First things first… X-Plane is a GOOD flight simulator. In my honest opinion, for simulating flight, X-Plane by Laminar Research is huge leaps and bounds beyond any of the Microsoft simulator packages and that of Prepar3d by Lockheed Martin.
Now, before you get all excited and go making a purchase, there are things you need to be aware of:
- X-Plane comes on 8 DVD disks and takes one hell of a long time to install. This is because of the more highly detailed terrain scenery.
- You will find exactly TWO airports that have ANY buildings. Both of these are in the Seattle area and are used for the demo of X-Plane. No other airports in the world have buildings…just runways, ramps, and taxiways.
- Initial setup takes time and attention to detail! You’ll find that this process can be daunting at first but, it’s worth the effort
- X-Plane scenery is 100% stuck in summer. You won’t find that it changes according to time of year like Flight Simulator X or Prepar3d do.
- Cities are auto-generated and DO NOT look anything like what you would expect them to…not one little bit.
- The camera that provides your various views is a bit of a pain in the ass to use. There is no facility to assign a joystick button to cycle through views either so, you’re stuck with using a keyboard “hotkey” assignment.
- The native ATC is almost useless. In fact, I’ll just go ahead and call it useless since it’s so difficult to use without constant errors anyway. You’ll be “off course” through most of an IFR flight which is the ONLY kind of flight that the ATC will let you use. At present, I can’t find ANY good ATC addon for X-Plane unless you want to go online and fly that way.
- X-Plane does a much better job of simulating EVERY environmental and aircraft variable and the effect it has on your flight. Don’t try to taxi behind a 757 in a light aircraft!
- To get X-Plane configured and modified so that you’re really happy with it will take many hours and days. I’m not fully there yet and I’ve been working on it several hours per day for the last week and I am certain I’ll be working on it more from time to time. Right now, I’m trying to get seasons to change and get PAPI lights to work at runways that have them.
Now for the good news:
The default terrain scenery that comes with X-Plane is so much better than anything Flight Simulator X or Prepar3d has to offer that it almost makes those two flight simulator programs laughable but it’s not the best yet. There is a site called X-Plane.org where you can find FREE addon scenery and aircraft. You’ll find there is a TON of it! I spent many hours downloading high resolution terrain scenery for all of North America. It’s pretty easy to install too.
There are lots of addon airport scenery that will put buildings at airports and they seem to be very well designed. The whole world isn’t covered yet but, you will be surprised at how many large, medium, and small airports are covered.
As for cities and towns, there are quite a few addon scenery packages for many of those too…not all, just some.
Bottom line is that I would NOT suggest X-Plane for anyone’s first flight simulator! However, after spending time with Flight Simulator X or Prepar3d, X-Plane is a good and very interesting upgrade. You’ll be frustrated at first with the setup…then you’ll start adding scenery and becoming more satisfied as you see the changes.
Oh, as for that “stuck in summer” thing, I’m trying to get another free addon to work that is supposed to switch seasons according to month and temperature…we’ll see.