Hi! This is the third email in the course on using a flight simulator to become a better pilot. Today I’d like to share with you how you can find a virtual version of your favorite aircraft and then fly it in X-Plane.
About the add-on aircraft available
X-Plane comes with 19 default, high-quality airplanes, but in the 20 years we’ve been doing this, no one has ever said “That’s probably all I’ll ever want to fly.” Of course you want more aircraft! More to the point, you want to fly the same aircraft in X-Plane that you fly in the real world. Luckily, X-Plane makes it easy to add an unlimited number of custom aircraft.
There are two varieties of aircraft available for the simulator: freeware planes (which are free) and payware planes (which—you guessed it—cost money). As with most things, you generally get what you pay for when it comes to these planes. Certainly there are many, many freeware planes that are fun to fly, with reasonably accurate flight models, but if you want the most realistic instrument panels and models, you’ll probably have to pay for it.
Where do you find free aircraft?
There are a few great places to find new aircraft. One is the X-Plane 10 Aircraft page on our fan site, X-Plane.org. (Note: Before downloading from X-Plane.org, you’ll need to create a free account there.) Another is the X-Plane France site. Most of the airplanes on those sites are free, but a small number require purchasing.
Hint: You can sort the aircraft on X-Plane.org by “highest rated” to get the best aircraft models first.
To get you started, here are a few of my favorite freeware airplanes:
- Republic SeaBee RC3
- Mitsubishi A6M21 “Zero”
- Sbach 300
- Airbus A380–800
- Super King Air B200
- Turbolet Let L–410
Where do you get the best aircraft for training?
When it comes to paying for the highest-quality aircraft, there are a few places that I would recommend looking first.
If you’re especially interested in practicing IFR approaches, check out the SimAVIO products from Fly This Sim. They sell software to simulate a number of aircraft models with some of the most realistic avionics simulations available. The models are all pretty pricey, but the avionics are second only to having a dedicated $1000+ piece of real-world flight hardware connected to the simulator. (Note also that SimAVIO will only work in Windows.)
If you instead fly airliners, you’ll be interested in the following add-ons:
- CRJ–200 with in-depth systems and avionics modeling
- Boeing 787 (officially licensed model)
- Boeing 777 (officially licensed model) with realistic FMC
- Boeing 727–100, 727–200F, and 727–200Adv with detailed systems modeling
- IXEG 737 Classic with accurately modeled systems & displays
You downloaded an aircraft… Now what do you do with it?
When you download a custom aircraft from the web sites above, it will typically be in a compressed folder (usually a ZIP file) that contains the airplane and all its various paint jobs, airfoils, etc. Once that compressed folder is downloaded, you should be able to double-click on it to open or expand it.
You should move the contents of that compressed folder into the folder called “Aircraft” within the X-Plane 11 directory, which should be on the Desktop. So, to install your custom aircraft, just:
- Double-click on the X-Plane 11 folder on the Desktop.
- In that folder, double-click on the “Aircraft” folder.
- Open the compressed folder that you previously downloaded and drag-and-drop its contents into the Aircraft folder window.
Be sure to place the new aircraft files in a folder with the name of the aircraft—for instance, for a newly downloaded Piper J–3 Cub, the folder path in Windows might look like this:
C:\Documents and Settings\User\Desktop\X-Plane 11\Aircraft\Piper Cub
With the new aircraft in the proper directory, open up X-Plane and it will show up in the aircraft grid of Flight Configuration. Remember you can use search bar or the drop down menus to sort your aircraft, and you can find it quickly next time by clicking on the star icon to mark it as a favorite.
At this point, all that’s left is to go flying!
If you’ve found the aircraft above useful, you’re probably ready to get rid of the time restriction on the demo (and get scenery for the rest of the world!). By ordering X-Plane 11 from our web site, you’ll be able to fly as long as you like, without the annoying time limit.
Until next time,