FLYING Magazine

LAS VEGAS—Since 2018, the Flight Sim Association has been organizing an annual convention, FlightSimExpo, for flight simulation enthusiasts attended by both sim and real-world pilots, software, and hardware developers. 

Over 2,000 simulator enthusiasts, a new attendance record, gathered in the comfort of the air conditioning inside the Rio Las Vegas Hotel & Convention Center while near-record heat scorched the city’s world-famous strip and surrounding desert.

Here are the news highlights from FlightSimExpo 2024:

Flight Simulation Software

Development teams from the two most popular flight simulator software titles provided updates on their current and future development schedules, outlining new features:

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024 (MSFS2024): MSFS2024 will be a new, stand-alone, flight simulator—not an update to the current MSFS software, with a planned launch date of November 19. Jorg Neumann and Sebastian Wloch, who together head up the development of the MSFS software titles and represent a worldwide workforce of 800 employees, took the stage on Saturday afternoon and shared some key highlights about the upcoming 2024 release:

Airliner news was the main focus of the new aircraft updates, with the development team confirming that the Airbus A330, Boeing 737 Max, A400M, Twin Otter and Stemme S12 glider will be new aircraft expected at launch. Also announced were real airline liveries, adding to the overall realism and immersion in-sim. 

Approximately 30 different types of ground vegetation will enhance the ground scenery and the changes of season, a new feature in MSFS 2024.

Improved and more accurate flight dynamics, including aircraft wake turbulence, which will disperse in-sim after six minutes. New to MSFS 2024, the improved CFD model will cause trees and vegetation to bend and move in reaction to jet wash.

Improved cloud modeling, which will include cirrus clouds and improved cloud lighting

A working replay function, allowing users to capture video replays from in-sim will make its debut in MSFS2024, a sorely missed function of the current MSFS software

A team from Microsoft will be back at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in 2025. The company has attended the last few years of the show, exposing real-world pilots and aviation enthusiasts to the flight simulation experience. They will miss Oshkosh 2024 due to its proximity to the MSFS2024 launch.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 (MSFS2020): The team recapped a few highlights about MSFS 2020. In four years, the development team issued 48 updates, had over 15 million unique members, and over 1 billion total flight sessions—all since the August 2020 launch. Community developers and members have built over 5,000 add-ons, including aircraft, features, challenges/events, airports, and other scenery. These items have helped to enrich the experience and speak to the dedication and passion in the flight simulation community supporting MSFS. Calming the flight sim community’s concerns that MSFS 2020 would not be supported after the launch of MSFS 2024,  Neumann confirmed that MSFS 2020 will continue to be updated monthly until 2028.  Watch the full update video here

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X-Plane 12 (XP-12): Sim pilots of the popular flight sim title can expect performance updates as early as Q3/Q4 of 2024. These will be driven by structural updates to the software, allowing XP12 to utilize multicore CPU processing, providing better overall sim performance. The development team at X-Plane is also working on a user-tunable visual improvement to the light exposure in the cockpit, allowing a greater degree of detail in the cockpit in sunny conditions. The X-Plane store is being updated to be fully integrated into the XP12 software. It has always been a separate marketplace, found on the web, and will now offer the X-Plane developers greater control over the quality of third-party add-ons and will benefit developers with increased digital rights management controls.

Artificial Intelligence

AI was a main theme of the expo presenters, as software developers were keen on incorporating the technology’s advanced learning capabilities into new applications for use in flight simulation. Falling costs for premium AI services allowed some developers of AI-driven software products to lower their monthly subscription fees, drawing enthusiastic applause from the audience. 

Development in the flight simulator industry occurs at an extremely rapid pace as evidenced by a new category of software add-ons providing AI-powered air traffic control services to flight sim pilots looking to replace the “stock” ATC that comes with popular flight simulation software titles.

SayIntentions.AI is a service that works for both MSFS and X-Plane 11/12, offering full VFR and IFR AI-powered ATC services and new functions, including a flight instructor whom users are encouraged to have a conversation with while flying. Other new features include a tour guide for sightseeing and three versions of AI cabin crews for sim pilots flying airliners. With a touch of showmanship, the chief technology officer of the company happily announced a new lower monthly subscription price of $19.95, down from an earlier price of $29.95.

FlyShirley.com is an AI service paired with X-Plane 12 that was described as an AI-powered coach, copilot, and guide for all of your flight simulator adventures. Interestingly, you can ask “Shirley” to tell you the weather ahead or recommend a nearby airport with favorable winds. See if this AI companion is for you with a free trial available at the company’s website.

Hardware

Hardware updates were the second most popular category of announcements at FlightSimExpo 2024:

WinWing: It drew big applause from the crowd by announcing new and lower priced EFIS and CDU controls to be paired with popular A320 and 737 aircraft in both MSFS and X-Plane 11/12. The company also teased a full set of fighter jet controls, avionics, throttles, and switch panels in an impressive launch video. Check out the WinWing hardware on a new flight simulator chassis called Dogfight Dynamics—also new to Flight Sim Expo 2024 (see photo below).

[Courtesy: Sean Siff]

FliteSim.com: The new entrant to the flight sim hardware market announced the successful completion of its recent Indiegogo campaign and the shipping dates for its first production run of a competitively priced force feedback yoke. Two models are available, offering different strengths of resistance.

The base CLS-60 comes with a yoke design modeled after the C172, with a 737 yoke available for purchase as a do-it-yourself upgrade. Also available is a stronger 120N motor that can also be replaced if the user wants more force feedback offered by the stock 60N unit.

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The CLS-60 offers a maximum pitch force of 13.5 pounds, and the CLS-120 offers a maximum pitch force of 27 pounds, which company founder Fabian Lim, an accomplished real-world pilot, equated to “a real workout.”

Both the CLS-60 and 120 yokes offer tunable behavior for all envelopes of flight, so the user can dial in the realism for the aircraft they fly. Units are available to order now (see photo below).

[FliteSim.com]

New Aircraft

No flight simulator expo would be complete without a quick update from flight sim development studios announcing new aircraft launching into MSFS and X-Plane.

Building airliner-sized aircraft can be a multiyear undertaking involving small teams dedicated to getting the flight model and all the complex systems right. Many developers work with real-world pilots of these aircraft to make sure they are authentic representations of the real-world machines. Thousands of hours of software development and thousands of photographs combine into models that are highly accurate.

Bluebird Simulations announced a new Boeing 757 model coming to MSFS later this year, with a Boeing 767 and 787 to follow. It shared photos of measurements being taken on the flight deck of a real aircraft and that laser scanning was done to increase rhetorical accuracy. Committed to unparalleled visual and systems accuracy, the yoke is modeled to be accurate down to a few millimeters in size. 

For those pilots wishing to experience the golden age of jet airliners, Nimbus Simulations announced the Boeing 707 being developed for X-Plane 12, complete with full working systems and modeling.

[FliteSimExpo]

The team here at FLYING will continue to bring you updates from the world of flight simulation, including news and flight sim hardware reviews. 

The post Highlights From FlightSimExpo 2024 appeared first on FLYING Magazine.

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