How Realistic Is Microsoft Flight Simulator?


In 2020, one of the world’s most well known flight simulators was released to the public. That flight simulator is none other than Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. To this day it is still one of, if not THE most popular flight simulators on the market. But just how realistic is it? If you’ve been wondering this yourself, stay tuned! In today’s article, I’ll go over every aspect of Microsoft Flight Simulator’s realism, as well as my perspective as a pilot in the real world!

Flight Model

Starting off with what, in my opinion, is one of the most important aspects to a flight simulator’s realism, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020’s flight model is overall pretty good! If you want to get really technical about it, the flight model used in Microsoft Flight Simulator is essentially the same as the one used in X-Plane 11, they’re just called different things. Microsoft calls their flight model a ‘Surface Element Model’ while X-Plane calls theirs a ‘Blade Element Model’. There are some subtle differences between the two, but at the core they are practically the same. However this does not mean that the flight models for all the aircraft in Microsoft Flight Simulator are created equal. From most people’s experience, it is pretty obvious the the flight models in most of the GA aircraft are highly realistic while most of the models for large airliners could use some TLC. That’s not to say that the models for larger aircraft in Microsoft Flight Simulator are bad, just that they could be a bit better. With all of that in mind, the level of realism in Microsoft Flight Simulator’s models is generally pretty good.


Piggybacking on the topic of flight models, another aspect of a flight simulator’s realism that I think is very important is the accuracy and realism of an aircrafts avionics. In regards to Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 I, along with many other simulator pilots are quite disappointed. As a whole, the amount of realism put into the avionics is sub par at best. A lot of the switches and panels work and have functions, but many of them do not. In a lot of cases only the bare minimum of the avionics and electrical switches were modeled. For me, this is a real mood killer as I enjoy fiddling around with different aircraft to see what everything does. For many people this isn’t much of an issue, but personally I think it could be better.


Something that many people don’t consider when thinking about flight simulators is the weather. If you’re looking for a highly realistic flight simulator, making sure it has a good weather system is a must. Heck, half of being a pilot is knowing how the atmosphere you’re flying in works and how to fly in different types of weather! Why not consider this when you’re on a simulated flight as well? In regards to the weather system in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, it’s actually quite good! One thing I think is really sweet is the ability to program different weather patterns via local METAR data! X-Plane isn’t even  going to have this until the next major update! One downside to this however is that it is not always accurate to the actually weather happening at a given location. The system as a whole however, is pretty decent! All of my followers know I am a die hard X-Plane fan but I have to admit, Microsoft Flight Simulator 202 beats X-plane when it comes to weather. (for now ;))


Perhaps the most well known aspect of Microsoft Flight Simulator is its insanely realistic terrain maps. Thanks to Bing maps and AI technology, Microsoft Flight Simulator is able to model the entire planet with an astounding amount of accuracy! It’s essentially flying over google earth, just much prettier. The only thing wrong with this is that, well, AI is not perfect by any means. This can and has lead to many strange glitches in Microsoft Flight Simulator’s terrain. One of the most notable instances was a giant void that had suddenly opened up in Brazil after a major patch. This however is very rare and doesn’t take away from the fact that the terrain modeling in this simulator is second to none. For those of you that like to take long flights in your simulator and enjoy the views, Microsoft Flight Simulator is definitely the way to go.

In-Game Graphics:

When it comes to gorgeous graphics, Microsoft Flight Simulator is the reining king. In my opinion, Microsoft Flight Simulator is the best looking flight simulator out there.  Everything about it is pretty, even down to the tiny details. It may not be the most realistic simulator on the market but it sure as hell is the best looking! If you want to take it a step further, you can play the game in VR, which sometimes feels indistinguishable from reality. All of this does however come with a cost. The amount of computing power needed to squeeze all the potential out of Microsoft Flight Simulator is MASSIVE. If you are not running MSFS on an up to date, high performance computer, your graphics are not going to look as good as the advertisements would like you to believe. With all that to say, Microsoft Flight Simulator is an insanely pretty simulator and in many cases, its graphical superiority outweighs its lack of technical realism.


To sum things up, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is a fairly realistic simulator and should not be overlooked. Weather or not MSFS is the right simulator for you is completely dependent on what you want out of a flight simulator. Personally, I favor realism over looks, so naturally I prefer to fly in X-Plane. However for most people, looks are more important in which case Microsoft Flight Sim would be the best option. All in all, the realism in MSFS is not bad. In fact but many standards it’s quite good! I could just be better. And who knows! Maybe as the simulator evolves it will fix some of it’s issues. We will just have to wait and see.




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Camden Crace

Born and raised in Springfield Missouri, Camden Crace is an avid aviation enthusiast, photographer and content creator. Currently working on his pilot certifications to one day work as a medical pilot, Camden enjoys sharing his knowledge and love of aviation with others.

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