4 Ways to Display Flight Simulator Instrument Panel

4 Ways to Display Flight Instruments | Flight Simulator Instrument Panel

Developers struggle to create software that displays a legible flight simulator instrument panel, and also present a realistic outside world with scenery that stretches to the horizon. Today I’ll focus on viewing the flight instruments. You have a few options to choose from and each has its own benefit trade offs. It’s up to you to decide which flight simulator instrument panel works best with your particular needs.

 

TrackIR with DTG Flight School
TrackIR with DTG Flight School and the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim

 

TrackIR $140.00

I’ve used TrackIR from Naturalpoint for a long time. It is a view tracking device that allows you to look around the virtual cockpit by moving your head. TrackIR “sees” your head move in 6 axes, also called 6 degrees of freedom. Instead of explaining all 6, I’ll just say your real life head also moves in 6 degrees of freedom, and leave it at that. As a result, you can lean into the flight simulator instrument panel if you want to see something closer. You can also look out the windows, look over your shoulder, look around struts and other parts of the airplane. The picture above shows TrackIR with the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim.

TrackIR works with a single screen, or multiple screens. It works with a very wide variety of titles: Prepar3D, X-Plane, FSX, Flight Sim World, DTG Flight School, DCS World, even Elite Dangerous, War Thunder, IL2, and many others. In conclusion, TrackIR is very useful but it’s still difficult to use with a GPS or other instruments that require fine tuning.

 

Native FSX instruments in the DIY Flight Sim Pod
Native FSX instruments in the DIY Flight Sim Pod

 

Moving/resizing windows (free)

You can move and resize the 2D windows in old FSX and FSX Steam. When you type Shift+1, or Shift +2, Shift+3, etc. then FSX will display different windows that you can move around your screen. You see how this appears in the picture above with the DIY Flight Sim Pod. This trick also works with multiple screens. For example, you could show the outside view on all three monitors, and then in the bottom of your middle screen, show smaller windows with the flight instruments. You can also re-size the windows. That’s all great, except FSX does not save these settings on exit, and you have to set up all your views again the next time you turn on your computer.

However, there is a way to make FSX save the flight simulator instrument panel settings by using a handy freeware utility. More about that here.

 

Air Manager with the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim
Air Manager with the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim

 

Air Manager $36.00 + separate monitor or computer

Air Manger works with Prepar3D, X-Plane 9, 10, and 11, FSX and FSX Steam. I’ve personally used Air Manager for displaying the flight simulator instrument panel on a separate screen. What I mean is, a totally separate monitor that is set aside for just the flight instruments. Flat panel computer monitors are so cheap that I literally have 3 in my house just waiting for a project. Air Manager can also work on an iPad or other tablet computer.

Air Manager is very versatile, see it above with the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim. I run the software on an old, obsolete computer (running Windows Vista) which is connected via network to my flight sim computer. A separate computer means there is zero impact on my frame rates. Download full flight simulator instrument panels, mix and match gauges (free), even create your own (also free).

 

Saitek Pro-Flight gauge
Saitek Pro-Flight gauge

 

Saitek Pro Flight Instruments $169.99 each

The most expensive option is the Saitek Pro Flight Instrument gauges. I listed the price, but that is only for one single, physical USB gauge. Consequently, if you want a panel consisting of 6 flight instruments and an RPM gauge, that is 6 x $169.99 = $1019.94. I haven’t personally tried these gauges because they are so incredibly expensive. In addition, you are limited primarily to round-gauge type displays.

 

Flight Simulator Instrument Panel

In conclusion, there are several ways to display a flight simulator instrument panel and the method you choose will depend on your needs and your budget. Have you tried anything I haven’t listed here? If so, let me know in the comments (you don’t have to log in to comment).

Golden Age of flight simulators

The Golden Age of Flight Simulators: 4 Reasons Why

“The Golden Age of Flight Simulators” I started using that phrase in 2016 as I noticed fresh inspiration from software developers, and a renewed optimism in the flight simulator community. See in the picture, that’s what my old website looked like in Spring of 2016. Now, over a year later, the evidence is undeniable. We are entering a new renaissance of home flight simulation. Watch the Frooglesim News each week and it’s obvious. The future we’ve waited for is here now, and it’s time to go flying!

 

1. Flight Sim Software

One of the most significant signals that things have changed is this: we have real choices now. Not just choices, but difficult choices. How are you going to decide between X-plane 11 and Prepar3D v4? Both are outstanding flight sim platforms and you have many things to consider when you choose. What will Dovetail’s new Flight Sim World bring to the table? Time will tell.

This leads to another sign of the times: 3rd party developers with products for multiple flight sim platforms. You can get the same outstanding add-on aircraft and scenery for whatever software you’re using. Well almost. Several developers issued a joint press release on July 4, 2017 to say they are no longer building products for old Flight Simulator X. They declared their independence from FSX!

 

2. Hardware and More!

One subject you won’t see much of on Frooglesim News is hardware. Today’s flight sim pilot has many choices in flight controls, switch panels, displays, touch screens, graphics cards, and more. Take displays, for example. You can buy an excellent 32” HDTV for less than $200. Most quality graphics cards can now power three displays, so why not buy three 32” TVs and stretch out the view to over 6 feet wide! Add some PVC pipes, lumber, and elbow-grease and you have an impressive, affordable, home cockpit.

Let’s not forget the advances made by non-ESP based flight sim platforms like DSC World and Aerofly FS2. These are considered by some to be “FS lite” because they don’t have native global scenery and all the weather and ATC options we’re used to. Nonetheless, these sims sport smooth frame rates (much higher than even P3D and X-Plane) and excellent detail for the limited geography they offer. DCS World and Aerofly FS2 also have beautifully rendered aircraft. You’ll find the higher fidelity aircraft in DCS World as compared to FS2.

 

P3Dv4 flight simulator with multiple screens
P3Dv4 flight simulator with multiple screens

 

3. Virtual Reality?

What will Virtual Reality bring to the table? As of yet, no one knows. VR headsets demand performance that is difficult to achieve with flight simulator programs. For successful VR, you must have high frame rates, over 90 frames per second. Furthermore, flight sim software has exponentially more scenery rendering than any game software. Plus, once you put on a VR headset, you can no longer see your controls, checklists, switch panels, or anything that is not in the virtual world. For now, nobody knows how much VR will impact the flight sim genre.

 

4. Watch Frooglesim News

In conclusion, why is it the Golden Age of Flight Sims? Well, Froogle says so too! Take a look at this episode of Frooglesim News at 27:11.

 

Bel Geode wags the finger at Dovetail Games

Three Grumpy Simmers discuss Flight Sim World

Three well-known flight simulator enthusiasts teamed up to discuss Dovetail Game’s Flight Sim World. Bel Geode, Sérgio, and Novawing24 called themselves the “Three Grumpy Simmers” in this inaugural video.

 

What is Flight Sim World?

Flight Sim World (FSW) is a new comprehensive flight simulator from Dovetail Games (DTG). It builds upon old software technology from Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X (FSX). However, DTG’s new update brings the software into the modern world by incorporating 64-bit technology, DirectX 11, as well as other new features. FSW is currently in the early access phase. Consequently, avid flight simmers have the opportunity to participate in the software development by providing feedback to the developers. I’m looking forward to trying FSW with a multi-monitor setup in the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim.

 

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What Do People Say About Flight Sim World?

Keep in mind, the flight sim community has a tendency to “eat their young.” That means many potential customers want a new advanced flight simulator platform to replace FSX, but they also tend to ridicule any development team that attempts to do that. The Three Grumpy Simmers take on that issue as FSW is a long way from final release. They make the point it’s unfair to compare FSW in its current state to established platforms like Lockheed Prepar3D. At one point Bel Geode “wags the finger” at DTG about the lack of information about FSW for several months. I encourage you to watch the entire discussion (see Novawing24’s video below).

 

Who are the Three Grumpy Simmers?

  • Bel Geode (Drew Bolton) has been a flight simulation enthusiast since 1986, and has been an active member of the community since 2005. A former virtual airline CEO, Bel has embraced many aspects of flight simulation, and understands how to connect with the community at large through his Twitter Profile, YouTube channel, and public appearances at events like Flight Sim Con.
    Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/BelGeode2015
    Twitter – http://twitter.com/BelGeode
    YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/BelGeode
  • Novawing24 (Tristan Ayton) hosts a weekly news program with a focus on the Simulation genre. See it on YouTube. Believeing that giving back to the community is important, he provides open and honest commentary and feedback on developments in the simulation genre. He has also tried his hand at texture design, with content available at his website and at the AVSIM Library, as well as writing for numerous websites.
    Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/novawing24
    Twitter – http://twitter.com/novawing24
    YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/
    Web – http://www.novawing24.com/
  • Sérgio Costa is a flight simulation enthusiast with over 20 years experience. His passion with helicopters developed during MSFS 2000 when he discovered the complexity of these aircraft and the challenge it was to control them. Since then he has been primarily a helicopter flight simmer, trying his best not to crash and kill all his virtual passengers. Sérgio is HeliSimmer.com’s editor and writer.
    Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/Helisimmer
    Twitter – http://twitter.com/Helisimmer
    YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/Helisimmer
    Web – https://www.helisimmer.com/

 

See the Discussion Here…

 

Flight Sim World from DTG

Best Flight Simulator – Which One to Choose? Part 2

Flight Sim World (FSW) by Dovetail Games

Dove Tail Games (DTG) announced the release of Flight Sim World days before I wrote this article. Therefore, I haven’t tried it yet, and actually nobody has. FSW will be released for early access in May 2017. DTG really wants FSW to be the replacement for FSX that we’ve all been waiting for.

And yet, FSW is built upon the foundations of FSX. DTG purchased the rights from Microsoft to extend FSX and is building upon that. I think DTG is trying to develop what FSX could have become if Microsoft hadn’t killed the Flight Simulator franchise in 2007. They have an uphill battle today because DTG’s Flight School was not well received in 2016. However, DTG offering a huge olive branch to purchasers of Flight School… they get FSW for free! Consequently, FSW the best cheap flight simulator.

FSW features utilization of DirectX 11 and its a 64 bit application. Of course, the release video looks beautiful.

 

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Flight Simulator X Steam Edition by Dovetail Games

Well, there’s always FSX. It was the all-around best flight simulator for years, but it is slowly fading. DTG successfully dusted-off and re-released Flight Simulator X on the Steam platform in 2014. Microsoft fired the entire FSX development staff in 2009, but dozens of 3rd party developers continued to produce hundreds of add-ons, utilities, and enhancements to FSX. I installed FSX on the DIY Flight Sim Pod and the DIY Roll-Away Flight Sim.

Sometimes there is a sale on Steam and you can buy FSX for about $15. You have little to lose by trying FSX. Therefore, FSX is probably your best cheap flight simulator option. Download some free scenery add-ons or airplanes. Fly some of the old missions. If you have problems, there is lots of information available just a Google away.

 

Prepar3D is the Best Flight Simulator

P3D is my pick right now, but that could change in the future. The flight sim community is in a time of flux right now. On the other hand, you may have noticed something about these choices. Out of the four titles I listed, three are based on the old FSX foundation. So after two decades, it’s still really just Flight Simulator vs. X-Plane.

 

Did you miss Part 1? Read it here.

Is X-plane 11 the best flight simulator?

Best Flight Simulator – Which One to Choose? Part 1

The flight simulator community is experiencing something it hasn’t seen in a long time: real choices. After a decade of Flight Simulator X (FSX) dominance, there are now serious software alternatives. So how you do you choose the best flight simulator application? I’ll take a look at four options: Lockheed Martin Prepar3D, X-Plane 11, Dovetail Games’ Flight Sim World, and Flight Simulator X Steam Edition. Also keep in mind, I’m the DIY Flight Sim guy. I do my best work with a drill and a miter saw and I spend more time editing video than I do flying a simulator. But still, people ask my opinion, so here it is…

 

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Lockheed Martin Prepar3D (P3D)

Lockheed Martin is a $46 Billion dollar defense contractor. They build ballistic missiles, armored fighting vehicles, combat ships, rockets, satellites, robots, and a lot more… and real airplanes too. LM purchased certain licensing rights from Microsoft to further develop its ESP simulation platform, which is now Lockheed’s Prepar3D. The P3D development team is a tiny segment of this giant mega-corporation. P3D markets its capabilities as training simulation for commercial, academic, professional, or military interests. They do not make products for armchair flightsimmers like you and me. This is why P3D issues the odd warning against using its product for entertainment.

P3D works so well. I remember when I first installed it on the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim. The software automatically detected and properly assigned my flight controls. First time in my life I’ve ever experienced that. P3D is an improvement over FSX and retains familiarity in the menus and options. The frame rates are better, the scenery is better, and many FSX add-ons also work in P3D. Multiple monitors and Saitek switch panels work well in P3D. So P3D is my choice for the best flight simulator software right now, but that comes with a caveat (read on).

Lockheed builds a great product and if you happen like it, that’s fine, but if you don’t then remember that Lockheed is not very concerned about us or the flight sim consumer market. Out of Lockheed’s 126,000 employees, only a few of them work on the Prepar3D program, and P3D is a tiny part of Lockheed’s revenue stream. I’m saying that Lockheed’s priorities could change in the future and we may not have access to P3D any more. And yet, Lockheed offers a great product for retail customers right now and it is my choice for the best flight simulator.

 

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X-Plane 11 by Laminar Research

The X-plane franchise has been the #2 choice for flight sim pilots for years. Will it become the #1 best flight simulator now with X-plane 11? I installed the X-Plane 11 demo on the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to really experience X-plane 11 on my rig yet, but you guys want my opinion, so here it is. I think X-plane could become the new standard for home flight simulators in the next 10 years. Austin Meyer is the lead developer for X-plane, and this is his baby. X-plane is an essential part of Austin’s identity, so I think the X-plane team has a passion that is perhaps not present at Prepar3D. Plus, X-plane is here for us… the flight sim community.

As of right now, the X-plane community is smaller than the FSX community so there is less choice in 3rd party add-ons. X-plane is 64 bit and that doesn’t necessarily mean your frame rates will be higher than P3D, but X-plane is able to fully utilize the RAM you already have in your computer. This could help in the future. Multiple monitors and Saitek switch panels work well in X-plane 11, but some of the menu options are difficult to read. Austin is seems really interested in bringing built-in VR capability to X-plane, so if that’s your thing, you might want to sign up for Austin’s blog. VR brings several new challenges to flight sims like frame rates, eyeglasses, ergonomics, etc.

 

What about Flight Simulator X and the new Flight Sim World from Dovetail? Read Part 2 here.