This post is directed towards someone who is just starting off in the fascinating world of Flight Simulation. You are about to get hooked and your wallet will from now on be eternally empty! But right now, you have to make the most costly decision you will ever make in your quest for realistic simulated flight. But as a beginner, you just don’t have the experience to make that decision. The cost of flight simulation lies in the hardware and in particular the add-on software for the particular brand of simulator that you choose. Flight simulation is a long-term activity. The learning curve is huge and the time investment of the next few years is scary.
To stay sane and solvent, you have to make the right choice of simulator right up front. (And that means right now.)
There are three main payware flight simulator software programs in popular use today:
- XP – Laminar Research’s X-Plane (a 64-bit program)
- FSX – Dovetail Games’ Microsoft Flight Simulator X (32-bit)
- P3D – Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D (32-bit)
It is no secret that of all the main flight simulation platforms, I prefer X-Plane.
Why is this? – when it has a far lower market share Dovetail games’ Microsoft FSX, or Lockheed Martin’s P3D version of it?
The answer is simple… it gives me less trouble than its competition and it works really well in a multi computer cockpit environment.
Let me immediately qualify this. Perhaps the biggest problem with us armchair pilots is the frustrations that our simulator software packages inflict on us. All flight simulators are horrendously complex – anyone with any understanding of programming will immediately recognize this, so to complain about one of these simulations just doesn’t acknowledge the incredible complexity and problems that these wizard programmers have to overcome. If you take into account the laughably low price that we are charged for the core simulator, its incredible what we get in value. But, nevertheless, all three “big three” simulators give all sorts of problems. Sure, you say, that’s true enough, but after all, we mere armchair aviation enthusiasts “just wanna have fun” – who cares which simulation we use?.
Well, after all the arguments are said and done, X-Plane (warts and all) just works more reliably – and that means more fun and less frustration.
Now X-Plane version 11 is about to be released in the next few days – with (I believe) huge improvements on version 10 which itself has been constantly improved since it replaced X-Plane 9 in 2012. Now please understand that while I have no affiliations to X-Plane whatsoever, nevertheless I keep on just getting more and more enthusiastic about this 64-bit simulator that actually takes real advantage of modern hardware.
One of the reasons why the other 32-bit simulators have a far bigger market share is that people have invested huge amounts of money in add-ons for FSX and P3D and are obviously very reluctant to ditch their investment. But… if you are contemplating getting into the fascinating world of modern flight simulation for the first time then please take a very careful look at X-Plane – that’s the way I would go.
Please understand that flight simulation is expensive – whichever simulator software you decide upon, you need powerful hardware, and lots of add-on pieces of software to enhance the core simulator product. The time invested in setting up the simulation and learning how to fly should also not be underestimated – It will take you just as long to study for your PPL and then your commercial and air-transport pilot’s licences in real life as it will to go through that learning on a simulator. In fact, most pilots and wanna-be pilots save a wad of money by using flight simulators to supplement their instructor-based real-life training.
So the decision as to which simulator to start with, has far reaching consequences.