Today’s flight simulators offer much realism and a variety of locations to fly to, aircraft to fly with and procedures to follow. Considering that real-life pilot training can cost you over thousands of dollars, a flight simulator costs merely a fraction of that cost – which has made it all the more popular. Currently, there are a few flight simulators available for your computer. We discuss them here as well as the pros and cons of each so you can decide for yourself which is more suited to you.
1. Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
Microsoft and Asobo Studios have recently introduced their latest simulator – Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. The simulator offers realistic satellite imagery coupled with beautiful graphics for flight simmers. The scenery level and detail offered by MSFS 2020 has never been offered in any flight simulator by default. This has compelled a lot of simmers to switch over to MSFS2020 for visual flying over different landmarks and cities.
The simulator also has many aircraft offered by default. However, as its only been recently released, it still has many bugs and issues. A lot of users have reported the simulator crashing, multiple screens not working, aircraft autopilots not working properly, etc. Once the bugs are ironed out, the simulator should be perfect for everyone.
Another current issue with MSFS2020 is the lack of add-ons available. MSFS 2020 is able to compensate for this with different aircraft offered by default. While not being study-level aircraft, these are suitable for basic flying.
Microsoft offers three versions of the simulator ranging from $69.99 to 129.99. Each pricier version offers more custom airport sceneries and aircrafts to fly. The simulator is also planned for a release on the Xbox One.
2. Lockheed Martin Prepar3D v5
Prepar3D v5 is one of the most popular simulators available today. The simulator has been available for a long time and is regularly updated to include new features. P3D is very similar to FSX, Microsoft’s previous flight simulator that took the market by storm when it was released 10 years ago. Since P3D has been available on the market for several years now, hundreds of add-ons and airport sceneries are available.
Similarly, there are multiple study-level aircraft available for users to fly. These aircraft are as realistic as you can get in a simulator – many real-life pilots use them to regularly practice procedures at home. For instance, the PMDG aircraft lineup is officially approved by Boeing itself, which makes it very reliable. Apart from that, there are different weather add-ons, camera add-ons, etc., that allow you to fully customize your simulator to your liking.
Prepar3D is offered in three different versions by Lockheed Martin. For personal use, it’s recommended to buy the Academic license, as the others are designed for commercial use.
3. X-Plane 11
X-Plane 11 is another flight simulator offered by Laminar Research. The simulator is known for its realism of aircraft and flight physics. The simulator has a nice combination of weather effects, but apart from that, the simulator doesn’t have much to offer. X-Plane has a small but dedicated user base that is committed to using the platform. Since this user base is quite small compared to P3D, there are very few developers that create add-ons for X-Plane. On the other hand, X-Plane is also available for macOS, so Apple users can also use it for their systems.
X-Plane 11 is available as a digital download for $59.99. (A free demo is also available via their website.)
4. DCS World
DCS World is a free simulator available for PC users. This simulator is mainly focused on fighter jet flying. If you’re a fan of fighter jets, this simulator is for you. While the simulator is free, payable add-ons are available for different aircraft. This will make your simulation-flying more immersive.
These are the top simulators available to fly on your home PC. You can choose any one of them based on your flying preferences, but be assured: you won’t go wrong with any of them. If you are just getting started, you can try the flight simulator in Google Earth first. Don’t forget to set up your flight simulator after you purchase a copy.