Your guide to setting up X-Plane
Hi! I’m Randy Witt. I’m the head of customer support for X-Plane. I’m sending you this message because you signed up for a free email course on getting the most out of your experience with X-Plane. We promised to start by sending you instructions on setting up the demo—that’s what this email is about. I hope you’re as excited for your first flight in X-Plane as I was!
At the end of this email are links and instructions for downloading 5 of my favorite freeware airplanes. If you read nothing else, make sure you check those out!
Our goal here is to get you up-and-flying in as little time as possible, while still learning the most important things about the simulator. This should only take about 10 or 15 minutes after you finish installing the demo.
Before you begin, you might want to check out the system requirements for X-Plane 10. The super-short version is that if you have a fairly new computer, or a computer that’s maybe 3 or 4 years old which was very powerful when you bought it, you’ll have no trouble running X-Plane.
If you have a problem that isn’t addressed in this guide, please email me at [email protected] and I’ll do my best to help. Alternatively, you can check the X-Plane 10 manual for answers.
Installing the demo
If you’re getting this email, it means you’ve already downloaded the demo installer, so it’s saved on your computer. (Can’t find it? You can download again if necessary.) So, install the demo, do the following:
- Locate the file you downloaded (it’s named something like “X-Plane 10 Demo Installer”) and double-click on it.
- In the window that appears, click the button at the bottom labeled Continue.
- Accept the user agreement by clicking on the check box, then click Continue.
- After a moment or two, the installer will ask you where to install the demo. Simply clicking Continue will install it on your Desktop (the recommended location).
- The installer will begin downloading the files it needs. When it finishes, you’re ready to fly!
Having finished the installation, it’s time to start the simulator!
- Before beginning, make sure your joystick or yoke is plugged in to your computer (if applicable). You certainly don’t need a joystick (you can fly with just your keyboard and mouse), but you’ll have a better experience if you’re using a joystick. If you don’t have flight controls, I use (and love) Saitek’s X52 joystick and throttle system. If you’re more interested in a yoke, check out CH Products’ Flight Sim yoke.
- Double-click on the X-Plane 10 folder on your Desktop.
- In the window that appears, double-click on the icon labeled “X-Plane.” At this point, X-Plane will begin starting up.
- During this first launch, the program can quickly and automatically configure your joystick or yoke using one simple step. In the Joystick Quick-Config box that appears, click the Yes button, then move the joystick through all of its axes several times. Click the Continue button and your joystick will be calibrated.
Setting Up Your First Flight
Now let’s choose where and what you’ll fly. After X-Plane finishes starting up, you’ll be greeted by a window that looks something like this:
The upper left box there (labeled “Airport”) is used to select the airport you’ll start at. Since the demo version of X-Plane doesn’t include any scenery outside of Seattle, you probably want to select Seattle International Airport, whose identifier is KSEA.
To the right of the Airport box is a box labeled “Aircraft.” Click a folder here (for instance, the “General Aviation” folder) and the box in the lower left of the window will show you all the airplanes in that folder. You can use the scroll wheel on your mouse to flip through those aircraft. Whichever airplane is in the center of that airplane view is one that is currently selected. (In the image above, this is the United 747-400.)
On the right side of the window are two boxes, labeled “Time” and “Weather.” Click on one image in each box to select the time of day and weather for your flight.
When you’re ready to go, click the Fly with these options button in the bottom-right of the screen.
This is the first screen you will see every time you start X-Plane. If you want to change your flight in the future, just move your mouse to the top of the screen (causing the menu to appear) and click File. In the menu that drops down, click Quick Flight Setup.
Configuring Essential Yoke/Joystick Functions
As I mentioned before, a yoke or joystick isn’t essential for using X-Plane, but it sure makes it more realistic! If you’re just flying with your mouse, or you calibrated your hardware earlier, you can skip to the next section.
- After clicking Fly with these options in the Quick Flight Setup window, the program will finish loading. When it does, move your mouse to the top of the screen, causing the menu to appear.
- Click on Settings, then Joystick & Equipment. The relevant portion of the dialog box that appears is shown in the image below.
- Move your joystick or yoke forward and back. A green or red bar should move as you do so. Click the drop-down menu next to it and set it to pitch, if it isn’t already. Do not check the reverse box next to this control unless, when flying, the aircraft’s pitch control is working backward.
- Move your joystick/yoke left and right. The bar that moves should be set to roll. Do not check the reverse box next to this control unless, when flying, the aircraft’s roll control is working backward.
- Twist your joystick (if applicable). The bar that moves should be set to yaw. If you do not assign a yaw axis, X-Plane will attempt to stabilize it for you. Once again, do not check the reverse box unless, when flying, the aircraft’s yaw control is working backward.
If you are using rudder pedals instead of a twisting joystick, slide them forward and backward and set the bar that moves then to yaw.
Additionally, only when using rudder pedals, press the left pedal down with your toes. The bar that moves should be set to left toe brake. Do the same for the right pedal, and set that
bar to right toe brake. If this is done, you may also skip steps 8 through 10 below.
- Move your throttle forward and back (on a yoke, this is typically the leftmost lever). Set this bar to throttle. Check the reverse box only if, when flying, the aircraft’s throttle control works backward.
- Move all the joystick’s control axes (that is, pitch, yaw, roll, and throttle) through their full range of motion to calibrate the controls.
- Once again, skip this step and steps 9–10 if the rudder pedals are set up as toe brakes. Click the Buttons: Basic tab at the top of the screen.
- Press the button on your joystick that you would like to assign to brakes, then release it.
- Using the mouse, click the round button to the left of Toggle brakes regular effort (found near the bottom of the second column and already selected in the following image).
- Close the Joystick & Equipment menu with either of the X buttons at the top of the screen, or by pressing the Enter key on your keyboard.
Your joystick or yoke is now ready to fly!
Getting Off the Ground
It’s time to take off and fly around a bit. The following instructions are designed for a general aviation plane like the Cessna 172, but they’ll work for just about any airplane (heavier airplanes just might require more speed).
- The airplane’s engine should already be running, and it should be sitting on the runway of whichever airport you chose. Press the button that you assigned to brakes when the joystick/yoke was configured. If no button was configured (e.g., if you are flying with the mouse), press the
bkey on the keyboard.
- Move the throttle all the way up. (If you’re using a keyboard and mouse to fly, this means pressing the F2 key on the keyboard repeatedly—the F1 key will bring the throttle back down.)
- If applicable, use your joystick’s twist or your rudder pedals to control the plane’s left and right motion to track the centerline of the runway. (Don’t worry if you go off the runway on your first time—you’ll still get up to speed for takeoff.) If no yaw axis was configured above (or if you’re using the mouse), the simulator will attempt to control the yaw for you.
- Watch your airspeed indicator (shown in the following image), and when it hits 60 knots, pull back slightly to get the plane off the ground. (Once again, note that if you’re in a heavier airplane, you’ll need more speed before pulling back.)
If you’re using a mouse, you will have to click the white + sign (found near the center of the screen) with the mouse in order to “grab the controls” with the mouse. After you click it, you can control the aircraft’s flight by moving the mouse within the white box that appears—moving it up within the box will pitch the nose down, and moving the mouse down will pitch the nose up. Moving it left within the box will cause the craft to roll left, and moving it right will cause the craft to roll right. Click the mouse again to release the controls,
freeing you to open a menu, adjust controls on the aircraft panel, etc.
- Gently level the plane off in order to build a little airspeed. Then, when the plane hits, say, 80 knots, pull back again to begin climbing. Building airspeed this way will help to keep the plane from stalling.
- Fly away!
That’s all you need to know to use X-Plane!
If you found this guide useful, I’m so glad! You’ll love the emails I’m prepping for the future.
If you’d like more information on any of the topics covered here, check out the X-Plane 10 User Manual, written by yours truly.
If you’re having trouble getting X-Plane to run smoothly on your computer, check out the guide to “Setting the Rendering Options for Best Performance” in the X-Plane 10 manual.
Now, about those free aircraft…
You want to get the most out of X-Plane. A big part of doing so is having lots of aircraft that you love to fly. So, use the following links to download 5 awesome models!
- AT-6G Texan Military Trainer
- Robin DR.221 Light Sport Aircraft
- Ilyushin IL-96-400
- Sbach 300
- Super King Air B200
Check out the X-Plane Communities for even more free stuff! (Some links may require free registration before downloading.)
Installing your free, custom aircraft models
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 10 directory. If you followed the instructions above, you should be able to find the X-Plane 10 directory on the Desktop. So, to install your custom aircraft, just:
- Double-click on the X-Plane 10 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 window that you opened the “Aircraft” folder in.
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
C:\Documents and Settings\User\Desktop\X-Plane 10\Aircraft\Piper Cub
With the new aircraft in the proper directory, open up X-Plane. In the aircraft selection portion of the Quick Flight Setup window, you can now click on the aircraft you just added. Cool!
At this point, all that’s left is to go flying!
Until next time,
X-Plane Customer Support