When I was a young boy my dream was to become a Pilot, but getting my first Computer (Commodore VIC-20) when I was 14, I started getting interesting in developing software, so I became a software developer in stead. Anyhow my interest in aircraft's never died, so Flight Simulation always been one of my passions. All the way through MS FS1 to FSX I was very keen on flying (especial the era from Flight Simulator 95 to FSX). In these years I spend a lot of time combining my developing skills and passion for Flight-Sim by developing various addons/tools, joining a Virtual Airline, repainting planes, and I did some minor Scenery-tweaks before making a complete Scenery from scratch for Prestwick Airport (EGPK) in Scotland, which was my home-plate at that time. One of my fellow "colleagues" (Alex Rodger) at the Virtual Airline (living near Prestwick) was allowed access to the Airport (and had a great day there) and later supplied me with some photos which allowed me to make my virtual representation "look like the original" - bear in mind we are back in the year 2000, so tools and visual effects in MSFS was a scare resource. I even got a nice mail from the manager at Prestwick Airport congratulating me with the job done, as he had seen my work, since his son was using my scenery in MSFS. The image next to this text is an old screen-shut of my scenery, which is very simple compared to the UK2000 scenery of Prestwick (as seen in the banner above).
For a series of years other things became more important and I thought my flying days were over (so I trashed my original FSX version along with all the plug-ins I had bought). So when I got the urge to fly again I had to start all over. The original FSX version is long gone (no one are selling original/new CDs), but today FSX is available via Steam (FSX:SE). Generally I like steam-apps but for Flight Sim it was "a problem" as many plug-ins/add-ons are not Steam aware (FSX:SE don't install into the same folder as FSX). So in stead I went for Lockheed Martin Prepar3d (P3D), which is a "further development of FSX" (as Lockheed Martin acquired the license from Microsoft to do so). Like FSX when it was released in 2006, the first 3 versions of P3D was 32 bit, which limited the amount of memory usable by the program to less than 4GB. However in 2017 P3D v4 finally became a 64 bit application, which meant memory was no longer the issue.
When flying I always want it to be "as realistic as possible" (within the limitations that I am not sitting in an actual flight deck with all panels, knobs/buttons and controls). So the planes bundled with the sim never gets my attension since they all have to simple flight-model along with systems/avionics not being simulated far enough. Looking at a scenery (Airport) it is easy to jump into a single engine prop and buzz around the airport while looking at the scenery, but otherwise I prefer flying big jets (mostly Boeing 737, 747, 767, 777). I truly love the work done by PMDG as their planes are superbly modelled on the real aircraft's (both how they are modelled in 3D, but more importantly: their flight-model and the systems being modelled). I have had a few other payware planes than the one from PMDG (Boeing 737, 747, 777), but most of these have not been on my computer for long. Except my PMDG/Boeing the only other planes I've like been the A2A C182 and Majestic Q400 (still waiting for the latter in a P3Dv4 version).
While P3D was still in 32 bit (until May 2017) I did not spend a lot of money on scenery, as additional HD scenery eats up memory, and in 32 bit we had less than 4 GB available. However with the release of a 64 bit simulator, memory was no longer an issue, so after its release I have expanded me scenery collection. I like very much the scenery from UK2000 (have their Prestwick, Heathrow and Mancheseter). Prestwick will always have a special place in my heart, as it is my old home-plate (I have flown hundreds of flights in- and out of this airport) and I have spend many hours looking at photos from Prestwick while making a Prestwick airport for FS2002/2004. The scenery that is available today from UK can not in any way or form be compared to my old version of Prestwick, and the UK2000 version truly looks amazingly, so I can only recommend UK2000 Prestwick Xtreme.
Beside a few UK2000 sceneries (EGPK, EGLL, EGCC) I've also got a few from Vidan Design (EKBI, EKRN, EKSB), JustSim (ELLX, LOWI) and Drzewiecki Design (EENT, EPGD, EPKT, EPRZ, EPLB and UUEE). I have quite a few more sceneries on my whish-list, so I am sure more will be added slowly. Beside the sceneries for single airpots, I highly recomends the packages from ORBX: -FTX, -Vector and -openLC Europe/North America which basically adds/corrects/offer more detailed landscape with: improved landscape/textures for coastal-lines, rivers, lakes, roads, railways, power lines and so on. It looks amazingly compared to the plain-vanilla, and if you fly VFR it helps you navigate when you can see familiar landscape-features. I also use Rex 4 Texture Direct, which brings improved sky-textures and more (e.g. visual appearance of: clouds, horizon, weather conditions, runways, taxiways, water, grass, and so on). Going for realism (as I am) the visual part is only eye-candy, but it improves your immersion into the sim. However there are many other tools a simmer might need. Here below I've listed most of the software/tools I use (beside what I have already mentioned):
- Active Sky 16 for P3dv4: Real Weather, that you need to take into account when planning/flying your routes.
- NaviGraph: Charts and FMS Data (updating both Flight-Planners and Aircraft FMCs on a monthly schedule).
- GSX: Ground Services at the airports (e.g. fuel-, cargo- and catering-trucks, and push-back service).
- Ultimate Traffic Live: AI Traffic at the airports and in the sky.
- Pro Atc/X: Air Traffic Control
- FS2Crew: Virtual First-Officer on the Flight deck, who take his/her role while flying.
- PFPX/TOPCAT: Flight-/Fuel-planner with Performance calculation.
- RAAS (Runway Awareness and Advisory System): Gives you audible information regarding run-/taxi-ways.
- TrackIR: When you turn the head in real life, it turns in the sim as well (6DOF).
- Voice Attack: Turn spoken commands into key presses (e.g. "Flaps 10", "Gears down", "Landing Lights").
My relation to Peter Dowson (via my work for the FSUIPC SDK) resulted in me becoming a member of Radar Contact beta-team. I did not bring a lot of knowledge of real-world ATC, and nor am I a real-life pilot (all my piloting skills come from "simming"), but I did know a thing or two about working with FSUIPC and developing software. I ended up recording my voice both as a Pilot and Controller, so if you are still using Radar Contact 4 there is a chance you hear my (Danish) Accent from time to time :-) John Dekker started the work on Radar Contract 5 (RC5) which was going to improve on RC4 in many ways (e.g. better support for Sids/Starts), but changes in his personal life resulted in him shifting his focus towards his personal life and family, so RC5 was finally shelved. For a long time I thought about developing a ATC-tool myself (have outlined a lot of features, and dome some initial investigation), but in the end I picked up Pro Atc/X which is what I am using for the time being.
In some ways I "miss" being part of a Virtual Airline (VA), as it among other things gives you "inspiration" to which flights to fly. However I don't miss the "stress" that you have to put aside other real-life task because you "have to" fly some flights, or some flights requires you so fly specific planes you don't want to fly. Likewise I cannot see myself sitting in front of the computer for +8 hours to fly a long flight in real time (I have done this years ago, but don't want to any more). I like the PMDG Boing 737 or the Majestic Q400 as they are perfect for shorter flights. However for the Boeing 777 and 747 PMDG made a smart system where the sim will accelrate to a factor x4, however it will automatic reduce the accelration when needed (e.g. during a turn). This will allow you to still fly "long" flights in the 777/747 without having to spend +8 hours doing so (however most VA's requires you fly in real-time). I've tried a few programs which will dynamically suggest flights to fly, but there is (for my taste) too much micro-management beside what I need/want.