When Fighter Squadron: Screamin' Demons Over Europe touched down in early 1999 it found all the comfiest armchairs in the mess bagsied, all the comeliest WAAFs spoken for, and all the Brylcreem in the local branch of Boots sold out. The previous year European Air War, Jane's WW2 Fighters, and Combat Flight Simulator had arrived and snaffled everything. Obscurity beckoned until a band of inquisitive erks led by one ArgonV noticed the sim's mod potential and set to work. The most impressive product of their labours to date - a massive WWI TC - has just been released in a convenient standalone package. If there's a better free combat flight-sim available, I'm unaware of it.
FS-WWI doesn't have the ravishing looks or rigorous realism of Rise Of Flight or Over Flanders Fields, but in other significant areas it more than holds its own. The Gotha-sized installer (1GB) includes hundreds of thoughtfully wrought sorties covering everything from dogfights and bombing raids, to balloon busting and carrier ops. The ride selection is Hendon-huge, all the usual suspects rubbing wingtips with exotica like early war monoplanes, airships, and landships. Not every machine is sculpted or skinned as beautifully as the Bristol in the first pic, but a good many are.
Sadly, campaigning isn't part of the deal (a shortcoming inherited from SDOE). Still, in addition to that mountain of missions, you do get an unusually well-appointed skirmish generator (select your adversaries' skill, aggressiveness, morale and sanity level) and the chance to cavort in the clouds with friends. In the circumstances, it would be very rude to grumble.
And if Kieron can end his Sunday post with Bobby Darin, I see no harm in ending mine with W. B. Yeats:
An Irish Airman Foresees His Death
I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.