Flying has been a wish for many since childhood. Many people dreamed of becoming a pilot and soaring, but gave up on it due to the high costs associated with pilot training. Fortunately, there are plenty of flight simulators available for PC that can let you experience the joy of flying (and maybe crashing).
When first launched, flight simulators lagged behind and lacked realism. All that has changed. Today’s simulators offer so much realism on different procedures that even real world pilots use them to hone their skills. Simulators can be made very accurate by the use of add-ons offered by different companies. This tutorial shows you how to set up a flight simulator in your home.
A high-end PC
Simulators, like high end games, can be very demanding on a system. The default version of a simulator can work fine on a normal system, but additional airport scenery, weather generators, and aircraft add-ons can reduce performance if specs are not sufficient. It is recommended that you invest once in a high-end system so that your experience is as realistic as possible.
Each simulator has a set of minimum and recommended specifications which can be found on its website. In the case of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, the latest simulator on the market, the recommended specs are as follows:
A general rule to keep in mind is that simulators are more CPU and GPU dependent, so no compromises should be made in these areas. We recommend that you try the simulator once on your current system and see how it works. Only then consider investing in a new system. Be sure to check out our hardware buying guide if you need help building a new PC.
Buy a simulator
The next step is to decide which simulator you want to buy and use. Currently, there are three main simulators available, regularly updated:
1. Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 by Microsoft and Asobo Studios (from $ 59.99)
2. Prepar3D v5 by Lockheed Martin (from $ 59.99)
3. X-Plane 11 from Laminar Research (from $ 59.99, available for Windows, macOS, Linux)
4. DCS World (free)
Different simulators have different features and add-ons available. Flight Simulator 2020 is relatively new to the market and currently lacks add-ons and airport landscapes. Likewise, X-Plane 11 has a small but loyal fan base. Currently, most of the add-ons and aircraft backgrounds are available for Prepar3D, as it is built on the same core functionality as the popular Microsoft FSX. DCS World is primarily used by enthusiasts interested in hunter flights. Which simulator you choose is up to you. You can’t go wrong with any of them.
Buy a joystick / yoke
In real life, planes are flown using either a yoke (which looks like a steering wheel) or a HOTAS (hands on the throttle and stick). You can use almost anything to control the airplane in the simulator, like your keyboard and mouse. However, this is usually very delicate and unrealistic. You can also use a console game controller with various sims (as long as your PC and simulator supports it): for example, an Xbox 360 / Xbox One controller linked via Bluetooth. For the best experience, invest in a decent quality joystick or yoke before starting your flight simulation experience.
There are a variety of different options available. The most affordable joystick available is Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick. You will also have many more offers from Thrustmaster and other businesses depending on your budget. Make sure you read various reviews online before investing in one. In addition to a yoke, you can also choose to purchase a throttle quadrant (used to control aircraft engines, flaps, speed brakes, etc.), rudder pedals (used to control aircraft on the ground) and other accessories. However, if you don’t want to invest that much money at this point, then don’t worry. All the functions of the additional accessories can be remapped to different buttons on your joystick and keyboard.
You can also set up a full flight simulator at home – like in the following image.
Invest in add-ons
Once you’ve finished setting up your flight simulator, it’s time to invest in some add-ons. Different add-ons are available for each simulator from different companies. These range from realistic airplane complements and meteorological engines to airport and terrain landscapes. For example, PMDG Simulations offers various Boeing study level planes that are approved by Boeing themselves. FSLabs offers a wonderful detailed Airbus A320. If you are in general aviation, the A2A and Carenado simulations have very detailed aircraft available. Most of them are available for Prepar3D.
ActiveSky brings the game to weather engines, delivering realistic weather phenomena no matter where you fly in your simulator. Likewise, different companies offer different airport and terrain landscapes depending on the region you are flying in. ORBX simulations has very beautiful scenery for many European airports. Most of the add-ons can be viewed and purchased on different websites, such as simMarket.
Setting up a flight simulator is a task that takes patience – every little tweak has to be tried and tested before anything can ever be perfect. But if you are a real fan of flying, it will be worth it in the end.
If you prefer a simple flight simulator game without much configuration, you can try the Flight Simulator game in Google Earth, one of the hidden Google games you need to play.
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