It’s always nice to have a good co-pilot. When you’re a flight sim fan, however, good co-pilots can consist of Web sites such as simviation.com, FlightSim.com and AVSIM.com. “Airware” has covered notable Web offerings before, but these three sites offer a treasure-trove of content for Microsoft Flight Simulator players. It’s common to find simulation sites specializing in product information and reviews, but these three also focus on content you can use to extend Flight Simulator. This includes articles, bulletin boards, tutorials and the best part: hundreds of free and low-cost downloadable add-ons.
Most sim fans can’t get enough of trying out new planes, and none of these sites will disappoint. Military and civilian jets and prop planes of all kinds are here. In the interests of flying something a little different, I downloaded the free Grumman OV-1 Mo – hawk add-on for Flight Simulator X crafted by Tom Conrad. I found it quite enjoyable, complete with virtual cockpit support and several custom gauges.
There are plenty of rare historical aircraft to choose from. I saw such peculiarities as the North American RA-5 Vigilante, the British Aerospace MRA4 Nimrod and the Fouga CM.170 Magister. These are some unique aircraft that are not modeled in conventional retail sims. If that’s not enough, try out the Myasishchev VM-T Atlant, the Russian loadbearing counterpart of the Boeing 747 and NASA space shuttle tandem, or the Junkers Ju-EF-126 Lilli, which was to compete with the Heinkel He-162 in the German light fighter competition of 1944.
Popular aircraft can of course be found in these same hangars. The Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II is one example, along with its namesake predecessor, the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. And there are planes offered for all the versions of Flight Simulator that have been released in the last decade, including the Combat Flight Simulator series.
While some creations may not be as polished as the native airplanes in the Flight Simulator titles, poor quality did not seem commonplace in these offerings. Moreover, it’s hard to argue with the price. Registration doesn’t cost anything at the sites, although fee-paying customers can gain additional privileges such as faster download speeds. Another concern is overlap across the three sites. I did notice many of the same files available at all three, but each site includes some distinguishing features.
Simviation.com does a nice job of organizing the downloadable files by simulator version and aircraft type. The site also has fun with the digital version of aviation art, hosting contests for the best aviation screen shots captured from flight simulators in both stock and retouched categories.
FlightSim.com and AVSIM.com use their writers to forge unique features. All three sites post news items, and while FlightSim.com and AVSIM.com don’t have screen art contests, they offer product reviews and articles. The AVSIM forums cover a larger variety of sims from the last decade, so users flying products outside the Microsoft line can get help with extending the life of their chosen sim alternatives.
If you’re a Flight Simulator user who’s hungry for new content, these three sites should all be on your favorites list.
Originally published in the November 2008 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.