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Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 Tips Guide - 13 Things the Game Doesn't Tell You

The latest Microsoft Flight Simulator is out and it’s seemingly more accessible than ever thanks to Xbox Game Pass. As long as you have about 150 GB of free space and a Game Pass subscription, you can hop in now and see what the hubbub has been about over the last decade. That said, this is a simulation and while there are difficulty assists to make things easier on you, there’s still a ton that the game doesn’t prepare you for all that well. For that reason, we’ve put together some tips to make your first flight that much smoother.

You Don’t Have to Set a Destination

By default, the game asks you to set a airport of departure and your arrival destination. While you obviously have to do the former, you absolutely don’t have to do the latter.

Say you just want to fly around Seoul, South Korea. Simply put in Incheon Airport as your departure and hit the fly button on the bottom right. Once you take off you’re free to go wherever you’d like!

You Need a Full Keyboard

Even with a basic flight stick or a controller there are simply too many buttons required for you to get by without a keyboard. Unless you have a super advanced setup, you’ll be better served by a combination of a controller and keyboard.

Note: Asobo is planning some changes to the Xbox Series S|X version of the title and you’ll likely be able to get away with just a controller as a result. We’ll update this tip once it’s live.

Play the Tutorial

No, really. The game doesn’t make you play the tutorial, but if you don’t, you’ll be missing out on a lot of information which helps makes flights easier. You may think you understand the basics of flight already like how to steer, where to aim the nose of the plane, how to gain altitude without stalling, etc. But what a lot of beginner sim pilots don’t know is how set the plane’s angle of attack so you don’t have to constantly pull up or push down on the joystick while you’re cruising along.

Asobo is planning a big overhaul of the tutorials once the console version of the game ships. It comes complete with tutorial for general aircraft, different navigation methods, and airliners. We personally recommend checking out the GA aircraft, VFR navigation, and IFR navigation. They’ll help you figure out how to get around.

Assign A Key To Pause

By default, Microsoft Flight Simulator has an Active Pause button. This stops the simulation, but keeps the plane running which can cause some issues when you hit start. Some have used this as a way to build up speed while standing completely still, causing their plane to take off like a rocket. We recommend going into the controls option page and searching for “pause.” Make sure to change the filter to “all” rather than “assigned” so you can see every potential command and not just the ones you have active. Here you should set hotkeys for “set pause on/off.” This is the actual pause button which stops everything in the world completely. No need to worry about your plane doing weird things when you resume.

You Can Download Regions to Save Bandwidth

If you’re plagued by slow Internet speeds, head on over to the options menu. Navigate to general and select manual cache. This will let you select certain regions of the game to download, saving you from having to stream the data while you play.

Be forewarned that some regions take up a lot of space. All of San Francisco, for example, is about ten Gigabytes. If storage space is a concern, the game allows you to specify which areas are downloaded and in what quality. For example, you could download Manhattan in high detail and then decrease the quality as you get further away.

AI Control and Autopilot Are Different

After you’ve taken off, you may find yourself wondering if there’s a button on the dashboard to initiate autopilot. There is one on some of the larger planes but you might not find it on the smaller propeller planes. You’ll just have to do some looking for it! Keep in mind that you need to program the autopilot to do what you want. We go over the various functionality in our autopilot guide.

AI Control is something entirely different. Turning this on is handing the keys to an AI pilot. They’ll do whatever they think is necessary to get you to your destination. That includes controlling the throttle and altitude. It’s particularly useful if you’re learning how to fly for the first time and find yourself in a jam. That said, experienced players will tell you that it’s also flirting with danger. Sometimes the AI pilots aren’t the smartest and can send you into the sides of mountains or crash you into the ocean.

If you want to set and forget things, program your autopilot. I don’t recommend walking away from the sim when the AI is in control.

You Can Skip Preflight Checklists

If you spawn on the runway, you get to skip preflight checklists. The plane is already prepared for takeoff and all you need to do is increase the throttle. When you spawn in a parking spot, however, the plane is cold and dark. Unless you’ve memorized how to work everything onboard, you will likely need to reference the checklist from the drop down menu. Choosing this will tell you exactly what you need to do.

There are a few different options. You can attempt to do everything yourself, finding all of the buttons and nobs you need. Or you can have the sim auto complete certain steps or the entire page. I’m personally fond of evaluation which will tell you exactly where you need to look on the dashboard, moving your camera to where it needs to be.

Set Your Assistance Options Up / Turn Off ATC

Flight Simulator has a ton of options to fine tune your experience. Having issues keeping the plane straight on takeoff? Turn on Take-Off Auto-Rudder. Don’t want to worry about optimizing your plane’s performance depending on your altitude? Turn on Automixture. You can even turn off crash damage and enable visual navigation aids here.

By far the setting I mess with the most is ATC Voices. There is no way to turn ATC off in Flight Simulator. Technically you always have to get proper clearances for takeoff, landing, etc. But what you can do is mute them so all they can do is yell into the void.

Pop Out Windows To Put Them on A Second Monitor

There are a ton of windows when you’re flying. Between tower communications, the radar map, camera settings, and much more, it’s easy to overload your main window with information. Luckily all of those windows can be popped out and dragged onto another screen! Just click the button between the close window and minimize window option.

An even cooler trick? If you hold Right Alt and click on any screens in your cockpit, you can pop those into their own windows too. That way you can use all of your main screen space for sightseeing while keeping an eye on the HUD at the same time!

Fauna Shortcuts

For folks who are more interested in seeing giraffes, elephants, black bears, or any other animals during their flights there’s actually an easy trick to do so. When on the world map, just navigate over to the search bar and type in “Fauna.” A list will pop up complete with a bunch of available options!

You Can Jump Forward In Your Flights

At the top of your screen you can open the Travel To tab which shows your planned flight path. If you really don’t enjoy the cruising stages of a flight, you can very well skip those and travel forward in time. You can even choose whether or not the game jumps forward into simulated time or keeps the current live conditions.

Turn On/Off Assisted Yoke Piloting Assistance

Depending on how much experience you have in flight simulators, you will either want to turn assisted yoke piloting on or off. This is basically steering assistance, making your controls less sensitive. As an incredibly inexperienced player it helped a lot when it came to maintaining an angle of attack for increasing altitude. Without it my movements were too jerky to reliably do so.

That said, if you are experienced yoke assistance is basically equivalent to playing Mario Kart with steering assist on and anyone can tell you that it can severely limit your progress.

You Can Change the Simulation Rate

If real time flight isn’t your thing, we don’t blame you. Short flights are easily doable in one sitting, but what if you want to fly over the Pacific Ocean without jumping ahead. For that you can increase the simulation rate of the game. This essentially speeds up everything that happens in the game, making your flights go by much faster. The default button on keyboard to do this is “R” which you combine with the “+” or “-” buttons to either increase or decrease the sim rate. We recommend downloading SimRate Bandit so you can see what your simulation rate is. The game doesn’t display this information otherwise, leaving you guessing at the current rate.

About the Author

Dillon Skiffington

Dillon is the Senior Game Guides Editor at Fanbyte. He's spent about 2,000 hours playing a bun boy in Final Fantasy XIV and 800 hours maining Warlock in Destiny 2.