As this is quite a long article, I've included some jumping points below for easy navigation - you can just click on them:
Large Civil/Passenger (Jet) Aircraft
The most popular aircraft people download are almost always civil/passenger jet. These are the type of aircraft most people fly on when going on vacation or plane spotting at airports. As there is much demand for this category, this is the largest group on our downloads section with the most downloadable files. There is also a bigger developer base for these types of aircraft. Below are 5 of my favorites.
Vista Liners/Erick Cantu's Boeing 727-200
This add-on was originally created for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004, but has recently been ported to FSX. It was well known in the FS2004 days as quite possibly the best free 727 package available and many of the reviews, comments and ratings reflect that. The port to FSX was made possible by David Grindele who converted certain aspects of the package such as the aircraft.cfg file, the engine smoke and navigation lights to work correctly (and more realistically) in Flight Simulator X.
This file includes some great features including wing views, engine smoke and full compatibility with Shockwave's 3D landing lights enhancement. The file is a whopper at over 600 MB as it includes 153 full liveries with hundreds of airline paint schemes all in one package.
Bombardier Canadair CRJ 200 V2.0 Package by Brian Celb
Another upgraded model for FSX, this package is one of the best CRJ-200 models there is (without paying). The package includes an original CRJ-200 model created by Project Opensky. Project Opensky have now been disolved but they always created stunning freeware base models which were very realistic and packed with great features - this is one of them.
The livery pack includes designs for Air Canada, America West, Delta Connection and Lufthansa in great detail. All of the textures are DXT3 formatted for better detail. This package does not include a custom panel, however it has been built to use the default CRJ-700 panel, which is very similar and serves the purpose well.
Another very cool feature of this pack is the sound files. The sound files were created by Turbine Sound Studios (TSS) who create brilliant payware aircraft sound packs from real recordings. You can view their products over at SimShack.net if you are interested in reading more about them. The pack uses realistic CF34 turbofan sound files created originally by TSS.
UPS Boeing 777-200 Freighter (Jim Walters and POSKY)
If you fancy flying something different (other than passengers) and feel like hauling some cargo around the globe, then this aircraft is for you. With the original model created by Project Opensky, you can be sure of a high quality creation to build a livery upon. Jim Walters has done just that and created this add-on as FSX native - so you can ensure full compatibility.
At over 50MB for the entire package, you can be sure that the textures of the livery are highly detailed. The livery is the new UPS scheme (featuring the "Worldwide Services" artwork on the side of the aircraft). Also included are cargo loading features and a push-back tug truck to get you on to the taxiway. A few simple key combinations launch both - it adds to the realism and makes your simulation experience more enjoyable. Being a POSKY (Project OpenSky) model, some great features are included such as dynamic flexible wings that change depending how much load is on them - i.e. when in flight the wings will flex into a U shape, but when on the ground they will "droop". All of the control surfaces are fully animated including trim, rudder, flaps, slats, spoilers and much more.
iFly Boeing 747-400 Package
Quite possibly the most realistic and fully functional free 747-400 packages is this one from the developers at iFly. If you're a more serious simmer with attention to detail then you won't be disappointed by this one. Featuring a fully functional FMC (Flight Management Computer), TCAS System and Audio/visual TA/RA system - it's the best you're going to get without paying a premium. Sometimes it's hard to believe this one isn't payware and with many strong reviews and ratings, the community seem to love this aircraft.
The picture above does not do this file justice, you have to checkout the download page for all the screenshots and details. This package from iFly includes seven paint schemes: iFly livery, Air France, Northwest, Lufthansa, Air China, China Airlines (Boeing) and Cathay Pacific. Also included are 3D cabin models so you can explore the plane while in flight as if you was a passenger on the aircraft. Clocking in at almost 49MB, it's a large file packing a punch. A virtual 3D cockpit is also included and it's fully function with features such as working switches and displays (yes, in virtual cockpit mode!). Before you buy the PMDG 747, check this one from iFly first.
Eric Buchmann's Concorde
We couldn't complete the passenger/jet aircraft section without mentioning one of the most iconic aircraft of all time - the Concorde! We may all remember when Microsoft included a default Concorde in Flight Simulator 2002 and wondered why they removed it from all future versions. Well, it's back here for FSX in stunning detail. There are a few freeware Concorde packs for FSX, but this is probably the most versatile without buying payware (Flight Sim Labs to a brilliant payware Concorde). Created and adapted from the famous FS France model of FS2004, this model by Eric Buchmann has many features packed inside.
This is one of the most popular add-ons we have in our file library and there are many reasons why. The package comes with 5 paint schemes including Air France, British Airways, American Airlines, United and the famous Pepsi paint scheme. The aircraft model also features engine smoke and afterburner effects for maximum realism. Inside the aircraft there are many perks including a full 3D virtual cockpit and animated nose/visor sections. The exterior has been replicated with great attention to detail featuring many 3D animated parts. While the textures are not breathtaking, they surely won't disappoint. At 41MB, you know you're getting a high quality package.
Some of us prefer to fly something a bit smaller with the same power as the big jumbos of above. Some of us also like to see ourselves as private jet pilots simulating flights carrying famous celebrities or perhaps envisioning yourself jet setting around the globe in your own private jet. Checkout my 5 favorite bizjets below.
Alejandro Lucena's Cessna Citation 500
This Citation 500 created purely for FSX (not backwards compatible) by Alejandro Lucena is one of the best free native models available. In fact, it's one of the most popular private jet aircraft we have in our library. With support for DirectX 10, you can really get some eye candy going on with this add-on. The model was created in Gmax - which enables the developer to give much attention to detail - and that shows for sure.
The flight dynamics of this model (how it flies in the sky) were created by Brett Henderson who actually pilots a real life Citation 500. He was very particular and you can expect very realistic flight dynamics for ultimate realism when flying. Like many of the other "best of" aircraft featured above, this one features fully functional and interactive virtual cockpit (for those who prefer that to a 2D panel system). The aircraft also has many dynamic moving parts and special animations including a front cargo and passenger door. There are a few livery styles chucked in with this file, however none of them are commercial names you may have heard of - in fact they are all default private livery styles - but hey, you're flying a private jet... right?
Alejandro Lucena's Hawker Raytheon
Another from Alejandro Lucena is his Hawker Raytheon package. With slightly less detail than his Citation 500 aircraft, this one is still one to watch (or download!) The Hawker program is one of the longest running private jet production lines and it's most definitely one you've heard of before. This aircraft model was created many years ago, when FSX was in its infancy and developers weren't that familiar with the higher resolution textures and better 3D models. Having said that, this is still a stunning aircraft bursting with features and functionality.
This model features an interesting 3D virtual cockpit with an animated female co-pilot in the cockpit! While the 3D modeling of her isn't that great, it'll add a bit of fun to your flight I'm sure. The external textures of the aircraft are reasonable and there are a few liveries chucked in - again none of which are commercial airlines that you may have heard of. Overall it's a very clean aircraft and a pleasure to fly. The flight dynamics are also quite realistic to it's real life counterpart (so the feedback reveals). Give it a go!
CamSim's Embraer Phenom 300
CamSim create some great freeware aircraft for FSX, FS2004 and I think as far back as FS2002 - but this model of their Embraer Phenom 300 is definitely one to download. While the file size only clocks in at around 8MB, some great features have been packed into this space. The livery design is based around a real-world Phenom 300, "PP-XVJ". PP-XVJ is owned by a private individual and while I've looked online, I can't seem to find the owner. The paint scheme is eye-catching and very pleasing.
The model and livery have all be developed by Camil Valiquette aka CamSim. The real-life aircraft seats six passengers and the virtual version has been created to replicate this. The model features a fully animated cabin compartment with moving passengers. It's great fun to have a play with this cabin while you're cruising with the autopilot on. As well as an animated cabin, the aircraft has been developers to high standards externally too. All of the decals are sharp and modeled well and you even have ground handling services (such as animated passenger steps) at the click of a few buttons.
Danny Garnier's Gulfstream IV
While the original model of this aircraft wasn't created by Danny Garnier, it was actually ported to FSX by him. The original model was created by Rick Sasala for FS2004. In my opinion, this is one of the best freeware Gulfstream IV's for FSX. It's also a popular one in our download library too. This file comes packed with many features you can expect a payware package to have. The actual model has been upgraded many times over the years by various developers and what you're getting is a mash-up of many upgrades and tweaks - all in one easy to install file.
The real life Gulfsteam IV has been about since 1985 and stopped production in 2003. It can seat around 14-19 passengers comfortably so it's on the larger end of the private jets. Many private jet hire companies keep this aircraft in stock and it's also used by many military and government agencies worldwide. The model was created entirely in Gmax. While the 3D modeling can be improved slightly with more attention to detail, its overall design is solid. This Gulfstream has animated parts everywhere you look, including a fully working virtual cockpit, VIP cabin, thrust reversers, animated opening doors and all control surfaces. Also included is a custom 2D panel for those who prefer that - I know I do.
Mitsuya Hamaguchi's HondaJet
I couldn't finish the business jet section without mentioning something more exotic. The HondaJet by Mitsuya Hamaguchi is a Honda HA-420 HondaJet aircraft model just for FSX. The HondaJet is produced in Japan by Honda, which I'm sure you may have heard of because of their cars. They actually manufacture aircraft too (among other things). Its first flight was in 2003 and commercial production began in 2006, making it one of the newest and most modern private jets available. The modeling by Mitsuya has been done to very high detail and you can really notice it when looking at the aircraft externally.
While the file size is not that large, you really wouldn't notice it from looking at the aircraft. In fact, when choosing what to download I'm the type that usually goes on file size - expecting larger to be better... this isn't always the case and this aircraft is a demonstration as to why. While not much documentation comes with the file, it has many features including animated steps up to the aircraft, a female copilot in the cockpit and a fully animated virtual cockpit. The paint scheme is Honda's original factory colors which are white and blue with "Honda" in red painted on the engines. Honda actually manufacture their own engines too for this aircraft, which is very rare as you usually see external manufacturers create the engines for aircraft. You'll enjoy this one...
This is probably one of my favorite sections because I just love general aviation aircraft. I fly in real life too, so I'll select some of my favorites. This category has many developers who enjoy creating these models, however if you're looking for the best payware general aviation aircraft then I highly recommend Carenado - they create stunning payware prop models. Lets show you my top 5...
Craig Richardson's Edgley Optica
A strange one to begin with, as it's a very unusual aircraft. Original designed and created to provide a low-cost alternative to buying a helicopter, the Edgley Optica is British built. Its first flight was in 1979. The design of the aircraft is very strange with a cockpit area that almost looks like a helicopter cabin strapped to a pair of wings. It provided great views while in flight with almost 360 degree visibility. You could also look directly down from the cockpit - just as you can in most helicopters.
The virtual model created by Craig Richardson has been recreated to a very high standard. The 3D modeling is superb and there are no jagged or sharp edges to the model or any of the textures for that matter, and if you have high anti-aliasing settings turned on, you can be prepared for a very smooth aircraft. Included are about 5 different paint schemes to choose from, with one being a "Police" livery for a UK police department, "G-BOPO" as pictured above. The cockpit is fully animated with 3D gages and "baked" textures. Also included are 3D pilots. The seating is three-across. You'll enjoy playing around with this one - it's immensely fun to fly.
Colin Sefton's Scaled Composites Pond Racer
Another strange aircraft is the Scaled Composites Pond Racer modeled virtually by Colin Sefton. I just love these strange aircraft, and this one is no exception. The Scaled Composites Pond Racer is a racing aircraft originally designed by Burt Rutan (yes you can expect something strange from him!) Only one was ever made and they never entered a production stage - nor was this ever planned. Built entirely from carbon fiber and Kevlar, it was extremely light and powerful with two 600 HP prop engines strapped to the wings. The aircraft only lasted two years because in 1993 it was destroyed in a crash during race qualifying and also killed the pilot, Rick Brickert.
Colin Sefton didn't actually create the original model of this add-on, it was originally designed by Blake Melancon for FS2004 - but Colin did the port to FSX as well as upgrading a few features and improving the design. This aircraft is great fun to fly and race around it - but you can't take it seriously for real simulator flight. It's a bit of fun, that's all it is. If you fancy a 10 minute play around in FSX, then play around with the Pond Racer - it's worth a look at least...
Craig Richardson's Corby CJ-1 Starlet
Another one from Craig Richardson (he seems to enjoy creating these exotic home-builds) is the Corby CJ-1 Starlet. Only one original ever built, as a home project for John C. Corby, a famous amateur aircraft designer. Many build this model as a home project though. A very small aircraft she is, with only one seat and measuring 4.5m long and 5.72m wide (wingspan). The aircraft is mainly built from wood, with a fabric covering.
Craig Richardson did a good job recreating this one as it's hard because there are not that many references to work from - only images. It's also hard to get a feel of what the real aircraft handles and flies like because so few have ever flown it. File size for this download is around 22MB and included are six very nice paint schemes to choose from. The model also has many animations and 3D effects. It's not a bad little aircraft to whiz about in. If you fancy a quick flight around town, give this one a shot!
While the Canadair CL-215 is a much larger aircraft, I thought I'd add it to this section as I wanted to share it with you. You may already have seen it before on TV or in real life delivering water to forest fires or any other types of fire. It's know as the "waterbomber". Its first flight was in the '60s and is still in service to this very day, putting out fires worldwide. Production went all the way up to the '90s and over 125 were built. The Canadair CL-215 is also well known for "scooping" up oil spills at sea and has been given the nickname, "super-scooper".
Flying this aircraft is a great blast (excuse the pun) - you can simulate forest fires or oil spills and respond with your very own model of the Canadair CL-215. In fact, there are complimenting missions to add alongside this aircraft to make it more realistic and meaningful.
The 3D modeling is of very high standard and many developers have got together to create this beauty, which is why I haven't assigned it to one individual. The aircraft includes 3D virtual cockpit and standard 2D panel too - so you can have the best of both. The aircraft is amphibious so you can land it on a runway when needed and also make a sea landing too (to pick up water supplies).
Mark Rooks' Cirrus SR22
Mark Rooks has recreated many of the popular general aviation aircraft for FSX use and one of my favorites is his rendition of the Cirrus SR22. The real life aircraft is a single engine, prop driven design with passenger capacity for up to 4/5 including pilot. It's quite a popular aircraft and released in 2001 has all of the modern cons including glass panel and newer navigation technologies as standard.
Only one paint scheme is included with the file, which is the "Patty Wagstaff Airshows Inc." livery. It's quite a simple design and if you're any good at creating repaints, I'm sure you could create your own as the bulk of the repaint included is white. The overall design of the 3D model is of reasonable quality and as good as you can expect from a freeware developer.
I wasn't sure what category to choose for the final section. I was tempted to cover helicopters and rotor craft, however apparently there is more demand for military aircraft - so that's what's below! Military aircraft in Flight Simulator X should only be really used for simulating flight. FSX doesn't have the functionality to blow stuff up or have virtual combat with other players or bots so flying is all you can really do. There are some add-ons that enable the dropping of bombs and missiles, but none are really that realistic or worth using. Having said that, here are my 5 top military aircraft downloads...
Dino Cattaneo's Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II
This package by Dino Cattaneo really is a showpiece. It's a huge package at over 205MB with too many features to list. It's quite possible the best aircraft we have in the FSX military section. Attention to detail is clearly demonstrated with this aircraft model and nothing has been missed. This add-on does require either FSX Acceleration or FSX Gold Edition (which you can get here). I also think that this may work on a standard FSX install with SP2 applied. You'll have to give it a go yourself as I've already got Acceleration installed. You can grab SP2 for Flight Simulator X here. It has also been noted that this aircraft also works in Prepar3D.
This package is complete with virtual cockpit, 2D panel and many more features including a superb heads-up-display (HUD) system. Included are various liveries and designs. The real-life F-35 is a stealth type military fighter which has a single seat, single engine configuration. The F-35 Lightning II has a top speed of Mach 1.6 (which is around 1200 MPH). I'm not sure how it handles at this speed in FSX, but I've noticed before that sometimes with aircraft this fast the controls can be a bit strange at times. Give it a go yourself and post in the comments below.
Dino Cattaneo's Boeing/BAe T-45C Goshawk
Another from Dino Cattaneo - he creates such great military aircraft that we have featured two his models! The Goshawk is a modified version of the original BAE Hawk that you may have already head of. Its first flight was in 1988 so this aircraft is a little grey around the whiskers, although they were retrofitted with some modern cons and features. Dino has created this aircraft to great detail and includes some really nice bump-mapped textures with the package. She flies quite nice, is easy to control but at the same time very realistic. The version I'm linking to here is the second draft (v2.10) and is a complete remake from the original version one.
This new version includes a brand new visual model, fully functional virtual cockpit and new high definition textures for FSX. Also chucked in is a HUD (Heads-up-display) system created by Jivko Rusev and Scott Printz. He didn't mention how many livery designs came with the download, however I can see there are about three (although there could be more). At over 128MB in size, it's quite a large download but the bulk of that size goes to the higher definition textures. This aircraft is fun to fly with aircraft carriers (which you can download more of here) and is very good at STOL (short take-off/landing). It's one of the better Goshawk packages out there - and certainly the best freeware available.
Brian Frankin's RAF Hawker Siddeley Nimrod Package
Most of the aircraft featured above come with many textures and repaints for various different airlines or military divisions, however this RAF Nimrod by Brian Franklin only comes with one - Royal Air Force. The reason for this is that the RAF were the only air force to actually fly these beautiful British aircraft and only very recently took them out of service (June 2011). The Nimrod was a stem off of the De Havilland Comet (a popular passenger jetliner of the era) and adapted for military use. They were primarily used for missions over the sea such as anti-submarine ops. Brian has recreated this iconic British aircraft in spectacular detail for all users of FSX, and best of all - it's free.
The package includes all or most of the variants of Nimrod such as MR1, MR2 and R1. They all served a different purpose, but the MR1 was the original military Nimrod. The aircraft package only includes a virtual cockpit, so there is no 2D panel option - which is a shame, but the VC is fully functional so if you've never tried to fly with virtual cockpit alone, you can give it a go with this beauty. All of the control surfaces are animated, which you should expect with any FSX aircraft. The textures are of high detail and very accurate for each of the regiments they represent (to their real life counterparts). Download this piece of British history today.
Kirk Olsson's Lockheed Martin F-16
This is by far the most popular military jet we have on the site (although it has been around the longest). You may have already heard of this package or even downloaded it previously. Kirk has added all the bells and whistles with this aircraft including things such as chute for slowing down when landing, realistic F-16 sound recorded from actual aircraft and virtual cockpit - all features you would expect to find in a payware model. The F-16 has been around since '78 and is still being manufactured to this day. It's a popular aircraft with military enthusiasts and aircraft buffs alike.
The F-16 has been named the "Fighting Falcon" and many of us know it only by that name. It's a true military fighter that has stood the test of time. Although the new models have had many upgrades and new functionality, the older models have been retrofitted with these upgrades too. Still in service and still being manufactured, we can expect the F-16 to be in the skies for the next 10-15 years. The package Kirk has created includes a repaint for the Royal Danish Airforce, however there are many third party repaints available to download - this is just the base package. Get your hands on it now...
Ross McLennan's Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
One of the most famous military aircraft in the world and one you have most definitely heard of is the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. Having said that, the SR-71 was flown for many years in secret out of the public eye and only known to the USAF and NASA. It is a high speed reconnaissance aircraft and most well know for its speed. Flying at speeds greater than Mach 3 (around 2,200 MPH), the SR-71 used to leak fuel before it was at high speed because it would stretch so much whilst traveling at high speed. The fuel seals couldn't compensate for the stretching of the body and the SR-71 had to refuel before heading to its destination - the technology couldn't keep up with the speed of the aircraft; quite literally.
Ross McLennan has done a great job in keeping this aircraft model true to its real-life counterpart and included some great perks such as a deploying landing chute and brilliant cockpit area. This file has received some great reviews, and it's actually the second version as Ross created it originally for FS2004 (FS9). Known as the fastest plane on the planet, the SR-71 has never been beaten on speed by any other jet driven aircraft. It's makes for some interesting flying once loaded up as you'll find yourself very quickly miles away from your departure location in a matter of seconds as soon as you open those engines up. The afterburner effects are also great. Have fun with this beauty...
So there you have it, my top 20 free FSX aircraft downloads for 2013. It's hard to shorten such a vast selection of aircraft, so I'll be posting one of these summarized lists each year to keep all you readers updated on past and present freeware. Thanks to all of the developers out there who had put together these great packages; our community wouldn't be the same without them.
I'd love to hear your comments on any of the files above or any comments you may have with regards to anything flight sim related in the comments below - don't be shy! Also, if you spot any typos or wrong information, shout at me below in the comments too!
Installing these wonderful aircraft
Most of the files I've mentioned above come with easy installation instructions and if you've installed aircraft before, I'm sure you know what you're doing. However, if this is your first time and you need some guidance, please visit this page to help you get started. If all else fails, post a comment on the download page itself and either myself or a fellow member of the community will get back to you. If all else fails, visit our forum.