Don’t Buy ProFlightSimulator

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Judging by the “I fell for it too” messages still appearing regularly on flight sim forums, the shameless parasites behind ProFlightSimulator and its equally vile sibling VirtualPilot3D are still persuading unwary online punters to pay 67+ USD for an old, superficially tweaked version of FREE open-source flight sim FlightGear. In today’s Flare Path I examine some of the latest lies the ProFlightSimulator scammers are using to fleece fans of faux flight.

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Since I last drew attention to the activities of the FlightGear rebranders/profiteers, the cunning so-and-sos have added a source code link and a smoke-and-mirrors ‘Why ProFlightSim isn’t FlightGear’ statement to their site. They’ve also reworked their spiel, added dubious new ‘extras’ to their deal, and upped their prices. What hasn’t changed is their extraordinary willingness to lie in the pursuit of sales.

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As honest as an Operation Fortitude Sherman tank, the ProFlightSimulator screenshot page tells you all you need to know about the PFS ‘team’s’ ethical standards. Eleven of its thirteen images are stolen goods – purloined pics from FSX product pages, videos, and download repositories. That A380 in the first shot is a Wilco creation. The Beaver overflying Rio in the last one, is one of FSX’s stock aircraft. The devs are so proud of their “REAL scenery” that they choose to illustrate it with Italian and Israeli screenshots grabbed in a completely different game.

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The videos that dot are as phoney as the jpegs. The software used to record them has an incredibly bizarre flaw. When asked to record sequences of, say, PFS’s high-detail San Francisco Airport or amazing weather code it somehow manages to pillage YouTube’s FSX section instead.

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Mark Duran, Ozil Aguirre, and John Irwin claimed responsibility for VirtualPilot3D. Apparently “hundreds of developers” under the guidance of one Gordon Dan Freeman are behind ProFlightSimulator. I can’t tell you much about the talented Mr Freeman but my internet searches have revealed that when he isn’t coding “The Most Realistic Flight Sim Ever Created!” he likes to…

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Chill on the couch for a while.

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Do some reflecting.

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And think about stuff.

Judging by the testimonials that litter his site, I’m guessing that one of the topics he regularly mulls over while kickstarting the day with a cup of coffee is “How can I make my bogus ‘contented customer’ testimonials seem plausible?”

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Dan’s primary method seems to involve pairing effusive concocted texts with illicitly scavenged mugshots.

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I wonder if Christopher Hawkins and Jack McDade realise that their respective twins, Roy Kirkland and Robert Alston, have been oiling the PFS publicity machine for years. Is Kent University’s Shane Hudson aware that his doppelgänger, Milton Carr, has “hundred of hours in PC-based 777 simulators” and thinks ProFlightSim is “top notch”? Has Ronald “Scenery and clouds looks super realistic” Duke ever run into Dan “chilling on the couch” Freeman at a GettyImages stubble growers convention? We may never know for sure.

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My favorite PFS customer is a restless soul by the name of Andy Hatfield. Hailing originally from Newton, Iowa, he’s the kind of dynamic grasp-Life-with-both-hands type that it’s impossible not to warm to. During the past few years the ProFlightSimulator-loving Andy has changed name and country several times and explored countless different career paths. After 15 years as an IT consultant, he tried sports scouting in Austria and road repairing in Australia. Sadly, a subsequent spell as a sky diver in France was curtailed by work-related health issues. Moving to Bulgaria, he then retrained as a doctor, a move that ultimately led to his present gig

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With a chap like Andy/Jon/Jacob/Richard/David/Jean Pierre/Ralph/Ramesh praising it, it’s little wonder PFS is “fast becoming the most popular flight simulator in the market”. If only everyone driven solely by natural enthusiasm to salute the sim, inspired such confidence…

Dcaff3 is also a big fan of VirtualPilot3D. What a surprise.

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Lead Programmer Dan Freeman might be able to wrap his head around a lift coefficient or parasitic drag equation with ease but when it comes to simple financial arithmetic his mathematical skills seem to desert him completely. In an attempt to make PFS’s eyewatering $97 price tag seem a tad more attractive, the gougers bundle their old disguised version of FlightGear with four “time-limited bonuses”, all of which, like FG, are available elsewhere for nothing. By my calculation $0 + $0 + $0 + $0 = $0 not $360.

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Tellingly, PFS doesn’t come with a warranty and its website doesn’t boast a forum or news section. There’s no evidence that the scammers have ever delivered their imminent ‘major improvements’ (One-click configuration of all major flight control hardware… VATSIM integration… “constant development of new aircraft and new sceneries”) and if you purchase the sim then realise you’ve been ripped off, good luck getting your money back:

“Due to the digital nature of the software and to prevent any abuse, all sales are final. We do not have a return or refund policy.”

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Customers who decide, post purchase, that they want the 4-DVD edition in addition to the download, may be in for a bit of a shock. It turns out that the “nominal fee” mentioned on the front page is actually far from nominal.

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The website text is so lousy with lies and distortions it would be tiresome to list all the examples of claptrap here. When the lovely people behind PFS aren’t going out of their way to avoid mentions of FlightGear, the game they’re actually selling, or squeezing the words ‘real’ or ‘realistic’ into their nauseating patter (86 uses) they are generally talking out of their tailplanes…

“Users and critics have called this the “next-generation” flight simulator”

“ProFlightSimulator™ is currently in beta testing stage all over participating flight schools worldwide.”

“It is certified for commercial use and provides hardware and frame-rate checks required for FAA certification.”

“There are current over 120+ aircraft to fly, MUCH MORE than what other simulators can offer.”

“As seen or advertised in Flight Authority”

“We have a team of paid developers who are working full time to add new code and new ideas”

“Our launch price of $97.00 will not last forever.”

“13000+ satisfied customers.”


In the hard-to-find corner of the website that explains, unpersuasively, why PFS definitely isn’t FlightGear, Dan and co. actually resort to misrepresenting and maligning the sim they are hijacking. With statements like “FG does not provide new updates very regularly”, “open source products do not offer any support” and “no more fiddling with files” they paint a highly misleading picture of the labour-of-love they cynically parasitize.


Although FlightGear may not persuade you to put aside FSX or X-Plane permanently, it is approachable, kind to GPUs, aerodynamically sophisticated, pretty at times and packed with interesting flyables and great features (excellent weather modelling… clickable cockpits… integrated add-on downloading…)


Unlike the ghastly ProFlightSimulator, it’s also regularly updated, backed by one of the friendliest sim communities around, and yours for an outlay of precisely nothing.


*       *       *

This way to the foxer


  1. RvLeshrac says:

    A quick look at the FlightGear wiki tells me they don’t know how the GPL works, and are seemingly completely unwilling to even attempt to stop the PFS people.

    On top of not buying PFS, it sounds like people need to stop contributing to FlightGear.

    • golochuk says:

      How does the GPL work? I’m under the impression that as long as the scammer here releases the source code to his version under the same license, he’s not violating the GPL.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        GPL violation is the least of the worries in this scam. It ticks like 10 different boxes.

        Easiest of all, would be for someone to find their address… and somehow encourage a TAX inspection. ;)

      • DrMcCoy says:

        DISCLAIMER: I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

        As long as they provide “complete corresponding source code” of their version of FlightGear to the people who bought it and request it, it is indeed legal to change and sell it.

        Whether or not they need to actively distribute the sources to anyone else is, from what I understand, a point people disagree on. But people who have aquired the sources from them can of course legally redistribute them.

        Not willing to give them money, I can’t judge whether the sources they offer are complete. So I can’t say that anything here strikes me as illegal.

        It is, of course, shady as fuck and I hate them. :P

        • RvLeshrac says:

          link to

          The only people who can do *anything* about ProFlightSimulator beyond “not buying it” are the FlightGear project maintainers.

        • Lightbringer says:

          Section 10 of the GPL is quite clear on this:
          “You may not impose any further restrictions on the exercise of the rights granted or affirmed under this License. For example, you may not impose a license fee, royalty, or other charge for exercise of rights granted under this License, and you may not initiate litigation (including a cross-claim or counterclaim in a lawsuit) alleging that any patent claim is infringed by making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing the Program or any portion of it.”
          link to

          • DrMcCoy says:

            First, that’s version 3 of the GPL, not version 2 under which FlightGear is licensed. The related section in the GPLv2 is similar, but slightly more vague; it just says “You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients’ exercise of the rights granted herein”.

            Second, this relates to taking extra licensing fees (etc.) for access to the sources or being able to modify the software, etc. As long as you haven’t bought a copy of the software, you’re not a licensee and so the GPL doesn’t apply to you.

            (Again, this point is a bit contentious, because some argue that you are allowed to distribute binaries in certain cases, and the recipient should also have access to the sources.)

    • Asami says:

      Because not wanting to embroil themselves in a legal battle with a bunch of scammers means their project should wither away and die, right? Makes perfect sense.

      It’s almost like they just want to develop an excellent Free and Open flight simulator…

      • RvLeshrac says:

        Under copyright law, the only people who can do anything about the scammers are the copyright holders (in this case, the FlightGear team).

        If the FlightGear team is unwilling to contact the EFF to help them with the PFS problem, they’re functionally stating that they don’t care if someone is using FlightGear to steal people’s money.

        • DrMcCoy says:

          The EFF isn’t even the correct organization to turn to here.

, or the Software Freedom Conservancy or the Software Freedom Law Center are who you’d want to contact.

          Apart from that: it doesn’t work that way.

  2. Dewal says:

    Oh come on, it’s cleary a satire and not a real scam. Don’t bring politics in my games RPS !

    • Joriath says:

      Dan Freeman, is that you?

    • waltC says:

      It isn’t satire in this case–it’s fraud. Visit the site–you can order this thing and pay for it…;) When you hit the “order” button it throws you right into Pay Pal–satire doesn’t do that.

    • Railway Rifle says:

      Needs more accusations of RPS writers being paid off, but otherwise flawless.

    • Sarfrin says:

      I rarely post just to salute another comment, but that was superb Dewal.

  3. User100 says:

    I don’t understand how they could think they could get away with something like this in the flightsim community.
    That’s a pretty tight-knit group, who all have been doing it for years, and who *love* to research their hobby and their purchases. They know their stuff, and they’re mostly adults.

    Ripping off another copy of Candy Crush is one thing, but trying to do that with a flight simulator?
    That’s not gonna fly…

    • DrMcCoy says:

      Ripping off the FLOSS community is rampant in other areas as well. Many of the “Convert your DVDs”, “Grab MP3s from YouTube videos”, etc. programs on dodgy websites you’ll find with a simple google are just FFmpeg with a quick and dirty GUI on-top, and oftentimes bundled malware.

    • Zenicetus says:

      This isn’t being marketed through the usual flight sim community. One of the main general FS forums – Avsim – has a warning on the Hangar Talk section not to buy this. Anyone who mentions it in a flight sim forum like that will get clued in.

      What they’re doing is relying on gamers with a casual interest, who hear about it through other channels like Google searches. The first hit I found for proflight on Google was on page 3 of a search on “flight simulation,” for a page titled “The history of flight simulators – ProFlight.” You could reach that just by looking up the history of these sims. I’m sure there are other pages with click bait leading to the product.

      Anyway, Tim is doing good work here, spreading the word on RPS outside the general flight sim community.

      • TimePointFive says:

        Also anyone who googles the product will find this article.

      • Lukasz says:

        The link to their website is on my first page when searching flight simulator game.

        Excluding apps there are only two other games being shown

        X-Plane 11

        Easy for a person to get confused and get the game

  4. Stugle says:

    Thank you for a well-constructed, informative and entertaining PSA, Tim.

  5. waltC says:

    Beware of software bearing testimonials…;) Reading 3rd-party reviews is the right path–but even that isn’t enough. Software without attendant forums is immediately doubtful. Seeing how obvious and cheesy these scammers are is an absolute scream…;) Hilarious! Caveat Emptor.

  6. trjp says:

    A good rule is “Never buy software which is shown in a “fake box” on the store page” :)

    ALL the dodgy resellers of free/shareware do this – almost no-one else does…

    • mompkin says:

      Whoah. I had to log in just to comment on this – this blew my mind because I had never thought about it, but it is so right!

    • bonuswavepilot says:

      Hah! I hadn’t consciously realised this either, but you’re spot on.

  7. Railway Rifle says:

    I used to be a stock photo model until I found this website and now I make £3204 a day from my laptop as a flight sim developer!

    • Someoldguy says:

      I’m so glad things are finally working out for you Andy/Jon/Jacob/Richard/David/Jean Pierre/Ralph/Ramesh/Railway

    • gi_ty says:

      Finally a niche for all of the poor downtrodden stock photo models! Where can I click to learn more? (and definitely not turn my computer into part of a hcking network)

  8. andromedius says:

    At least, we know why Mr. Freeman never returned for Half-Life 3…

  9. hypernewbie says:

    Hi, I’m the developer behind Aeron, a free and open source project “included” as a “bonus” in ProFlightSim. From what I remember the great FlightGear community tried to gather together enough people to take action on PFS, and they had trouble due to loopholes in the GPL license, with regards to distribution and modifications of the software. The loophole is that you can sell your mods if you link to the original project, and you can charge for distribution of it (eg. Ubuntu selling Ubuntu CDs). These guys made some trivial mods and claim they’re worth $90, put a random link to flightgear somewhere totally obscure where nobody is going to look, then charge for distribution too. I think these loopholes have since been improved in GPL v3.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      Those loopholes are only valid if PFS conforms to all of the requirements of the GPL, including distributing their source.

      I’ve never before seen one of these scammers that complied with all of the GPL requirements. Even Enterprise GPL users (e.g. Motorola) almost always fail to comply with the GPL until compelled by a lawsuit.

  10. Mehve says:

    We have “Hundreds of Developers” putting in “Thousands of Man Hours”, which were put in over a period of “Ten Years”? Wouldn’t that roughly equal one hour each year from each developer? It’s no wonder they needed to borrow a few assets!