Checking out the X-Plane 11 demo!

While the content of the Stormbirds blog will always be focused on some of the combat flight sim experiences out there such as DCS World and IL-2: Great Battles Series, many of you know that I like to check out other experiences from time to time as well. With my upcoming trip to Flight Sim-Expo and the heavy focus of that expo on civil aviation simulation, I thought it would only be fitting for me to dip my toes into this world and see what sticks.

What have I done? An X-Plane overview.

The last four months have been particularly busy for me and adding an additional simulation to the mix isn’t really what I needed to put on my already full plate. Still, here I am and here’s what I intend to be a very short first impressions of what X-Plane is all about.

Produced by Laminar Research, X-Plane is a long running flight simulator series that stretches back a couple of decades and has a history almost as long as Microsoft’s Flight Simulator series (itself stretching back before its purchase by Microsoft).

X-Plane has a complex flight model system similar to DCS World’s PFM (and probably not that different from IL-2’s flight model a well) and an extensible plugin interface that allows for countless third party additions that enhance or outright replace elements within X-Plane. The sheer volume is overwhelming but I’m hoping to cut through the volume and learn more about the essentials.

Available demo

X-Plane is available as a demo first letting you experience about 15-minutes of flight in the Seattle area with several aircraft from the base product. It is this demo that I currently have installed on my system although I am considering checking out the full installation at some point.

The demo works fairly well as it gives you a limited (and free) experience without giving away too much. It did, however, let me work on things like configuring my controls and understanding the basics of how X-Plane’s control scheme works. Things like my newly acquired Delanclip using OpenTrack were immediately recognized as was my VIRPIL MT-50TCS and WarBRD and WarBRD grip.

My first flight involved a takeoff, circle and a bit of sight seeing before returning to the same airfield that I took off from. It was not my best landing but it was passable. This was a very basic experience but it was actually quite a lot of fun and something I’d like to check out more of.

Although I only scratched the surface of what X-Plane offers, I was actually quite pleased with myself to be able to perform the basics without even breaking a sweat. Years of flying complex fourth-gen multi-role jet fighters, 1950s eras Soviet interceptors, and World War I and II warbirds has prepared me well for the likes of the Beechcraft Baron 58 that I flew in X-Plane.

I can sum up the experience in one word: fun!

Do you also fly civil aviation sims?

My love of titles like IL-2 and DCS certainly bring plenty of excitement when it comes to the combat elements of flying (which demand a whole other set of skills) but civil aviation has its charms too and the pure challenge and joy of flight in all of its forms have me hooked.

As I said in my introduction, my focus remains on titles like IL-2 and DCS World but I’m sure this will not be my last on the subject of X-Plane. I was pretty impressed with my first outing.

I am, however, very curious if anyone out there reading Stormbirds is also into civil aviation flight sims? Or, is your interest is purely in combat sims? Let me know in the comments!


24 Comments Add yours

  1. Greg says:

    I look forward to your civil air contributions, however IRL the field leaves me a little cold. I’ve had several RL introductory flights for aircraft such as Tiger Moth, Cessna 152 and Robinson R22, which I’ve used FSX to get familiar with prior, but at the end of the day when relaxing with a flight sim, I’d rather just explode things.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Veillantif says:

    Yes, I like DCS, il2 and X-Plane. Sometimes it is hard to choose but I think all three simulators complement each other great in my quest to become a better sim pilot. If you like X-Plane check out Orbx Great Britain and the free X-Plane 737 Zibo mod.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Eviscerador says:

    I will try it for sure. The latests civilian flight sim I tried was the MFS 98.

    That being said, you can have your share of civilian flight on DCS with the TF 51, transport helos, Yak 52 and CR2.

    I have tens of flight hours on the TF 51 alone, just cruising around all maps (except Normandy with I still don’t own)

    Of course it is not designed for that but you know what I mean.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Absolutely! I’ve done some TF-51 flying in DCS World as well and that definitely offers that ‘civil aviation’ experience within DCS World.

      With a little more time with X-Plane 11 I’ll be looking at what different kinds of experiences you can have with X-Plane vs DCS. Both are very interesting!


  4. Michael Dwyer says:

    I have tried a few in the past, namely Flight Sim World. Sadly due to lack of foresight on the developers part it died and quick death without getting much more than off the ground.

    I am watching Deadstick closely (they should be at Flight Sim World so take a look for me please) Deadstick will be a bush pilot simulator set in a fictitious part of Alaska.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I will add Deadstick to my list of things to check out!


    2. Francesco Kasta says:

      That’s another interesting title I have been eagerly following for a while!

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Mischiew Rithe says:

      That Deadstick guys seem a passionate team, and the simulation looks very immersive, with complete modelling (even receving radio and simulated static through receivers!), the airfield office to get notam/taf updates and so on. Very much looking forward to it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. p51dmatt says:

    I love flying X Plane. The Zibo 737 Mod is the best freeware addon I’ve ever seen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I’ve heard that a couple of times now. I’ll have to check it out. What makes it special?


      1. p51dmatt says:

        It is basically a payware quality airplane for free. Check out flightdeck2sim on Youtube. He’s a real world 737 pilot that flies the Zibo mod regularly.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ShamrockOneFive says:

        Great! I’m checking into it in some more detail!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. ZOOMY says:

    You might also want to check out A2A Simulations I know they only build aircraft modules for FSX and Prepar3d, but, they have a very strong background in warbirds and have recently announced that they have been involved in developing a T-6A Texan II simulator and a T-38A simulator for the US Air Force. They are also involved in making making sims for a company that provides training for Spitfire pilots. Check out their latest developement update:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Great info! Very interesting that they are doing both official work and work with consumers.

      Thanks for sharing that!


  7. ZOOMY says:

    You might want to check out A2A Simulations too. Unfortunately, they are only making modules for FSX and Prepar3d, but, they have a very strong warbird background and what they do with the FSX engine is nothing short of astounding. In their most recent update they mentioned that they have been working on both a T-6A Texan II and a T-38A simulation for the USAF and that they have also been working on a Spitfire simulation for a company which trains Spitfire pilots.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mischiew Rithe says:

      A2A planes are the best and more memorable I’ve ever flown in non-military sims, it would be awesome to see them in X-Plane but indeed it’s not in the roadmap. The warbirds, including the B-17, but also the GA planes and the Connie are all a treat. They have a persistent state, which IMHO adds another interesting dimension.

      So that’s a T-38, the famous secret project? Excellent! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Francesco Kasta says:

    I have always preferred combat sims and the Microsoft Flight Simulator series never really hooked me… until FSX came out back in 2006. That is when I started looking at civilian aviation from a completely new and fresh perspective: the myriad of third party add-ons made it so you could try the craziest approaches in the most disparate weather conditions in the worlds scariest airports! Kai Tak, Lukla, St. Barthelemy, Saba, just to name a few.

    And the collection of aircrafts you could take for a spin was seemingly endless: pretty much anything that has ever flown since the days of the Wright Flyer III has had a virtual counterpart, sometimes with outstanding attention to details. People complain about the price for the DCS modules but you could really spend a fortune in a civilian simulator if you wanted to!

    I haven’t used X-Plane 11 that much, I am mainly focused on DCS and IL-2 nowadays, but so far it looks promising and I think that it is the worthy heir of FSX.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. loopium says:

    Best thing about X-Plane is that it is multiplatform, exact same product runs perfectly, if not to say better on Linux and Macs. Excellent product with lots of addons, be sure to try out Ortho4XP scenerys for your area!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Mischiew Rithe says:

    X-Plane is growing on a healthy base, I think, and the presentation was much improved in version 11 (10 looked more like an experiment). The physics are pretty good and can be used by developers without they having to rewrite all by themselves. That’s what A2A had to do on FSX/P3D and why they had so much success but it cost them a lot of time, they even sold a generic improvement module for other aircraft, AccuSim.

    For instance, helicopters usually have a very realistic flight model in X-Plane, DreamFoil’s products are a good example.

    A GA developer for X-Plane, almost as good as A2A, is Simcoders, they also add persistence and more realism to existing modules by perfecting the flight model and increasing the system modelling.

    Then of course there are the big planes, like IXEG’s 737, Flight Factor’s 767 and quite a few others, they feature a lot of depth for those who like procedures and complex systems.

    Until lately, the only missing part was good sceneries, but now most of the “big” names are moving on to X-Plane, and so we already see several Orbx products. Some people will surely point to Ortho4XP but I never found that convincing, especially in VFR, again subjective opinion, at least it’s free to try.

    It’s always fun to fly those realistic aircraft, to perfect the (sim) airmanship, or just to relax and let the wind carry you over the scenery. As a training tool, for example for the PPL, it’s also quite useful.

    But I would love to see some missions, because as fun as it may be, after a while it feels a bit aimless – but that’s a personal opinion and many are happy with what it is. Some modules try to respond to that demand by providing “fake” missions (deliveries, commercial flights, stats, …) but they quickly feel repetitive and not so immersive because they are separate from the sim. X-Plane devs don’t like the idea of mission because they think it makes it a “game”, thus provide no support or entry point to allow for that. So it remains a sandbox for now.

    Then we also have to admit, as said previously here, this is an expensive hobby, paying for the hardware, the sim, then the aircraft, the scenery, the airports, the traffic, GPSes, weather, graphics improvements, and so on. If you want to get further, it’s still possible: navigation tools, charts, flight preparation tools, … so many niche markets, it’s all a bit crazy 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mischiew Rithe says:

      Actually, as in DCS, what I’d love to see is an interactive training program, which would go through complete PPL, CPL, IFR, … training, or even, more moderately, an aircraft certification. Not sure it’s a shared feeling. In my opinion, that’s the one and only thing Dovetail got right with Flight School.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ShamrockOneFive says:

        I was looking around for that and there doesn’t seem to be anything in sim. Would be a nice feature!


    2. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Thanks for sharing all of that.

      Looking into the civil sim market feels like a far deeper dive than the milsim market and that’s saying something!

      I’m going to get into the payware X-Plane 11 version soon. I’ve got a lot of stuff I need to do first.


      1. Mischiew Rithe says:

        Better do them first, after it will be too late 😀

        Do you already know what you’re interested to test first? Probably the free planes just to get an idea I suppose, but maybe something more specific, or is that mainly exporing a new area of simulation?

        Something particular to X-Plane, FSX, P3D, … is that you’ll find modules which can be quite superficial (Carenado’s products for example), sometimes with a beautiful external model but quite basic in the flight/system models, even lower standard than the FC3 modules in DCS. I’ve lost touch since I haven’t been much in those sims for a while, but there are some good, free modules that are more “study-sim level”, like this C-47 (I’ve only tested its P3D version from the same author, it was quite good):

        There are intermediate solutions to buying a full aircraft, like the Simcoders’ Reality Expansion Pack for the stock C172, for 20$ you get quite an in-depth model, except a couple of missing things they couldn’t do because of the limitations of the stock 172 (you can’t open the windows, for ex, or the breakers are not implemented, so minor items).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ShamrockOneFive says:

        I don’t have a specific goal beyond gaining the experience and perhaps some extra knowledge. I found the whole process relatively theraputic and while I felt compelled to blast things to smithereens while flying a combat aircraft… hoping in the Beechcraft and cruising along seemed quite fun.

        I think I will do what I normally do by dipping my toes in first. I assume X-Plane will go on sale around the time of the next Steam sale (I assume but don’t know) and will see what the base product is like.

        There’s so much I’d like to do but so little time. I have a couple of projects that I need to get done before all of this.

        Liked by 1 person

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