Flight Simulator is ok right out of the box, and the default package gets better with every new version. But to really enjoy it, I highly recommend that you look into getting some addons.
A huge development community has developed to support the Flight Simulator franchise. For those on a tight budget, you’ll easily be satisfied with what is out there as freeware. For freeware, I tend to stick with four sites, Avsim.com, FlightSim.com, and Sim-Outhouse.com, Simviation.com.
But if you really want to enhance your simulator, I highly recommend you check out some of the payware offerings out there.
The first place I go when I’m interested in purchasing a payware product is Flight1.com. They have a huge library of products, plus you have 30 days to decide if you want to keep the product.
As far as addons are concerned, there are two scenery packages I consider essential, the Ultimate Terrain Series, and the Ground Environment series. FSX comes with relatively accurate scenery including many major roads and lakes and rivers. But Ultimate Terrain enhances all that many times over. It includes ALL roads, rivers, lakes, as well as accurate golf courses, cemeteries, sporting venues as well as many other features. The difference between default FSX and the enhancement by UTX of the rivers, scenery, and coastlines is night and day. I’ve included a couple images below showing the difference between default FSX and UTX enhancement.
Ground Environment replaces the ground textures with more realistically colored tiles and more varied autogen (trees, houses, buildings, etc.). My favorite feature is their replacement of grassy areas. For some reason Microsoft chose a washed out light brown texture for grassy areas, and Ground Environment fixes this situation.
A special shout out also goes out to FSGenesis, one of the original payware FS developers. FSGenesis is most famous for their terrain mesh products. Terrain mesh describes the “bumps” in the terrain, from the small hills to the mountains.
I can’t say enough about how important especially Ultimate Terrain is if you fly VFR general aviation aircraft and you are looking to simulate your flights in FSX. You’ll feel like you’re really there, and you’ll immediately recognize cues such as rivers, lakes and mountains when you actually fly your flight and compare it to your flight in FSX.
The addon airplane field is so mature at this point that I couldn’t even begin to list the top ten aircraft for you. You’ll need to decide what type of plane you are looking for and then do a little research. As for who the standout aircraft design companies are:
Warbirds – A2A simulations and their Accu-sim products
Airliners – PMDG, Level-D, Captain Sim, CLS
General Aviation – Eaglesoft, Flight1, RealAir, Carenado, Aerosoft, Just Flight
This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the payware aircraft design companies out there, but it’s a start with some of the best. And don’t ignore the freeware that’s available out there. To learn more, I highly recommend browsing and joining in on the community forums out there such as Avsim, Flightsim.com, and others.
In my next installment, I’ll cover some of the options you have for controllers of FSX.