The sim which occupies most of my time is Microsoft's Flight Simulator, which has kept me fascinated since the early days of blocky, (sickly!) 4-colour CGA through 5.1, FS Win 95 and FS98. There was a major leap forward with FS2000 although it was very demanding on hardware. FS2002 improves the look substantially, introduces ATC, automatically generated 3d objects and better clouds, yet is relatively kind to systems which are less than state of the art. The next leap was to the 2004 Century of Flight version, which included historical aircraft of which my favourite is the Dakota. Available add-ons such as VFR photographic scenery and terrain make for a much more realistic experience, and the ability to download real-time real-world weather can add lots of surprises - I've never quite recovered from the time I was caught among the Japanese Alps in winter with snow and sudden fog, when flying a small plane which couldn't climb above the peaks! Best of all add-ons was Flying Club from Just Flight which provided excellent scenery for Shoreham Airport (the oldest commercial airport in the UK, dating from 1910 and just across the river from our house - tuning the air band receiver to Shoreham Tower gives another dimension to the FS experience!) Now we have Flight Simulator X which offers even greater scope, although we are waiting for some of the add-ons to be made compatible.
When feeling a bit more aggressive I move over to Microsoft's Combat Flight Simulator - although version 2 had some nice features the original still had a lot going for it with some nice add-ons, until the arrival of version 3, which took the action back to Europe with greatly improved graphics. I have been occasionally tempted away to some other combat sims - Silent Hunter III for WWII submarine warfare and the Total War series for ancient and medieval land combat. Of the latter series, their original, Shogun, is still the best. Although the graphics may not be quite as impressive as their later Medieval and Roman versions it is a much more playable and easily manageable sim, and the Japanese cultural background is second to none, since Stephen Turnbull (one of the leading experts on the samurai) acted as advisor. And for a more restful experience, Microsofts's Train Simulator lets you chug along looking at the countryside.
I have also tried out other flight sims, such as Flight Unlimited, Sierra's Pro Pilot and X-Plane. All of these have some excellent features and are worth a look. However, the clincher for me is the vast range of add-on products for Microsoft's Flight Simulator, which allows me to fly any kind of plane anywhere in the world - and if the plane or the scenery I want doesn't exist, then I can build my own! So most of the following links relate primarily to add-ons for Microsoft's FS products, although most of these pages will provide useful links if you are into other Sims.
Please note that enthusiasts' personal pages tend to come and go, and even commercial companies foolishly change web addresses without leaving forwarding links. So I've cut down the number of links in the hope that those remaining are more stable - but if you find any more broken ones please advise me using the email link below. You can also use this link to let me know of any other FS websites you think I should include here.
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Abacus - Computer Books & Software This company does an impressive scenery design program . . .
. . . as does also Apollo Software Publishing GmbH
Aerosoft is a German company offering a range of add-ons.
Keep up with the news on Flight Simulator developments direct from Microsoft's own site - also be sure to watch their site for patches to correct known problems
At FlightSim.Com you will find vast amounts of free downloadable add-ons, as well as commercial software, with a searchable database. It's worth signing up for their membership, as it can be difficult to access the downloads otherwise. You're sure to get your money's worth from the free downloads of scenery, planes and utilities.
MicroWINGS - used to be billed as The International Association for Flight Sims and published a magazine but now the site seems to be a collection of links to commercial sites.
simflight.com has a very good collection of files and is right up to date with FSX info. Make sure you explore this site thoroughly - there's lots of corners with good info (e.g. which 3D card to look for) and I nearly missed the link to planes for downloading!
FSUG Tower is the home of the UK Flight Sim Users Group, who produce Micro Aviator Magazine.
Having started trying to fly with the keyboard (tricky!), flirted only briefly with the mouse (impossible!), I graduated to a joystick many years ago. But you get a much more rewarding experience using a full pilot yoke and rudder pedals. I like the Virtual Pilot Pro equipment from CH Products and also use their game card. If you use them already go to this site to get the latest drivers. You can take it further by adding throttle controls and other hardware which doesn't take up too much of the house but there is always the day-dream of building your own cockpit!
I have just included here ones which may be useful to virtual pilots - for example I like to get hold of (out-dated and therefore cheap) flight maps, airport guides etc. I usually buy them from the local airfield's pilot shop but here are a couple of sites.
Jeppesen Sanderson has a nicely produced site and Pooleys Aeroshopping is a good place to find charts, guides and also pilot manuals.
The Flyers Portal has links to the Met Office where you can find TAF's and METAR's for your chosen UK airfield or route - strictly for people who want realism to the nth degree and who prepare properly when flying real weather!
CyberAir Airpark is where you can get to hear live ATC from Chicago O'Hare.
RC Simulations is a long-standing UK FS retailer, and their staff are particularly helpful with good advice when you're looking for add-on software (and hardware).
Simware is based in Brussels but can now supply a wide range of FS software and hardware direct from the UK.
If the above aren't enough for you, (and most of them contain links to other sites), try spending some time on the The Flightsim Ring - this jumps from one FS site to another, in a sequence or random order, as you wish.
I like the motto I once saw on an e-mail signature:
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