Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 Tips Guide – 12 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.

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 (like me) is how define the plane’s default angle of attack so you don’t have to constantly pull up or push down on the joystick while you’re cruising along.

To be absolutely clear, if you’re having an issue with not being able to let go of your joystick without the plane doing something it shouldn’t be, you need to adjust your Pitch Trim.

Hit PAUSE To Enter Screenshot Mode

This honestly should have dawned on me earlier, but you can pause the game in more ways than just hitting escape and opening up the menus. If you hit “Pause” the game will stop completely aside from your propeller rotating. You can then do whatever you’d like. Try different camera angles to get a good screenshot, look at the environment below, or whatever else you can think of.

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.

There’s AI Control and Autopilot

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! If you want to do a quick test, the default Autopilot On command is ALT + Z. To turn it off use SHIFT + ALT + Z.

If you want someone to help you get out of trouble, or if your plane doesn’t have autopilot, you’ll likely need to flick on AI Control instead. You don’t have to leave this on all of the time though. I’ve started using it as a “please help me” card. When things are going wrong, just flick on that AI Control button and the copilot will get you back on the right course.

You Can Skip The Checklists & Radio Interactions

Again, AI Control also gives you the opportunity to have your copilot handle the pre-flight checklists and all interactions with the control tower. We highly recommend you do so if you aren’t interested in those aspects of the game. It’ll significantly speed up the amount of time it takes for you to get off the ground.

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!

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 success.

You Can Change the Simulation Rate

Note: I haven’t actually gotten this to work yet, but it is in the game.

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.


Dillon Skiffington

Dillon is the Guides Editor at Fanbyte. He can't seem to quit games as a service or looter shooters — unfortunate news for his backlog, really. Can't get enough game art, soundtracks, or space games.