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  1. Behind the Screen : Year in Review 2023 Optimism, loads of optimism. After the late release of X-Plane 12 in 2022, compiling the last Year in Review 2022, I was in an optimistic frame of mind, the worst had to be behind us after all. At that point X-Plane 12 had finished it's beta run and had gone final 16th December 2022, just clear up the few issues and by Easter we should have a very stable Simulation tool to do our flying in. I was ready for a better year and so was everyone else... then it all just as quickly fell apart. Laminar Research Within days of the New Year with a new release in v12.01r1 it was not a great start to the New Year, in hindsight, there was even a mention of it in the November Q&A, as Laminar wanted more framerate, a better smoother none dropping frames Simulator. But what we got was massive "Vulcan device loss errors", odder clouds and the high winds which were also more nastier than ever, lighting was now even darker and harder to use as well. It all felt like very backwards jump... a mess really, and costly in my case with the immediate requirement of a new graphics card. It didn't end there. GRIB Files that X-Plane 12 uses for the Simulator for downloading live global weather went wonky, .dds files also started to fail. Admittedly a lot of these spot fires were quickly fixed, but the GRIB took a few days as they were on a American national holiday weekend. So for the first time on a few occasions in the year, my X-Plane Simulator was actually non-working for a few days, the .dds files and the GRIB blackouts (yes there was two blackouts, with another later in the year) causing most of the damage. Laminar's focus however was somewhere else. It was called Zink. With the change to the Vulkan/Metal API, a lot of the original OpenGL plugins didn't work. So Zink was installed to convert (or to be a bridge) between the old OpenGL and newer Vulkan/Metal API's. I don't use Zink, mainly because I don't have a big library of plugins, but a lot of computers also needed the fix as the AMD users out there got a lot of flickering and CTD (Crash to Desktop). It was not a very good start to the year, and X-Plane 12 thoughout the next few months was a not a bundle of fun either. First relief came in 12.04b1, late in February. That release fixed a lot of the New Year problems. At the end of March 2023 came v12.05b1, and Laminar finally delivered the update for their A330-300 . Here finally it included in this release was the custom MCDU for the aircraft, which was due on the original release of XP12. v12.06/7 in Mid-August did live up thankfully to it's game-changer forecast. It fixed the weather (not completely, but far better) and came with Cirrus high level clouds and now none of those hideous pyramid shape clouds, the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford class in X-Plane now had a full complement of static aircraft, cranes, tugs and more, on deck and below in the huge deck hangar. ATC also got a huge makeover. There was another big advancement update in v12.08, this release covered Landing Gear Physics, and made aircraft easier and more realistic to land (takeoff as well). An annoying X-Plane anomaly for years was finally fixed and the flight model got improvements to the way that X-Plane simulates engine performance, projector warping/blending was also totally revised, as was networking and the “totally out of VRAM” crashes. Biggest announcement with v12.08 was that X-Plane was having an increased price of from the 1st of November 2023 to US$79.95, from US$59.95, the first in a decade, and that a new X-Plane version numbering system would be coming (after v12.08) to v12.1.0, adding in an extra digit for more frequent updates. That aspect will certainly change the way we resolve issues quicker in 2024. X-PlaneReviews started an annual new roundup review in September called "State of the Union", this was to fully detail the changes of X-Plane 12 from it's public release date, and there is a lot here to browse on the fully detailed on the X-Plane 12 changes to that yearly date. In reality 2023 ended far, far better than it started for Laminar Research. There was some magic hidden in X-Plane 12.08 that made the Simulator smoother, easier to use... finally the tool was maturing. But with X-Plane 12 already a whole year late, then another year in limbo, the Simulator per se had taken many many hits. This aspect shows below, delaying projects and keeping developers away to consume MSFS 2020, the impacts on the Simulation landscape was all to see. But X-Plane did actually and finally get there, the Simulator feeling now more better and cleaner than ever before, being more benign and thankfully usable. I have had the best six weeks flying for a long time, the relief is in my relaxed view of 2024. It might even tempt those still on X-Plane 11 to come on over? Microsoft Flight Simulator 2022 First is "Why is this here in an X-Plane site?". Because it is a reference between the Simulators, and the gap between them grew immensely wide over the year 2023. February kicked off with World Update XII New Zealand, In April Oceania, June France and Texas, July Central Eastern Europe, August Western Europe, November Nordics and Greenland, the Caribbean, and the last of the year is European Cities 1. Development updates were on average two, to three a month. Added aircraft included Antonov An-225 Mriya, Model 307 Stratoliner, Aero Vodochody Ae-45, MU-2, Dornier Do X, Saab B 17A and the Carenado 207... At the FlightSimExpo in Houston, Laminar Research was there, well sort of with just the PR Guy and Phillipp Ringlar in attendance, and they were competing with Asobo Studios/Microsoft, who arrived to announce the next installment or version of MSFS, called "Flight Simulator 2024". Austin Meyer or head developer Ben Supnic were also notably absent, as Asobo read off a load of X-Plane features including helicopters, SARS, water and fire particles, oil rig scenery and landing pad, crop dusting, wildfires and even animated skydivers... on top of that they also threw in a Ford 4-AT Trimotor for good measure. But it is the sheer gargantuan absolute volume of releases coming out on to the MS platform in 2023 that was simply gobsmacking, every person and their dog is doing something to cash in on the goldmine, but oddly they are not only mostly middle-regional scenery and odd flier classic aircraft, at really low prices. The worry as a layman with a normal income, was how could you simply buy all this? even picking the low hanging fruit, it would have a serious impact on your bank-balance... it is a marketplace that is currently creating more questions than it answers? as hundreds of brand new developers are getting in the game, they all can't survive. Trend of the year In most areas over 2023 it was divided significantly into two categories. New products of which there were few, and the main market which was the transition market of products created for X-Plane 11 being reimagined for X-Plane 12, most were upgrades (pay), but a few were also updates (free). These products dominated the year, and currently most of the quality transitioning product is now mostly all transferred to the X-Plane 12 platform. As noted last year, as a lot of product became obsolete, a majority of X-Plane 10 aircraft and even scenery that crossed over to X-Plane 11 now finally succumbed to their fate, so the results are a much more smaller scale of aircraft and scenery available for X-Plane 12, that said these products in X-Plane 12 are of a much higher quality and have far better detail than their earlier counterparts, but your hangers are certainly more than empty than a few years ago. Aircraft As major releases go, then 2023 was very, very quiet. In fact only two major releases covered the whole year, the biggest and best was the X-Crafts Family E-Jets in May. Four different variants (with the Exec still coming) it was a great vision into the X-Plane 12 dream of extreme quality and features, the ERJ Series is also coming from X-Crafts in 2024, another one to look forward to with the same high quality standards. ToLiSS was extremely busy in 2023, not only releasing an Airbus A320-271N NEO in March, but also introducing not only a new menu interface, ground vehicles, ice clearing features, many, many more circuit breakers, but then spreading the good word over each of the other ToLiSS Airbus products to the same standard. Their flag bearing certainly climbed higher in the year, consistent with brilliant features and products, they are at the top of their game at the moment. Supercritical Simulations Group (SSG) merged into Flight Procedures Simulation, and released their own version of the E-Jet. Unlike the X-Crafts, this E-195 was not totally new, but a very highly redevelopment of the earlier SSG Embraer E-Jet, it was very good, and at a much more lower price, so it was in reality an E-Jet year if you loved these regional hub-spoke busters. In reality, that was all that was new in airliners this year. For X-Plane 11 aircraft, that was transitioned to X-Plane 12 it was a bit of a feast. Early Colimata did another excellent update to the Concorde FXB v3, and the SSG Boeing 748 had loads of incremental upgrades all year. The most notable was the Rotate MD-11 with several updates and the revised Rotate MD-88 Pro was also very welcome in May. The Felis Boeing 747-200, also had many an update right throughout the year, and some quite considerable, it is a complicated Simulation but highly rewarding. The DeltaWing Simulations CRJ 1000/900/700 was always having numerous updates, and the series came to a far more better quality Simulation, as a first ever developer release it was commendable, but there is still far more refining required to be truly great. INISimulations did hold up their promise to update the A300-600, who would have thought, not a spectacular X-Plane 12 revise, but at least users were happy to see the aircraft actually available. IXEG also finally updated the Boeing 733 to XP12, and it came with a new cabin as well for your US$15, still a great Simulation, if not one of the best. FlyJSim had a very quiet year, but at the end the Boeing 732 and 727 upgrades still didn't make it into X-Plane 12, both are to be worthy additions to the Simulator, expect early 24 . FlightFactor were also nowhere to be seen in 2023. The Boeing 777 v2 was previewed a few times and a rough cut was shown at the Expo, but the promised release again never happened in Q4, but now a noted certainty for a public beta in March 2024, the still in development FF Boeing 787 Dreamliner also had a few sneak previews as well, but don't expect anything there until late 24. Notable in another release for 2024 is an ATR 72, in fact two with one noted from Deltawing, the regional prop is well overdue for the X-Plane Simulator. General Aviation Generally the trend was the same with General Aviation, a few new aircraft, but the majority were transitioning aircraft from X-Plane 11 to Twelve. Aerobask started of the the year with the Diamond DA-42 NG, to follow up their Katana DA20 late in 2022, also the Epic Victory G1000, Lancair Legacy RG and the Epic E1000 G1000 Edition all had revisions to X-Plane 12. If you like your Diamonds, the SimSolutions upgraded the DA20-C1 Eclipse and DA40NG. COWS also announced a DA-42, later to be also ported to the MSFS platform, this was August, and yet to see the light of day (a lot of promises). At the end of the year Aerobask also released the Shark UL, a genuine release for X-Plane 12, it was excellent with the custom Skyview Touch Avionics. There was the cute Van's RV-8 /8A Duo by AOA Simulations, but most of the year in GA belonged to Thranda Design. They started off early with a brand new (XP12 only) Cessna 377F Skymaster, then another new design BN-2A Islander XP12 in June. Then they upgraded in succession the Daher Kodiak 100, then weeks later the 172M Skyhawk to XP12. In October it was the turn of the XP12 upgrade of the classic DH-2 Beaver. There was also another Cessna 337G pressurised version from Skytouch of which I really liked. AirfoilLabs upgraded both the KingAir 350, and the 172SP, and later the 172SP with an Analog cockpit (again just lately). vFlyteAir only upgraded their Piper Twin Comanche PA30 to X-Plane 12, and again nothing new in 23 from these premier GA developers. Considering their backlog catalogue, JustFlight had a quiet year, the upgrades only covered the Robin DR400, and Piper PA-28-181 Archer TX/LX to X-Plane12, there seems to be a waning interest to continue to support X-Plane from this English developer. NhAdrian did the excellent cheeky Rand Robinson KR-2S, and X-Hangar updated a lot of their aircraft, mostly from as early as X-Plane 10, and finally we wrapped up the GA segement in 23 with an upgrade to the Aerostar 601P from Avio71, and a nice way to see in Christmas. Classic Aircraft Since dividing into three separate variants the DC-3. vSkylabs updated the C-47 Skytrain and the DC-3 Airliner significantly, though the analog and glass instrument versions moved them even further apart. Late in the year Khamsin and Skunkcrafts updated the P-51 Mustang to X-Plane 12. Business Aircraft This category was very quiet this year with nothing new released. Aerobask surprisingly didn't release the much vaunted Falcon 6X, it was expected, even now well overdue for release, so we will move on again to 2024 for that one. The winner of the 2020 best Bizjet the Citation C-560XL by AirSim3D was upgraded to X-Plane 12 with the serious results, really it was the only significant release of the year. The AKD Studio GulfStream 550, had almost monthly updates throughout the year, and yes the detail and quality are now showing, but it still needs that something extra to give the aircraft the polish it needs, I liked flying it though. Military This Military segment was quite busy this year. Highlight was of course the release of Colimata's supreme F-104 Starfighter, only released for X-Plane 12 later in the year, certainly a landmark release for all the right reasons. Another oddity was the He-162 Project from Vskylabs 'Test-Pilot' series. The rest were transition aircraft from X-Plane 11. MLADG revamped three aircraft for XP12 in the MiG15, Aero 29 Delfin and the Messerschmitt bf109. AoA (Angle of Attack) had three revision aircraft released, the excellent T6A Texan II, the F22 Raptor and a completely revamped T-7A Red Hawk for X-Plane 12, all great value, AoA are also releasing a V22 Tilt-rotor for 2024! There was FACO's F-15 package, and the Grumman F7F Tigercat was converted to X-Plane 12 by Virtavia. Helicopters After a few very productive years it was a quiet one with no helicopter releases in 2023 for Cowansim, he went to MSFS with his aircraft conversions, and there was no announcements if any more X-Plane 12 aircraft will be released or converted in the future. Back in full flight though was the master himself... Dreamfoil Creations, with the transition of his Schweizer S300CBi to X-Plane 12. It was a brilliant comeback, and all the rest of the Dreamfoil fleet in the AS350, B407 are all following in succession in 2024. Talking of 407's, then on the brink of Christmas Eve, JRX released their excellent Bell 407 for both X-Plane 12 and 11. Excellent also was the Eurocopter EC130 B4 for X-Plane 12 by HSF. This modern machine came with loads of options including a Medivac version, HSF also released the Alouette III as a freeware, and it is well worth the download. vSkyLabs released the Hungarocopter HC-02 in October, and it was an interesting mite of a machine. The X-Trident CH47D Chinook had a quiet update to X-Plane 12 in June. There was a few of oddities this year 23 in machines. One was the Gerry Anderson inspired Vskylab Skyscenders 76, three very different orbital bodies to master, a lot of fun as well. VSkyLabs also released the boatlike ICON A5 as well. NHAdrian produced two very different concepts in the AirCar Project, and yes it is a real flying car... the highlight though was the amazing LLTV - Lunar Landing Training Vehicle, an amazing concept to try, and fly like a Lunar Lander. Scenery I have already mentioned the colossal amount of scenery being released for MSFS 2020. It is simply mind-boggling and even overwhelming... overall even a bit silly. How much of this scenery can you actually use? Yes X-Plane scenery will never be on par with Microsoft's Flight Sim, but at least what we have released is actually usable. Sadly the cross-platform (except for a very few) pollinations between the Simulators has not emerged either, but let us see what 2024 delivers before saying the last rites. The biggest scenery story of the year was AutoOrtho or streaming ortho imagery. Some bright spark wants to recreate the Microsoft ortho steaming system in X-Plane. To a point it is very successful, but a fast internet connection and a powerful computer is required. The trick is downloading the tiles as you need them, not storing the tiles on your computer, but I'm not a fan of flat photo images, or jerky simulations. To add on top, another success this year has been SIM HEAVENS X-World scenery Series. Now far better coordinated and comes with better realism, it does start to deliver the sort of visual requirements X-Plane desperately needs. But ultimately they are both clunky additions to the simulator, requiring a lot of wasted power to work. But the enthusiasts swear by them. In the Laminar Q&A. Austin Meyer finally acknowledged that after a year or even years of consistent griping. That X-Plane does need a newer and better scenery system, and that Laminar are now evaluating ideas and theories to up the visual content. More highly (data) dense tiles are coming short term, but a complete new system to replace the DSF limitations is also finally on the white board. You would say X-Plane 13 for this, but I don't think that Laminar have that a long wait time in three years to meditate around the problem... one story to follow in 2024. There was a few gateway dumps, one in the first quarter, then another later in the year, and both were comprehensive. Suddenly we had Golf Courses everywhere, and then shipping became more realistic, but overall the promised ports and even more autogen buildings failed to materialise in 2023. They noted to be part of v12.1.0. Again like everything this year there was many conversions to X-Plane 12 from X-Plane 11, but still even quite a few good sceneries were released. Like mentioned there wasn't a lot, but the few we had were very good and highly usable. X-Codr was very, very busy. He updated his mammoth KDEN with everything you could name, it was complex but a serious statement of what X-Plane can deliver, even moving escalators and people. More importantly it was the sheer quality of the buildings that stood out. Other smaller sceneries from X-Codr also stood out, KMMH-Mammoth Yosemite, KSEZ-Sedona, Grand Canyon West - 1G4, KTEX-Telluride were all excellent. Maps2XPlane (via Aerosoft) delivered not only an (XP12) update to their sensational Faroe Islands XP, but added the even more extravagant remote Svalbard XP in July (a personal favorite). Frank Dainese and Fabio Bellini spent the year updating their earlier sceneries over to X-Plane 12, we started off with the Alps UHD package at the start of the year, Dolomites in March, Banff National Park UHD in August and finally Everest Park-Nepal 3D in late November. We left 2022 with the Taimodels EGLL-Heathrow, and we had some great experiences with Taimodel's scenery in that year, and in 2023 they didn't disappoint either. It started rather slow with KSMF-Sacramento, then VHHH-Chep Lok in Hong Kong followed in April. Another smaller scale airport with Newport News / Williamsburg, with then another biggie with Oslo Gardermoen Airport in August. Closer to home turf we had YBCS - Cairns International Airport in Australia in November. A pretty impressive output, all great value. Cami De Bellis was back after a health break to update her particular style of scenery. All projects got the X-Plane 12 treatment with both first La Tontouta Noumea and Dolpa Nepal in June, quickly followed a few weeks later by Kathmandu Tribhuvan Intl and Paro Intl Airport, Butan. New from Cami however was the excellent FHSH - St Helena Airport, the place in the South Atlantic were Napoleon ended up. HSimulators converted his FlightSim pole landscapes to X-Plane 12, with both the Grand Arctic Scenery and lower Antarctica Mega Scenery XP12 adding landmass to the X-Plane Simulator. NorthernSky Studios heavily upgraded PAJN-Juneau International and PAEN-Kenai Municipal Airport, and added in the new PAWG - Wrangell Airport, all in Alaska. His focus is now on both XP and FS Simulators, this showed in the lower release output for the year. As he broadens the mix, ShortFinals Design only up dated the magnificent EDDM-Munich to full X-Plane 12, but there are a lot of projects coming in 2024 from ShortFinal, including a completely new revolutionary bigger scale autogen system. There was two new releases from Aerosoft with Airport Marseille XP (Brilliant) and Menorca XP (not so brilliant), and Dortmund XP12 was upgraded later in the year. Sadly considering the considerable amount of Aerosoft scenery for X-Plane, very little, if any are being updated to X-Plane 12? If 2024 doesn't deliver, we could be seeing a lot quality Aerosoft scenery being abandoned in the future. Orbx did deliver a brilliant YBBN Brisbane and an addon Brisbane city scenery very early in the year... but nothing else. Other standouts included the KJAX-Jacksonville International by FS Designs, Montauk Airport by Skytitude, and two airports I used a lot in 2023 with ESGG - Göteborg Landvetter Airport by Chudoba Designs and the great effort of KPHL - Philadelphia International Airport by StarSim. So what's the summary of 2023 for scenery? Again the numbers are far better than what you expected, and a far lot of it is seriously quality scenery. X-Plane 11 turnover to X-Plane 12 is say just above the average, I expected more, so again 2024 is going to interesting to watch. Plugins I will state upfront that I am not a huge plugin connoisseur, so I only run what I call essential plugins in my simulator, running the VRAM profiler (Menu/Developer) can give you the horrors of how much these little monstrous tools can gobble up your framerate and their overall efficiency, I take out as many of these laggards as possible. Again there were a a lot of tools to adjust your skies, but the best was VisualXP Extreme, it is well worth the money. The biggest noise of the year was the new Skunkcrafts Standalone Updater Client v3.0. Moved from your plugins folder to your desktop, it was an excellent highly fast new tool. There was the Scenery Enhancement tool X-Oil Rigs Vol 1, Vol 2, and X-OilShips Vol 1, that filled up the oceans, and it gave a little more activity to your water views. Navigraph was again the king of the tools, now they added in Weather Layers to Charts 8, plus later also added Flight Telemetry, ATIS, OFP. The companion SimBrief also had a major layout overhaul, and was present directly now in a lot of the most advanced aircraft simulations. WebFMC Pro, WorldTraffic 3 and Traffic Global all had updates throughout the year. But I found major conflicts with the JustFlight tool in 2023, with time and replays that went past annoying and creating desktop crashes. X-PlaneReviews X-PlaneReviews as a site in August passed the decade busting 10th Anniversary of providing quality and detailed reviews for the X-Plane Simulator. Yes we have been here for ten and half years and in this year 2023 have delivered even more consistent reviews than any year before. The team has grown as well... besides the dynamic Dominic Smith, who also contributes immensely to the X-Plane.Org Weekly Roundups and Developer Interviews, is a major contributor in X-PlaneReviews as well, plus the extra talented reviewers of Alan Ashforth (alpeggio), Peter Allnutt, Dennis Powell, Nick Garlick, Stéphane Tolédo-Paul (Tieman68), David York (datadave), Stuart McGregor (Scottish Wings), DrishalMAC2, Michael Hayward and Joshua Moore, all genuine talented and contributors to not only X-PlaneReviews, but to X-Plane in general. Passing a major Anniversary always makes you look back, but also forward. Certainly we have met our goals in providing invaluable information and details on the X-Plane Simulator. Again this review site cannot function without all the great and exciting work by the tireless developers that give us all this exciting and incredible product to fly and use, as they and X-Plane has come a long way and created leaps in quality and complexity in the last few years, certainly in the jump to X-Plane 12, and to a point I was very proud of the work they have produced, it is world class if not the very best in simulation product ever produced, and they are all top notch and very clever. To the X-Plane.OrgStore who supports this site with review products, service and updates, a really big thanks to Nicolas Taureau, as this site just also would not function without that outstanding support. _________________________ We will finish off with the X-PlaneReviews famous best of the year awards… So I will now list my Best of the Year 2023🏅 (note the awards are given to only products I have seen and tested and so the only ones I can vouch for) Overall Best of the Year : E-Jets Family Series by X-Crafts 🏅 🏅🏅 Best Aircraft : E-Jets Family Series by X-Crafts.🏅 A look into the future of X-Plane 12 quality and design, it jumped off the screen at you in the incredible detail. Honorable Mention : Any ToLiSS aircraft, just delivers on any level. Best General Aviation Aircraft : Aerobask Diamond DA-42 NG Aerobask were very consistent with quality aircraft and interiors, almost every release was perfection, but the DA-42 NG just nudged above Honorable Mentions : All Thranda Design output was excellent with clever ideas, but lately they have become incessantly dark, externally and internally. Best Classic Aircraft : A tie here, Felis Boeing 747-200 and Colimata Concorde FXB v3 Both the B742 and Concorde FXB are not new, but seriously improved over the year with X-Plane 12, both seriously complex as well. Honorable Mention : P-51 Mustang from Khamsin and Skunkworks, glad to see new fresh blood in the water. Best Business Aircraft : Cessna Citation 560XL XP12 by AirSim3d We said it would be great in X-Plane 12, and it is, but the category overall was below par this year. Aerobask Falcon 6X anyone. Best Military : F-104 Starfighter by Colimata 🏅 Insanely clever and insane to fly, it is X-Plane at it's Skunkworks best. Honorable Mention : AoA T-7A Red Hawk, certainly the most improved of the year. Best Helicopter : Eurocopter EC130 B4 by HSF 🏅 The talented Frenchmen made a big impact on Helicopters this year with the EC130, and with the freeware Alouette III Honorable Mentions : Dreamfoil Creations, with the XP12 transition of his Schweizer S300CBi, the master was back! Best Landscape Scenery : Svalbard XP by Aerosoft Maps2XPlane🏅 Sublime and distant, all the Svalbard Islands were covered in detailed landscapes, just make sure to see them in the Summer. Honorable Mention : Dainese and Bellini condensed all their packages to make better products, brilliant in X-Plane 12, but nothing new on the shelves. Best Airport Scenery : KDEN - Denver International by X-Codr 🏅🏅 Not a new scenery, but KDEN was a totally revamped project that had everything, it was spellbinding in detail and clever animations. Honorable Mention : Taimodels delivered the most and detailed sceneries consistently, filling in areas that have been wanting for years. Best Plugin(s) : Skunkcrafts Standalone Updater Client 🏅 A plugin... it was, but still the biggest standout tool of the year, it's so fast! Special Mention(s) : Navigraph for their excellent navigation tools, and seriously clever new additions. Person(s) of the Year : ToLiSS The developer that just consistently delivers outstanding authentic ideas and systems, yes my vote goes to person that saves me days by reviving crashed or loading aircraft back to life perfectly, with the SAVE feature Best Moment of the year 2023 : Nothing really stood out, but the first viewing of X-Crafts E-Jet was mind-blowing. Worst Moment(s) of the Year 2023 : Not the worst, but the most embarrassing moment was the Asobo Studios/Microsoft reeling off the new features for FS 2024, they were almost gloating. Personally, when my Graphic Card expired because of an overloading X-Plane 12 vulkan device error, it was expensive to replace. Biggest distractions of 2023 : ... It was very dark in there.... pitchblack! Biggest overall feeling of 2023 : Tough hard year, but the outlook towards 2024 felt far better towards the end of 2023, X-Plane 12 was finally starting to shine, but it took a long time to get there. Personal Favorites of 2023 : Any ToLiSS (the save system allows ultimate flexibility) and they got the most hourly flying time, Q4XP (Dash) brilliant, Rotate MD-80 still awesome, MD-11 bigger awesome, Thranda C206G, IXEG 737 Classic returned with a cabin. Routes... Copenhagen, Copenhagen and Copenhagen, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Edinburgh, Vienna, Brussels, Barcelona, Roma, Helsinki, Oslo, Munich, Tel Aviv, London Heathrow and Dulles and Sydney. Notable is that with the newer scenery, Brisbane, Amsterdam finally came on-line in 2023. That is X-PlaneReviews for 2023, and we will be back after a very much needed recovery and the review site returns again early into the New Year on the 3rd January 2024. So Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year 2024 Stephen Dutton 23rd December 2023 Copyright:X-PlaneReviews 2023 (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions)
  2. Behind the Screen : Year in Review 2020 Even coming into the year 2020, you knew it was going to be confronting, and certainly the year did not let anyone down in that regard. But from a simulation aspect it was the introduction of the Microsoft Simulator in a completely different form and this time from game developers Asobo Studio's that was the major significant impact of the year, released on time August 18, 2020 it certainly got everyone's attention. You can argue about the new simulator's ramifications for years, but one thing was for sure was that the MSFS release was certainly not the exaggerated death-knell for X-Plane and the Laminar Research simulator, in quite a contrast it brought a lot of perspective into our coveted world, and a genuine needed perspective, of course those FlighSim devotees didn't see it that way, until they were faced with reality and then they were confronted with far more than the X-Plane context. In an odd interpretation, the X-Plane simulator had an extremely good year, not it's very best as the COVID 19 and MSFS effects certainly affected the simulator, but it was still highly productive and had some major advancements, so it wasn't all that bad in the current circumstances. Laminar Research For Laminar Research it was a particularly quiet year, more so without the exposure of the San Diego Simulation Expo which was Covid cancelled, at least that thankfully allowed Laminar not to be constantly bombarded about the coming MSFS and the "What are you going to do about MSFS" questions", in fact Laminar in Austin Meyer only appeared once in a podcast in June, in only noting a few ideas, but was still very relaxed about the mega new flightsim sitting on his doorstep. No Q&A chat from Laminar later in the year was also unusual, but expected after the messy drunken videocast of 2019 and of course the still rampant Virus in the States, the expected X-Plane12 announcement on America's Thanksgiving (almost a given event in the past), was also non-grata either. One other item to note was that Laminar also created a forum to post ideas of what you wanted in a forthcoming X-Plane release, this was an especially interesting development, because Laminar in the past rarely ever asked it's devotes what the time of the day it was, never mind what they "Actually" wanted in the X-Plane simulator... the forum could be seen in two ways, short of ideas (I doubt that), or just to confirm that what they were doing in development was this time what the hoards actually wanted. 2020 was really just about one Laminar Research X-Plane release, v11.50 or the Vulkan/Metal API update. It was a long, lengthy, and up and down release, that even in it's final incarnation in mid-September was still not a complete final solution, mostly because the Vulkan/Metal internal changes still require more development, including multi-core and multi-threading processing. But it is in it's new elements now installed of what now is left of the olde world X-Plane that will bring in the true change in the future for the simulator of the power in the Vulkan/Metal API. But there was the significant new v11.50 benefits, smoother running, higher object count, better shaders and the option to run the long forgotten reflection feature were all great steps forward, but the development process did take a very long time and at the end was even then four months overdue, this affecting the future of X-Plane in also deferring X-Plane12's longer time in development. Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 We have to address the impact of the return of "Flight Simulator" in it's new 2020 incarnation on X-Plane or overall in simulation as a whole. The problem was the huge hype surrounding the release, but earlier reports even under a strict NDA or Non-Disclosure Agreement it was noted as incomplete and was also dialed in firmly into a deadline release date. From X-PlaneReviews and note the "X-Plane" in our title is the fact that any response to the MSFS release would come across as in a "our simulator is far better than your simulator" context, or just plain resentments. One thing I am proud of is that I have never been a black or white person, but could always see the grey in the middle or that everything has two sides of every story. I was lucky I also had a few days off when the MSFS release actually happened August 18, 2020, and spent time to understand the ramifications, and I came back to do a though research and analysis of the changes, the result was I think one of the very best descriptions of current simulation and it's future in that X-PlaneReviews have ever done, I am immensely proud of that article "X-Plane and the future in the new world order" and believe the analysis is certainly correct, certainly even now looking back five months hence. But overall the results also shocked me in what could happen in the future of simulation in the context of the MSFS release. There will always be multiple platforms in simulation, but the current four will be quickly reduced to two in MSFS and X-Plane, more so was the surprise that how similar unlike before the main current popular platforms now are actually almost a mirror in design and features, more important is that product for either can be easily ported to either simulator unlike the wide gulf there was before in the FSX/P3D to X-Plane chasm, in fact most of the large (scenery) product that has already been ported to MSFS is already mostly the X-Plane versions. The truth when finally seen was that currently MSFS is really only a game, and I called it "Hollow", not out of spite but out of fact. MSFS is immensely pretty visually, but hollow in the fact that as a simulation you have in reality no aircraft of any depth of which you can currently fly in, so if you want to fly a really quality aircraft with a huge depth of systems on multiple operating systems then X-Plane currently is the only platform to do so. Yes in depth simulation will come to MSFS, but I currently see years of development before it can reach the intimate detail of X-Plane and if ever in aerodynamics and it's in-built system depth, this aspect simply can't be done overnight, as so it has been developed in X-Plane over decades. Another point is simply the quality of X-Plane developers, most on the MSFS release put their hands up and swore on oath that they had no desire to swap platforms. For the current MSFS developers they are sitting in a waiting game, some note it could take twelve months (PMDG) before releasing product worthy to fly, Aerosoft have been reduced to show images of empty content aircraft to keep the punters interested, it will be a long twelve months. For X-Plane we are in our own waiting game. That is for the release of X-Plane12, and no matter which way you want to position the release, it will always be Laminar Research's response to Microsoft's Flight Simulator 2020. Does it matter for it to be viewed in that context, certainly it does, if for the platform's survival, not that the simulator would die overnight, but would certainly start a long slow decline... strong words, maybe, so for once Laminar cannot be their usual laid-back selves, it is in a very different context this time than within the FSX/P3D era, but the details are also quite clear on what has to be delivered in X-Plane12 to compete with MSFS, surely they in Laminar couldn't mess this one up? Aircraft Overall it was a quieter year for the release in aircraft for X-Plane in 2020. v11.50 (Vulkan/Metal kept most updates or releases in limbo, so what was supposed to be released never happened in the usual Q3/Q4 quarters. The big developers were also overall very quiet anyway with FlightFactor, Rotate, FlyJSIm even SSG was quiet except for a few updates to their now exceptional Boeing 748 v2.0, the first was really the updated release of the aircraft in early January, the second update later in the year added in the exceptional cargo version, and the final act of a full passenger cabin has now also been shown. ToLiSS was really the only new release with X-Craft's ERJ Family that were the only notable releases in aircraft in the whole of 2020. The ToLiSS A321 built up on the reputation of the excellent earlier A319, before Christmas 2020 we got an early Christmas present of an NEO engine upgrade for the same aircraft. For X-Craft's the ERJ 135/140 series Family was a huge step up in quality than their earlier E-Jet 170 and 190 LR aircraft, but still had the default instruments and custom FMC, but you got a lot of variants for your money. FlightFactor did update their Airbus A350, but not to a full and complete expected v2.0, but it did finally have an excellent working MCDU, and some nice updates, not perfect but certainly far better, as noted the v2 of the A350 and expected total redesign of the Boeing 777 series never materialised, but FlightFactor did announce a coming Boeing 787 Dreamliner with the works. Again the promised MD-11 from Rotate was not released either, and information was scant, ditto FlyJSim and their coming Q4XP (Dash Q400). iniBuilds Released a A300-600R(F) with now both a passenger and cargo versions, "Expensive" it needed a mortgage to buy, it is indeed however very good, but X-PlaneReviews will never know as any review version(s) was simply "verboten" and what we can't analyse, then we can't recommend or include in our yearly lists, sadly.... Both Magknight and Colimata continued their long development time lines with the Boeing 787-9 and Concorde, both had a load of significant updates throughout the year and can be both safely said to becoming (finally) quality simulations, but the MagKnight B789 is still weighed down by it's basics in instruments and FMC, both a requirement at this level, the Concorde is forever on my list for a decent review, but I felt it just was not developed enough to warrant one, but with the latest update to finally fill in the engineers station, may finally get it past the post. IXEG did also do some very nice updates to the venerable Boeing 733 Classic, and was more visible throughout the year, still an amazing simulation, and that pretty well summed up airliners in 2020. General Aviation The biggest influence on the General Aviation market was the separation between Thranda (Dan Klaue) and Carenado in the middle of 2019, but the changes didn't come into effect until the start of 2020. Problem is Thranda is Carenado in X-Plane and the effects were all to see once that aspect was removed, and you felt the reverberations all throughout of 2020, there was only a few updates and G1000 conversions (SR22 GTSX Turbo) and for the few aircraft that was released they felt buggy and feeling old fashioned, the brand is not the scaling premier development house it once was, could Carenado withdraw from X-Plane? that is now not an impossible thought, but what about all those updates, 38+ at the last count. But the reality is Carenado feels old and tired and maybe Thranda got tired of fighting into wanting to make the brand more modern and relevant... I can see only MSFS calling. With the Carenado shackles released Thranda went full throttle on finally working on their own aircraft, with just only JustFlight as a partner. The results were the two masterpieces of the year in the Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter with an added in extra "Adventure Pack" released later, second was another paragon in the DHC-2 Beaver, and it was easily the best release of the year in quality and features. In the same theme of bush aircraft VflyteAir took over the development of the departing MilViz aircraft of the DHC-3T Turbo Otter, otherwise VflyteAir was also in 2020 unusually quiet after the bonanza of 2019. JustFlight only added in one GA in the year and even then it was another PA-28, this time in an Archer TX/LX with another G1000 avionic conversion. Aerobask did two releases, and again both were, yes you guessed it, both G1000 avionics, one was a prop in the Lancair Legacy RG and the other in a jet with the Epic Victory, again the high quality shone with amazing detail, but the big expected release of the year still didn't happen with their still coming Dassault Aviation Falcon 8X. The AirFoilLab's Kingair 350i had a few and even one major updates in the year, but it is an aircraft that is hard to warm to, even with it's huge feature list, the new plugin is still quite not getting the X-Plane feel right and the flying performance feels lackluster and even arcade in feel. Digital Replica's VAN's RV-10 was the only real GA revelation of the year, a small but high quality machine that was nice to chuck about the sky, Nimbus brought us (finally) a BN-2 Islander, first the aircraft on release was far too underdeveloped, but constant updates did get the aircraft back on track, but still not perfect by the end of the year. The inclusion of the "Shortest scheduled flight" scenery from Westary to Papa Westary was certainly a bonus feature, and TorqueSim also released a BN-2 not reviewed here. Military Like helicopters military aircraft are not high volume releases, but we had a few interesting ones this year, highlight just had to be JustFlight's complex and totally overwhelming Avro Vulcan B Mk.2, K.2 and MRR, and the warbird Lockheed P-38L Lightning from Flying Iron Simulation's was also very well done, the T-7A Red Hawk v1.1 by AOA Simulation's was an really interesting aircraft, and nice to fly as well. In the classic category the DC-3/C47 from VSkyLabs Flying Lab Project went to v3.0 with finally a cargo cabin, but it was a strange mix of modern and old, and a loss of that DC3 vintage feel that oddly changed the focus of the aircraft away from why you wanted it to be in the first place, i.e. a vintage classic airliner... Helicopters The vertical flight machines were kept to just three in 2020 and the two from VSkyLabs, were both lightweight machines in the Dynali H3 and Robinson R44. The only decent aircraft was the excellent SA 341B and SA 342J Gazelle by JRXDesign. We were finding the helicopters becoming quite outdated through the year, with mostly in being of Dreamfoil MIA, but at the end of the year he did update the Bell 407 to Vulkan standard, X-Trident were also very quiet, but their Chinook CH-47F is looking finished and in beta testing, certainly now ready for an early 2021 release. In decent freeware, the the Zibo B748 was quite quiet considering the barrage of updates in the past few years, the Ultimate Boeing 737-900 and other variants went discontinued, but was picked up by LevelUp 737, and promised (the word here is "promised") five variants in the -900, -900ER, -600, -700 and -800 (which is the zibo) version. The default Laminar Boeing 747-400 got picked up for the same Zibo treatment by "Sparky", and is now adding in some custom features on top of the basic vanilla B744, but it is early days yet. Like most, aircraft activity was pretty low in 2020, but there are a few gems in there. Scenery Overall scenery in X-Plane passed a threshold this year, and not in the huge number now of built in Global Airports (14,451 at last count). Finally we could fly from one quality scenery to another and not step out of that quality realm, in quality scenery it is has been a great few years... that said it was annoying that MSFS scenery developers released so much content for the new simulator in the last few months, the same content created for X-Plane would have certainly helped in making the simulator more attractive to new fliers, and certainly the city packs that we desperately needed, maybe a cross flow with X-Plane12 may eventually change that. I had a huge list of required scenery for X-Plane as long as twelve years ago, but these last few years is that many in the list that was finally being ticked off. We kicked off the year with a nice update from SFD with their excellent KSLC-Salt Lake City and SFD also updated his KLAX later in August (an EDDM update is noted as coming in the New Year), KATL-Atlanta (nimbus) and KDEN-Denver by X-Codr Designs both had a very good updates, and EBBR Brussels by JustSim also got a sensational upgrade. LFSB - EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg also by JustSim was completely mindblowing with their night textures. In February we kicked with with probably the biggest scenery project in X-Plane, maybe the biggest ever for the simulator, Frank Dainese and Fabio Bellini released five, yes l to V Dolomite sceneries that all interconnected (except the Benta Dolomites, but that was still situated close by), the scale is simply enormous, and it is a very significant area to explore. Not content with that they still had time to again visit South America and the Torres del Paine National Park, but also released the excellent K2-Karakorum scenery... my god it was all so much mountainous area to cover in one year. Seychelles XP by Maps2XPlane was another wide area scenery, that captured in the Indian Ocean feel (but not quite as good as their Faroe Islands winner last year), in the same area we had three African airports HKJK - Nairobi Airport by FSDG, FALE - Durban XP by FSDG and another African airport in the northwest in Casablanca XP by FSDG, and all three are worthy destinations, and also welcome was VNKT - Kathmandu Tribhuvan Intl Airport by Cami De Bellis which was another exotic scenery released. I was extremely excited for the release of EKCH-Copenhagen XP by FlyTampa, and it certainly didn't disappoint, the dynamics were absolutely jaw-dropping in it's metal and glass detail, then the added on Copenhagen vista and THAT bridge was also excellent. FlyTampa also released KLAS - LasVegas later in the year and again in doing a great sceneraio of the bright lights of that Nevada city.... but FlyTampa noted that for now that was that for their X-Plane sceneries as their focus was now all on MSFS, I cried... a lot on that announcement. Also was the (very heavy) CYVR - Vancouver International Airport by GloballArt, brilliantly done, but hard on your frame rate as GloballArt sceneries are, and there was a nice KTPA Tampa International Airport by VerticalSim, another airport that filled out a big hole in Florida. Then came a real feature rich scenery with even a working airshow from Rising Dawn Studio's in KRAL-Riverside Municipal, it took years to compile and detail, it was a really great scenery, that was only let down by X-Plane's very poor surrounding default textures (why are the LA basin textures so bad?), but I still love using it, if only for the flying birds. LXGB - Gibraltar International Airport by Skyline Simulations was well done but let down by the average mountain side textures (I was in the middle of doing brilliant Dainese and Bellini sceneries as a comparison) but the rest of Gibraltar was in detail very good including the extreme short landing challenges. Two sceneries by Gaya Simulations are noteable but not reviewed on this site, EGPH Edinburgh Airport, and LOWW Vienna International Airport are not cheap, but are excellent sceneries. Two sceneries in CZST Stewart and CYBD Bella Coola created originally by Beti-x were acquired by the X-Plane.Org, CZST-Stewart was updated to current standards and both are still highly realistic and not at all dated, still both are very worthy additions to any scenery folder. There was a significant drop in scenery releases after the MSFS release for a few months, then in November there was a load of really great scenery flowing again... YPPH Perth International by renamed Axonos, was simply sensational and ticked off a huge hole in my network, then came another with EFHK - Helsinki Vantaa International by JustSim, another huge hole filled, and then recently a surprise superb scenery of EGGP Liverpool John Lennon Airport by DigitalDesign, a very good quality effort that deserves attention... A side note for a freeware release from MisterX6/SFD, with a payware quality was RJCH Hakodate Airport for nothing, everyone downloaded it. With a large amount of scenery holes filled in, I certainly felt that noted difference within the simulator, I was now living in a completely object based quality world within a quality scenery to fly between, there will always be another hole to fill... that is a given, but I was very content with my lot this year, a point is you don't have to have a low-res simulator full of Global airports, as when even for a slight investment you can live in another more higher detailed and realistic world. In the scenery aspect then 2021 will be interesting in if the more bigger development houses abandon X-Plane (remember we are not profitable to them) or we double up the same scenery with MSFS. Plugins I will state upfront that I am not a huge plugin connoisseur, so I only run what I call essential plugins in my simulator, running the new VRAM profiler (Menu/Developer) can give you the horrors of how much these little monstrous tools can gobble up your framerate and overall efficiency, I took to taking out as many of these laggards as possible. If your favorite plugin is not included in this list, then there are a huge amount of choices, some very clever, but most a replica of each other. Most will note FlywithLua as indispensable, but I found it just intruded into the aircraft systems too much (crashes), but then again that is part of what FlywithLua is for, messing around where it shouldn't be, so FWL is not represented here. A side note of a wrist slap in that "please leave the shaders alone" They are not to be messed with, then complain your simulator doesn't work anymore. The most interesting and most expensive was JustFlight's release of Traffic Global in 2020, a traffic (aircraft) simulation filler. It is very good, but buggy at release and twice the price of the outstanding favorite WorldTraffic 3. But Global Traffic did have two huge advantages over WT3, for one it didn't need a refresh every time you started up the simulator, and two it's framerate footprint was or is extremely low, and in laying out traffic in airports without set layouts it is excellent, but I do hate the steep takeoff and landing angles and the very fast taxiing speeds, in reality WT3 is far better overall (and far cheaper) but not as the better background tool, stutters are still a major problem, and so is the slow setup is another, but framerate has been refined. JustFlight also released AirHauler2 for X-Plane, but time constraints didn't allow me to test it out or review the application because of it's complexity, I'll try again in a quieter time. XPRealistic Pro v2.0 by rk Apps for Realism effects (shakes and sounds) was back, but this time in new code and not using the FlywithLua as a host. I had to abandon this plugin because of it's association with FWL, but thankfully it is back and very welcome, as it does add in a very dynamic effect to your flying. Another essential tool is the WebFMC Pro, a remote FMC that uses browsers for input, plugin was updated twice in the year in adding in more aircraft and even the default Laminar FMC, dual FMCs are also now available. A clever plugin very similar to the WebFMC system was SkyScout, a web based EFIS - PFD/MFD/EICAS by XPlane Aviator, it was very clever and a very interesting tool, certainly for training, but I found the release version a little too complex and buggy, but interesting. SimBrief is of course still a valuable tool as is the Navigraph subscription, but I had a lot of issues with the Simlink app after Vulkan was released, stutters and disconnection is now very common, it needs an update. BetterPushBack had a few updates, as did AviTab, SAM added to Seasons, with WorldJetways (brings Global Airports to life), Global Trees, Airport Vehicles (payware) and Follow Me car (Payware) and everything is now controlled via the SAM2 Suite, an invaluable tool that is a requirement if you use payware airports. ApSoft Airplane Toolbox was updated to calculate either the Takeoff or Landing Performance of many aircraft, as is SimToolkitPro that brings a lot of different aspects of flying under one single tool, there is a basic freeware and Pro version, but the April 2020 update was huge in new features. XPUIPC the equivalent to FSUIPC for FSX/P3D, is for creating internal datarefs has also had a few updates and only really for the nerds. xEnviro was basically sidelined all year, first with a poor heavy application in v1.13, that I returned (again) to the only viable version in 1.07, but once I had to run Vulkan, even in beta form then xEnviro became persona non grata. Very late after again another personal event and eleven tedious months of development the application came out in v1.14 form, but still only for OpenGL, and then the announcement was "Vulkan! next", seriously, I felt like just going "awwh what, so why bother"... A brilliant concept ruined continuously by bad management and no updating, expensive and not reliable, then Dark Space is just simply becoming a lot of empty space. The odd plugin of the year was librain(rain) by skiselkov. Vulkan rendered it non-viable, but was it fixed? or what has happened to this valuable tool... an odd business. In hardware, Thrustmaster TCA Officer Pack Airbus Edition brought a credible Airbus feel without the price to your desktop, for what you get it is good value, but Covid19 made stock scarce. To sum up 2020 it was most aircraft delayed by an API release with only a few notable releases, then Covid19. With scenery in releases it was huge early in the year then collapsed after MSFS release, then recovered again at the end of the year, MSFS went global mid-year and then just whimpered along. _________________________ 2020 marked the anniversary of X-PlaneReviews 7th year in producing content for the X-Plane simulator, and it was another year even a third larger in content than the year before and X-PlaneReviews passed the 1800 milestone of published reviews and 300 posts coming in this last year alone, and that shows the sheer amount of quality add-ons that was again added to the simulator. In September we did a site refresh and added in some animated banners, you have to find the balance between not ruining a clean interface with creating a more modern look and feel, and I think we achieved that aspect. Again this review site cannot function without all the great and exciting work by the tireless developers that give us all this exciting and incredible product to fly and use, as they and X-Plane has come a long way and created leaps in quality in the last few years, and to a point I was very proud of the work they produced, it is world class if not the very best in simulation product, and they are all top notch and very clever. To the X-Plane.OrgStore who supports this site with review products, service and updates, a really big thanks, this site just would just not function without that outstanding support. To our reviewers this year in Casa and from Jude, they have both added in a different dimension to the site, and we are always looking for reviewers to show off their skills and devotion to the X-Plane simulation platform. In a tropical storm you get a lot of turbulence from the howling winds of force, then suddenly in the central eye it gets super quiet and you can even see the stars in the calm sky, but you know that soon those huge forces of the the outer swirl will return with their destructive force. To a point that it is like that right now in X-Plane, we have had a huge disruptive year in 2020, and not only in simulation but all over the world, the fallout from all that energy will be as bad as the actual event itself. For simulation it is the Microsoft Flight Simulator that has been the biggest disrupter of all, but sitting here in the middle of the eye, then 2021 will bring back those destructive forces of change, so enjoy it while you can. In 2021 Laminar Research will present their response to MSFS in the form of X-Plane12, when is a release coming is very good question? as we have already passed one thanksgiving announcement milestone, Easter, maybe, or even at the FlightSimExpo 2021 currently scheduled for early June, that event is my guess currently, unless cancelled (again)... but we should have a beta version running earlier. To a point the June Expo is going to be an interesting event not-withstanding, Asobo will certainly want to dominate the show, so Laminar has to be expected to have something to counter the onslaught. More short term then the start of 2021 should be very exciting in Q1 and Q2. There are a load of aircraft currently reaching their beta states and almost ready for release. The biggest events will be from JustFlight with two products, A Vickers VC10 and a very exciting Bae 146, Dassault Aviation Falcon 8X, Chinook CH-47F, FlyJSim Q4XP (Dash Q400) and even at a long bet the Rotate MD11, all quality aircraft and most overdue for release. _________________________ We will finish off with X-PlaneReviews famous best of the year awards… So I will now list my Best of the Year 2020🏅 (note the awards are given to only products I have seen and tested and I can only vouch for) Best Aircraft : Airbus A321 NEO by ToLiSS 🏅 Certainly the best flying Airbus in X-Plane and now in NEO form, and all from a master Airbus systems craftsman. Honorable Mention : INIDesigns A300-600R(F), debatable if it was the best of the year, but we will give it a mention of the quality of a first release. Best General Aviation Aircraft : Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter by Thranda Design 🏅 Simply a huge feature set, and clever tools in creating your own instrument layouts and liveries, extra "Adventure Pack" brought Floats and Skydivers! Honorable Mentions : Both Aerobask's Lancair Legacy RG and Epic Victory in both have huge detail quality and instrument features Overall a really dismal year for such an competitive category, but TorqueSim did also produce a nice SR22 and SR20 Best Classic Aircraft : DHC-2 Beaver - DGS Series v1.1 by Thranda Design 🏅 Actually a no brainer, probably the best overall aircraft released in X-Plane in 2020, again it comes with the same clever tools in creating your own instrument layouts and liveries, and a float option thrown in as well... awesome machine! Honorable Mention : Lockheed P-38L Lightning by Flying Iron Simulations, Flying Iron do these warbirds very well, and this was another stunner. Best Business Aircraft : Vacant Award Zero, nothing in particular, the Carenado Cessna 208 Grand Caravan EX XP11 was executive by nature, but a bit to lackluster for an award. Best Military : Avro Vulcan B Mk.2, K.2 and MRR by JustFlight 🏅 Easy choice, but complex and hard to fly... but highly rewarding Best Helicopter : SA 341B and SA 342J Gazelle by JRXDesign 🏅 There was the only one notable releases for Helicopters in 2020 and that was the SA 341B and SA 342J Gazelle by JRXDesign, as the only releases other were from vSkyLabs, and both were very light (and on features) helicopters. No review was done at the time of the Gazelle because it required an update (coming in August), but I did fly the machine(s) and so it can be nominated here. Best Landscape Scenery : Dolomite Series l to V by Frank Dainese and Fabio Bellini mountain group 🏅 Just a huge landscape of a significant Italian Mountain area, you can explore the valleys for months and not cover it all Honorable Mention : K2-Karakorum scenery, again by Dainese and Bellini, another extraordinary area to explore Best Airport Scenery : EKCH-Copenhagen XP by FlyTampa 🏅 We award on the technical as well as the overall vista, and the metal and glass detail in FlyTampa's EKCH is extraordinary, and of course THAT bridge, and all done very well here Honorable Mention : KLAS-LasVegas was also very good, with the Las Vegas vista lighting up the desert Special Mentions : For all the ballyhoo, there was still some outstanding new entrants in scenery, Axonos... YPPH Perth International was a brilliant debut scenery, and FSDG widened out the world with some great exotic airports Worst of the year : KOAK-Oakland International by Departure Designs, was just plain awful, a bit too much ambition and no talent. Best Plugin(s) : Stairport's SAM2 🏅 Clever ideas and great tools, the whole concept was this year now gathered together under one application. Special Mention(s) : Traffic Global, XPRealistic, WebFMC Pro and Navigraph Charts All noted applications were highly used throughout the year and in Navigraph Charts/SimBrief both are simply invaluable tools for route creation. Person(s) of the Year : Ben Supnic, Chris Serio and Tyler Young 🏅 We do forget what brings the simulator to our computers, worse this year was the shear complexity of porting the new API's to X-Plane, it was a long and drawn out project, and fraught with considerable obstacles. So you didn't hear much of any of them in 2020, but quietly the coders at Laminar are changing the face of the simulator into a new era product, now they are faced with the monumental challenge of creating X-Plane12. Best Moment of the year 2020 : First run of Vulkan, sliders went up and so did the framerate... winner, winner chicken dinner Worst Moment of the Year 2020 : FlyTampa telling me they are not going to do any more scenery for X-Plane for the foreseeable future Biggest distractions of 2020 : ... Covid19, oh and the still never ending constant updating! Personal Favorites of 2020 : Updated IXEG B737 Classic (my favorite aircraft overall this year), ToLiSS A321 NEO (Brilliant), FlightFactor Airbus Ultimate (Yes it is now the ultimate simulation), SSG B748F (SSG finally got there), Bonanza F33A (Even better in XP11)... notable was the X-Trident AB412 Helio, it was a godsend this year for all the mountain scenery reviews : Routes... Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Barcelona, Roma, Helsinki, Munich, Malta, Perth, Atlanta and Denver That is X-PlaneReviews for 2020, and we will be back after a very much needed recovery and the review site returns again early into the New Year on the 6th January 2021. So Merry Christmas, a Happy (virus free) New Year 2021 Stephen Dutton 22nd December 2020 Copyright:X-PlaneReviews 2020 (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions)
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