X-Plane Flight Simulator/Printable version

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X-Plane Flight Simulator

The current, editable version of this book is available in Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection, at

Permission is granted to copy, distribute, and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.


X-Plane is the world’s most comprehensive, powerful, and challenging flight simulator for PCs (personal computers) using the operating systems of Windows, Linux, or Mac. At first glance X-Plane may seem like a game, especially since it's sold next to other flying games, but once you try to figure out how to make the simulated 747-400 fly on autopilot, you will realize that without clearly labeled buttons or a flight planner like Microsoft Flight Simulator X, you will need to google some real flight manuals and watch a few YouTube videos to get the plane going the way you imagine it. X-Plane's claim to fame is the accuracy of its flight model, with the AAA title using 'blade-element modelling' in contrast to the 'look up table approach' employed by other flight simulator software.[1]

X-Plane can also be used as an engineering tool to predict the flying qualities of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft with incredible accuracy, once you've read enough engineering books to figure out how to do so; but to get you started before you have finished your degree in engineering, it includes a few aircraft you can try to fly spanning the aviation industry from the Sikorsky S–76 (more Googling and YouTubing) 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. [2]

References[edit | edit source]

Part One

X-Plane is a flight simulator, right? So the natural inclination is to fly it! Part One addresses what you need to know and do to fly using X-Plane. Remember: this book is about how to use X-Plane, not about teaching you real piloting skills.

  • Getting Started walks you through getting ready for your first flight from getting a copy of the program through installation and starting the program.
  • Basic Piloting starts with that all important first flight and follows up with things you need to know for VFR (Visual Flight Rules) flight.
  • Advanced Piloting dives into instrument flight (IFR) and the communications system.
  • Basic Customizing covers easy things you can do to add to your X-Plane experience including adding aircraft, adding to the world environment, and tailoring the user interface.

Getting Started

Let's walk through the process of getting started with X-Plane.

Get a Copy[edit | edit source]

The first step in getting started is to get a copy of X-Plane. You can download a demonstration version from the X-Plane home page as well as a number of other download sites. If you want to fly for more than 6 minutes (and most flight aficionados will want to) you need to purchase the program to get the install disk. The install disk must be in the computer to unlock the demo and allow unlimited flight.

Getting Started/System Requirements

X-Plane (in its most recent incarnation v.11.53 - 2021) is available for Linux, Mac OSX, and Windows. X-Plane is capable of consuming all the computer resources you can throw at it and come back asking for more. That said, X-Plane will run on systems surprisingly close to the low end. The quality of your experience will be directly related to the caliber of the system you run it on.

When it comes to X-Plane, three things are certain:

  • It uses a significant amount of data
  • It makes serious demands on the CPU
  • It can be graphically intense

Hard Disk[edit | edit source]

A baseline installation with the USA data loaded requires almost 10GB of disk space. The world database includes 60GB of data. Thanks to recent advances in drive technology, most newer desktop computers come with fairly large hard disks. Budget disks, however, typically don't include optimal data transfer speeds.

  • Basic Requirement - 10GB available space, 70GB to install the world database
  • Improved Performance - 10-70GB available on a 7200RPM 3.0Gb/s SATA drive
  • Optimal System - 10-70GB available on a 10,000RPM 3.0Gb/s SATA or 320Mb/s SCSI drive or 2X7,200RPM 0-Raid array HDD system

Microprocessor[edit | edit source]

Graphics Card[edit | edit source]

  • OpenGL support
  • Minimum 32MB dedicated RAM (v. 6.4) up to 1GB video RAM (v. 9.0) - dependent upon game resolution.

External Links[edit | edit source]

Basic Piloting/Flight Instruments/Six Pack

The basic six-pack.

Six primary flight instruments have become standard in any instrument panel and, since the early 1970's, these have been arranged in a certain, standard layout commonly referred to as the 'six pack'. They are laid out in two rows of three instruments each. The top row, left to right, contains the Airspeed Indicator (ASI), the Attitude Indicator (AI) and the Altimeter (Alt). The bottom row contains the Turn Coordinator (TC) the Directional Gyro (DG) and the Vertical Speed Indicator (VSI). A quick summary of these instruments follows:

The Airspeed Indicator (ASI)[edit | edit source]

True Airspeed Indicator.

The ASI indicates airspeed, or the speed at which the aircraft is traveling through the air. It is a differential pressure gauge that measures the dynamic pressure of the air through which the aircraft is flying. Dynamic pressure is the difference in the ambient static air pressure and the total, or ram, pressure caused by the motion of the aircraft through the air. These two pressures are taken from the pitot-static system. Beginning pilots need to remember that airspeed will include local wind and does not necessarily equate to ground speed. Throttle back a Cessna 150 in slow flight with a stiff head wind and you could be flying in one place or even backwards.

The Attitude Indicator (AI)[edit | edit source]

The Attitude Indicator.

As discussed earlier, the AI informs the pilot of his or her attitude in space. This is accomplished by fixing the case of the instrument to the aircraft and measuring the displacement of the case with reference to a fixed gyroscope inside.

The Altimeter (ALT)[edit | edit source]


The altimeter looks somewhat like the face of a clock and relays to the pilot her or his altitude, measured by the expansion or contraction of a fixed amount of air, acting on some springs. As the airplane climbs or descends the relative air pressure outside the aircraft changes and the altimeter reports the difference between the outside air pressure and a reference, contained in a set of airtight bellows.

The Turn Coordinator (TC)[edit | edit source]

Turn Coordinator.

The TC relays the rate of turn for the aircraft. The instrument is only accurate when the turn is coordinated, that is that the airplane is not skidding or slipping through the turn. For a skid, imagine a car that is understeering, where the front wheels do not have enough traction to overcome the car's momentum and the front of the car is thus plowing through the turn, resulting in a turn radius that is larger than that commanded by the driver). A slip is a bit more difficult for you to imagine unless you're a pilot already. This results from an aircraft that is banked too steeply for the rate of turn selected. To correct the slip all the pilot has to do is increase back pressure on the yoke to pull the airplane 'up' into a tighter turn, such that the turn rate is in equilibrium with the bank angle.

The major limitation of the older turn-and-slip indicator is that it senses rotation only about the vertical axis of the aircraft. It tells nothing of the rotation around the longitudinal axis, which in normal flight occurs before the aircraft begins to turn. A turn coordinator operates on precession, the same as the turn indicator, but its gimbals frame is angled upward about 30° from the longitudinal axis of the aircraft. This allows it to sense both roll and yaw. Therefore during a turn, the indicator first shows the rate of banking and once stabilized, the turn rate. Some turn coordinator gyros are dual-powered and can be driven by either air or electricity. Rather than using a needle as an indicator, the gimbal moves a dial that is the rear view of a symbolic aircraft. The bezel of the instrument is marked to show wings-level flight and bank angles for a standard rate turn.

The Directional Gyro (DG)[edit | edit source]

Directional Gyro.

A magnetic compass is a dependable instrument used as a backup instrument. Although very reliable, it has so many inherent errors that it has been supplemented with gyroscopic heading indicators.

The gyro in a heading indicator is mounted in a double gimbal, as in an attitude indicator, but its spin axis is horizontal permitting sensing of rotation about the vertical axis of the aircraft. Gyro heading indicators, with the exception of slaved gyro indicators, are not north seeking, therefore they must be manually set to the appropriate heading by referring to a magnetic compass. Rigidity causes them to maintain this heading indication, without the oscillation and other errors inherent in a magnetic compass.

The heading of the aircraft is shown against the nose of the symbolic aircraft on the instrument glass, which serves as the lubber line. A knob in the front of the instrument may be pushed in and turned to rotate the gyro and dial. The knob is spring loaded so it disengages from the gimbals as soon as it is released. This instrument should be checked about every 15 minutes to see if it agrees with the magnetic compass.

The Vertical Speed Indicator (VSI)[edit | edit source]

Vertical Speed Indicator.

The VSI reports your climb or descent rate in feet per minute. Typically, non-pressurized airplanes will climb comfortably at about 700 fpm (if they can) and descend at about 500 fpm. Descent rates faster than this cause discomfort on the occupants which can be felt in your ears. Pressurized airplanes can climb and descend much more rapidly and still maintain the cabin rate of change at about these levels, since the cabin altitude is not related to the ambient altitude unless the pressurization system fails.

Part Two

Part One addressed flying the X-Plane simulator. For that to be any fun at all requires some content. Thanks to the efforts of a lot of people, a lot of content is available for X-Plane, But, there can never be too much!

In this part we'll look into the tools and techniques for creating new content for X-Plane.

  • Creating Aircraft covers how to use X-Plane Maker to create a model of a real or notional aircraft.
  • Building Buildings provides techniques for creating static and animated objects used to enhance scene realism.
  • Refining Airports introduces the WED tool for improving taxiways, markings, lighting and signage in and around airports.
  • Adding Capabilities enters the world of plug-in development through the use of the Software Development Kit.


Instrument Flight Rules - regulations and procedures for flying aircraft where navigation and obstacle clearance is maintained with reference to aircraft instruments only and separation from other aircraft is provided by Air Traffic Control.
Software Development Kit - a set of development tools that allow a software engineer to create applications for a certain software package, software framework, hardware platform, computer system, video game console, operating system, or similar.
Visual Flight Rules - regulations under which a pilot may operate an aircraft in weather conditions sufficient to allow the pilot to control the aircraft's attitude, navigate, and maintain safe separation from obstacles such as terrain, buildings, and other aircraft by visual reference to the environment outside the cockpit.


History of this Wikibook[edit | edit source]

This Wikibook was started in 2007.