flight - Modern Airliners

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

Flight Simulator 2020 A320 neo landing

It has been a long time between drinks, but now within days, we will see the release of the latest iteration of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, MS Flight Simulator 2020. On 18 August 2020, we will see the first all-new version of MS Flight Simulator since 2006. That is a hugely long time in technology and for that reason, we expect to see some pretty cool stuff.

Flight Simulator 2020, a Piper Cub flys over a valley at dawn.
You can feel the crispness in the air as this Piper Cub flys over a valley at dawn. You feel you are there.

Considering that Flight Simulator 1.0 was released back in 1982, this has been a really solid product for Microsoft and popular with flight enthusiasts worldwide for many years. The previous version, Flight Simulator X, released in 2006 taken over by Steam in 2014 is still a great product and used by many still to this day including myself. FS 2020, however, takes things to the next level. As you would expect with newer technology, the level of realism is out of this world. Well, more precisely, it brings you out into this world.

So, what if you are not a budding pilot? No problem, the level of realism enables you to go and travel the world as if Covid19 didn’t exist. Let’s face it, most of us are not able to travel to the places we would like to go anymore and maybe not for quite a bit of time to come still. FS 2020 is all about the graphics. Asobo Studios who developed the program for Microsoft have used the AI technology in MS Azure to generate a lot of the scenery using Microsoft Bing Maps data. As a result the ground scenery is richer than it has ever been before and makes for a very realistic view of the world.

FS 2020 over NYC
Flying over New York City with changing weather. Beautiful!

There are three different versions of the FS 2020 release and the difference between these is around the amount of aircraft provided as well more detail or crafting around a selection of airports.

MS Flight Simulator 2020 Aircraft inclusions by version.

AircraftStandardDeluxePremium Deluxe
Airbus A320neoXXX
Aviat Pitts Special S2SXXX
Boeing 747-8 IntercontinentalXXX
CubCrafters XCubXXX
Daher TBM 930XXX
Diamond DA62XXX
Diamond DA40 NGXXX
Extra 330LTXXX
Flight Design CTLSXXX
Icon A5XXX
JMB VL-3XXX
Robin CAP10XXX
Robin DR400-100 CadetXXX
Beechcraft Bonanza G36XXX
Beechcraft King Air 350iXXX
Cessna 152XXX
Cessna 172 Skyhawk (G1000)XXX
Cessna 208 B Grand Caravan EXXXX
Cessna Citation CJ4XXX
Zlin Savage CubXXX
Diamond DA40-TDIXX
Diamond DV20XX
Beechcraft Baron G58XX
Cessna 152 AerobatXX
Cessna 172 SkyhawkXX
Boeing 787-10 DreamlinerX
Cirrus SR22X
Pipistrel Virus SW 121X
Cessna Citation LongitudeX
Zlin Shock UltraX

Of course as time goes on, private entities will start building their own versions of FS 2020 aircraft.

Flight Simulator 2020 at beautiful Queenstown Airport New Zealand
This looks just as i remember it from my visit in 2019. Flight Simulator 2020 really makes you feel as if you are there.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 airports by version.

Microsoft advises that there are 37,000 airports worldwide to which you can fly in FS 2020. Depending on which of the three versions you have, up to 40 of those airports have been handcrafted to show a lot more detail. They haven’t been clear on what the handcrafting actually entails, however, below is the list of inclusions by version.

AirportStandardDeluxePremium Deluxe
Aspen/Pikin County (USA)XXX
Bugalaga Airstrip (Indonesia)XXX
Chagual Airport (Peru)XXX
Courchevel Altiport (France)XXX
Donegal Airport (Ireland)XXX
Entebbe Int’l Airport (Uganda)XXX
Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira Int’l Airport (Portugal)XXX
Gibraltar Int’l Airport (UK)XXX
Innsbruck Airport (Austria)XXX
Los Angeles Int’l Airport (USA)XXX
Tenzing-Hillary Airport (Nepal)XXX
Nanwalek Airport (USA)XXX
John F. Kennedy Int’l Airport (USA)XXX
Orlando Int’l Airport (USA)XXX
Paris Charles de Gaulle Int’l Airport (France)XXX
Paro Int’l Airport (Bhutan)XXX
Queenstown Airport (New Zealand)XXX
Mariscal Sucre Int’l Airport (Ecuador)XXX
Rio de Janeiro-Antonio Carlos Jobim Int’l Airport (Brazil)XXX
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport (Dutch Saba)XXX
Gustaf III Airport (France)XXX
Seattle-Tacoma Int’l Airport (USA)XXX
Sedona Airport (USA)XXX
Sirena Aerodrome (Costa Rica)XXX
Stewart Airport (Canada)XXX
Sydney Airport (Australia)XXX
Telluride Regional Airport (USA)XXX
Haneda Airport (Japan)XXX
Toncontin Int’l Airport (Honduras)XXX
Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (Canada)XXX
Schiphol Airport (Netherlands)XX
Cairo Int’l Airport (Egypt)XX
Cape Town Int’l Airport (South Africa)XX
O’Hare Int’l Airport (USA)XX
Adolfo Suarez Madrid Barajas (Spain)XX
Denver Int’l Airport (USA)X
Frankfurt Airport (Germany)X
Heathrow Airport (UK)X
San Francisco Int’l Airport (USA)X
Flight Simulator 2020 life like wildlife, elephants.
We were surprised at the level of detail given to examples of wildlife that are to be found in FS 2020. Even up close, if you dare fly that low, the movement and look is very realistic.

What do I need to run Flight Simulator 2020?

If you have ever run games or earlier versions of Flight Simulator on your PC, then you know that the power of your machine plays a large part in providing you with the ability to get the most out of these heavy graphic programs. MS flight Simulator 2020 is no different. It is acknowledged that this game is pretty heavy and so let’s have a look at what you need to be able to run the program and also what you need to run it well.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 system requirements: Minimum configuration to play the game.

This will allow you to run the game, but you may find you have to reduce density of certain items or that the smoothness is not perfect.

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-4460 or AMD Ryzen 3 1200
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • OS: Windows 10 64-bit
  • VIDEO CARD: Radeon RX 570 or GeForce GTX 770 
  • PIXEL SHADER: 5.0
  • VERTEX SHADER: 5.0
  • FREE DISK SPACE: 150 GB
  • DEDICATED VIDEO RAM: 2048 MB

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 system requirements: Recommended configuration to play the game.

This configuration should ensure you get the necessary frame rate for smoothness and that you can enjoy the full benefits of the enhanced scenery.

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-8400 or AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or better
  • RAM: 16 GB
  • OS: Windows 10 64-bit
  • VIDEO CARD: Radeon RX 590 or GeForce GTX 970
  • PIXEL SHADER: 5.1
  • VERTEX SHADER: 5.1
  • FREE DISK SPACE: 150 GB
  • DEDICATED VIDEO RAM: 4096 MB

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the game once you start using it. Enjoy exploring the world!

One giant leap.

Philippine Airlines Airbus A350-900

The story of aviation is certainly all about balance. How can you go further but still carry a profitable amount of payload? It is all about trade-offs. You can certainly fill an aircraft to the brim with payload, but you will have to leave fuel behind in order to be light enough to get off the ground. You can alternatively load up with fuel to go a long way, but you will then have to leave passengers and cargo behind, so once again you can become airborne.

Even with the newest technology those simple laws of physics still apply.

The Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 will be the tool of choice when Air New Zealand opens its new long range route, Auckland to New York in 2020. The 787 is one of the new breed of giant twin jets using composite materials in their construction which offers greater strength at lower weights. This is the great enabler for ultra long range routes.

It seems, however, that every few decades improvements in technology allow us to take that next step. Whether it be the materials used in aircraft manufacture, the power and reliability of engines or the corrections to design theory. All evolved through lessons, often learned at a high cost. For instance, the move from canvas and wood to aluminium, the lessons learned about metal fatigue. The advent of the Jumbo jet, which brought travel to the common man. All, like our foray into supersonic travel, have been game changers. Some of these technologies have stayed and grown, others proved to be less popular. Not necessarily because they were bad in any way, but because they weren’t economical in most cases.

When all is said and done, airlines and airliner manufacturers are businesses with shareholders who expect to make a profit on their investment. Airlines find routes on which they can make a profit carrying passengers and/or cargo in a profitable way. Attracting customers depends on offering the service at a cost that is competitive and palatable to the market. The airline industry carries horrendously high operating costs. High fuel costs, aircraft that cost millions each as well as maintenance and other costs. So minimising cost, without impacting the level of service or safety is paramount.

The QANTAS Boeing 787-9 is currently being used on the ultra long range Perth to London route. QANTAS is embarking on what they call Project Sunrise which will see new non-stop routes opening from Australian cities to points all over the globe. On the 19th October 2019 a proving flight left New York to fly non-stop to Sydney, an exhausting 19 hours and 16 minutes.

Like any industry, it is important to use the right tools for the job. Airliners are those tools, and each of those models and variants has a very specific purpose and niche in the market. For example, smaller twin jets which can fly short to medium ranges to carry a small number of passengers more frequently. Larger transcontinental jets that carry many more passengers over greater distances.

So back to balance. The travelling public is becoming ever more mobile. Holiday makers travelling all over the globe to find those, as yet, unspoiled destinations. Business travellers, similarly, need to get to all sorts of far flung destinations to close that deal. To the business traveller, time is money, so get me there quickly. To the leisure traveller, too many hours in that economy class seat are soul destroying, among other things.

This is where technology is currently being focused. Being able to fly further from more origins to more destinations. What does that mean?

Let’s look at the iconic Boeing 747. It was designed to operate out of big city airports. It is big and needs a big runway to take-off and land on. So, the system, known as hub and spoke was used. For example, you take the Boeing 747 from London Heathrow to New York JFK, then change to a smaller commuter airliner to go on to a secondary city. That makes for a long journey, not very convenient. There were several factors that led to things being done this way. One is engine reliability. Aircraft and their engines need to be certified (ETOPS) to fly long over water routes. This is particularly true of twin jets.

For many years, aircraft like the 4 engine Boeing 747, Boeing 707, Douglas DC8, Airbus A340, as well as the 3 engine Douglas DC10 and Lockheed L1011 were the mainstays of trans-oceanic travel. Airbus perhaps came a little late to this game with the Airbus A380. Certainly, a marvel of aviation technology, the A380 has not met its sales potential for Airbus. Existing customer airlines have shortened their orders as they have seen that the game has changed.

The age of the giant twin jet is upon us.

Engine technology has enabled the production of engines with a far lower failure rate then in the past. Through testing and the resultant certification, large twin-engine jets like the Boeing 787, Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 are able to fly further from the nearest available airfield then past twins. This is what makes trans-oceanic travel possible.

Delta flies one of the worlds longest non-stop routes from Johannesburg to Atlanta which takes around 16 and a half hours using the trusty Boeing 777-200LR. Shortly we should being seeing the newer Boeing 777X, which will come out in in a 777-8 and 777-9 variant.

The economics are obvious. Twin jets require less spares to be kept in store, less maintenance. Not being as big as their Jumbo and Super Jumbo predecessors, they can fly into smaller airfields, doing away with the need to transfer through busy main hubs.

So, what about the further part?

The new twins, particularly the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, use a high percentage of composite materials in their construction. Carbon fibre and plastics provide strength but at a lower weight than aluminium. This delivers benefits in having a lighter aircraft with the same if not higher strength. Keeping the base weight down enables a higher payload which is great news for the airlines operating them.

Back to the balance. Being able to carry a higher payload means we can carry more fuel without leaving as many passengers behind for those long-haul routes. This is important for more remote parts of the world, like Australia and New Zealand. QANTAS the Australian national carrier, for its part, is focused on Project Sunrise. The aim is to fly non-stop from Australian capital cities to major destinations around the world, like London and New York. They have already been operating from Perth to London non-stop for a few months now, a flying time of 17 hours 45 minutes. On 19 October 2019, QANTAS took delivery a Boeing 787-9 with which they performed a publicity flight under the number QF7879 from New York to Sydney, non-stop. The flight took 19 hours 16 minutes and carried 50 odd passengers and crew. Data was taken of how each passenger dealt with the nearly 20-hour flight. It will be interesting to see their findings when they are publicised as this may help us to understand and mitigate the effects of super long-haul flight.

Air New Zealand announced that they would commence flying non-stop Auckland to New York, a flying time of between 17 and 18 hours. The options for travellers in a hurry to get to their destinations are certainly about to explode. Whilst these services will no doubt be aimed at the upper end of the market for now, I’m sure they are looking at ways to make sitting in economy for those extended flying times possible.

AirlineOriginDestinationMilesDurationAircraft Type
Singapore AirlinesNewarkSingapore9,53418h 45mA350-900 ULR
Qatar AirwaysAucklandDoha9,03217h 50mBoeing 777-200LR
QANTASPerthLondon9,00917h 20mBoeing 787-9
EmiratesAucklandDubai8,82317h 5mAirbus A380
Singapore AirlinesLos AngelesSingapore8,76917hA350-900ULR
United AirlinesHoustonSydney8,59617h 15mBoeing 787-9
QANTASDallas Fort WorthSydney8,55717hAirbus A380
Philippine AirlinesNew YorkManila8,52016h 45mA350-900ULR
Singapore Airlines and
United Airlines
San FranciscoSingapore8,44616h 35mSQ A350-900ULR
UA Boeing 787-9
Delta Air LinesJohannesburgAtlanta8,43916h 25m777-200LR

How do you feel about super long-haul flight? Would you be keen to take a nearly 20 hour flight, and what class of travel would you travel in? We would love to hear how you travellers feel about that?