Getting the Most Out of X-Plane

I’m sitting in the living room with my laptop on my knees, my green Daytona Beach cap slumped on my head. It’s the hat I never wear, the one I bought not because I wanted a Daytona Beach cap but because my scalp was sunburned and I wanted to comb my hair without it hurting. My wife walks in and does a double-take. I look up. “What?”

“Uh, why is your iPhone strapped to your head?”

She’s right. Two rubber bands affix my iPhone to my cap’s bill.

“It’s so I can do this.”

When I turn my head to the left, the Piper’s cockpit view on my laptop screen rotates left. I turn my head to the right and the view follows. “Cool, huh?”

She blinks.

These are the weird things you end up doing when you have an X-Plane addiction

Now that I’ve logged a jillion hours or so flying my Pixel Plane, I can share a few things to make your X-Plane experience even more awesome, and possibly encourage your loved ones to think you’re even weirder than they previously thought:

  • Download Ortho4XP and create your own photorealistic scenery. One of the amazing things about X-Plane is that it models the entire world. You may as well go all in and put the right textures on that model. When using Ortho4XP for U.S. areas, I use Bing, Arc, or USA_2 photo sources. Tip: You can edit the config file for Ortho4XP to automatically create higher-resolution tiles immediately around airports - it’s an easy way to have Zoom Level 16 tiles for general travel but Zoom Level 18 at airports.

Orthophotos - You’re welcome

Orthophotos - You’re welcome

  • There are many, many weather plugins for X-Plane, but I like simply replacing the default clouds with better ones. I like the clouds in Environment+ (just the clouds - I don’t use the lua script, which kills my FPS). You just place them into your Resources/bitmaps/world/clouds folder.

  • X-Plane’s sky is nice, but I find their sunsets a bit cartoonish. Fortunately, you can swap in any sky colors you want. I prefer Eddie’s Skypack. You just place them into your Resources/bitmaps/skycolors folder.

  • Speaking of clouds, X-Plane is a little reluctant to give you those big puffy cumulous clouds you’re used to seeing in summer skies. There are plenty of lua scripts to fix this, but I prefer Vivid Sky (which requires the free Fly with Lua plugin). The script fixes many things with cloud appearance and ground shadows, improves the sky colors, and is FPS-friendly.

  • Simhat - yes, yes…you will look completely silly with your iPhone strapped to your baseball cap’s bill, but for $10 you will have head tracking that works remarkably well. Adding head tracking is right up there with Ortho photos as being one of the most impactful things you can do for immersion.

  • XPRealisticPro is a great script to add some realism, especially if you don’t have head tracking.

A few other tips:

  • The default X-Plane aircraft are quite good, but can be a bit boring for their paint options. You can download endless liveries from the X-Plane forums to customize them (changing both the exterior and interior appearance). The default Cessna 172 has plenty of great internet options.

No need to settle for ‘default’ when you could have this design.

No need to settle for ‘default’ when you could have this design.

  • You will likely spend plenty of time tinkering in your Custom Scenery folder, but I find less is more. I try to avoid custom airports which have a dozen different library dependencies. It just bogs down your load times. If you’re flying general aviation craft, the smaller airports will probably be of more interest than the giant ones. The free L52 Oceano is excellent, especially when paired with orthophotos, and is also the first airport you’ll visit if you fly on Pilot’s Edge.

  • MisterX6’s Airport Environment HD runways are so much better than the default. Just get them (they’re free!).

  • I purchased seven payware aircraft, but really only fly two. Both are by JustFight.

  • Option-R will put X-Plane into playback mode, allowing you to rewind and watch your flight from any camera angles, including the tower view. If you press control-space, it will record to an avi file, but slow down the frame rate so the recorded video is at the perfect FPS. It’s also handy for taking screenshots, since you’re not trying to fly the plane at the same time.

Enjoy your X-Plane adventures. Hope this helped!