Christmas is literally around the corner, developers are all hands on deck preparing their products to be out before the holidays kick in. With single digits until the fat man in the red suit comes down your chimney and stuffs your stockings with Flight Sim goodies, FSElite are looking at what products you should purchase this holiday season.
How are we deciding this?
We’re taking into account any products within the following spec:
That were released between now and mid-November (when we started thinking about this article)
Products that developers have confirmed that they’re aiming for a holiday / year end release.
With the holidays for many spreading over the course of a week, we’re including products rumoured to be released early Jan (because any New Years Party will wipe out all your cash!)
It will include scenery, aircraft, utilities and even hardware.
Of course, there are so many products available that not everyone will have the cash for them all.
Of course, we’re working hard on providing you with PLENTY of reviews over the next 10 days to help make your choice even easier. Until then, consider some of these mini-reviews.
Let’s take a look at what we hope to be in our stockings this year.
Aircraft – FSLabs A320X P3D (and the long awaited FSX update) (Predicted)
Since the launch in August, many people (including myself) have been anxious to get our hands on the most realistic Airbus product available on the market. With FSX users already having the joy of flying this bird, the feedback has been astonishing. With immersion unlike any other aircraft, this will definitely be in your virtual hanger for a long time. The videos we’ve seen showing off the depth and systems will keep you coming back for more. Of course, we’re intrigued to see how the high price point will impact people’s willingness to buy, so this would definitely make a good ‘gift’ from someone you know. Of course, they could buy you the FSX version now and you simply use the fair ‘upgrading’ procedure FSLabs will have in place. Whether it’s out before Christmas is still yet to be determined, but we do know the team are hard at work to make this happen.
Why should this be on your Christmas list?
It’s all about the detail. The FSLabs A320X doesn’t stop providing new challenges each time you fly.
Default planes suck. We all know that. No it should not be the way of things, but it is. Notably defaults suck in the realm of navigation. Particularly Instrument Navigation, Specifically RNAV capability. The defaults all come with the GPS 500 or the GPS 295 on them. Which is not true RNAV equipment, Not in Flight Sim. Yeah it can follow a programmed route but for true RNAV status it needs to be able to load procedures. SIDs, STARs, and Approaches; as well as build flight plans in the gauge and edit them. So we have addon airplanes shipping with their own avionics. For example the PMDG 737 with its FMS. But addon airplanes cost a lot of money, and they tend to have a really steep learning curve. They aren’t necessarily known for their frame rate friendliness either. These things all combined created the need for a FMS that is generic enough to work on any aircraft in FSX, defaults or addons. But also cheap enough to be affordable to anyone. Enter Integrated Simavionics.
Integrated Simavionics (hereafter referred to as ISG) came out in 2011 and was developed by Ernie Alston. If that name sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same guy who developed FSbuild; which was objectively the best Flight planner for Flight sim for a long time running; though it’s since been replaced by things like ProFlightPlannerX and Simbreif ( it’s still my personal favorite though). He also assisted PMDG in developing their Jetstream 4100 by coding the FMS for it. That same FMS is one of the gauges you can get with this addon by the way, though it’s notably lacking in the more aircraft dependant features as it is meant to be generic. Now what is ISG? Put simply ISG is a collection of 9 gauges that are generic, meaning they work on any aircraft you put them on. But they are also integrated, meaning the gauges talk to one another. This means when you build a route on the FMC that route is shown on the NAV display. These gauges were meant to fill the gap of generic enough to work on anything, but realistic enough to be useable for more advanced flying. And honestly I think they filled it quite well. Over the years I’ve purchased a lot of addons for flight sim. Several of them were a waste of money. But I’ve never felt that for ISG. It was one of my earliest addons for flight sim. And I still use it to this day.
The best way I can think to describe ISG is by telling you what I use it for. It breathed a new breath of life into the default airplanes. There was a time when I could not afford fancy addons (wait I still cant). So I had to make due with defaults. But I was also getting into flying online. With realistic routes and the possibility of route changes. The default GPS really shows its issues when you get a clearance with a different route than what you filed. In the default 737, I had the ISG FMS. No problem, I just enter in the route I was cleared for. ISG then shows that route on my nav display, And commands the autopilot to follow it. I also get TCAS, and a rudimentary VNAV as well. Takeoff hit LNAV and I was on my way. Pretty similar to flying a fancy addon airplane. But this was a default.
When I hit LNAV I also get a notation on my PFD along with the other modes that autopilot was set to. I get a traffic warning of a nearby aircraft complete with resolution advisories. The controller gives me a short cut today. Im cleared to bypass the rest of my SID and proceed direct to a enroute waypoint. I get above ten thousand feet and press VNAV. The autopilot then commands the plane through the rest of the climb. And no I had not been drinking and was confusing the PMDG aircraft with a default. It was the default 737. I complet that flight and the next day I feel like flying some rich person to Key West. I take the default king air on this trip. It also features LNAV, partial VNAV, and TCAS. Wait a minute we are talking about the defaults. The massive piles of crap that somewhat resemble airplanes.
Have I pushed it hard enough? Well honestly it’s probably one of my favorite addons. And one of only 2 addons that to this day I would say are truly must haves, were it not for one problem we will talk about soon. Not only can this be used in defaults I have used it to improved countless freeware planes. Alejandro Rojas is well known in the freeware community for creating some of the best planes available for FSX. Including a MD83, P35, and C750. He also did several improvements to the default B738 and B744 cockpits. Giving them features usually only found on payware planes, and in some cases he’s got one up on the payware planes. He’s not the only freeware developer that makes amazing things. Richard Schwertfeger made a fantastic Global Express. That thing could be payware if it had better texture quality. All the planes came with a FMS by the way. But it was the freeware Bendix King FMS that is nothing more than the default GPS with a fake VNAV and looks like a FMS. But I have ISG. I replaced the avionics of those planes, with the ISG avionics. Payware? Where I’m going I don’t need Payware!
Now it’s not all sunshine and lollipops don’t get me wrong. ISG comes with 9 gauges. And while the gauges are all pretty realistic, they contain some features that are locked away that make them much better. The biggest problem is that ISG is just the gauges. If you want to put them in the airplanes you’ll need a modified panel file for them. Now ISG does have panel retrofits for a lot of aircraft on their website. You can also build a panel for the aircraft yourself if you know how. And the gauges work fine as they come. But to really make them sing, you have to dive into their CFG files. There is documentation. Full walkthroughs of each gauge as well as documents on these special features im talking about. But the documentation for editing the associated files is not that straightforward. If it was not for the difficult process of actually getting the gauges working in an aircraft, ISG would score a lot higher.
By the way these gauges have navdata updates available by both Navigraph and NavDataPro. They also feature the ability to Load SIDs, STARs, IAPs, load a flight plan from a PLN file or their own special format, Save flight plans for future use, enter crossing restrictions that the airplane will adhere to; the FMS will also calculate a descent profile including crossings for each waypoint. Enter in any waypoint in the database to go direct to or add into an active flight plan (without erasing the flight plan). Enter Vspeed that will show up as speed bugs on the appropriate PFD. Meaning that entering in V1, VR, and V2 speeds on the boeing FMC will cause the V speed bugs to appear at the correct speed on the boeing 777 PFD. That’s the main stuff. There’s more but all the other features have to be unlocked by editing files and like I said the documentation is not the most straightforward.
I really feel as though I can’t put everything this addon can do to words so I’ve prepared the video above. Thats me Programing a Flight plan into the Honeywell GNS-XLS Flight Management System. It along with the 8 other gauges can be placed in any aircraft. In addition to that FMS, I modified the default King Air to have a Honeywell EFS50 ADI & EHSI, along with their associated control units. I also made a dedicated ISG CFG file for it which unlocks some of the more advanced features we talked about. I often choose to fly this King Air over the 2 other payware ones I have. You want to know the best part about ISG? It’s only $23, That’s it! That’s not that bad really. The only real complaint I have about it is the fact that unless you know how to edit panels it can be hard to get the most out of it. But it makes a great addon for thoughs of you who can’t afford a full addon aircraft like PMDG and company. Or for those of you who want to learn how to work the avionics in a less demanding setup than a complex addon aircraft. All the gauges work like their IRL counterparts. And ISG works on P3D to.
The Big question is Does this addon that was released in 2011, stand up today? Id say yes. Integrated Sim Avionics does withstand the test of time. It does exactly what it should do, and does it well. Its cheap enough that mostly anyone can afford it. It works on any airplane. There’s Minimal performance impact. Were it only for the actual panel installation process, and the overall user friendliness; I could call it a truly must have addon for anyone. My favorite part is the price. At only $23 its exactly where I personally would value it. See I can’t answer the question of weather or not this is worth your money. I dont know how much you value your money. I can only tell you that this addon is exactly in the price range I would put it if I was selling it.
FSFX’ ChasePlane was provided free of charge to FSElite for the purpose of previewing it for the community.
Last week we got our hands on FSFX’ latest product, the recently announced ChasePlane. ChasePlane is a camera system that aims to make controlling your cockpit easier while maintaining realism and adding some effects. We were super excited about this and started playing around with it right away. So let’s get into our preview: is it indeed such an easy and good tool as they want it to be, and does it give other tools that aim to do something similar or the same (EZDOK, OpusFSI) a run for their money?
It’s been ten years since FSX came out. In that ten years uncountable numbers of addons have been released. Some good, some bad. One thing that’s really interesting about aviation is that it’s a constantly changing field. No two flights are ever the same, no two aircraft fly the same. Even Aircraft of the same make and model, that were built at the same time can be completely different. But in the simulator world things are often static. Imagine Simulations for example. They make Scenery for Atlanta International. I swear it’s been rebooted about 3 times now. Because of improvements made to the airport in real life that they wanted to make to their scenery. Add to this the fact that there’s always new people coming into the hobby. Plus with a lot of addons being made backwards compatible with Prepar3D this means that the addons we’ve grown accustomed to over the past decade will still be around for the foreseeable future. So it might be helpful to take a look back at those old addons and see how they measure up today.
With this series of articles I plan to do just that. Does it hold up! With this series I want to look at Flight Simulator addons that have been around for quite awhile. Addons that are still available for purchase. Do they hold up today? Are they worth buying now in today’s environment? No addon is safe (except the new ones) i’m including things that were made for FS9, but ported for FSX. My first victim is going to be an aircraft that a lot of people looked forward to, an aircraft that was marketed as a game changer to flight simmers. Not only that, but it wasn’t a classic, it wasn’t an airliner, It wasn’t even a GA airplane. It was a Modern Fighter Jet. The Aerosoft F16! Keep Reading
The recent release of the Flight Sim Labs A320-X, which gives you the basic A320 with IAE and CFM engines only, has spurred a bit of a debate about what is an acceptable price for a FS addon these days. Sitting $99.95 for the FSX version, and rumored to be roughly $140 for the P3D version, the argument isn’t exactly out of left field. The price of addons, especially aircraft, has seemingly skyrocketed over the last six years. So, are these higher prices justifiable or is the community getting squeezed for all they’ve got?
Eight years ago before the release of the PMDG MD-11 we were all enjoying addons such as the Level-D 767, Leonardo Fly The Maddog, and PMDG’s “Boeing Officially Licensed” B747 and B737 for somewhere between $45 to $60. These were the top tier addons with the best systems and visuals, period. It didn’t seem as if it was too big of a deal to expect to pay that much for a quality addon, after all these guys have to make a profit and we are getting a full simulation. PMDG has seemly lead this charge of increasing prices for aircraft addons with their MD-11 being about $20 higher than the normal price at the time, which increased another $15 with the NGX if you get both the base pack and expansion, and then again another $25 with the T7 if you get the base pack and expansion. This is not even consider an even higher price for the P3D versions. Will the new 747 continue this trend? I guess we’ll find out.
But let’s not pretend that PMDG is the only one doing this. For years now people have been willing to pay Carenado upwards of $30-50 for aircraft like Cessna 172’s, Beech King Air’s, and other general aviation aircraft that look amazing but don’t fly nor function even close to the real aircraft. They even come with the default GPS baked right in. As long as the flight simulation community is willing to pay whatever a developer asks, they will not price aircraft reasonably. These are businesses after all, and if people are willing to pay a higher amount, then of course they are going to charge it. That’s the way it works, and unfortunately we have a lot of people willing to drink the developer kool-aid they are spoon fed. Personally, I think more aircraft developers should consider a model similar to that of Majestic, where you can get a fantastic addon minus some features you may not be interested in for a lesser price. They did a great job with the Q400 Pilot, Pro, and Training editions and even if you only bought the Pilot edition you still get a very in depth and fantastic Q400 simulation for an extremely reasonable $60.
Simulator addons. They are the driving force behind most of our sims. I am willing to bet you that if you were to load your sim right now, nothing would be the ‘default’. You wouldn’t load in a default plane, nor would you load at a default airport, and you certainly won’t you be flying with the arrow keys! Third party addons are a must for our kind of simulation. But even to know they play a key role in our hobby, there is such things as good addons, bad addons. But what defines addon software as good or bad? There are good addons with bad textures just as much as there are bad addons with good textures, same goes with systems. Let’s pretend to be Simon Cowell for a bit, and judge a few addons and dissect their components to understand what classifies an addon as good or bad.
First off, the good addon. We are blessed in our community to have magical developers who seem to create the up most realistic addons for our simulators at very good prices. Take A2A as an example. Their newest aircraft, the T-6 Texan (Soon to be L-409 Constellation) is modeled to the every switch, button, scratch, or dead bug with extreme detail. Ok. That’s nice. What about the systems? Well, the systems and performance of it is the exact same. The aircraft responds in the exact same way in the sim as in real life. From the behavior of the airspeed indicator to the vibrations on the engine cowling, the aircraft is a real life, living, breathing thing in your sim – complete with a virtual hangar and aircraft maintenance system!
This is a great example of a good fantastic addon.
After so many years of flying in the sim, things can get a little repetitive. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a fact of life. If you follow scheduled airliner routes in the Boeing 777 and 737, as I do, you tend to find yourself at airports time and again. Whilst it’s true that, “no two landings are the same.” And add on scenery can switch things up a bit – the bottom line is that flying from Sacramento to Phoenix can sometimes get a bit repetitive. So what can be done to switch things up and reinvigorate one’s passion for the hobby?
Each, “flight simmer” may have a different answer. But for me, it comes down to flying for a reason. Sometimes you just need to fly to feel like you’ve achieved something! My solution was to replicate the route used by the reality show, The Amazing Race. By doing this, I traveled around the world and flew into a few new airports that I don’t use all that often, widening my experience and skills into different airports. Despite having done this a few times, this is the first time I’ve done so whilst logging my route and working for FSElite.
The first leg was a fairly simple night flight from Flightbeams’ San Francisco to Mexico City. I turned on the autopilot early, as I recall, and listened to some Star Wars audiobooks and podcasts on the way down. It would have been nice to do this flight in daylight. But, the sun was just coming up as I reached Mexico City. The high terrain in Mexico City made for an interesting approach. Unfortunately, I don’t have add on scenery for Mexico City. However, that wasn’t the hard aspect of the leg. It was a hard touchdown that really killed it for me. A cruddy ending to an otherwise good flight and the first leg on my world-wide trip.