How close is MSFS 2020 to the real thing?

I think it’s great for that. Probably not for the raw core of flying, but everything that goes on around it - what the dials mean, how the autopilot works, how ADF/DME/VOR work, how to start up would probably save a lot of instructor time.

OP, need more context. Why do you ask this question ? Are you a potential real pilot, or just asking generally.

If you are thinking of buying you can still ‘rent’ it, through XBoxPass (?). This doesn’t give you everything, but gives you easily enough to see what it is like without splashing out.


The best way to use it is for scenery gazing and, if an airplane is modelled correctly, it can be used as a procedure trainer (learning check lists and flows… Procedures for normal and emergency ops).

And that’s what simulators are used for commercially (in real life): for procedure training, especially emergency procedures.

All the rest is hard to simulate correctly, as there are so many factors / variables that can’t be simulated correctly (control forces, butt feeling aka motion, noises, peripheral vision & lighting etc.)

The most realistic simulation is probably possible with high quality airliners, because in those, pilots basically manage systems and do little hand flying.

In its current state, MSFS is purely a game.

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For me, every time I go up in MSFS, I get shocked at how real it looks compared to where I fly. And, for the planes I fly, it’s not really all that different from when I fly. In the sim I fly the Mooney, Seminole, Bonanza, C152 (pretty much spot on to real life with the mod), C172 (again, really good), and I’ve been flying the P149 a lot lately. In real life I fly Warriors lately, and I owned a 180 Cherokee (Challenger) for a long time. In fact, I’m in the market for a plane now.

I see all these posts about planes floating down runways and whatever, but, for me, it pretty much matches flying for me. No floating, just the right amount of glide as when I land, with the cockpit set up properly, the same view. Stalling the C152 modded matches pretty well with my experience stalling, and I have almost 100 hours in C152’s. Not a ton, but enough to know generally.

The only nigglers are the rudder response is really bad in a couple of ways. Cross-wind landings don’t really match, it’s much smoother in real life, it can get out of hand quickly in real life, but, with practice it gets smoother. And takeoffs in the YMF5, there’s no way it’s that squirrely that suddenly at 40 knots the plane just wants to ground loop on takeoff. Flying tends to get much more progressively bad. It might ground loop on you, but, if you’re paying attention, you’ll watch it go bad over an eternity in your mind. But, if you’re not paying attention, like, you let your attention wander to that car on the tarmac as you’re taxiing, things can happen that fast. Back to the YMF, there’s no way there’s this sudden set of forces at 40 knots. You’d feel the change occur progressively. So, there’s something wrong in that regard. I don’t know if it’s an issue with the flight dynamics of the plane or the winds on the ground in MSFS. Maybe both, plus probably a bit of really bad rudder dynamics in the sim in general.

And of course there’s the lack of force on the joystick which means a lot in controlling a plane. And the lack of forces on your butt as you’re making a turn. But, that’s the compromise you make with simming. I still love it.

Be that as it may, I recently put these comparisons together for an airport I just released that I fly to a lot. KCON. So, yeah, when I take off in the sim, I get shocked at the view out the window, “■■■■■■■, That’s nearly just what I see when I take off out of Manchester or Concord or Nashua” etc, etc… The lighting on the trees and view out the window, it might as well be real. Heck, that’s one of the main reasons I fly is that view and the ability to explore and go in any direction I want :slight_smile:

Make sure you make those pictures big for the detail… They’re 4K with just a little jpeg compression.


Hi there, I am just asking in general.

As I said, I don’t know (and couldn’t care less) about how close it is to real world flying. I’ve sat in the co-pilot’s seat a few times in Cessnas, Beechcraft King Airs, (even a de Havilland Twin Otter commuter out of JFK in the late 60s) and can attest that my Herman-Miller Aeron chair doesn’t come close to the seat-of-the-pants experience I remember from those flights.

I’ve solved how to get the FBW A320neo airborne and pointed in the right direction and that’s enough “flying” for me. I don’t start “cold and dark” because I fail to see what that adds to my experience–done it, but spawning on the runway cuts to the chase and gets me airborne way more quickly.

I’ve always been a “maps-guy” since childhood, so the puzzle of “where in the world am I?” brings the fun. I don’t know how real it is compared to what real pilots do, but based on my navigation experiences, it should be close. I subscribe to Navigraph so I have the latest and greatest procedures and defined SIDs and STARs.

And, I agree, airline pilots don’t do a lot of hand flying in the big rigs. Just watch some YouTube videos and you’ll see that they do a few minutes at takeoff and sometimes upon arrival. Most of their time is spent monitoring their computers…

Congrats. That reminded me of a short article I’ve written (well an article on some other articles to be exact) a while ago:

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i wonder, do you have the sim yourself? if not you can easily tryout for just one dollar/euro
for one month , with the xbox pass on pc.

Hi, Yes I have the sim…I was just wondering how close the aerodynamics and fundamentals were to the real world of flying.

So, to reiterate, yes, it can be very similar to flying in the real world. Realize there’s a lot of people here who have no idea what they’re talking about. And many others who do.

In some ways, flying in the real world is a lot easier than in the sim because you can feel what’s going on.

But, in other ways, flight sim can make you lazy, because, if you “get behind” the airplane, it’s no big deal. You can basically pull over to the side of the road and you’re ok. No such luck in the air.

I recently started flying again after a 19 year layoff. Having the sim was invaluable for practicing everything associated with flying. And MSFS really motivated me to get back up there. I’d been wanting to forever (I never wanted to stop), but, being in MSFS forced that switch.

The thing about hand flying for real at the GA level is there are a lot of tasks that need to be done simultaneously, and you can’t skip any. And you need to be prepared for each step ahead of time. So practice is very important. And for me, the GNS530 mod was invaluable practice for me as when I last flew, back then there basically was no GPS, so it was a whole new system for me to learn. And, like anything, it’s hard to know what you don’t know, so it’s hard to practice without knowing what to practice, so, there was some of that as well.

For instance, I’ve been using an EFB for years and years on my tablet, but, until I really got back into flying, I didn’t realize what I really needed to know about using it. But, having it available to use for in MSFS has been a godsend, once I knew what I needed to know.

I’m currently using Avare for Android. I’ll probably upgrade to Foreflight (iPad only) eventually, especially if I get into IFR flying again. I wrote up some directions on how to hook up Avare with MSFS here.


I think it does well. It does better than anything else out there with turbulence. For example as you fly over mountains. Also due to the far better visuals i dont find spatial awarness such a problem in GA aircraft as I used to in P3D for example in terms of height above the ground as you land.

Some of the flight modelling is a bit iffy for example the amount of weathervaning you can seem to get in very light winds but with a few tweaks and some polish it will be the best home sim expereince you can get by far.

Graphically FS2020 has pleasantly surprised me. I’ve been a Private Pilot for 16 years now with around 1500hrs in my logbook, mainly on single engine props.

In terms of flight model I don’t find it at all realistic at the moment. You’d get better flight dynamics from a paper plane - at least they obey the laws of physics unlike the models in this sim.

Hopefully they’ll fix it at some point but right now they seem more concerned about the eye candy than the correct simulation of the included aircraft.


Captain Moore


It still has a way to go, but it’s definitely leaps ahead of FSX and P3D, and very comparable with X-Plane, DCS, and other lower profile sims out there.

How close something is to the real thing also depends on your peripherals and settup. A Logitech joystick isn’t going to give you the same level of realism as a full home cockpit would. And even the best home cockpits wont feel exactly like the real thing.

At the end of the day, full realism is never going to be achievable, not even for professional industry simulators. But that shouldn’t really be what matters either, as long as you get a similar experience and you’re having a good time with it, that’s the main point


Where did you get that cool 152 interior? I’ve only found an all black one, not with the wood panel.


If you spend your time flying within the ‘normal’ flight envelope and concentrate on the proper procedures MSFS can be considered very close in most aspects. As has been mentioned above, the control forces and ‘feel’ do not exist and so many will say that the aircraft are far to sensitive. It is merely the lack of effort required to fly that makes it seem so.

That brings me to my second point. If you attempt to fly knife edge thru Manhatten or trace the F1 track in Monte Carlo while inverted, I suggest that you will find reality takes a trip to the back of the bus. While it would be possible to do those things in real life, the 100’s of hours practicing it at altitude before ever attempting the real stunt are superceded by the 12 year old with an XBox controller using an external view to make it easier to follow the road.

REAL flying in MSFS is what you make it. If a task seems difficult, don’t adjust controller sensitivities to make it easier. Just keep practicing it until it is easier. Many maneuvers in a real aircraft are difficult to master. Not having any inertial feedback or resistance to control inputs would make those tasks much harder to master.

Many of the maneuvers and techniques that I mastered over the years, flying complex, high performance aircraft into places they were never intended to go are predicated on feelings in the hands, feet and butt. I can tell you that threading a Twin Otter into a mountain bush strip that a dozer finished creating only moments before turning final, will get your heartrate up. MSFS cannot duplicate the sweaty palms, the tightness in the stomach or the euphoric release as taxi speed is established mere feet from the pile of logs at the end of the runway.

Many of those strips are actually findable in MSFS though and I always marvel that I can find them just by following the same logging road I did 30 years ago.

How close to the real thing? Close enough that I keep booting it up.


The framerates are better in real life :slight_smile:

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I created it. It’s on - N95508. I’ve got 3 C152 liveries there. More to come eventually. I learned to fly on N95508 and N48270. My favorite C152 livery of the three is N48270.

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Well, except when you’re crashing… time seems to completely stop then and go by verrryyy slowly :wink:

Not that I’ve crashed an airplane in real-life… thinking of the car accidents I’ve been in :slight_smile:

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Well done FlyingsCool5650. Now all you need are the accolades and awards and you’ll be in fat city. :slight_smile:

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What the hell does that mean? The person asked where the paint came from. I answered.