Software

When you first purchase a simulator, you get the "world" (consisting of landscapes, water, and cities), the weather, airports, and aircraft. However, not all simulators are created equally. In X-Plane or Infinite Flight, what you get is very flyable right away. For Prepar3D, enhancements to the default weather, camera views, and aircraft offer a significant improvement over what’s available by default. And users of the newly-released MSFS will find that, while the “world” and stunning visuals offer a great VFR experience, you won’t find the same ability to fly detailed, realistic airlines in the IFR world just yet.

Let Calum from FSElite introduce you to the world of flight simulation software add-ons.

Others are smaller companies or even just passionate simmers who have found a need to help fill. Add-ons can be just about anything! To give you a sense as to what’s possible, we’ve listed a few examples below, with links to the discounts each developer is offering our FSA members (where applicable)!

Airplanes

Scenery

  • An update to an airport that fixes small bugs but leaves textures unchanged (like this free KBOS update for MSFS)
  • A complete overhaul of a default airport that truly makes it look like the real thing (like FlyTampa’s paid scenery products)
  • A modification to a distinct area like a city or landscape (as Orbx offers)
  • A large-scale modification to a wide area or set of objects (as Orbx also offers)

Utilities

Many times, developers who charge for their "payware" software have put in the extra time and effort to make the product worth the money. But that’s not always the case, and there is some incredible "freeware" available too.

So, where do you find all these add-ons?

Many payware developers have websites where you can find and purchase their products. There are also marketplaces like Aerosoft and SimMarket that have add-ons from several publishers. For freeware, consider FlightSim.to for MSFS, the AVSIM library or FlightSim.com for FSX and P3D, and X-Plane.org for X-Plane.

Choosing the Right Add-ons

To help select what products might be right or will get you the best value, we’ve listed some considerations below to help guide you in evaluating potential products or add-on developers.

Think about what simulators you use.

Generally, it’s difficult to find high-quality add-on products that are compatible with more than one simulator (though it’s not unheard-of). If you fly multiple simulators, you'll likely find that different simulators are best suited for different types of flying. For example, you might choose to find a general aviation aircraft for X-Plane but a jetliner aircraft for Prepar3D.

Evaluate freeware options first.

In general, you’ll find higher quality add-on aircraft and scenery when you pay for it. However, that’s not always the case. One of the most popular aircraft in X-Plane (the Zibo Mod 737-800X) is entirely freeware! The nice thing about freeware is you can download and install it for no cost. So, if you find a freeware option, consider installing it and trying it before you buy the payware option.

You can find freeware on sites like FlightSim.to and X-Plane.org. For payware products, marketplaces like the ones we’ve listed in our Flight Simulation Resources Guide, or just Google, are good options. For example, let’s say you’re looking for an add-on Boeing 757 for X-Plane. Searching “Boeing 757 addon xplane” on Google leads you to the FlightFactor Boeing 757, a highly-regarded Boeing 757 add-on.

Leverage the community for help

If you’ve found a few payware options and are looking to compare them, look for reviews on a reputable flight simulation news website or search YouTube for reviews. You can also look at the developer’s website or see how active they are in the community. Developers who participate in events like FlightSimExpo, Flight Sim Cosford, and the Oz Flight Sim Expo tend to be more active in the community.

In general, the best flight simulation developers will be:

  • Well-established, having produced one or more add-ons
  • Selling products through multiple stores, likely including their own
  • Mentioned regularly on news websites like FSElite and Threshold
  • Sponsors or exhibitors at large community events

Remember, the fact that something is “payware” or listed on a popular downloads website does not necessarily mean it's right for you. Picking aircraft from well-known, popular brands is a good place to start, but always conduct your own research before buying.

Most Popular Software Add-ons

In 2020, news and reviews website FSElite polled the community to find out the top add-ons. Out of over 10,000 votes, these were the top payware add-ons selected by simmers from around the world, ordered from least to most popular.

In addition to showing the community survey results, we wanted to share what some individual simmers had to say. Here’s the personal "top 5 add-ons for Prepar3D" from Mike ("Moosestaffa" on Twitch and "The Flying Moose" on YouTube):

Mike "Moosestaffa" on Twitch and "The Flying Moose" on YouTube reviews his top five add-ons for Prepar3D.

And the best parts about X-Plane, in the words of Ty, known as "catstrator" on Twitch and YouTube:

Twitch streamer Ty Shuff ("catstrator") discusses his favorite aspects of X-Plane.

Software Partners

Suggest an Addition

To give you a sense of what’s available, we’ve categorized FSA Software Partners by the types of add-ons they produce. Software Partners are added to this list when they offer a discount to FSA Members.

However, this is just a fraction of the payware developers out there—and don't forget about the freeware community too! Part of the fun of flight simulation is looking through what's available to find the right add-on for you.

Developer Simulators Aircraft Scenery Utilities
A2A Simulations P3D
Aerosoft MSFS
P3D
XP
Aircraft Scenery Utilities
Axonos MSFS
XP
Scenery
Burning Blue Design MSFS
Scenery
FS Academy MSFS
Utilities
Flight1 P3D
XP
Aircraft Utilities
FlightControlReplay Utilities
FlightFX MSFS
Scenery
Flightbeam MSFS
P3D
XP
Scenery
FlyTampa MSFS
P3D
XP
Scenery
Gleim Aviation XP
Utilities
LatinVFR MSFS
P3D
Scenery
Orbx MSFS
P3D
XP
Scenery Utilities
PILOT'S MSFS
P3D
XP
Scenery
QualityWings Simulations P3D
Aircraft
RDPresets MSFS
P3D
XP
Utilities
Sierrasim Simulations MSFS
P3D
Scenery
Simgeneering Utilities
TFDi Design MSFS
P3D
XP
Aircraft Utilities
X-CPL-Pilot Utilities

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