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X-Plane 11 Desktop Manual

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About This Manual

This is version 11.10 of the manual to the home and professional versions of X‑Plane (X-Plane 11 and X‑Plane 11 for Professional Use, respectively). The latest version will always be available online on the X‑Plane website. PDF manuals are available in German, French, and Spanish. Quick Start Guides are available in Japanese and Chinese.

To use this manual, you can jump to a section by clicking its title in the table of contents on the side. To search for a specific term or set of words, press “ctrl” (“command” on a Mac) + “f” then start typing to be taken to the term anywhere in the document. For a PDF version of this manual, use an HTML to PDF converter such as pdfcrowd.com.

If you would like to receive a free guide to many of the most important features of X-Plane, you can sign up for our free email course. By signing up, you’ll be able to learn all the most important features of X‑Plane at your own pace, without having to search through the manual for the feature you’re interested in. This course will show you how to:

  • add new aircraft to X‑Plane for free,
  • simulate out-of-this world situations (literally!), like flying the Space Shuttle’s re-entry into the atmosphere,
  • dogfight against your friends or X-Plane’s artificial intelligence,
  • shoot approaches to your favorite runways, and more!

Sign up for the free course to get the most out of X-Plane.

About X-Plane

Overview

X-Plane is the world’s most comprehensive and powerful flight simulator for personal computers, and it offers the most realistic flight model available.

X-Plane is not a game, but an engineering tool that can be used to predict the flying qualities of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft with incredible accuracy.

Because X‑Plane predicts the performance and handling of almost any aircraft, it is a great tool for pilots to keep up their currency in a simulator that flies like the real plane, for engineers to predict how a new airplane will fly, and for aviation enthusiasts to explore the world of aircraft flight dynamics.

Welcome to the world of props, jets, single- and multi-engine airplanes, as well as gliders, helicopters and VTOLs. X‑Plane contains subsonic and supersonic flight dynamics, allowing users to predict the flight characteristics of the slowest aircraft or the fastest. X‑Plane includes more than 15 aircraft in the default installation, spanning the aviation industry and its history. Aircraft included range from the Sikorsky S–76 and Cessna 172 to the Space Shuttle and the B–52 Bomber. Additionally, some 2,000 additional aircraft models can be downloaded from the Internet (X-Plane.org and Google are good places to start looking), many of which are completely free. If those aren’t enough, users can design their own airplanes and test-fly them!

The full X‑Plane scenery package covers the Earth in stunning resolution from 74 north to 60 south latitude. Users can land at any of over 35,000 airports or test their mettle on aircraft carriers, oil rigs, frigates (which pitch and roll with the waves), or helipads atop buildings. They can also realistically model the flight of remote-controlled model aircraft, perform an air-launch in an X–15 or Space Ship One from the mother ship, fly re-entries into Earth’s atmosphere in the Space Shuttle, fly with friends over the Internet or a LAN, drop water on forest fires, or shoot approaches to aircraft carriers at night in stormy weather and rough water conditions in a damaged F–4. The situations that can be simulated are unbelievably diverse!

Weather in X‑Plane is variable from clear skies and high visibility to thunderstorms with controllable wind, wind shear, turbulence, and micro bursts. Rain, snow, and clouds are available for an instrument flying challenge, and thermals are available for the gliders. Actual weather conditions can be downloaded from the Internet, allowing users to fly in the weather that really exists at their current location!

X-Plane has detailed failure modeling, with multitudes of systems that can either be failed manually at an instructor’s command, or randomly when users least expect it! Users can fail instruments, engines, flight controls, control cables, antennae, landing gear, or any of dozens of other systems at any moment. They can also have a friend or flight instructor (locally or via the Internet, working from an Instructor’s Operating Station) fail components on the aircraft without the pilot’s knowledge. The instructor can alter the time of day, weather conditions, and failure status of hundreds of aircraft systems and components. Additionally, the instructor can relocate the aircraft to a location of his or her choice at any time.

Aircraft models are also extremely flexible, allowing users to easily create paint jobs, sounds, and instrument panels to modify any airplane you choose. Custom airplane or helicopter designs can even be created and flown using X‑Plane and the included Plane Maker software.

X-Plane is used by world-leading defense contractors, air forces, aircraft manufacturers, and even space agencies for applications ranging from flight training to concept design and flight testing.

For example, X‑Plane has been used in crash investigations to depict the view pilots experienced moments before a mid-air collision, or to graphically present to juries and judges the forces that impact an aircraft in flight. Scaled Composites used X‑Plane to visualize Space Ship One’s flights to the edge of the atmosphere in their pilot training simulator. Kalitta has used X‑Plane to train their pilots to fly freight 747s in the middle of the night. Northwest and Japan Airlines use X‑Plane for flight review and training. Cessna uses X‑Plane to train new customers in the intricacies of the Garmin G1000. Dave Rose has used X‑Plane to optimize airplanes for his many wins at Reno. NASA has used X‑Plane to test the re-entry of gliders into the Martian atmosphere, and the list goes on. These customers serve as perhaps the most significant endorsement of the incredible capabilities of this simulator.

Furthermore, X‑Plane has received certification from the FAA for use in logging hours towards flight experience and ratings. This experience can provide credit towards a private pilot’s license, recurrence training, hours towards instrument training, and even hours towards an Airline Transport Certificate—it’s that good.

What X‑Plane Includes

Windows, Mac, and Linux installers are included with X‑Plane 11. It includes over 70 GB-worth of scenery (covering essentially the entire world) and over 15 aircraft, with thousands of planes available on the web. The DVDs or digital download contain everything needed to run X-Plane—there is nothing more that you need to buy. You’ll receive free updates to X‑Plane 11 until Version 12 is released, as well some of the best customer service and tech support available.

While on its own X‑Plane represents the world’s most comprehensive flight simulator, the installation DVD also comes with Plane Maker, allowing users to create custom aircraft or modify existing designs, and Airfoil Maker, allowing users to create airfoil performance profiles.

The stock installation includes the following aircraft:

Cirrus Vision SF50North American X–15
Beechcraft Baron 58Boeing 747–400 and 747–100
Boeing 737–800Lockheed SR–71
Cessna 172SPMcDonnell Douglas KC–10 Extender
Stinson L–5 SentinelBeechcraft King Air C90B
ASK–21 gliderBoeing B–52G Stratofortress
Lockheed C–130 HerculesSpace Shuttle Orbiter
McDonnell Douglas F–4McDonnell Douglas MD–80
Sikorsky S–76Columbia 400

Of course, the thousands of aircraft available on the Internet provide even greater variety. The following is a (small) sample of what’s out there:

Beechcraft BonanzaBoeing 727/737/747/787
Mooney M20J 201Piper PA–16 Clipper
de Havilland DH–106 CometPitts “Mountain Dew” S2C
Sikorsky S76StratoCloud Ram-Air
P–51D MustangPiper Twin Comanche PA30
Beechcraft King Air 350Cessna 195
Cessna C150Bell 222
Douglas A–4B SkyhawkIlyushin IL–76
Fiat CR.42 FalcoParis Jet III
Bell 407Peregrine F222 Firenze
Beechcraft StaggerwingCurtis P–6 Hawk
Ford Tri-motorCessna 120
Hawker Sea Harrier FRS1Airbus A320/A340/A380

About the Versions of the X‑Plane Simulator

X-Plane can be used in a wide array of situations, ranging from home use to commercial flight training. The standard installation is X‑Plane 11, and it is perfect for almost all home users. Situations that go beyond the standard home use (including use in commercial simulators) require the purchase of a USB “key” (a simple flash drive) or the specific digital download product key that is used to unlock the features of X‑Plane Professional.

Note that FAA certification of a simulator requires not only that the user has X‑Plane 11 Professional but also the appropriate hardware (cockpit and flight controls) available through the X-Plane Hardware page and companies such as Precision Flight Controls and  Fidelity Flight Simulation.  This is because flight-training systems can only be certified as a complete package (a software and hardware combination). The commercial, FAA-certifiable software is available for $750 to $1,000 per copy and the hardware runs from $5,000 to $500,000. The retail version of X‑Plane purchased at X-Plane.com is not certified for flight training right out of the box, since certification requires a software and hardware combination. However, the software available at X-Plane.com is almost identical to what is found in the $500,000 full-motion, FAA-certified platforms. The biggest difference is that the FAA-certified versions have custom aircraft files with larger instrument panels, which are set up to work with hardware radios like those found in the physical cockpits. The FAA-certifiable version also has some of the purely fun stuff (like space flight) removed even though those situations are simulated accurately in X-Plane, just like the FAA-certified subsonic terrestrial flight.

X-Plane 11 Global

The standard X‑Plane simulator is the retail copy of X-Plane. It requires one X‑Plane 11 Disc 1 DVD or one digital download product key for each copy of X‑Plane on the network, and nothing else. For additional information on the digital download version of X‑Plane 11, see this Knowledge Base article.

Many copies of X‑Plane on many computers can be networked to act as external visuals, external cockpits, instructor stations, and the like. One X‑Plane Disc 1 DVD or one digital download product key is required for each computer networked together running the simulator. This system cannot be certified by the FAA or any other authority for logging flight training, due to the fact that it does not self-test for the presence of flight controls or a usable frame rate. However, since only one X‑Plane Disc 1 DVD or digital download product key is needed for each computer, this setup is amazingly affordable and easy to assemble, even though a user could never certify the system.

X-Plane 11 Professional

This version of X‑Plane is for commercial use and FAA-approved simulators. It requires one X‑Plane Professional USB key or Pro-Use Digital Download product key in addition to each copy of X‑Plane on the network. This version is very similar to the home use version of the X‑Plane 11 simulator but enables commercial uses, FAA certification checks, and ability to use a real GPS. This version is designed to replace Microsoft ESP.

The Pro USB key or digital download product key needs to be used for commercial purposes and FAA-approved simulators for flight training. It gives a Commercial Use message as X‑Plane starts up, causing X‑Plane to check for flight controls and self-test the frame rate, as required for FAA certification. Furthermore, the pro key allows you to interface with Garmin Real Simulator Units.

Finally, this key enables cylindrical and spherical projections (see “Projector Setup for X‑Plane Professional” for more information).

The Professional USB Key or Digital Download can be purchased from X-Plane.com’s Ordering page. USB key drivers for both Mac OS and Windows can be downloaded from the X-Plane.com site. Be sure to run those installers to make X‑Plane recognize the USB keys.

Quick Start Guide

This chapter is designed to allow a first-time X‑Plane user to get the simulator up and running in as short a time as possible. The goal is to be in the air and flying within ten minutes of completing the installation while still learning the essentials of the simulator.

This chapter will gloss over a great deal of background information, and configuration of many non-essential options will be skipped entirely. It assumes that the computer X‑Plane is being installed on is capable of running the simulator with its default rendering options. For the latest system requirements, see “X-Plane 11 System Requirements” in the X‑Plane Knowledge Base.

Where the process differs between installing on Windows and Mac OS X, the differences have been noted.

After getting off the ground initially, you may want to continue reading the full manual, or simply keep it for reference. If you have any issues while following this guide, check the rest of the manual—the problem is very likely addressed there, and you’ll save time for both yourself and customer support.

Detailed information on installing and configuring X‑Plane can be found in the chapters Preparation and Installation and Configuring and Tuning Your X‑Plane Installation. Detailed information on joystick configuration can be found in the chapter Configuring and Tuning Your X‑Plane Installation, and the chapter Flight in X-Plane contains more on setting up and flying the aircraft.

Installation of X-Plane

Before installing, we recommend uninstalling any old or demo versions of X-Plane. You can do this by simply dragging the old X‑Plane folders to your Recycle Bin (called Trash in Mac OS X).

  1. Insert the first X‑Plane DVD into your DVD drive and wait for it to spin up.

    If you have purchased a digital download product key, download the latest X‑Plane installer from our web site. Launch that installer, then skip to step 3.

  2. In Windows, if the operating system does not launch the X‑Plane DVD installer automatically, click the Start menu, then My Computer. Double click on the XPLANE11 DVD, then “X-Plane 11 Installer.exe”.

    Mac users will need to double click on the X‑Plane DVD icon on the desktop, then double click the “X-Plane 11 Installer.app” to launch the installer.

  3. When the installer window appears, click Continue to begin the installation process.

    Note that you can change the language or pick a different operating system for the install by clicking on the settings slider icon in the top right corner.

  4. If you purchased a digital download product key, enter it on the following screen. Be sure you are connected to the Internet at all times during your installation.

  5. By default X‑Plane will install to the Desktop. Though it can be installed elsewhere, it is strongly recommended that it be placed on the Desktop so that it can be found in the future. For the purposes of this guide, we will assume it is installed there. Click Continue.

  6. Accept the user agreement and click Continue once again. It is highly recommended that you leave the box for sending anonymous usage data checked. This allows Laminar Research to gather anonymous data to make updates to the simulator based on how you use it.

    Figure 2.1: All scenery selected for installation after clicking “Select All”

  7. Select the scenery you would like to install. Parts of the world that are currently selected will be a bright blue color (as all continents are in Figure 2.1). Note that for regions where no scenery is installed, only oceans and airports will be visible.

    If you are unsure what areas are currently selected, just click Select None to turn everything off (as seen in Figure 2.2). From there, move your mouse around the map to highlight sections of the world and click on on the ones you would like to install.

    Figure 2.2: No scenery selected for installation after clicking “Select None”

  8. When you’re finished selecting scenery, click Continue to begin installing.

The installer will begin displaying its progress. When using DVDs, the installer will prompt you when it’s time to remove the current disc and insert the next. DVD installation may take anywhere from thirty to sixty minutes per disc, and that only one X‑Plane disc can be in the system at once (the installer wont recognize a disc placed in a second DVD drive). Note that digital download time estimates are based on your initial network speed and real install times may vary significantly.

We strongly recommend that you install only a small bit of scenery now and add more later, as the entire scenery package takes nearly 60 GB of space and a long time to install.

Scenery can be added or removed at any point in the future by re-running the installer. Insert Disc 1 if you have the DVD set, but if you are using a digital download product key, X‑Plane should remember it. If not, enter your product key when required. When the X-System installer comes up saying “You already have X‑Plane 11 installed on this computer,” click the Add or Remove Scenery button and proceed just like in step 7 above.

Note: Having finished the installation, Mac users will probably want to exclude their X‑Plane installation directory from their Time Machine backups (as described in the chapter Preparation and Installation, in the section “Special Considerations for Mac Users.”)

Launching X‑Plane for the First Time

  1. Make sure your USB joystick is plugged in. To avoid any possible problems, it is recommended that the flight controls be plugged directly into the machine rather than into a hub.

  2. If you own the DVD set, put Disc 1 into your DVD drive.

  3. Open the X‑Plane folder (located by default on the Desktop) and double click on ‘X-Plane.exe’ in Windows, or ‘X-Plane.app’ on a Mac.

  4. If you have a digital download key, X‑Plane may prompt you for your key, or the field may be pre-filled if you have entered your product key before (i.e., during installation). Simply click “Authorize” and X‑Plane will proceed. Starting the simulator without this or a DVD in the drive will force it to run in demo mode only.

    If you have successfully used your digital download product key, X‑Plane will try to contact the authorization server in the background without prompting you. Thus if your net connection is good and your product key is not locked, you may never notice or need the product key again to fly.

Since this is the first time you’ve started X-Plane, it will begin with a tutorial on the basics of flight and using X-Plane. Follow the instructions or use the Skip buttons to complete it.

Configuring Essential Yoke/Joystick Functions

During this first launch, if you are using flight control hardware, the program can quickly and automatically configure them. In the Uncalibrated Joystick or Yoke box that appears, click the Open Joystick Calibration button then continue with the steps below.

Note that a mouse may be used to fly if neither a yoke or a joystick is available, though it will (of course) be unrealistic and cumbersome. If the mouse will be used, skip to the section “Setting Up a Flight” below.

  1. Click on the Calibrate or Calibrate Now button (if necessary).

    Figure 2.3: The calibration window for a new yoke

  2. Move each axis of the device through its full range of motion. Make sure to move all levers as well as the stick or yoke itself.

Note that if you’re unable to move the controls through their full range of motion you may simply click the Accept Axis or Skip button for each axis that X‑Plane believes to be uncalibrated, but which you have confirmed has actually gone through its full range of motion.

  1. Press the Next button to continue to the centering screen. Release the controls, press Next again and wait until the timer is up.

  2. Click Finish to leave the calibration screen to return to the main joystick screen.

    Figure 2.4: The joystick configuration screen, after completing calibration

  3. If any axes weren’t recognized properly during the automatic calibration, you can set them with the drop down menus in the column of controls on the right.

    If your device does not have a preset configuration in X-Plane, you will need to set all the axes and buttons by hand by picking options from all the axes & button drop down options.

  4. Assign functions to joystick buttons, such as brake toggle (if you’re not using rudder pedals) by clicking the Edit button. Note that for many of the most popular flight controls, you will be able to refer to the labeled image on the left if you are unsure which button is being assigned.

  5. Find the command you’d like to assign, such as “Toggle brakes regular effort,” by searching or scrolling through the list. Then click Apply.

  6. If buttons appear to be missing from the list in this screen, check under the “Views” drop down for additional images of the device that may have additional buttons mapped.

  7. Once you’ve finished assigning functions to buttons, close the Joystick screen by pressing the Done button.

If at any time you need to return to the joystick screen, you can access it by clicking on the settings icon in the top right corner of the screen and going to the Joystick section.

Setting Up a Flight

The first thing you see when you launch X‑Plane is the main menu. From here you can choose to quit, resume your last flight, start a new flight, load a saved flight, or visit Flight School for tutorials. If you are brand new to X‑Plane or flying, it’s recommended that you start with this last option, Flight School. Otherwise, to set up a new, custom flight, click the New Flight option to go to the Flight Configuration screen.

Figure 2.5:The Flight Configuration screen

Select an aircraft from the list on the left. You can narrow down your options by using the drop down menus at the top of the screen or the search bar. Click on the star in the corner of the aircraft box to mark it as a favorite, and quickly find it next time at the top of the list.

Pick an airport to start at by searching by Name, ICAO/FAA/IATA code, or feature (such as “grass strip”) in the Location box at the top right side of the screen. You can specify which runway or ramp to start on by clicking the Customize button.

Drag the slider in the Weather box to change the cloud and precipitation settings between 8 different presets. Adjust the time of day the same way.

Once you’re ready, click the Start Flight button and get flying!

See the section Setting Up Your Flight for detailed explanations of the Customize screen options for each aspect of the flight.

Updating Your Copy of X-Plane

Updating X‑Plane will ensure that the copy of X‑Plane you are using is the most stable, most feature-rich version available. Updates within a given version of X‑Plane (e.g., from Version 11.0 to 11.1 to 11.2) are free, and recommended for virtually all users.

Simply start X-Plane, and if an update is available you will see an “Update Available” box with the options to “Ignore” or “Update.” Click Update to have X‑Plane automatically download and launch the latest installer/updater. Proceed through the installer to update X‑Plane to the latest version.

If you would like to check what version of the simulator you’re using:

  1. Go to Settings > General.

  2. Click the About X-Plane button in the bottom left corner.

  3. Your version number will be listed in the “About This Copy of X-Plane” section. There will be an Update X-Plane button if an update is available. Clicking this will cause X‑Plane to download the latest updater and run the updater for you.

Preparation and Installation

System Requirements

Given X-Plane’s incredible capabilities and accuracy, it is not possible to run a current release of X‑Plane on an exceptionally old computer. A good rule of thumb is that any machine built in the last 18 to 24 months will probably be able to run the simulator acceptably. Computers up to about 36 months old may be fine if they were top-of-the-line machines when manufactured. Even if they weren’t, X‑Plane may still be able to run, albeit with its rendering options turned down.

For the latest system requirements, see the “X-Plane 11 System Requirements” Knowledge Base article.

X-Plane 11 requires a computer with at least the following specifications:

  • CPU: Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 CPU with 2 or more cores, or AMD equivalent. (Dual-core CPUs slower than 3 GHz should try the demo before purchasing.)
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Video Card: a DirectX 11-capable video card from NVIDIA, AMD or Intel with at least 1 GB VRAM

However, for the best experience, we recommend the following:

  • CPU: Intel Core i5 6600K at 3.5 ghz or faster
  • Memory: 16–24 GB RAM or more
  • Video Card: a DirectX 12-capable video card from NVIDIA, AMD or Intel with at least 4 GB VRAM (GeForce GTX 1070 or better or similar from AMD)
  • 10 GB of hard drive space

To find your computer’s CPU speed and amount of RAM, Mac users can simply open the Apple Menu and click “About This Mac.”

For Windows users, you can open the Start menu and type My Computer. Desktop app “This PC” will show up in the list. Right click on it and choose “Properties.” System Panel will open and display your system specs.

While X‑Plane 11 will run on Linux, X‑Plane doesn’t provide support for specific distributions; if you want to run on Linux, you will need to try X‑Plane on your distribution to see if it is compatible. With that in mind, developers have used Ubuntu 14.04 and 16.04 LTS successfully.

For Linux, X‑Plane requires the proprietary driver from AMD or NVIDIA to run. You may be able to get X‑Plane to run on the Mesa/Gallium driver with an Intel GPU, but this is unsupported. We absolutely do not support the fully open source drivers for AMD and NVIDIA.

Display Hardware

X-Plane can display on any screen, with resolutions ranging from 1,024 × 768 pixels to 9,999 × 9,999 pixels. It makes no difference to X‑Plane what aspect ratio your screen has; if your aspect ratio doesn’t match that of the instrument panel you are using, X‑Plane will simply zoom or stretch the panel as appropriate to fill your screen.

X-Plane allows the use of any number of screens to depict anything you like. Multiple computers with multiple copies of X‑Plane can be used to drive multiple monitors, thereby networking up to about 20 screens to show any combination of views imaginable. Many modern graphics cards or technology such as a video splitter like the Matrox TripleHead2Go) can be used to drive multiple forward visuals with one machine. In that case, a second machine could be used to drive the cockpit display or exterior view, as described in the section “Configuring a Multi-Monitor Simulator.”

Graphics Drivers

X-Plane, of course, needs a decent graphics card in the computer you wish to run it on. Essentially any modern, discrete (i.e., non-integrated) video card will do just fine, though a more powerful, more expensive graphics card will allow for higher detail in the simulator’s graphics. Just as important as the graphics card itself, though, are the computer’s graphics drivers (essentially, the instructions that let X‑Plane know how to use your graphics card).

On many systems the required graphics drivers will already be installed. However, it may be necessary to periodically update the computer’s video drivers, either to fix a problem or to get the very best performance the system can deliver. Many graphics card companies provide software that can automatically detect when a new driver is available and help keep you up to date. Users of ATI/AMD video cards can find out more and download drivers from the AMD web site, while NVIDIA users can download drivers and software from NVIDIA’s web site.

Before updating the graphics driver, we recommend installing and launching X‑Plane (per the section “Installing X-Plane” of this chapter) and seeing how it runs. If any of the following problems are experienced, the system’s graphics drivers probably need to be updated:

  • a screen consisting only of splashes of color
  • a screen with horizontal or vertical bars running through it
  • random images of various pieces of the airplane or instrument panel

Additionally, if an error appears referring to a corrupt or missing ‘.dll’ file, the drivers most likely need to be replaced.

Updating Graphics Drivers in Windows

Some Windows-based computers are operating with drivers that are out of date or that do not currently support OpenGL (caused by using the default Windows drivers rather than those of the manufacturer). If you conclude that your graphics drivers need to be updated, the following (general) steps should guide you through the process.

Automatic updating

Many of the latest video cards come with manufacturer’s software that can automatically download and install the latest drivers, easily keeping you up to date.

Manual updating

Windows 10

  1. Go to your video card manufacturer’s driver download page (ATI’s site or NVIDIA’s) and download the latest drivers, being sure to save it to a place that you’ll be able to find it (for example, the Desktop).
  2. Click the Windows icon at the bottom of the screen and type Device Manager in the search box.
  3. Select the device, right click it, and choose “Update Driver Software.”
  4. Select “Browse my computer for driver software” then navigate to the file you saved in step 1.
  5. Click Next then wait until the installation finishes.
  6. Reboot your PC and you’re ready to fly!

Windows 8

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap Search. (If you’re using a mouse, point to the lower-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, and then click Search.)
  2. Enter Device Manager in the search box, and tap or click Device Manager.
  3. In the list of hardware categories, double-tap or double-click the category your device is in and then double-tap or double-click the device you want. For example, to see your video card, tap or click Display adapters, and then double-tap or double-click the video card name.
  4. Tap or click the Driver tab, tap or click Update Driver, and then follow the instructions. You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice.
  5. Reboot your PC and you’re ready to fly!

Windows 7

  1. Open Device Manager by clicking the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Security, and then, under System, clicking Device Manager. If you’re prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.‌
  2. In the list of hardware categories, find the device that you want to update, and then double-click the device name.
  3. Click the Driver tab, click Update Driver, and then follow the instructions. If you’re prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  4. Reboot your PC and you’re ready to fly!
Graphics Driver Requirements in Linux

When running X‑Plane on Linux, please note that you must install the proprietary Nvidia or AMD drivers. X‑Plane will _not_ run using Gallium or Mesa open-source drivers.

Selecting Flight Control Hardware

While it is physically possible to fly X‑Plane with only the mouse and keyboard, this can be cumbersome and unrealistic (for obvious reasons). While instructions for flying this way are included in the section “How to Fly” of the chapter Flight in X-Plane, it is strongly recommended that users fly with at least a joystick for a realistic experience.

So which joystick should a user purchase? Most USB joysticks and yokes made in the last 10 years or so will work with X-Plane, but, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Be leery of joysticks advertised for $29.95 at a local retailer. In our experience the cheaper hardware typically does not last as long or work as well as more moderately priced equipment.

Note: X‑Plane can only interface with USB devices. This covers nearly all the controllers manufactured in the last ten years, but if you have a non-USB device, an adapter will be needed to change it to a USB input.

Joysticks

Joysticks typically provide pitch, roll, and throttle control, as well as a few buttons that can be programmed to do different things. For example, you may program one button to raise and lower the landing gear, and two additional buttons to raise the flaps and lower them. Also, some joysticks can have their handle twisted left and right to control yaw movement. If the joystick being used does not offer yaw control, you will probably want a set of rudder pedals to provide realistic yaw control in the airplane. A joystick will be best for flying fighter or sport airplanes, or planes made by companies like Airbus, Cirrus, or Lancair, for the simple reason that those planes, in reality, are controlled with joysticks!

Yokes

A yoke consists of a steering wheel-like control that rotates left and right and also slides back and forth. These are the best option for users primarily interested in flying older-style general aviation planes, business jets, and non-Airbus airliners, since these planes are flown with yokes in reality.

Yokes are typically clamped to a desk for stability. They may have a built-in throttle quadrant, which will allows for independent control of the propeller, throttle, and mixture for a single propeller engine. Also, note that yokes do not control yaw movement (they do not twist left and right for yaw control like some joysticks), so rudder pedals are required for realistic yaw control.

Rudder Pedals

Rudder pedals allow users to realistically control the airplane’s yaw by pushing the left or right pedal to turn. While in flight, the pedals control the rudder, whereas on the ground they’re used to steer. The pedals also control the brakes to help the airplane stop or turn sharply while on the ground. (Push the top of the left or right pedal to activate the brakes on that side of the plane.)

If neither a set of rudder pedals nor the joystick is set to control yaw, X‑Plane will automatically slew the rudder to try and keep the airplane flying true. This auto-rudder function, however, is not smart enough to take off or land properly in a crosswind, slip, or do various other things that rudders might be used for. For this reason, rudder pedals (or at least a twisting joystick) are highly recommended.

Please note that, when flying a helicopter, pedals must be used for the anti-torque controls—this can not be assigned to keyboard commands, simply because it is not practical to try to use the keyboard to fly.

For added realism in certain situations, you may want an independent throttle quadrant. CH Products’ Multi-Engine Throttle Quadrant is perhaps the most popular and offers independent and variable control of six different functions. Normally, this would be set up to control the throttle, propeller, and mixture controls for each engine on a twin-engine airplane. This controller can also be used to control throttle and condition (fuel cutoff) for jet engines, allowing independent control of jet aircraft with up to three engines. A multi-engine throttle quadrant is recommended for users interested in realistically flying airplanes with more than one engine.

To purchase joysticks or other equipment, check out the CH Products, Logitech, or Saitek websites. Each of the sites allows users to browse the available products and find where to buy them. Also, feel free to ask your questions on the X-Plane Q & A site. You may call or e-mail X‑Plane customer support (info@x-plane.com) with any additional questions.

Note that instructions on configuring flight control hardware are found in the chapter Configuring and Tuning Your X‑Plane Installation, in the section “Configuring Flight Controls”.

Installing X-Plane

In order to avoid confusion, be sure to delete any installations of the X‑Plane demo, or older versions of X-Plane, before installing the full version. (Uninstalling the demo is as straightforward as locating the “X-Plane 11 Demo” folder and moving it to the Recycle Bin or Trash.)

Note: If you are using a digital download product key, you will need to download the latest X‑Plane installer from X-Plane.com.

DVD Installation

To install X‑Plane using the DVD set, do the following:

  1. Insert Disc 1 into your DVD drive and wait for it to spin up.

  2. If the X-System window doesn’t open automatically, navigate to the drive now labeled “X-Plane 11” (usually the ’D:' drive). If the X-System window does appear automatically, skip to step 4.

  3. Double-click on ‘X-Plane 11 Installer’ to launch the X‑Plane installation.

  4. When the installer window appears, click Install an X‑Plane Product Purchase if necessary.

    You can change the language or pick a different operating system for the install by clicking on the settings slider icon in the top right corner.

    Note that if the buttons at the bottom of the X-System screen are not visible, then the system is probably running at a minimal resolution like 800×600. Using this resolution will not allow the computer to display the bottom of the X‑Plane screen and you will need to force the installer to exit (via Ctrl+Alt+Del) and increase the screen’s resolution in Windows to at least 1024×768.

  5. By default, X‑Plane will install to the Desktop. Though it can be installed elsewhere (by clicking the Change Destination button), it is strongly recommended that it be placed on the Desktop so that the folder can be found in the future, and so it has correct permission settings.

    When an acceptable location has been selected, click Continue.

  6. Accept the user agreement and click Continue once again.

    Figure 3.1: All scenery selected for installation after clicking “Select All”

  7. Select the scenery you would like to install. Parts of the world that are currently selected will be a bright blue color (as all tiles are in Figure 3.1).

    If you are unsure what areas are currently selected, just click Select None to turn everything off (as seen in Figure 3.2). From there, move your mouse around the map to highlight sections of the world and click on on the ones you would like to install. Note that for regions where no scenery is installed, only oceans and airports will be visible.

    Figure 3.2: No scenery selected after clicking the Select None button during the installation

  8. When you’re finished selecting scenery, click Continue to begin installing.

  9. The installer will begin displaying its progress. When the installer prompts you to do so, remove the current disc and insert the next. Note that installation may take anywhere from thirty to sixty minutes per disc, and that only one X‑Plane disc can be in the system at once (the installer won’t recognize a disc placed in a second DVD drive).

  10. When the installation completes, reinsert Disc 1 and go fly!

We recommend installing a small amount of scenery at first. Installing the complete scenery package will consume about 75 GB of hard drive space, and doing so will take between five and six and a half hours. At any point in the future, scenery can be added or removed by inserting Disc 1 and re-running the installer. When the X-System installer comes up with the message “You already have X‑Plane 11 installed on this computer,” click the Add or Remove Scenery button and proceed just like in step 7 above.

By default, Mac OS X is set to automatically back up the entire hard drive using Time Machine. This includes a user’s X‑Plane directory. Most people would prefer not to have this backed up, due to the fact that it requires a significant amount of space on the backup disk (for something already backed up to DVDs or online, no less) and the fact that it takes a great deal of time to complete the backup.

For this reason, it is recommended that users exclude the X‑Plane directory from Time Machine’s backup, either during or shortly after the X‑Plane installation, by doing the following:

  1. Open the Time Machine preferences, either from the task bar (by clicking the Time Machine icon and selecting “Open Time Machine Preferences”) or from the System Preferences (by clicking the Time Machine icon there).

  2. With the preferences open, click the Options… button.

  3. Click the + icon to add a folder to the list of excluded directories.

  4. Select the X‑Plane installation directory (located by default on the Desktop) and click Exclude.

  5. Click Save and exit the Time Machine preferences.

Special Considerations for Windows Vista and 7 Users

Some of X-Plane’s menus may render strangely when using the default Aero themes in Windows 7 and Windows Vista. For this reason, it is recommended that users switch to the Basic theme when running X-Plane.

To make Windows automatically switch to the Basic theme when you launch X‑Plane (and switch back when you’re done), do the following:

  1. Locate either the ‘X-Plane.exe’ file (found in the X‑Plane 11 installation folder) or the shortcut you use to launch X‑Plane and right click on it.

  2. Click Properties from the menu that appears.

  3. Go to the Compatibility tab and check the Disable desktop composition box. With that done, X‑Plane will launch with the Basic theme and all menus will render correctly.

Digital Download Installation

To install X‑Plane using a digital download product key, do the following:

  1. Ensure your computer is connected to the Internet. Download the latest X‑Plane installer from our web site.

  2. Double click the “X-Plane 11 Installer” icon to launch the installer.

  3. Click the Install an X‑Plane Product Purchase button if necessary. Enter your digital download product key in the boxes on the following screen then click the Continue button.

  4. By default, X‑Plane will install to the Desktop. Though it can be installed elsewhere (by clicking the Change Destination button), it is strongly recommended that it be left on the Desktop so that the folder can be found in the future and all permissions are correct.

  5. Accept the user agreement on this screen. It is highly recommended that you leave the box for sending anonymous usage data checked. This allows Laminar Research to gather anonymous data to make updates to the simulator based on how you use it. Click Continue once again.

    Figure 3.3: All scenery selected for installation after clicking “Select All”

  6. Select the scenery you would like to install. Parts of the world that are currently selected will be a bright blue color (as all tiles are in Figure 3.3).

    If you are unsure what areas are currently selected, just click Select None to turn everything off (as seen in Figure 3.4). From there, move your mouse around the map to highlight sections of the world and click on on the ones you would like to install. Note that for regions where no scenery is installed, only oceans and airports will be visible. When you’re finished selecting scenery, click Continue to begin installing.

    Figure 3.4: No scenery selected after clicking the Select None button during the installation

    We strongly recommend that you install only a small bit of scenery now and add more later, as the entire scenery package takes nearly 60 GB of space and a very long time to install.

  7. The installer will begin displaying its progress. Note that digital download time estimates are based on your initial network speed and real install times may vary significantly.

  8. When the installation completes, start the simulator and go fly!

Scenery can be added or removed at any point in the future by re-running the installer. When the X-System installer comes up with the message “You already have X‑Plane 11 installed on this computer,” click the Add or Remove Scenery button. Enter your digital download product key if necessary and proceed just like in step 6 above.

In order for the simulator to work (outside of demo mode), the computer running X‑Plane Digital Download Edition must have an Internet connection to contact our servers. X‑Plane does not require an Internet connection to re-validate on every single application launch, but it does require authentication frequently. If your primary use of X‑Plane is on a computer that does not have net access or where net access is unreliable or rare, you should purchase a DVD or a USB dongle.

X-Plane digital download product keys are like credit card numbers: the key itself authorizes you to get X-Plane, and each user has a different key. If someone else has your key, that user has access to your copy of X-Plane. Just like credit cards, you should not share your product key with anyone else.

If you need to contact Laminar Research customer support, we will only require the last eight digits of your product key; you do not need to send your full product key to anyone, including Laminar Research.

If someone manages to steal your product key, piracy is prevented by fraud detection; our servers will see your key being used in a pattern that looks like multiple people (e.g. your key used from two continents at the same time) and it will be locked. Downloading the product repeatedly may appear to be piracy and may also cause your key to be locked. You can contact X-Plane customer support if you experience problems with your digital download product key.

A digital copy of X‑Plane is not a backup. The digital version of X‑Plane is available online at any time for download, but it is not a replacement for a good backup of your computer(s); only a true backup can save your preferences, third party aircraft you’ve downloaded, your log book, etc.

Additionally, only the latest, non-beta version of X‑Plane 11 is available digitally. If you do not want to update to the latest version, you need to make your own backup of X-Plane; re-installing the product will get the latest version.

Launching X-Plane

Unlike many of the programs you may be familiar with, X‑Plane does not create shortcuts to itself across your hard drive. We recommend launching X‑Plane by opening the X‑Plane 11 installation directory (located by default on the Desktop) and double-clicking the X‑Plane icon. However, if you would like, you can create a shortcut (called an “alias” in OS X) by doing the following:

  1. Open the X‑Plane installation directory (located by default on the Desktop).

  2. In Windows, right-click on the X-Plane.exe icon and select Create Shortcut. In Mac OS, right-click on the X-Plane.app icon and select Make Alias.

  3. Drag the shortcut wherever you wish to launch X‑Plane from.

To launch X‑Plane for the first time:

  1. Make sure your USB joystick is plugged in. To avoid any possible problems, it is recommended that the flight controls be plugged directly into the machine rather than into a hub.

  2. If you own the DVD set, put Disc 1 into your DVD drive.

  3. Open the X‑Plane folder (located by default on the Desktop) and double click on ‘X-Plane.exe’ in Windows, or ‘X-Plane.app’ on a Mac.

  4. If you have a digital download key, X‑Plane may prompt you for your key, or the field may be pre-filled if you have entered your product key before (i.e., during installation). Simply click “Authorize” and X‑Plane will proceed. Starting the simulator without this or a DVD in the drive will force it to run in demo mode only.

    If you have successfully used your digital download product key, X‑Plane will try to contact the authorization server in the background without prompting you. Thus if your net connection is good and your product key is not locked, you may never notice or need the product key again to fly.

Configuring and Tuning Your X‑Plane Installation

Having installed X‑Plane as described in the previous chapter, you can configure the simulator in a number of ways. These include downloading the latest free update (giving you the latest set of features available), setting up flight controls, and tuning the performance of the simulator both in terms of graphics quality and frame rate.

General Use of the X‑Plane Interface

X-Plane has been written to operate on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux systems. For consistency’s sake, the layout and appearance of X‑Plane is the same across all three operating systems.

Here are a few pointers to aid in the learning process:

X-Plane’s menu is hidden. To access the menu bar, move the mouse pointer to the top of the screen. When the mouse is within a centimeter or so of the top edge of the screen, the menu bar will appear. By default the Esc key will also display the menu. You’ll find the majority of X‑Plane 11’s options in the drop down menus in the left of this menu bar.

Some of the key functions of the simulator are accessed through small icons on the right side of the menu bar however. From left to right, clicking the icons will: pause the simulator, open Flight Configuration, show the ATC window, show the map, open Settings, and open a help webpage. Keep in mind you can use keyboard shortcuts to access many of these features as well.

Figure 4.1: The menu icons

Keyboard shortcuts can be found by opening the settings screen and going to the Keyboard tab. These keyboard assignments can also be changed using this screen (per the section “Configuring Keyboard Shortcuts”) to anything you like. Also note that many of the keyboard shortcuts are shown in the X‑Plane menus. For example, opening the View menu will display the list of available views on the left side of the drop down menu, with the list of corresponding keyboard shortcuts on the right.

You can adjust almost all aspects of how the simulator runs by going to the Settings screen. Here you’ll find tabs to adjust the settings associated with the sound, graphics, networking configurations, data input and output, joysticks and flight hardware, and the keyboard shortcut assignments. Many other helpful options, such as the language and warnings, can be found in the General section.

Like most programs, the simplest way to navigate around X‑Plane is using the mouse, though there are many keyboard shortcuts to help you navigate quickly through the options after you become familiar with the program. These shortcuts are particularly important when using the mouse to fly. In that case, it is much easier to use the ‘2’ key to drop a notch of flaps than it is to let go of the controls, reach down with the mouse to adjust the flaps, and then reach back up and grab the controls again.

Also note that most instruments and controls inside the cockpit are interactive, meaning that the mouse can be used to alter switches, set frequencies, manipulate the throttle(s), change the trim, etc.

Configuring Flight Controls

With your flight controls plugged in and X‑Plane running, you can configure how the simulator responds to input from each axis and button. Throughout this section we will refer to any input device as a joystick; the instructions apply to yokes, throttle quadrants, and rudders also. Configuring should be done upon initial set up of X‑Plane and any time new equipment is plugged in, but it is not necessary to configure hardware upon every use.

The first time a joystick or yoke is plugged in, the program can automatically take you to the joystick settings screen to configure the device. If you selected No in the Joystick Quick-Config box, move the mouse to the top of the screen and click the settings icon, then Joystick, and continue with the steps below.

Video 4.1: Configuring joysticks tutorial

Setting Up the Control Axes

Click on the Calibrate or Calibrate Now button. This will open the dialog box allowing you to configure and calibrate the flight controls.

Figure 4.2: The calibration window of the Joystick settings screen, with the device partially calibrated

To begin, move the joystick’s controls around to see how the axes are mapped in X-Plane.  As this is done, one of the red bars will move vigorously for each input that is actuated. (Note that if you are using a trim wheel, you may have to roll the wheel continuously to see which axis it is mapped to.)  Thus, when the stick is rolled left and right only one bar will move a substantial amount; when it is pushed back and forth it will be a different bar.  

Move your joystick through the full range of motion for each axes, and each slider through its entire range as well. Move your joystick or yoke forward and back for pitch. Move your joystick/yoke left and right for roll, and twist your joystick (if applicable) for yaw. (If you do not have or assign a yaw axis, X‑Plane will attempt to stabilize it for you.) Once all the red bars have changed to blue, click on the Next button.

Note that if you’re unable to move the controls through their full range of motion you may simply click the Accept Axis or Ignore Axis button for each axis that X‑Plane believes to be uncalibrated, but which you have confirmed has actually gone through its full range of motion.

Let go of the controls and press the Next button to begin centering the controls and setting the nullzone. When the timer’s up, press the Finish button to go back to the joystick screen and complete joystick set up.

Figure 4.3: The Joystick settings screen, after calibration is completed

If any axes were not recognized automatically, or were incorrectly categorized, in the first calibration screen, you can set them in the right column of the joystick settings screen. Simply use the drop down menu to select the appropriate axis type. In addition, you will need to do this for any device that does not have a default configuration file, as all the buttons and axes will be assigned to “none” (see Figure 4.4 below).

Figure 4.4: When an unknown device is used, all axes and buttons are set to “none” until manually changed

To manually configure flight control axes:

  1. Move your joystick or yoke forward and back, or spin your trim wheel continuously. One of the bars should move as you do so. Click the drop-down menu next to it and set it to pitch.

  2. Move your joystick/yoke left and right. The bar that moves should be set to roll.

  3. Twist your joystick (if applicable). The bar that moves should be set to yaw. If you do not assign a yaw axis, X‑Plane will attempt to stabilize yaw movement for you.

    If you are using rudder pedals, slide them forward and backward and set the bar that moves then to yaw. Additionally, only when using rudder pedals, press the left pedal down with your toes. The bar that moves should be set to left toe brake. Do the same for the right pedal, and set that bar to right toe brake.

  4. Move your throttle forward and back (on a yoke, this is typically the leftmost lever). Set this bar to throttle.

Note: Any remaining bar (if applicable) which is not actively controlled by your hardware needs to be set to none. When this is set, X‑Plane is not using the axis.

Assigning Functions to Buttons

Each of the buttons and switches on the joystick can be assigned a function within X‑Plane (for example, toggling the brakes or landing gear) in the right column of the Joystick settings screen.

Figure 4.5: Clicking button 5 in the image highlights the button in the list on the right

You can tell which button you’re assigning by the mapping in the image on the left. Click on a number to highlight the line in the list on the right side of the screen. You can also press the button on the joystick and seeing which number in the list lights up.

Assign a function to a hat switch by picking from the drop down menu. Assign a function to a button or a two-direction switch by clicking the Edit button and scrolling through the list of commands, or by typing a key term in the search bar, as in Figure 4.6 below.

Figure 4.6: Searching commands for the term “brakes”

Repeat this process for as many buttons and switches as need functions assigned. If buttons appear to be missing from the list in this screen, check under the “Views” drop down for additional images of the device that may have additional buttons mapped. Close the Joystick window and the settings will be saved to preferences.

Controlling Joystick Sensitivity and Aircraft Stability

To modify the joystick’s sensitivity, press the Control Response button at the bottom of the Joystick settings screen. The three sliders in this window control the response curves for the pitch, roll, and yaw axes of the joystick.

If these sliders are set all the way to the left, the aircraft’s response to that axis’ input will be completely linear. This means that a 50% deflection of the joystick will deflect the airplane’s flight controls 50% of their travel. As these sliders are moved to the right the response becomes curved. In this case, a deflection of the joystick from center to its halfway point may only deflect the aircraft’s controls by 10%. This will dampen any aircraft movements and desensitize the user’s controls. Keep in mind, however, that in this case, the remaining 90% of the control surface deflection must take place in the last 50% of joystick movement. Thus, the controls will be dampened for the first half or so of their travel and then become hyper-sensitive for the remainder of their throw. This gives the user plenty of fine-tune control near the center of the flight control envelope to hold altitude and roll precisely, but still allows for full control authority at the extremes.

Try flying with the sliders in various different positions to see what setting works best.

To modify the stability of the aircraft, press the Stability Augmentation button. These sliders control X-Plane’s stability augmentation by damping the predicted forces acting on the aircraft’s flight control surfaces. If these sliders are all the way to the left, then there is no stability augmentation of the aircraft. As the sliders are moved to the right, X‑Plane will automatically add some stability augmentation to the aircraft, adding some elevator input to level the nose, some aileron input to minimize the roll rate, and some rudder input to counter any aircraft yaw rates. In other words, the simulator will try to make the plane easier to fly by adding control inputs for the user. The downside, of course, is that as X‑Plane adds stability, the aircraft becomes less responsive (and less realistic).

Adding Special Equipment

Click the PFC Hardware button to set up special equipment for use in X-Plane. This tab is generally used on multi-computer X‑Plane configurations in professional, FAA-certified simulators or to tie in various GPS navigators (such as a real Garmin 96/296/396 or a 430 GPS radio). After being connected to the computer, this equipment should be set up per the manufacturer’s recommendations, then checked off on the Equipment screen to tell X‑Plane that it is connected.

Configuring Keyboard Shortcuts

X-Plane has been designed to be both extremely flexible and easily usable. For this reason, most of the keys on the keyboard do something.

To see which keys are tied to which functions, open the settings by moving the mouse to the top of the screen, clicking the settings icon, and clicking on Keyboard. Here you can look at the functions assigned to the keys of the keyboard.

You can use the buttons on the left side to narrow down the list, or use the plus and minus symbols to change how many items are shown from the list of functions. Functions are classified into a number of categories (operation, engines, ignition, etc.), but if you aren’t sure what category a functions falls under, you can use the search bar to find it.

The description of the function is on the left while the button assigned to it is on the right. To change the key a command is bound to, type in the box on the right or use the +. Use the - to delete a key assignment.

Note that it is not necessary to try and remember all of the keyboard shortcuts. Instead, many of them are shown in the menus when flying. For example, while in flight, move the mouse to the top of the screen and click the View menu and a subcategory. The keyboard shortcut it’s assigned to is found on the right. For instance, in the view menu, the “Forward with 2-D Panel” view has a “w” symbol next to it, so it can be selected with the ‘w’ key.

Joystick and Keyboard Profiles

Starting in X‑Plane 11.10, you can save profiles for different combinations of keyboard and joystick settings. This means you can now specify different button or axis assignments for the same joystick and switch between them from within X-Plane.

Figure 4.7: The Active Profile window of the Joystick settings screen selected in orange

To get started creating a joystick or keyboard profile, click on the Active Profile drop down in the lower left corner of the joystick or keyboard screen and select “save as new profile.” Enter a new name that will help you identify this profile later on. Now you can change key, button or joystick axis assignments as desired and X‑Plane will associate them with this specific profile. Any time you create another profile, all current assignments will be copied to the new profile for you to then adjust as desired.

To delete profiles and assign them to individual or groups of aircraft, click the Manage Profiles button next to the Active Profile dropdown.

Figure 4.8: The Manage Profiles window of X‑Plane 11.10

You can manage all your profiles in the left side of this window. Click on the minus sign (-) icon next to a profile name to delete it. Double click on a profile name to edit it. You can also add a new profile here and then return to the joystick or keyboard settings screens to change its assignments.

Assign profiles to aircraft in the Associated Aircraft column on the right side of this window. You can use the search bar or the expand/reduce buttons next to aircraft types to narrow down your aircraft list. By clicking on the drop down next to an aircraft type, such as “Airliner,” you can assign a profile to all aircraft of that type. Or you can click the drop down next to individual aircraft to change profile assignments one by one.

Profiles will also be assigned automatically when you change from one profile to another while a flight is in progress. Thus, you never have to manually assign aircraft associations if you don’t want to—you’ll just get whatever you were using last.

Configuring the Rendering Options

X-Plane is a very advanced simulator that has been designed for use across a broad range of computers with varying specifications. As such, X‑Plane offers the ability to change graphics settings to optimize performance on your computer. The Graphics tab of the settings window allows you to match X-Plane’s settings (and thus the demands the simulator puts on the computer) to you computer’s capabilities.

The simulator’s performance is measured in frames per second (FPS, or frame rate). This is how many times per second the X‑Plane physics and rendering code (currently more than 700,000 lines of code!) can be run. Each time the computer runs through the program it advances the aircraft and recalculates the images that are seen (cloud formations, scenery, aircraft instruments, other aircraft, etc.).

Obviously, X‑Plane has to be tremendously flexible to be able to run on a three year old computer and also take full advantage of the latest and greatest hardware available. There are two things that affect X-Plane’s frame rate: the computer’s capabilities and how much it is being asked to simulate (e.g., how much visibility is set, how many buildings, clouds, and other aircraft are being drawn, etc.). It will be much harder for the computer to compute images when flying an airplane in 30-mile visibility with 8,000 3-dimensional buildings and cloud puffs than it would be if X‑Plane were set up with only two or three miles of visibility and no clouds. Thus, generally speaking, the higher the rendering options are set, the lower the performance and frame rate achieved.

The faster a computer can run X‑Plane the more realistic and rewarding the simulation will be. Testing has shown that the human brain can separate individual frames at frame rates of less than about 20 FPS, causing the simulation to appear “choppy.” Coincidentally, this is also about the same place that the engineering behind the simulation begins to fall apart. For this reason, X‑Plane has set the minimum operating speed at this level. If a computer is not capable of delivering a frame rate of 20 FPS while rendering the level of detail set up in the Rendering Options page, X‑Plane will automatically introduce fog to help the simulation to run more smoothly. The fog keeps X‑Plane from having to draw the world to as great a distance, allowing the simulation to run faster.

Displaying the Frame Rate

Before we begin, we will need to be able to tell how fast X‑Plane is running on your computer. To do this, launch X‑Plane and:

  1. Move your mouse to the top of the screen (causing the menu to appear) and click the settings icon, then the Data Output tab.

  2. On the first line, Frame rate, check the first box to display the current frame rate in the upper left of the screen during flight.

    Figure 4.9: Checking the box to display the frame rate while in the simulator

  3. Close the Data Output window. You should now see how fast the simulation is running, in the f-act / sec output on the far left (highlighted in orange in the image below). This is the current frame rate, given in frames per second (fps).

    Figure 4.10: The frame rate per second highlighted

Note that the frame rate will change depending on what is happening in the simulation. It is not uncommon for a computer to output 50 fps while sitting on an empty runway, but drop down to, say, 30 fps when rendering lots of buildings, other aircraft, etc.

Refer to the following to determine the significance of this number.

  • 19 fps is terrible and barely adequate to run the simulator.

  • 25 to 35 fps is the ideal range. Higher frame rates indicate the computer isn’t rendering with as much detail as it could.

  • 50 fps is very high and indicates that the system could probably draw more buildings, clouds, and other objects.

Setting the Rendering Options

The Graphics screen is used to configure the level of detail in the simulator. This window can be found by moving the mouse to the top of the screen, clicking on the settings icon, and clicking Graphics.

The rendering options sliders are organized with settings that depend primarily on CPU on the right, and GPU-heavy options on the left. The Visual Effects slider adjusts the quality of the visual effects, such as shadows and light reflection and is dependent on the quality of your graphics card. If you have a new and/or fairly powerful GPU, try setting this slider to high or maximum.

Figure 4.11: The Rendering Options screen of the Settings window

Adjust the Texture Quality slider to fine tune the level of detail in the textures of the cockpit and world objects. This setting determines the clarity and detail of the textures displayed in X-Plane. Textures are the image-maps that are draped over the terrain and aircraft to make them look realistic. If it is set too low, the runway and terrain will look blurry and blocky. While this will not look very good, it will use very little video memory (VRAM), so a high frame rate will be more easily achievable. The more powerful a computer’s video card is, though, the higher the texture resolution can be set in X‑Plane without hurting the frame rate. The frame rate will be significantly impacted, though, if a texture resolution is selected that requires more VRAM than the computer’s video card has. You will need to restart X‑Plane to see the effect of changing this slider.

The Antialiasing slider is used to smooth the edges of the objects drawn in the simulator. When a computer tries to draw diagonal lines across the finite number of rectangular pixels in a monitor, “jaggies” result–pixelated-looking, stair-stepped lines. These jaggies may be (somewhat) eliminated by turning on anti-aliasing. This will cause X‑Plane to actually draw the simulated world several times per frame and blend those frames together, resulting in a better looking image. Thus, it is similar to using a higher screen resolution; running at a resolution of 2048×2048 without anti-aliasing is similar to running at 1024×1024 and 4× anti-aliasing. Both situations tax the video card with virtually no increase in CPU use. This will completely kill the simulator’s frame rate if the system doesn’t have a strong video card, but if the video card can take it, crank this option up.

The Number of Objects slider will adjust how many 3D objects are drawn in the world, such as trees, buildings, and static aircraft. If you have a powerful CPU you can set this to high or even maximum without affecting your frame rate too much, and the highest settings will ensure that you see all there is to see around an airport. Check the Draw parked aircraft box if you would like to see static aircraft at airports.

If X‑Plane is still running at a very high frame rate, you can also choose to check the box next to “Use Vsync” at the bottom of the window. This will limit X-Plane’s frame rate to the refresh rate of your monitor, thus preventing brief frame rate drops, or stutters. Checking the Draw shadows on scenery box will also add detail that older, slower cards may not be able to handle.

Always keep in mind that, if your graphics card has too little VRAM for the textures X‑Plane is loading (a very real possibility in this version), you may see a huge drop in frame rate when you move up a notch on one of the GPU-dependent sliders on the right.



  1. 01-11-2013, 12:05 AM#1

    Keyboard Rudder Control Problem on FSX

    Hi I'm new to FSX and I'm still using the keyboard to control. I know that left rudder is 0 on the number pad and right is Enter. Problem is that 0 on my number pad doesn't give me left rudder. Instead of left rudder it brings up the cockpit view. I tried to recalibrate the keyboard controls, and FSX recognizes my 0 key as the right key. So I'm stumped. Anyone else had this problem or know a solution? I need a left rudder control thanks!
  2. 01-11-2013, 06:54 AM#2
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Imlay City, Michigan
    Posts
    8,632

    HAF 932 Adv, PC P&C 950w, ASUS R4E,i7-3820 5.0GHz(MCR320-XP 6 fans wet), GTX 970 FTW
    16GB DDR3-2400, 128GB SAMSUNG 830(Win 7 Ult x64), 512GB SAMSUNG 840 Pro(FSX P3D FS9)
    WD 1TB Black(FS98, CFS2&3, ROF, etc.), WD 2TB Black-(Storage/Backup)
    Active Sky Next, Rex4 TD/Soft Clouds
    Do the rest of the keyboard's "control surface" commands work properly? Default plane? Control Axis keyboard Rudder sensitivity?...Don

  3. 01-12-2013, 05:03 AM#3

    Thanks for the reply. As far as I know the other keys work correctly. Though I'm a total newbie, and I don't know nearly all of the flight controls. the other keys on the number pad to the right (1-9) control different views, which I think may be wrong, since someone said that the number 5 on the keypad should level your rudders out, but my number 5 gives me a view of the rear interior of the plane. Very confusing. My arrow keys work correctly and my F1-F4 keys are where they should be. It just seems that some of the keys are off.
    Originally Posted by fxsttcb
    Do the rest of the keyboard's "control surface" commands work properly? Default plane? Control Axis keyboard Rudder sensitivity?...Don
  4. 01-12-2013, 05:45 AM#4
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Imlay City, Michigan
    Posts
    8,632

    HAF 932 Adv, PC P&C 950w, ASUS R4E,i7-3820 5.0GHz(MCR320-XP 6 fans wet), GTX 970 FTW
    16GB DDR3-2400, 128GB SAMSUNG 830(Win 7 Ult x64), 512GB SAMSUNG 840 Pro(FSX P3D FS9)
    WD 1TB Black(FS98, CFS2&3, ROF, etc.), WD 2TB Black-(Storage/Backup)
    Active Sky Next, Rex4 TD/Soft Clouds
    For the "Keypad" to work for your control surfaces turn "Numlock" Off.

    In the file library is a *.pdf chart for FSX default commands. "FSX Keyboard Commands", fsxkypml.zip
    "FSX Default Keyboard Assignments", kba-dcbv1.zip, opens with your browser(*.html) and includes a list of "unused" keys to help with customizing your assignments...Don

  5. 01-12-2013, 08:18 AM#5

    Thanks Don I'll give it a try

  6. 01-12-2013, 08:35 AM#6

    Everything's working well now Don thanks. I was under the assumption that with the number lock off the number keys wouldn't work! Thanks again!

  7. 08-16-2017, 06:35 AM#7

    I have a familiar problem. Once i go onto fsx, and use whatever other aircraft, when i go into the simulating, then once i pushback my plane when i try to taxi on the rudder what happens is after a few yaws to the left and right, i put it to one side, and when i try to yaw the rudder to the other side, it doesn't do anything. I have numlock off all the time.
  8. 08-17-2017, 05:39 PM#8
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Location
    California, USA
    Posts
    6,589

    i7 2600K @ 3.4 Ghz (Turbo-Boost to 3.877 Ghz), Asus P8H67 Pro, Super Talent 8 Gb DDR3/1333 Dual Channel, XFX Radeon R7-360B 2Gb DDR5, Corsair 650 W PSU, Dell 23 in (2048x1152), Windows7 Pro 64 bit, MS Sidewinder Precision 2 Joy, Logitech K-360 wireless KB & Mouse, Targus PAUK10U USB Keypad for Throttle (F1 to F4)/Spoiler/Tailhook/Wing Fold/Pitch Trim/Parking Brake/Snap to 2D Panel/View Change. Installed on 250 Gb (D. FS9 and FSX Acceleration (locked at 30 FPS).
    If you had read the pior posts you would have your answer. What is happening is that you press a key to yaw 5 times. To yaw the other direction would take presses of the other key 5 times to center (ie: undo the other yaw). The answer, of course, is you need to press the '5' key to center your controls. THEN press key to yaw in whatever direction you want. But the definitive 'solution' is for both of you to get a cheap (2nd hand store, ebay) joystick with twist grip. Your flying enjoyment would increase immensely.
    Chuck B
    Napamule

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