Have You Played… X-Plane?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I enjoy flight simulators, but I admit I lack the patience for learning the exact purpose of each cockpit switch or the correct terminology for actual air traffic interactions. I’m in it for the sightseeing and the occasional drama, and X-Plane [official site] offers both.

My favourite feature is the ability to specify which potential faults you want to turn on. Want wear and tear on your right-hand engine? Alright, go for it. Want to guarantee that this engine will fail outright within the first 40 minutes of your flight? You can do that, too.

The entire world is included as explorable terrain, which means you can do things like spawn yourself in a Cessna above your hometown, make bird strike certain to happen within 10 minutes of starting your journey. You can then spend some tense moments sightseeing, wondering when it’ll happen, then try to safely land your damaged plane at the nearest airfield with feathers in your mouth.

Flight Simulator X remains the hardcore simmers choice, for its expandability, but it’s X-Plane that I find myself most comfortable within.


  1. Synesthesia says:

    I’ve been trying to get into Flight Sims, but the lack of proper tutorials has kind of cut me out of it. So far, only DCS World’s Huey and the Su25T have been properly teaching me how to fly them.

    X-Plane doesn’t have any form of tutorials at all. It’s a bit of a shame. It taunts me from my steam library.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Try this:

      First off, if you’re brand new to flying, then buy a copy of a book written in 1944 and still in continuous publication called “Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying” (ISBN 978-00-7036240-6) by Wolfgang Langewiesche. This is the Bible for beginning aviators, very easy to read, and good background for getting into an X-Plane or any other realistic flight simulator.

      Second, go to the “Flight School” sub-section of the X-Plane.org forum, where you’ll find a ton of useful tutorials, both text and videos:
      link to forums.x-plane.org

      Don’t try to jump right into a tubeliner like a 747 until you’re comfortable flying a pattern in a Cessna. You’ll want at least a joystick at minimum. X-Plane isn’t designed for gamepads or keyboard/mouse input. You’ll get the best feel for flying aircraft (and helicopters in particular) if you also have rudder pedals and a throttle control, but a joystick gets you started. Have fun!

      • Synesthesia says:

        Thanks for the links! I’m getting a kindle soon, so that will be getting a read.

        And yeah, the flight school you link has been sitting on my tabs for a few months now. I’ll get to them, but I wish sims would be a bit more hands on about training their players.

    • Dave Money says:

      So it doesn’t really x-plane things huh…

    • Technotica says:

      It’s actually pretty easy. First of all pick a plane you like (I wouldn’t start with a 747 or anything big).

      Every plane has only a few things you need to know about to take off and land.

      These are:

      Take-off speed, safe climbing speed, landing speed and flaps positions.

      I am getting my private pilots license right now (and I have X-Plane and the plane I train on in real life in it) and that really is anything you really need to keep in mind for a successful take off or landing.

      But of course flying a plane in a simulator is more difficult than in real life (seriously).

      On the default settings of X-Plane your plane should already be ready for take-off, you only need to toggle off the brakes and push your throttle to full speed.

      The only thing you need to do while on the runway speeding towards take-off is to keep the plane straight and level. X-Plane has a problem with prop torque (if you have a single engine plane and the prop, for instance, turns right your plane will torque left in compensation, far more than in real life).

      So keep your pedals (or joystick twist) pressed against the torque to keep the plane from moving away from the center line.

      Once you reach your take-off speed slightly pull on the rudder (joystick) until the plane rises into the air, then pull slightly less on the rudder so you don’t enter a stall speed.

      Climb at the standard blimging rate (speed) by keeping the nose pointed at a certain angle (use the artificial horizon to keep it steady), since it is a simulation it won’t matter how far you go, if you crash jsut try again.

      Once at a safe altitude (jsut pick something that feels safe, nor eason to follow procedure in a simulator if you jsut want to elarn) change the landing-flaps setting to cruise mode (usually 0° inclination, often the setting is labeled or has a 1 on it (2 would be starting position and 3 landing position, if it has those, there are planes without landing flaps)).

      Flying itself is only a matter of keeping the plane level or turning towards the destination you want, in real life it is a coordination of ailerons and rudder but really in X-Plane for the beginning just roll towards the side you want to go and keep your nose above the horizon)

      Landing is a little more tricky but for learning you can make it pretty simple.

      Get away from the runway as far as possible and maneuver so that you are flying towards one end of the runway.

      Then pull the throttle all the way back until you are in idle (there might be a lever to adjust propeller rotation but keep that on max for the first few tries)and set your flaps to the alnding position (as indicated on the selector or from the planes manual (setting the position to maximum usually works too).

      You’ll start sinking pretty quickly now but a normal (small) airplane is design in such a way that it can do an emergency landing without engines, so you don’t fall out of the sky.

      Aim a little infront of the beginning of the runway and jsut sail towards it, if you go down too quickly increase your throttle a litte. You’ll probably crash a lot in this phase but don’t worry it’ll get easier after a few tries. Just try to judge your height and distance to the runway.

      Once you are above the actual runway and low enough pull back on the rudder, your nose goes up and you loose speed while sinking, don’t pull back too hard or you will stall.

      If you find the correct angle there you will slwoly descend onto your landing gear, once down keep the rudder pulled a little and apply brakes.

      This is the most difficult part of flying, in real life a few things can go wrong, for instance if you pull back too early and are too high you will drop quickly and damage your landing gear (and probably your back), if youw ait too long you’ll simply crash and if you are toof ast you will probably take too long to actually touch down and overrun the runway.

      This explanation may seem long but in essence it is all about having the right speed and height at the right time.

      I am learning on a Aquila A210, which is available to bouy as an add-on for X-Plane, it is a pretty easy plane and you can download its manual from here:

      link to aquila-aviation.de

      It helps because it tells you all the proper procedures for taking off and landing, what switches need to be pressed to ake the plane start (not necessary on default settings in X-Plane) and what the important speeds are.

      • Technotica says:

        Uhm blimging is supposed to be climbing no idea how that happened, sorry about all the typos, I was typing too fast… :(

      • Synesthesia says:

        Thanks to you too! Taking off I can manage, luckily. Landing is difficult, but once in a while, I don’t kill anyone. What I still have to learn without diving into a textbook, is, for example, navigation, IFR and VOR. Some interactive missions to teach me that would be ace.

  2. Morte66 says:

    No. I tried once, but the demo took 13 minutes to open on my PC (which was over the quoted minimum specs).

  3. RvLeshrac says:

    “Flight Simulator X remains the hardcore simmers choice” Eh? X-Plane is the only retail flightsim FAA-approved for flight training without major changes to the base engine (MS ESP is basically a different piece of software, Lockheed’s FS isn’t sold at retail).

    Hardcore simmers aren’t interested in mods. Hardcore simmers are interested in having the most accurate flight model and aircraft design.

  4. Zenicetus says:

    I’ve been flying flight sims ever since they were in CGA graphics and ran off a floppy disk. I also have many non-piloting hours in real light aircraft and helicopters as a retired commercial aerial photographer. No hands on stick, but I know what it looks like and feels like up there in small aircraft with the door off.

    I have many years behind me in MS Flight Simulator, but these days, I fly X-Plane and not FSX/P3D. For me, it has the most realistic sensation of flight; that sensation of buoyancy in the air, along with effects like ground cushion during landing, sloped runways, even in-flight icing is modeled. The helicopter flight model is also better than FSX, I think.

    The free high-definition terrain mesh you can get now makes mountain flying more believable, and the use of Open Street Map data for auto-gen buildings just keeps getting better all the time.

    It’s far from perfect though. It needs better auto-generated ATC, a much better weather engine, and seasonal changes in the terrain. It’s summer all the time, and that gets a bit old. I’d like to see more realistic thunderstorm modeling too. There are some concerns with how soon we’ll get VR support since X-Plane is based on OpenGL, but it’s still early days for that. The good news is that it’s a sim that’s still under constant development, so the future is bright.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      No need to x-plane to this guy which flight sim to choose.

  5. melerski says:

    For my needs Aerofly FS ist the best flight sim.

  6. Pulstar says:

    I prefer aerial combat (anyone remember TFX lol?) but choice for everybody and more of it!

  7. Grizzly says:

    Hmm. FSX does have engine failures and random failures as well, and it’s filled to the brim with missions do have a neat combination of sightseeing and trouble solving under pressure. is X-plane’s feature set that much better?

    • Zenicetus says:

      It depends on what you’re looking for. A majority of sim pilots who prefer airliners are still using FSX/P3D because the ATC is better, and it’s where you can get deep systems modeling with things like the PMDG aircraft. That may change soon though, because PMDG is doing their first model for X-Plane (a DC-6) and will eventually port over their other tubeliners. There isn’t as much custom hand-crafted scenery available like the OrbX stuff either.

      On the other hand, if you like mountain flying with more detailed and realistic-looking terrain mesh, or flying at night, then X-Plane is better (IMO). There is really no comparison for nighttime views of cities, roads, and traffic, but I don’t know how many sim pilots fly at night.

      Another thing is that X-Plane is now 64-bit, which allows vastly greater room for scenery textures. FSX is forever stuck with a 32-bit engine, and last I heard, the P3D version wouldn’t move to 64-bit for a while. X-Plane also works on Mac and Linux as well as Windows, although Windows users are the vast majority.

  8. Press X to Gary Busey says:

    Never played it. I had a massive flight-sim phase in my teen years with the simpler-looking offerings of the day but I’ve lost the patience (and spare time) to do that kind of thing now…

    My pipe dream game that will never exist is something from the in-between/ simplified-sim genre.
    Something with a fictional flight-centric universe like Crimson Skies, Ace Combat or Disney’s TaleSpin (without the fables).
    A sandbox metagame like Sid Meier’s Pirates or a planet-bound Elite with war, trade, piracy and exploration.
    And finally, an aircraft roster the size of a Gran Turismo garage with tinkering like World of Tanks. Planes ranging from the golden age of flight and up. I also won’t mind some impossible flying battlecruisers and carriers link to i.imgur.com

    • Zenicetus says:

      A modern reboot of Crimson Skies would be great. I’d fly that. Or something like Bioshock Infinite’s alternate history of floating cities, with wood & canvas biplanes and dirigibles as the main focus.

      It’s a tough sell though, for a game publisher. Microsoft had a spectacular failure trying to make a casual non-combat sim with “MS Flight” recently, which doesn’t help. Maybe if Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen manage to get enough joysticks sold, gamers will want to do other things with them besides space pew-pew.

      • Blackcompany says:

        I would love something else to do with my HOTAS other than space pew pew, but site seeing in a computerized Cessna isnt it. So yeah, I would totally be onboard with a crimson skies or bioshock style flight sim!

    • Unsheep says:

      Couldn’t agree more.

      The closest I come to the experience I want is the free flight mode offered by certain air combat games, like Falcon 4, Hawx and Over G Fighters. Heh…I’ve probably spent more time in free flight than in the campaigns with these games.

      I’ve been thinking about giving Aerofly FS a try, its supposed to be less hardcore than FSX. The reviews are very mixed though.

  9. Rodman1_r2 says:

    I have played X-Plane. I own X-Plane 8, but haven’t really touched it for a few years. I even went so far as to build a few of my own planes, even tried to recreate the Howard Hughes XF-11: it looked the part, with contra-rotating propellers, but it never really flew that well, couldn’t get that figured out quite right.

  10. TechnicalBen says:

    Just on the topic of the picture… I do not think that’s how it’s suppose to be done!

    • El Mariachi says:

      It is if it’s the Enterprise doing an Approach and Landing Test, although it should be at a higher altitude and not over a populated area.

    • Zenicetus says:

      It’s a mating display. The smaller male must perform an aerodynamic dance before cautiously approaching the larger female, and being allowed to mate.

    • jj2112 says:

      Incidentally, in early test flights the Space Shuttle was released from the SCA (Shuttle Carrier Aircraft) to land on its own.

  11. sgt. grumbles says:

    So what’s better for General Aviation, P3D or X-plane? Ideally I’d like to practice flying around my local area (Southern California) in great fidelity, in things like Cessna 182s, Cirrus SR22s, etc.

    I love A2A’s Cessna. I wonder how X-plane’s supposedly better feeling of flight and physics compares to the A2A AccuSim stuff?

    • Zenicetus says:

      Regarding Cessnas, I think the general consensus is that the closest you can get to A2A Accusim is the payware Carenado CT210 (which is already pretty good, and looks great with HDR cockpit night lighting), augmented with the simcoders Reality Expansion Pack that amps up the realism. Check out the feature list on the REP to get an idea of what it does:
      link to simcoders.com

      You’ll need this base model:
      link to carenado.com

      For Southern California scenery, I know there’s a good payware airport for LAX, and lots of free smaller airports you can download from the x-plane.org libraries. You’d have to try the sim and see how you feel about the auto-gen highways and buildings where you are, based on Open Street Map data. In areas without custom scenery it can be “plausible” if you’re not too familiar with the area.

  12. Tyrric says:

    He’s a stiff! Bereft of life, he rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed him to the perch he’d be pushing up the daisies! His metabolic processes are now history! He’s off the twig! He’s kicked the bucket, he’s shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeding choir invisible!!


  13. Unsheep says:

    X-Plane seems great, as does Flight Simulator X.
    I would also prefer X-Plane over FSX for the same reason as the author, its great having the option to play casually in these kind of games.

    My main issue with both of them, and indeed most sim games, is that all the extra DLCs are so many it quickly gets very expensive if you want the extra stuff…which most of us do.

    For example if you want everything available for either X-Plane or Flight Simulator X, it will cost you about $900 (link to store.steampowered.com, link to store.steampowered.com). Its the same with many other sims, like OMSI 2 (link to store.steampowered.com). American Truck Simulator seems to be joining this club as well.

    The most extreme I’ve seen is Train Simulator 2016, where the whole package will cost you about $3,200 (link to store.steampowered.com).

    My other issue is that you don’t get that much content in the core games for the price you are paying.

    I know its very expensive to make these DLCs so their pricing is not unreasonable. However it does mean that these games mainly appeal to those who more or less only play simulation games.

    With racing simulators like Game Stock Car, DTM and Assetto Corsa its quite different; you get plenty of content for the price you are paying. Plus they don’t have a myriad of relatively expensive DLCs to buy. Forza 4/5/6 being an exception. I know racing is not the same as flying or piloting a train, but this difference is still noteworthy.

    • drinniol says:

      You seriously underestimate the amount of content in both MSFS and X-Plane.

      For instance, Forza lets you trundle around two dozen tracks, maybe? And DLC is just a new 3d model with a couple of moving parts and maybe some values altered on the performance lookup table.

      X-Plane you can fly to 33,000 airports over 6 continents and into orbit. There’s 30 aircraft to try in the base game, and hundreds of free aircraft and scenery addons to try if you get bored of those. Or you could see what happens when you put the power of an F-16 in a Cessna 152 just because.

  14. Risingson says:

    I’ll have to try it. Flight games have long become a genre that hates me and its past – when it was fun and challenging – but I’ll try it.

  15. urbanraccoon says:

    I think I’ve played “There’s No Time to X-Plane”…same thing?