This ain’t your dad’s flight simulator

Microsoft's new Flight Simulator is the closest you can get to being an actual pilot.

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Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, flight simulators were a cool way to show off the potential of personal computers. I remember fiddling with the Microsoft Flight Simulator sometime in the 1990s and thinking it was great. My dad, who spent his entire career working for an airline (not as a pilot, though) was so impressed he wanted to give it a shot, too.

How quaint we were.

Microsoft is out with a brand new simulator, with the word “new” being a vast understatement. I’m not a gamer at all, so I’m thankful that a fellow writer, Ben Lovejoy, over at 9to5Mac, wrote about using the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 on an immersive 49 inch ultra-wide monitor. (The review is worth checking out, but full disclosure: it may leave you digging through your bank account in an effort to purchase the display!)

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is a jaw-dropping, almost unbelievable replication of the physical world traversed by all kinds of aircraft. The graphics are so good, and so advanced, that in many cases it looks like real video footage. It even shows passenger buses on the tarmac, people waving flights into the gate, and staff loading cargo.

The goal of a simulation is generally to be as close to the real world experience as possible, and the team behind Flight Simulator clearly took the challenge to heart. For instance, you can decide to fly in real, current weather conditions — like, weather conditions right now. If it’s foggy at Hong Kong airport, it will be foggy on the simulator, too. It also provides the option to use real-time, actual air traffic control to further blend the simulation with the real world.

The graphics also provide incredible detail, such as ocean waves and tides that go in and out, a plethora of real cloud formations, and the faint glow of city lights on clouds above.

I haven’t used the simulator yet myself, as it’s only available on Windows 10 with Xbox coming soon. If you use Steam, it’s on there, too, for Windows users. This is the first time since moving to the Mac in 2009 that I wish I had a PC laying around!

If you do decide to buy Flight Simulator 2020, keep in mind the detailed graphics put a tremendous demand on your processor and graphics card. Some reviews even indicate that high-end machines might stutter from time to time. So if you’re serious about sims, using this one could be expensive if doing it properly.

I’m hoping a version for macOS is released, but I’m not holding my breath. So if you’ve had a chance to use the simulator, let me know what you thought in the comments! I’ve also attached a few screenshots below.

Cam Macmurchy

Hi! My name is Cam MacMurchy. I was born and raised in Canada and worked as a journalist before moving to China in 2004.

Today I work in Hong Kong as the Vice President of Corporate Communications of a listed company. I write about marketing, communications, and journalism, as well as technology and productivity, and anything else on my mind! I also occasionally contribute to 9to5Mac, one of the top Apple websites in the world, and run Executive Productivity. Contact me anytime.