that use the technology in Flight Simulator. Microsoft ESP is a Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) platform designed for government and commercial organizations.

For more information about Microsoft ESP, visit the product website at Microsoft and the Microsoft ESP Developers Center on MSDN.

Lockheed Martin is releasing Prepar3D® application and developer network in late 2010. It builds on Microsoft ESP.

Aviation Software and Microsoft Flight Simulator

Several companies that develop flight-planning software, moving maps, and other programs for real-world pilots have made their applications compatible with Flight Simulator. Here are a few examples:

PCs and Graphics Cards

If you plan to buy a PC but are confused by the bewildering array of choices, check out How to Buy a Desktop PC at PC World magazine. It's the best guide through the information, and it includes lots of practical advice to help you find the best system.

PC World also offers a similar guide, How to Buy a Laptop, that can help you compare all the options currently available.

If you’re curious about the best video cards to use with Flight Simulator, review the latest offerings from NVidia and ATI (now part of AMD). To learn more about video cards, see How to Buy a Graphics Board at PC World; it's an excellent guide through the thicket. PC World also offers a collection of How-To Videos on its website to help you install a new graphics card, upgrade system memory, etc.

To learn more about what type of system you need to run Flight Simulator, see the official system requirements and “Optimizing Visuals and Performance” on the FS Insider website.

Flight Simulator Forums and Publications

Virtual aviators from around the world meet online at scores of websites and forums on the Web. Enthusiasts share information, add-on aircraft and scenery, and opinions about flying PC-based simulations.

You can also subscribe to several magazines devoted to Flight Simulator and its siblings. Here are links to help you get started.

History of Microsoft Flight Simulator

To learn more about the history of Microsoft Flight Simulator (it’s one of the longest-running titles of any kind published for the PC), visit the Flight Simulator History website. You can also find information on the FS Insider site.

Flight Simulator X
Service Pack 2

Microsoft has released SP2 for Flight Simulator X. You can learn about the what’s included in this update and download the appropriate installation file from the FSInsider website.

FS Book cover

Dreamflyer

Acme GTS370-M100

FlightSim HotSeat