Every year, the simulation community manages to create new and improved aircraft and scenery for many locations around the virtual globe. From top quality designs that perfectly portrays some of the most important airports in the world, to lesser-known aircraft that you may never have heard of, many mods exist.
However, with so many options out there on the market, it can be increasingly easy to lose track of some of the most popular releases.
This article specifically focuses on freeware - created by developers who work on these projects in their spare time for fun, not profit.
We have updated this article with new additions for 2020. We will add to these sections throughout the year - visit regularly to see the latest updates.
You can jump to the separate sections using the links below as this article is quite lengthy:
Amidst the development of the likes of X-Plane 11, many simulation fans may have missed out on some classic Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition releases. If you still use this classic simulator (as many of us still do), you may wish to look at some of the files below. They make up some of the most impressive releases that have come to light in recent times for this classic simulator package for PC.
All of the files featured here work with both the Steam Edition and boxed versions of FSX.
Some of the best releases tend to be aircraft. After all, realistic and authentic aircraft are part of the reason someone would use a flight simulator in the first place; so let’s take a look at some of the aircraft we’ve introduced to simulation fans.
Each aircraft is noted because it’s gained a reputation for delivering top quality realism and impressive attention to detail. If you would like to make your flight simulation experience a touch more dynamic, we recommend that you take a look at the following aircraft mods that fall into our Top 10.
Airbus A380 Mega Pack
New for 2020
We have countless Airbus A380 packages in the file library which our users have enjoyed over the years but this latest release really sets the bar for one of the finest we have ever listed, worthy of a place in this article. Some may even mistake it for payware.
This "mega pack" add-on for FSX brings the Airbus A380 to your virtual flights. It even works with Prepar3D - including the latest v4 (P3Dv4).
The aircraft has a fully working 3D virtual cockpit (VC), a functional FMC (flight management computer) and a true-to-life Rolls Royce custom sound pack included.
The package includes the fully animated base model along with 12 repaints including; Lufthansa, ANA, China Southern, Korean Air, British Airways, Emirates, Singapore, Etihad and more.
This is a package that has been sourced from works by various freeware developers and combined into a single release.
Delta Airlines Boeing 737-900ER
New for 2019
Added to the aircraft section for this article for 2019 is the stunning 737-900ER by Tenkuu Developers Studio (TDS). This model is one of the finest we have seen for a while which is why we have featured it here. It has received a complete 5 out of 5-star rating from our PRO members. At just over 24 MB it's also an easy one to download.
The aircraft model has been developed by the team at TDS including developers such as Hiroshi Igami, Nick Wilkinson, Kyle Schurb and many other big names in the freeware developer industry.
The model developed for FSX (and even works in P3D) has a host of features including hi-def textures so you won't have any pixelation on the actual paint when loaded in the sim. It has many 3D perks including animated nose wheels, rudder lock, spoilers for use on the ground. It also has a fully working 3D virtual cockpit (VC) that many users favor these days. I am used to 2D panels and prefer them myself but I have noticed a shift and people now only seem to use 3D VC's.
The model also has opening ground doors, fully animated rolling wheels along with night lighting (full) and ground service vehicles such as baggage and fuel.
We have created a featured video and loads of screenshots that you can check out on the file library page before you decide on downloading.
New for 2019
With a virtual cockpit, afterburner, smoke effects and a legendary profile that says “I am king of the skies,” the Concorde is unlike any other aircraft in the FSX pantheon. Originally modeled after the Air France model from FS2004, it was later upgraded and released for FSX.
This mod is the most popular file in our library and has a rating of 5/5 stars by our PRO members. The file also includes a full installer package so you don't have to manually install the aircraft.
The Concorde was a joint effort between British Air and France’s Aérospatiale. It began commercial flights in 1976 and continued until 2003. The first supersonic jet airliner, the Concorde was able to shuttle passengers across the Atlantic in half the time.
This is a fantastically realistic package that will give you all the help that you need in settling down into the incredibly fun virtual Concorde cockpit.
The add-on comes with 5 paint schemes: American Airlines, Air France, British Airways, United Airlines, and a Pepsi repaint. The flight characteristics are like the real plane itself—powerful but touchy. It takes some getting used to, but any chance to fly an iconic plane like the Concorde is a treat.
Douglas C-47 Skytrain/DC-3
As the latest take on the ever-popular Douglas C-46 SkyTrain, Version 3 offers a whole new host of impressive changes. Adding much-improved realism to the cockpit with a whole new sound suite alongside impressive crew communication systems, this is a fine choice for pilots who enjoy an extra touch of immersion.
This impressive development should make it easy for you to utilize an audible checklist, too, further improving your ability to control this impressive piece of kit. From the authentic and impressive model to the realism of the interior, this is a very close take on the SkyTrain overall.
This classic by Jan Visser is constantly seeing new developments and versions, too, making it a popular choice for those who love flying the "Sky Train".
TDS Boeing 727-100 Passenger Base Package
This base package of the Boeing 727-100 Passenger provides you with a nice take on the classic Boeing model. If you would like a close take on this aircraft without having to go through an extensive installation or anything like that, you can download this. It’s as plug-n-play as they come; simply download, extract to the right location, and enjoy.
From an impressive alteration to the model with new and improved texture working and dynamic flexing wings to fully animated control surfaces, this makes the aircraft relatively easy to control. Developed by Hiroshi Igami, Nick Wilkinson and David Biggar with help from Carlos Eduardo Salad and Kyle Schurb, this package offers the perfect base model for those interesting in trying out the 727-100 in style.
KLM Boeing 787-9
The KLM Boeing design that is provided here is a well-designed texture and model of the Boeing 787-9. This impressive take on the aircraft helps to add that vintage blue KLM design that we’ve all come to know over the years, marking it as an authentic take on a popular airline.
From those looking to carry out a touch of roleplay flight to anyone looking for a fresh take on the model itself, this makes a fine place to start. In-scale and with an impressive array of features in the cockpit to enjoy, this helps to give you a fully accessible take on the 787-9.
Whether you want it for the livery or to try out their take on the base model, this is worth trying.
Delta Airlines Boeing 737-900ER
This impressive take on the Boeing 737-900ER in Delta Airlines coverage is a good choice for all Boeing fans to try out. Not only is this impressively designed and quite easy to install, it offers a full base model that comes complete with everything needed to simply fire up the flight and take to the skies.
Designed with high-resolution textures and key features like dynamic flex wings, high-speed aileron locks, control surfaces which work entirely as well as a host of new animations, this really offers an impressive take on a very impressive model.
The textures carry the full look of a Delta Airlines aircraft, making sure you can easily use this for roleplay flights while offering a realistic take on the 737-900er.
Cessna 56X With VC
The Cessna 56X is a popular aircraft, though one that many people might not have had much chance of flying due to its age. This take on the aircraft by Alex Sandro Guedes Silva will allow fans of the Cessna 56X to try it out in FSX: Steam Edition without any issues.
Easy to install and simple to get up into the air, this offers a very impressive take on what is a rather complex aircraft model. A great choice for anyone who would like to see just why this aircraft is so popular with veterans and newcomers alike.
High-quality 32-bit painted textures look great, while everything from the flight dynamics to the limitations of the aircraft in the cockpit is all based on its authentic counterpart.
Alpha CONECT B52H
The B-52H is a very impressive piece of kit; one of the most fundamentally powerful air bombers of its kind. If you like military-grade hardware then you can try this out and see why so many love the Alpha CONECT B-52H. Developed to meet native FSX standards, this looks impressive and ensures you can enjoy the 21st-Century rendition of one of the most impressive aircraft of its day.
With modernized electronics and impressive upgrades inside to make it much more compatible with the modern pilot, this helps to turn an old classic into something new entirely. New bump mapping and HD VC textures help to improve the atmosphere of being within the cockpit alongside attention to detail on key flight performance and characteristics overall. A must-try for those with a love for military hardware.
Boeing B-50 V1
The Boeing B-50 is a very impressive aircraft that, for its time, was among the best in its class. While today it feels awfully aged, simulation fans who like a throwback might enjoy picking up this particular take on a popular model. With the ability to handle massive payloads and powered by a whopping 3500HP engine, you should immediately feel the strength and power behind every twist and turn that you do at the helm of the aircraft.
You’ll get access to numerous liveries and variants of the B-50 in this collection. The authentic detailing of the flight dynamics as well as impressive visuals on the interior and exterior, this is great for nostalgia and variety.
Lockheed C-141 Starlifter Updated With VC
The Lockheed C-141 Starliftter now comes fully updated and improved for the most challenging of aviation conditions. Easy to install and simple to enjoy, this offers a more modernized take on the Starlifter that adds a new and improved virtual cockpit for easy usage.
With improved visuals and animations alongside reliable flight dynamics to help enforce the authenticity of the flight, you should find this gives a good account of what the Starlifter is capable of. It’s an aircraft that many younger pilots might never have tried out, but with so many adjustments and improvements you should find it relatively easy to get into the swing of things.
The aircraft might feel dated, but this does a fine job of helping to keep it feeling modern within the confines of FSX.
TDS Air France Boeing 787-9 F-HRBA
This awesome rendition of the popular Boeing 787-9 F-HRBA is a great choice for anyone looking for reliable consistency and quality in both visuals and performance. The outcome of four members of TDS who helped to develop a fair reflection of this Air France equivalent, this is a fine addition for those who enjoy roleplaying, taking on various routes that pilots would take on in real life.
It’s a fine choice for anyone who appreciates a touch of variety in their aviation and should make your Air France flights feel a whole lot more enjoyable than beforehand. A challenging aircraft to fly, this makes a great choice for those who would like more of a challenge in their day-to-day aviation experience. This certainly provides that.
Aero Commander AC680S
The Aero Commander AC680S is a very impressive and powerful piece of kit. With three models included in this download, you can get to try out an interesting little piece of aircraft that tends to generally differ from what you might be used to. Easy to install and with a vintage feel to it, this might pose a challenge for pilots who are used to flying something a little bit more simplistic in shape and style.
Two custom panels and era-specific gauges help you to find the age of Aero Commander that you feel comfortable flying around in. While a dated aircraft, this should pose a fine choice for anyone who appreciates an aircraft with a more dated feel.
Space Shuttle Atlantis
Tired of earth-bound flight? The NASA Space Shuttle add-on takes you miles above the earth. It has been altered so that it can take off like other aircraft from airports and even aircraft carriers. The reverse thrusters and slats give it very good handling. If you are simply interested in speed, the Space Shuttle will max out FSX’s speed limitations.
NASA Space Shuttle was constructed with the tools in Flight Simulator Design Studio. It has a number of animated features including working cargo bay doors. The gauges are all custom XML configurations.
It's fully animated with 3D moving bay doors, SRB separation, external tank separation, and even the robot arm and control is animated.
Grumman F-14D Tomcat
The Grumman F14D Tomcat is a variable-sweep wing airplane created for the Naval Fight Experimental Program. It was the beginning of several “teen-series” aircraft that were developed near the end of the Vietnam War.
Nimble yet powerful, the Grumman F14D Tomcat add-on reflects the handling of the original. One user reported their first experience: “Whoa!’ is the first thing I said when I flew it.” A supersonic fighter, it has a convincing sonic boom effect and impressive afterburners.
The artwork and graphic details are accurate, it has good cockpit visuals, installation is a snap, and it performs well in the FSX system. Fire it up, crank it up to Mach One and have a ball. This is a beast best flown by experienced pilots.
The model created by developer Dino Cattaneo includes many animated parts and is even TacPack compatible.
Of course, no aircraft would be complete without high-quality scenery. Scenery matters a great deal and often needs you to put in a lot of work to help believe you’re visiting where the simulator claims. Many cities, locations, and airfields often feel quite barren and generic, so simulation scenery packages help to fill in the gaps that were missed beforehand.
If you would like to see a significant improvement in your simulation’ realism, then it pays to make the most of the various scenery packages on offer at this moment in time. All of them are very impressive, so let’s take a look at what’s out there today.
We have left out photoreal scenery packages from the article as we have a dedicated article for that which you can read here.
OZx 3.5 Australian Airports Scenery Complete Package
New for 2020
This compilation package was initially available as individual downloads from OZx but since the demise of the OZx group (and their website) it has been harder and harder to find the files they generously gave away for free to the flight sim community.
OZx developed many (hundreds) of freeware airports and airfields around the whole of Australia for FSX. Some say their work was of payware quality.
We have managed to source the entire OZx library up to the latest v3.5 installer which includes over 426 airports, heliports, and airfield scenery add-ons for Australia. Also included are 28 Airstrips for the Orbx PNW region.
This really is a "complete" package and is a must for any flight simulator enthusiast that takes to the skies over Australia.
FreeMeshX Global Terrain Mesh Scenery 2.0
New for 2019
We had to include this amazing package in our 2019 recommendations - it's simply stunning and almost unbelievable that it's totally free to download and use. Created by the amazing development team at Nine Two Productions, this add-on will transform your entire global mesh to a new level. The whole world is covered in this one package.
Mesh scenery maybe be a little confusing to the new flight sim virtual pilot. Essentially, what mesh scenery add-ons do are increase the detail of the terrain in your simulation environment. They make "flat" areas alive again and add some additional 3D detail to terrain and ground-scapes. They really bring mountainous regions to life. Flying over areas such as the Alps, Rockies and the Pyrenees is much more realistic because all of the 3D terrain detailing is in the correct place.
The developers at Nine Two Productions have gone to great effort to create a package that covers the whole world. With that said, it's a pretty hefty package at just under 46 GB. If you have the hard drive space, it's definitely worth checking out. At the time of writing, it has 4 out of 5-stars as rated by our PRO members but we have noticed that all of the negative comments stem from the size of the package.
It may take a long while to download if you are using our free tier but PRO members should be able to download this with no issues as long as they have a fast connection to the Internet. The comments have also been great; users have noticed a huge difference in their ground terrain.
City Of Paris - France Scenery
The city of Paris is among the true jewels of European culture, yet in FSX: Steam Edition it can feel a little dead and empty. This helps to add authentic French and Parisian style buildings to the city, alongside major landmarks that delivers a much more diverse take on this awesome city.
New autogen scenery helps to make Paris finally flourish, while the photorealistic meshing and iconic landmarks around the city jutting out into the skyline to make Paris look like it should. From replaced train stations to added buildings that were sorely lacking beforehand, a trip to Paris is now much more likely to be representative of the glamor that makes this city such a fine place to visit. Make Paris truly stand out from the rest of France.
As one of the premium party destinations around, Sierra Foxtrot Design has helped to turn the island of Ibiza into the party location it actually is. Rather than the empty and flat island that it once was, this helps to add much greater detail and diversity to an island that previously felt quite empty and dull within the context of flight simulation.
Using this, you should find it easy to make Ibiza feel like the central point of partying for Spaniards and many people who decide to fly over for a wild weekend. The perfect choice of scenery package if you want to help make key landmarks such as the island of Ibiza finally stand out from the crowd of islands nearby.
If you have ever had the pleasure of visiting Dubai, then you will know how diverse and unique the landscape is. In FSX, though, this isn’t really captured as it should be. Now it will be developed to look exactly as it should.
The new Flytampa Dubai development will help to make the old track look much more as it should, with the impressive 2250x100ft runway developed to the correct scale with regards to the simulation itself.
A very fine and impressive take on what is a very popular part of the reason to fly to Dubai. AI traffic now flies around the area, too, helping to add much-needed life and energy to a part of Dubai that, by default, feels barren.
Margarita Airport (SVMG)
As one of the most important airports in Venezuela, you can turn Margarita Airport from the soulless bowl it is normally into something far more diverse and impressive. Now, you can easily add a much more realistic positioning, too, with everything from incorrect runway positioning to real-life co-ordinates being added to make a trip here as easy to enjoy as is possible.
Photorealistic satellite imagery is used to help make sure that the ground looks as real as it can. The airport is now much closer to the size it should be, in the position, it was always supposed to be and generally much closer to the real airport. Easy to install, too, this can make a landing in Venezuela a far more pleasant experience overall.
Fort Worth Alliance Airport (KAFW)
Fort Worth Alliance Airport is a scenery package that helps to turn the 1989 airbase into the industrial heartland that it is. Previously, it felt empty and cold and without much of the character that often makes locations such as this feel unique.
Constructed as the first-ever industrial airport, this modification by Brandon Theftford makes it far more likely to succeed. Home to the likes of FedEx, Bell, American Airlines and other companies this is a major part of American aviation. As such, this helps to ascribe the importance to the air base that should have been delivered by default.
While it’s been closed for a few years now, those with nostalgia for the air base or a desire for a busier world should try this out.
The unique setting of Pompeii is a truly special part of those who would like to do a tour of Italy. In the flight sim world, though, Italy is a nation that suffers from a paucity of options. This helps to add the famous ruins of Pompeii – the city more or less eradicated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius – now stands out from the rest of Italian architecture like never before.
Easy to install and more than capable of delivering a far more impressive take on such a culturally important part of Italian architecture, this is a must-visit location for those who appreciate the unique beauty of Italy. Come and see Pompeii developed in full form by Peter Olsen and Kevin Wynn.
Saint Lucia Island Scenery
A trip to Saint Lucia Island in FSX: Steam Edition normally would likely leave you let-down. This tropical paradise is among the most beautiful parts of the world, yet it’s entirely lacking in any kind of meaningful detail by default.
This helps to correct such an oversight, making sure you are left with a far more refined take on the island. With two coasts re-developed as well as two new airports; George F. Charles and Castries Hewanorra International, both flying and arriving here will become a much easier experience to piece together.
Should you ever choose to arrive in a location like Sainte Lucia, you should use this package to help make the trip look a little more like the real thing, with the Hess fuel storage area included for extra diversity.
London Heathrow Terminal 5
With the help of London Heathrow Terminal 5, you can transform the old part of Heathrow and make it far more like the real thing. Despite being one of the most popular airports in the world, even Heathrow suffers from a lack of identity normally.
This helps to make users find that Heathrow’ Terminals 5A, 5B, and 5C now look far more as they should in terms of attention to detail. It’s a fine choice for anyone who would like to make Heathrow feel a little more inclusive. Adding the new control tower, too, this helps to make this majorly important airport feel a lot more like it’s real self.
This impressive table mountain scenery package helps to take this important South African landscape and make it looks like it should. A mighty piece of geology, this is a natural wonder that in the flight sim world, looks nothing like it should. This adds definition, realism, scale, and style to the landmass to make it look much more like you would have expected.
By transforming this major part of Cape Town to make it much more enjoyable to look at, this also helps to add a sense of realism to anyone who would like to try out a trip around the mountain. No longer the characterless mass it once was, this helps to make sure the mountain stands out as the massive landmark and key location for many people who decide to come and fly over South Africa.
Team GEX Enhanced Autogen World Scenery
This must-have scenery addition helps to take the old, dated autogen scenery of FSX and replace it entirely. By Team GEX, this helps to add some much-needed precision to the autogen of the world with 522 new building textures and alterations making wholesale changes to the way the entire world around you looks.
A great mixture with other GEX releases such as their GEX Europe package, this helps to make the whole world look a bit more as it should. Greater definition, more impressive autogen, as well as a promise of no performance dips, make this a must-use solution for anyone who would like more modern texturing on the autogen they see as they fly.
New and improved night lighting also makes it easier for you to see the world below if you choose to fly during the night.
Originally released as “FSX Enhanced Trees,” TreeX is a comprehensive collection of highly realistic photographs of trees. It comes in 3 quality levels:
- Hi-Fi Version- Textures are 512x512 – 171 Kb.
- Quality Version- Textures are 256x256 – 43 Kb.
- Performance Version- Textures are 128x128- 11Kb.
Hi-Fi version should be used if you have a muscular computer with plenty of RAM and CPU speed. Previous versions of TreeX should be removed before installing an update. The textures will be available all over the world and will automatically adjust for seasons.
On installation, users choose between lighter or darker versions of Acacia trees, as well as four different versions of Larches trees. With these simple configurations selected, installation is a breeze. It’s important to pick the right version to match your computer’s performance capabilities to get the most out of this impressive vegetation package.
This mod will make trees throughout the world look far more realistic, making it much easier to incorporate yourself into the world around you as you go.
So, what will you try first?
With so many different models to try out, we think you will have a great time when it comes to using any of the above. Some of these are among the most popular in their class and should help you to make FSX (both Steam Edition and normal) feel even more impressive.
Should you wish to help uplift your simulation to be a touch more authentic in various ways, then this can help to add another layer of glamor to the software, making it look a touch more modern.
Installing all of these add-ons is pretty straightforward and most of the downloads come with a README file that includes easy to follow instructions. However, if you are having trouble you can view all of our tutorials from the Knowledge Centre here. These tutorials cover both aircraft and scenery.
There are lots more...
Don't forget, these 20 files for 2018-2020 are just a snapshot of the files available for FSX: Steam Edition. The downloads library contains over 24,000 add-ons and many (most) of them are for FSX. To view all of the files, don't forget to visit the file library here. Finally, if you're new to this flight simulator you can read our full review here (before you buy) and of course, download the demo here (be aware, the demo is older than the Steam Edition version).
Also, updated for 2020, we have released our article demonstrating the best add-ons to make FSX more realistic.
Let us know your thoughts
Remember, the files we have featured here are guaranteed to work in the Steam Edition of FSX, however, they are all backward compatible and will work in any of the boxed editions (Gold, Standard, Acceleration) too.
Please post your comments below. Let us know your favorite files, let us know your reviews of the files above and let us know what you feel we have missed from the list so we could update it or even include it in the 2021 edition - well, this year we will have a new flight sim so let's see where this goes!
Comments below, please!