Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 has been out for around a month and a half now, and there’s already a vibrant scene of mod makers for the game, from aircraft developers to scenery and building creators.
We’ve been trawling through the internet to find the best of the bunch. Obviously we’re not going to be able to cover every mod here, but we’re going to feature a selection of our favourites in the hope you find something that interests you!
But first, if you’re new to this, you probably want to know how to install mods? Well, it’s pretty straightforward and we’ve got a dedicated guide for you here.
Microsoft Flight Simulator must have aircraft mods
First up, anyone who has even the slightest interest in the airliners has to take a look at FlyByWire’s A32NX Project – a community focused on upgrading the default Airbus A320neo, intent on “improving the systems depth and functionality to bring it up to payware-level, all for free”. A huge group of programmers, modellers, and real-life pilots are collaborating for this open-source project.
So far, they’ve managed to add additional functionality to the ECAM monitors; allowing you to view information such as which doors are open, a better overview of the APU, as well as adding various aircraft memo’s and messages – but best of all, they’ve added a working seat belt switch, complete with an authentic “bong!” sound.
Even if you’re a casual flyer who’s not interested in simulating everything to the smallest detail, you’ll still find the finished aircraft checklists or lighting improvements useful. There’s still a long way to go before it could be considered ‘study level’, but it’s amazing to see what the community has accomplished within a relatively short amount of time, and perhaps the most impressive thing is that it’s free!
In a similar vein, there are other communities dedicated to improving other default aircraft. The Salty Simulations community seeks to improve the default Boeing 747, while Hanger9 Systems are focusing on the Boeing 787 (just remember that you need the Premium Duplex version to access this aircraft). Although these projects haven’t made quite as much progress, there’s no harm in giving them a go, or at least bookmarking and waiting for some more progress to be made. I’m sure that as their communities grow, their development pace will similarly accelerate.
With your improved aircraft, you’ll probably want some nicer looking liveries to go with it, right? Over at the Official Forums, users have created a mini-database of nearly 200 liveries, while Clink’s Megapack V8 currently contains over 300 liveries across 15 aircraft. There’s a good mix here too, from real-world airlines in different variants, to fictional airlines, so you’re bound to find something you prefer to the default paint jobs.
If you’re looking for an aircraft that is purely for fun, while also allowing you to fulfil your sci-fi dreams, then look no further than Eggman28’s creations. His add-on pack includes ‘aircraft’ such as the Millenium Falcon, an X-Wing fighter and the USS Enterprise. Some of these are just random 3D models, or are old versions ported across from Flight Simulator X, and as such have limited animations, sounds and interior cockpits. The controls and flight models can also be a bit wonky at times, but then again, when else are you going to get to fly an Imperial Shuttle out of a floating Star Destroyer “airport”?
To get these vehicles up in the air after spawning, you’ll generally have to enter Slew Mode (default key is Y), and then manually increase your altitude (hit F4 a few times). While in Slew Mode, you can also adjust your position using the number pad keys, after which you can press Y again to resume normal flight.
Another fun aircraft to try is the Boeing 797. This fictional aircraft, based on Boeing’s X-48 prototype can be enjoyable to fly with its ‘blended wing’ body. Again, it’s a fairly basic model without cockpit functions and temperamental sounds, but at the very least you can take some futuristic screenshots with it, like the one above!
Microsoft Flight Simulator must have scenery mods
Moving on to the freeware scenery creations now, when you take into account the sheer size of the ‘game world’ it’s no surprise that Asobo hasn’t been able to get every square inch perfect. In fact, the 1:1 representation of the Earth gives you a surface area of almost 197 million square miles – to put that in perspective, the map in GTA V is ‘only’ about 49 square miles. Asobo are working on regular updates, this week’s Japan World Update a sign of things to come, but others are working on the game world as well. Here’s a few of my favourite scenery packs that improve either the terrain, buildings or just add a bit of fun to the world.
The Yosemite Valley pack improves the terrain within the National Park, with notable features such as El Capitan and the Half Dome looking much more accurate. There’s a few rough spots where the original and improved terrain meet, but flying through the valley in a GA aircraft at sunset is truly wonderful.
Those that have flown around Washington DC will probably be disappointed by the quality of the local landmarks – for example, the Washington Monument appears as a skyscraper rather than an obelisk! Srinivasman’s pack fixes this issue and adds more accurate models for the White House, Capitol Building and more.
Aquila Simulation’s Kennedy Space Centre pack adds more detail to the area, from a Falcon Heavy on the launchpad to the mighty Vehicle Assembly Building that was used in the Apollo programme – it’s still one of the largest buildings in the world by volume, even after all these years.
There’s a bunch of more scenery addons I’ve enjoyed, and far too many to list here. If there’s a particular place you’re interested in flying in, it’s well worth taking a bit of time before your flight to see if there’s any available freeware that could improve your experience.
Well, there you have it. If you’ve found any good addons that I haven’t mentioned here, please drop a comment below as I’d love to try them out!