Microsoft’s Flight simulator X is the last successful version of a long line of flight simulators since 1982, but with the latest service packs installed it is far from perfect and support by Microsoft has been suspended. Still it is favoured by many and thanks to a vast on-line community of both freeware- and payware add-on developers, the simulator can be made into a useful training aid and a great hobby.
FSX installation, service packs and the ‘Acceleration pack’
The basic version of the simulator has many limitations and performance issues, and you should install either Service Pack 1 and 2, or even better, update with the ‘Acceleration pack’.
Amongst other things, SP1 and 2 increase the performance (frame rates) of the simulator greatly and introduce the DX10 preview mode. The service packs are freeware.
The acceleration pack includes a few (worthless) default aircraft to your fleet, but most importantly add the turbo-charger functionality to the sim which is required for some piston driven add-on aircraft. The Acceleration expansion includes both SP1 and 2.
Because of the vast variety of computer systems, I will not attempt to write a guide how to setup your graphics settings.
The sole important thing for a flight simulator is: Frame rates.
Always make sure that your simulator can run at least at 10-15 FPS, and preferably at 20-30. Higher is not necessary because the human eye cannot process any more than that.
FSX key commands:
- With the key combination Shift-Z you can get the Frames per seconds information on your screen.
- ALT key will highlight the menu bar, press and hold to hide it.
- By default, the simulator runs in full screen mode, press ALT-ENTER to run it in windowed mode.
There are many tutorials on-line which explain how to ‘tweak’ the CFG files in order to squeeze those extra few FPS from your system. But to start with, the basic settings in the FSX options should suffice. Just play with the sliders and settings and find out a good setting for yourself.
It may or may not help, you can adjust the FSX.exe properties by right clicking on it in the simulator’s main folder. It always helps giving as many computer resources to the simulator as possible by reducing background activity.
If your computer cannot make your simulator run at least at 10-15 frames per second, you should consider installing FS9 as a better alternative for low-end computers. I still run FS9 on my travel laptop.
In the menu bar, select Aircaft/Realism and settings… I suggest going for the most realistic by choosing ‘hard’ from the drop-down menu, change the crash detection to ‘Ignore crash and damage’ and ‘enable gyro drift’.
Only a joystick can make a flight simulator complete.
The best option is to choose for a joystick or yoke with a throttle lever and a set of rudder pedals with toe-brakes.
You can change the settings in the menu bar: Options/Settings/Controls… Set all the sensitivity sliders to the right (Max) and the null zones to the left (Min). If the axis are not setup correctly by default, they can be adjusted under the ‘control axis’ tab.
Click on the ‘buttons / keys’ tab and assign the following buttons at a minimum:
- Elevator trim UP
- Elevator trim DOWN
- Autopilot master (on/off)
- View (Pan) (POV hat)
If you don’t have rudder pedals with toe-brakes:
- Brakes (apply/release) (trigger)
If you have a few buttons left:
- Auto-throttle engage (TOGA)
- Auto-throttle Arm (ON/OF)
Assign as many buttons as you like, remove all assignments that you don’t intend to use to avoid accidental actions. If for what ever reason the simulator doesn’t shut down properly, the settings are not saved permanently, so it is a good habit to exit the simulator and restart after you have changed any settings.
In most FS-aircaft, systems can be controlled with the mouse in the 2d or 3d cockpit panels. Only a few keyboard (or joystick) buttons are required for the items that you normally do in the blind. (in a real aircraft by motor-memory and feel).
All keyboard settings can be changed in the same location as the joystick buttons. By default, the most important keys are:
- F1-F4 keys, Throttle
- Ctrl F1-F4, Propellor
- Shft F1-F4, Mixture
- F5-F8 keys, Flaps
- / , Speed brake
- G, Gear up/down
- H, Carb-heat on/off
- Z, Autopilot on/off
- CRTL+. (dot). Parkng brake
- S and A, change view
- Q, Sound on/off
- P, Pause simulator
Add-on scenery and AFCAD files
By default, most airports in FSX are basic and the layout may be incorrect or outdated.
For most airports you can find an add-on scenery update. Follow the installation instructions provided with them, but the generic instruction is as simple as this: Example airport scenery: EGNE Gamston airport Locate the add-on scenery folder, and copy the add-on scenery there.: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Games\Microsoft Flight Simulator X\Addon Scenery.
Start the flight simulator, in the main start up screen, click on ‘Settings’ and ‘scenery library’.
click on add area, open your add-on scenery folder. you should see a scenery and a texture folder now, click on the white below those folders to set this folder. (this strange method is required due to an error in windows).
Now your airport is added to the flight simulator.
Also interesting to know, the airport layout (runways, taxiways, radio beacons, buildings etc) are set in an AFCAD file. if you cannot find a good scenery for your airport, it might be worthwhile to search for an updated AFCAD to at least have the airport layout corrected. Very useful when you use up-to date approach charts for instrument training.
Navigation database and magnetic variation
FSX was launched in 2006, but its navigation database was already outdated by then. If you intend to use your simulator in combination with up-do date charts, you will need to update the flight simulator first. This used to be a very difficult and painful process, but has recently been made much easier: http://www.aero.sors.fr/navaids.html
Many thanks to Hervé Sors for making this great add-on, and making it freeware.
If you care about proper taxi-behaviour of aircraft, don’t trust Native FSx. The aircraft behaves like it is constantly rolling in a puddle of mud and you a lot of power to get moving. not realistic, however there is a fix.
Download and install FSUIPC, You can pay for the program to unlock additional features, but the free version will suffice to get the ground roll fixed.
After installation, start the flight simulator, then shut it down again. Answer the FSUIPC DLL warnings with YES. This will generate an .INI file in the FSUIPC folder.
Normally: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Games\Microsoft Flight Simulator X\Modules
Open the FSUIPC4.ini file in a text editor and paste this at the very end:
Open the folder Modules/FSUIPC Documents and open the Example LUA plugins.zip
In the zip file you will find a file called DynamicFriction.lua
Copy and paste this in the Modules folder. It sounds harder than it is, have a look at the screenshots too.
That’s it, now the friction problem is fixed. Thank you Mr. Dowson!
This concludes my blog about the setup of FSX, however, you can limitless enhance your flight simulator.
Maybe you are not content with the weather system in the default simulator? you can get a program that downloads TAF’s and Metars and uses it to generate accurate weather.
You can change textures to make the sim look better or have low-resolution textures to increase frame rates instead. You can add scenery or even build it yourself. There is software available that adds ground handling with marshallers, fuel trucks, air stairs and more.
Please leave a comment or your questions/suggestions below!