Australian Flying

High Fidelity

Home computers have been running flight simulators almost since the beginning of home computers themselves. It those early days, the graphics delivered up by programs stretched the definitions of both “flight” and “simulator” to new extremes. Who remembers “flying” building-block styled aeroplanes around a Commodore 64? It was fun and it filled in time, but it bore little resemblance to flight itself.

The march of technology dragged the development of home flight simulators along with it, and in the mid 1990s, programs like Microsoft Flight Simulator, X-Plane and ProPilot advanced the art until it began to actually perform and look something like real life.

The daddy of them all was Microsoft Flight Simulator. It began in 1979 in rudimentary style like all the others, with updates coming with metronome regularity through the 1990s and up to 2010. New aircraft were added, graphics became more realistic and with the stunning release of Flight Simulator X in 2010, real-world pilots could almost use it to practice VFR navigation.

Almost.

It all went quiet for FSX after 2010 as Microsoft suddenly bailed on the program and sold it to Lockheed Martin for the basis of the Prepar3D professional platform for certified flight training devices. There were some third-party upgrades, but largely it looked like the technology had stalled dead with the last release.

Then, with a thunderbolt announcement in 2019, MS revealed they were coming back with, and teased the world with graphics screenshots that were hard to discern from photographs taken out the window. For VFR private pilots, it looked like Microsoft had finally delivered to their home a flight simulator good enough to practice real flight procedures and navigation.

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