Tips for Flight in Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X

Tips for Flight in Microsoft's Flight Simulator XThis article has been a long time coming — or at least that’s what those within the Gnomies community would have you believe. I’ve been virtually flying on and off since around 2002, and I’ve logged well over 5,000 hours in the virtual sky for various virtual airlines. In 2009, I decided that I was going to hang up my wings for good and never go back to the world of virtual aviation. I’ve been lured back into the fold and, in so doing, have brought a new virtual airline into the virtual world. GnomeAir is the name of the fledgling airline and it is for members of the Gnomies community.

I thought I’d start with an article on tips for flight. These tips are meant for the novice Flight Simulator X pilot. I know most of you will want to start on the jet aircraft like a Boeing 747 or 737. However, my first tip would be to go for a smaller prop — or propeller-driven — aircraft like a Beechcraft King Air 350 or a Cessna 172. The prop aircraft are slower, so you can afford to make mistakes in them because they give you longer to react to any situation.

Have you set up auto pilot?

This is best to do on the ground before you push back from a stand and certainly before you take off. I would only recommend using auto pilot if you are flying for long distances where hand flying could become fatiguing. If you are flying between major cities, then auto pilot is certainly a good idea, but if you are only flying a circuit pattern, then it’s a better idea to hand fly your aircraft.

Have you flown the pattern or a circuit?

The circuit pattern — known in America as the traffic pattern — is a pilot’s bread and butter. This pattern is a standard path and way to coordinate air traffic. The pattern is really only used by airports that deal with general aviation as well as commercial aviation traffic. This seems to be the case both in the United States as it is in the United Kingdom. I have flown many circuits and I will continue to fly the pattern because it keeps certain skills sharp.

Have you tried flapping harder?

I am being serious. Have you added anywhere between five and 20 degrees of flaps on take off? It sounds counter-intuitive, but it really does help on take off. Using flaps trades ground speed for climb rate because flaps increase drag. It is always best to consult the aircraft handbook in real life and in the virtual sky because these virtual aircraft can act the same way as their real life counterparts. I know that the Airbus A319 likes having 15-20 degrees of flaps for takeoff, but I also know that Cessna doesn’t recommend the use of flaps on takeoff unless the runway is rough or soft.

Remember: Under 10,000 ft., your speed is under 250 knots!

This is a classic rookie/novice mistake. 250 knots is the speed limit for all aircraft under 10,000 ft. The only reason you would have to go over this rule is if you are flying a heavy aircraft. Heavy aircraft usually need a higher speed to climb to keep them within the safe flight envelope. However, even though heavy aircraft are allowed to go faster, it’s not by all that much — meaning that you can’t get away with adding “heavy” to your call sign and expect that you can go at 300+ knots under 10,000 ft.!

Landing speeds

This is also a classic rookie/novice mistake. If you are landing — in any aircraft — at 250 knots, you will be putting an extreme amount of pressure on your brakes and/or reverse thrust when you land. This may end up with you flying off the end of the runway — pun not intended. When landing, it is a good idea to slow your aircraft down to a minimum approach speed. This is generally around 10 or 20 knots above the stall speed of the aircraft. The slower you land, the better and safer it is for you, your aircraft, and your virtual passengers — that is assuming you’re carrying any.

Taxi speeds

This is the last classic rookie/novice mistake. If you have never flown a plane before or even taxied it out to a runway, you won’t know that there is a taxi speed limit. The limit ranges between 20 and 30 knots, but that depends on the airport. However, I could be wrong in this aspect as I’ve not seen any mention of any speed above 22 knots. I do remember being allowed to taxi up to 30 knots whilst I was on VatSim, but from what airport and what zone I am not really sure. However, it is safe to say that 20 is the speed limit. In real life, you can and will get fined if you go over that speed limit.

I could go into many more aspects of flight with Flight Simulator X, but if I did, I fear that I’d bore you too much. This is only a very small set of tips that should help you get off the ground within Flight Simulator X. I hope that I have not made this overly complicated for the novice or overly patronising for the more advanced pilot within Flight Simulator X. There will be many more articles to come from within this simulator and I hope that you can all appreciate them.

The idea behind these articles is to pass on information that I and other members of the LockerGnome community have gained over the years of experience playing with Flight Simulator 2002 all the way up to Flight Simulator X. We may even get into Microsoft Flight, which is the new iteration of the Flight Simulator family. The next few articles will deal with payware and freeware aircraft as well communicating with air traffic control. If you have any requests with regards to Flight Simulator X you can contact me via Twitter @thisdamnscots and I will endeavour to fulfill your requests.

CC licensed Flickr image shared by curimedia

Article Written by

John “Scotsman” McKinlay is a 25-year-old autistic living in Glasgow, Scotland. He has been an online presence since 1998, but has only recently found that his voice and writing skills could bring him into the world of blogging and podcasting -- with a bit of YouTube on the side. He joined the ranks of LockerGnome back in March of 2012 and has been warmly received both by the LockerGnome staff and by you lovely ladies and gentlemen of the LockerGnome audience.

  • Casey Frennier

    Solid tips. Never use autopilot though. Even though it adds realism as a simulator for me it kind of defeats the purpose of playing a flying game.

    I look forward to your upcoming articles.

    • This Damn Scotsman

      I will only use autopilot if I am doing medium to long haul flights and on the occasional circuit just to keep my skills sharp.  The PMDG 747 is a beautiful plane to hand fly — even for long periods of time.  Craighton will be bringing the Payware aircraft article to lockergnome and I’ll be bring the freeware aircraft.  Thanks :)

  • Chappmasterflex

    another tip is not to mistake 
    Venus as a plane LOL

  • Kyle Polansky

    Now write some tips for Microsoft Flight, lol.

    • This Damn Scotsman

      Microsoft Flight is a large step away from what Microsoft Flight Simulator X and the rest of the Flight Simulator franchise.  Craighton Miller … MIGHT do that article for you.

      • Kyle Polansky

        I know, it was a joke. In my opinion FSX is a lot better than MS Flight. I like the option to have more than 1 small island and 2 planes.

  • MrTechz

    Some useful tips there. I’ve been flying virtually since the FS2004 days and its a wonderful hobby. Microsoft Flight isn’t a simulator though, its more aimed at casual gamers. You get the hang of it very quickly as there is a limited amount of aircraft’s included in the base pack and they’re just general aircraft without any real complicated controls. It’s pretty much just a simple take off and fly game that you get bored of very quickly at this stage.

    My favourite combination of add-ons in Flight Simulator X has always been the FTX scenery add-ons and the PMDG aircrafts. The Level D 767-300er is another decent payware aircraft. These add-ons are pretty expensive but its worth it as they provide a realistic flying experience.  

  • Andrew Erhardt

    I’ve been flying Flight Simulator since I was 12 years old. I started out with FS98, used that for about a year, then jumped over to FS2004, and have been using it since. I do have Flight Simulator X sitting on my shelf, but can’t use it because my computer is not powerful enough to run it. I hope one of these days when I can afford to build a gaming computer, I will be able to use it. But for now, FS2004 will do for now. :) Anyways, thanks for the article. Its nice to know there are some Flight Simulator geeks (like myself) within lockergnome! 

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  • James Whitelegg

    I have been using Flight Simulators from a very early age and I have always been interested in aviation as a hobby.  I have used the simulators to build up a lot of knowledge based around aviation.
    I was lucky enough to take part in a sponsored flying scholarship where I was able to have 25 hours of flight tuition payed for from the AMP.  The difference between the simulator characteristics and real life is not to far away.  The physics will never be perfect but Microsoft is doing a great job so far, and hopefully there simulators will inspire children and adults to be more engaged with aviation!
    I am currently training for my PPL now and how to make it to commercial level one day.  And I can honestly say it was because of Microsoft Flight Simulator.

  • Ashleyjamesdoran

    I am actually in the process of building my own flight sim cockpit, and I will be keeping a journal of it on my blog.

    If anyone is thinking about building there own flight sim, please feel free to come have a look at it, I will be posting all of the schematics and will also post footage of my inevitable failures.

    if worse comes to worse it will be a good laugh 😀