The default planes in Microsoft FSX are pretty decent. They aren’t great, but are decent enough for those of us who want to jump in and take a spin in a 747 or Cessna and not worry about anything more than auto-start, flaps and throttle while already on an active runway.
Then there are people who spend $10,000 building an exact replica 747 cockpit in their living room/garage. For those people who it would be outright silly not to spend that $60 on an add-on aircraft that models and simulates every last detail, nut and bolt so that every button and switch on their real life cockpit is simulated in game.
This list is compiled by me and comes from things that I have read or seen. The list is not ordered from best to worse. After all, not everyone wants to fly a 747. Still these add-on aircraft represent the pinnacle of simulation perfection available even to the virtual home captain.
Payware Add-On Aircraft
The Wilco Airbus Evolution series don’t come anywhere close to this. This is a serious HD rendition of the the Airbus for FSX.
The Aerosoft Airbus X is a high definition rendering of this venerable aircraft for FSX. Created with help from many Airbus pilots and Air Berlin it is what Aerosoft believes an airliner in FSX should be.
Directly aimed at the user who likes to fly and not to spend too much time on configuration and pre-flight checks but who does not want to compromise on the modelling and features, this aircraft will appeal to a large group of flight simmers.
Airbus X Features
- Animations for almost everything. Sunshades, APU door, windows, wipers etc
- Includes popular liveries (US Airways, BA, Lufthansa)
- Low performance hit
- All aircraft systems modeled
- No overly draconian DRM schemes
- Full AP functions
Airbus X is available as a digital download and costs $43 from most online places. Buying the Airbus X also gets you a whole bunch of manuals and documentation. Including but not limited to checklists, procedure manuals etc.
My personal favorite payware aircraft. The detail and modelling is ridiculous.
This is one heavy resource hungry add-on be prepared to give your PC a run for its performance dollars.If you can get above 20fps on KLAX you’re doing something right.
My first taste of flying a 747 started with the Pilot in Command series. It was the old 747 with real guages. The newer 747 with glass cockpits are a lot nicer to fly. Its a matter of preference of course, but if you want to fly one of the biggest birds in the sky than the 747 is the best way to start. With the PMDG 747, you can’t go wrong.
PMDG 747-400X Features
- Accurate model. All parts modeled down to the minute of details.
- Airplane parts are animated, from flaps and gears even down to cargo and passenger doors.
- New sound sets recorded from a real authentic 747 flight deck
- Complete avionics simulated
- All aircraft systems faithfully translated into FSX
The PMDG 747 comes in a couple of variants, from the 747-400, to the 747-400F and the new 747 Version X. This airplane costs only $29.99 online and comes with a huge 300 page plus operating and instructions manual. If you want a easy to follow step by step checkride manual I suggest you look for The Unofficial Boeing 747-400 Simulator Checkride Manual as an additional purchase to ease yourself into flying a 747.
Another PMDG aircraft and for good reason. This is the 737 version release. iFly have also released a version but they don’t come any where close to the level of detail and realism that PMDG put into each and everyone of their aircraft.
The kind of simulated detail that PMDG put in means you can do those 45 startups and follow real operating procedure manuals right down to the button and knobs.
PMDG put a lot of time building and release each aircraft. I think they spent like 3 years perfecting the 737.
PMDG 737 NGX Features
- Fully simulated FMC
- Flight and engine models that are close to actual Boeing performance charts
- Detailed 3d model. You can actually walk down the cabin aisle
- New sound scheme for 737.
- Head up guidance system (drop down HUD that looks like jet fighter helmet visor) is modeled
- 3D lights that interact with scenery objects casting shadows and illuminating them
- Host of documentation, training and crew manuals provided.
- 97 page how to fly tutorial
This package costs a little more than the 747 and retails for $70 on the official website. When it pops up on Amazon it can be quite cheap (when it is in stock).
Aircraft is quite detailed and in the package you get the 737 NGX 800/900. Performance wise I found it was a little bit more taxing than running the 747-400X.
With the right performance tweaks in game you an probably find a good frame rate compromise. Like the 747 I think you should also check out The Unofficial Boeing 737 Glass Simulator Checkride Manual as this is a very easy to follow step-step illustrated manual for orientating yourself to the 737.
Carenado and Flight 1 have both released a Cessna 172.
The edge goes to Carenado here as their release was built from the ground up to support FSX while Flight 1′s 172 was a port over form the old fs 2004 edition. As such, the Carenado C172 looks much better, the textures are high res and paint glimmers in the sun. Sound is also much improved.
A Cessna is a real gentle beautiful thing to fly, especially low and slow and I always choose it as the default aircraft for when a Boeing 747 is just to big to enjoy small farm airstrips.
Carenado Cessna 172N Features
- Performance optimized airplane model
- Fully clickable virtual cockpit
- Animated doors, seats and sun visors
- Detailed plane model
- Realistic textures, light effects
- Realistic flight model (performance, flight characteristics and balance)
The Carenado Cessna 172N can be had for around $27 and comes as a digital download. You get some basic documentation with this aircraft such as flight checklists and installation instructions. Carenado also have a Cessna 152 II if you are interested.
Not as popular or well known as the heavy hitters like the 747 or 767, Captain Sim make a respectable 757.
Although you shouldn’t compare it to something like a Level D 767, ie Captain Sim don’t allow you to play with flight failures etc. The Captain Sim 757 does excel at being very well modeled and very nice to look at. Even the galleys are modeled. This is a really detailed plane.
If you are new to flight simulation and want to try your hand at a more challenging jet, than the Captain Sim 757 is an easy step up. Sure, you might not get every nut and bolt modeled perfectly but then again you would probably not realize until someone told you so.
Captain Sim 757 Features
- 3 different variants (when you buy the Pro pack)
- High resolution liveries
- Lots of custom animations
- Detail virtual cockpit
- Detailed interior, passenger cabins, cargo bays, galley and toilets
- Modeled FMC
The entire package can be purchased conveniently from Amazon for only about $30. Like most other add-on aircraft you get a textbook worth of reading material as well. In case you were wondering, the only other 757 plane for FSX is the QualityWings Ultimate 757 Collection which is slightly more pricier at $47.25. If you have a low end system you might want to try the QW 757 version as the Captain Sim 757 is notorious for being a real performance hog. There are stories of people getting single digit frames!