If you’re not familiar with YouTuber 320 Sim Pilot, he’s a real-world Airbus pilot who for the past four months has been making in-depth flight sim videos on a regular, almost daily basis. Most of these have been in the 2016 flight simulator X-Plane 11, but with Microsoft Flight Simulator now out to the public, his past few videos have been focused on how well the game recreates the Airbus A320.
Half review and half guided tour of how flying the Airbus A320 works, his first video in this series is a 26 minute comparison between Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-Plane 11’s respective renditions of this aircraft. The key metric here is, of course, how true-to-life each game’s take is.
So far in Microsoft Flight Simulator, I’ve only toyed around with small propeller planes and have largely stuck to controlling them with my cheap Logitech HOTAS, but Sim Flight 360 shows how granular the game’s controls can get if you want them to. Instead of relying on a controller, he largely tools around with the game’s rendered cockpit controls, moving his plane mostly through the autopilot's knobs and rendered in-cockpit displays rather than through manually adjusting a flight stick.
The result is an impressive showcase of both the real-world steps pilots go through when flying an Airbus, and the depths Microsoft’s team has taken in recreating that process. Aside from a few minor simplifications in what shows up on the in-cockpit displays, 320 Sim Pilot gets about halfway through his video before he encounters any unrealistic control.
This happens when the game reads him turning his heading knob too far to the left as a sign that he wants to go right, which is not how an actual Airbus operates. “The real airplane, as long as you start turning it in the right direction, it will keep following the heading button in that direction,” 320 Sim Pilot explains. "It's quite clever."
He encounters a few more minor issues throughout his flight, but leaves fairly impressed, especially given that this content is free with Microsoft Flight Simulator, whereas he had to pay to add the Airbus A320 to X-Plane 11. “They’ve obviously spent some time sat in the actual aircraft.”
His approval extends to the look of the plane as well, as he starts out his video commending both the in-cockpit graphics and explaining exterior plane features I didn't realize were even in the game.
With that level of detail, then, 320 Sim Pilot's video is also a fun way to shadow a real pilot as he works us through his job. For instance, while I have most of the game's assistance options turned on, 320 Sim Pilot walks us through full takeoff and landing checklists, including plugging his destination into Microsoft Flight Simulator’s rendered in-cockpit computer. I didn’t even realize that you could actually type on those things in this game. I wonder if anyone has bothered to screenshot themselves typing in 80085 yet?
So far, I’ve been proud of myself just for looking up how a Cessna altimeter works so I could more accurately read the one in game, so this process is fascinating to me. It’s probably the closest that I’ll ever get to being inside an actual commercial cockpit mid-flight, and I’m glad Microsoft has put enough detail into Flight Simulator to make this possible.
Since releasing his impressions video, 320 Sim Pilot has since released four more videos, which you can see on his channel, each helping tutorialize how he flies so you can try it out for yourself. While the disclaimer at the start of his videos warn that they are for “home entertainment use only,” they’re a great way to nurture an interest in flying.