Without a doubt, Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS) 2020 is one of the most exciting flight simulators ever released. Based on brand-new hardware and software technology, it brings at-home flight simulation up to a whole new level. And, there have been many freeware add-ons and mods that have been made available for it since its release.
These freeware releases – by definition – cost nothing to download and use, but users should not be fooled into thinking there is a dramatic drop-off in quality, or what they have to offer.
Here we cover some of the best releases in our complete guide below which have been thoroughly tested and hand-picked. This article is updated often as updates and new mods are released so be sure to bookmark this page.
In this guide, we use the terms "MSFS" and "Microsoft Flight Simulator" interchangeably but they mean the same thing - the new flight simulator released by Microsoft in August 2020. In fact, some users simply refer to this release as FS2020.
Also, many (mostly all) of the add-ons listed below have exclusive Fly Away Simulation preview videos included with them so you can see them in action within the simulator. If you like the videos, please do subscribe to us on YouTube.
As this is a lengthy guide, you can jump to the individual categories using the jump links below;
Note on Sim Updates: All of the mods featured here are working in the latest Sim Update (SU) at the time of publication. Microsoft regularly releases Sim Update packages and more often than not these seem to break the add-ons in one way or another. As soon as the developers release updates to their freeware we roll that update into the file listed in our library. Some developers are slower than others so there may be a short delay in updating the mod after a Sim Update has been released.
It perhaps goes without saying that of all of the things necessary for flight simulation, the aircraft is arguably the most important. And there was plenty of freeware add-on aircraft available for the new simulator.
All of the aircraft listed below have been thoroughly vetted for compatibility with the latest sim version at the time of the article update.
Here are some of the best.
Native Airbus A330-900neo Mega Pack
Another great freeware add-on is the Airbus A330-900 neo, a wide-body jet designed and manufactured by Airbus in the real world and now available to virtual pilots in the simulated one. Able to carry almost 300 passengers, and with a range of just over 8000 miles, this is one of the most fuel-efficient and modern aircraft currently in the air.
The attention to detail here and the commendable attempts to recreate this aircraft accurately for users of Microsoft Flight Simulator are perhaps the reasons that many who have used it feel it is bordering on “payware quality”. Needless to say, any who choose this add-on will not come away disappointed with their experience.
The add-on, designed and developed by Project Headwind is fully compatible with the latest version of MSFS and includes many features that truly bring this aircraft to life.
The external 3D model is realistic and accurate, and animations, including the landing gear and wings, had further authenticity, as does the highly accurate flight dynamics of the aircraft. Also featured is a 3D virtual cockpit that has been based as close as possible to the real-life A330.
Adding more realism are such features as 3D contrails, rain effects, and dynamic and realistic lights and lighting, while such details as dust on the aircraft and engine heating take it up a notch further.
Although there will almost certainly be further repaints released by the flight simulation community, the add-on features eight basic paint schemes. These include the Airbus House “Foundation 10 years”, Air Belgium (Belgium), Delta (USA), and Corsair International (France), to name just some of them, as well as three Portuguese airlines, Hifly, Star Alliance TAP Portugal, and TAP Portugal.
The user should note there are several known issues with some of them, this is something that the developer is aware of and is working on fixes for future releases.
Airbus A320 Neo (A32NX) FlyByWire
The A320 Neo (A32NX) by FlyByWire is one of the most well-known and popular third-party developments since the initial Microsoft Flight Simulator release and arguably has the best development team and resources of any freeware project released for this new sim.
As you know, the A320 Neo is already included in the default Microsoft offerings however this mod and release for MSFS aim to bring the default Airbus A320 Neo up to even further detail based on community and third-party contributions to the code base.
Many areas of the default aircraft have been expanded upon both in terms of flight model and in the cockpit. A new tablet/iPad-type device has been included in the cockpit so you can configure the aircraft just the way you like it. Support of Simbrief has been included to make setting up flights easier than ever. Essentially, this release enables the default A320 Neo to work with many third-party expansions and options right out of the box.
The entire project is open-source so any developers (or trainee developers) may contribute changes, adjustments, or even new features into the codebase via GitHub. It's truly an expansive project and we can expect great things from it going forward and into the future.
There are already hundreds of liveries and repaints released for this mod and we can expect many more to surface in the coming months. We aim to release as many as we can on Fly Away Simulation and we may even create a "mega-pack" of repaints available for this package. If you are a thied-party freeware repaint developer and have already created a repaint/livery for it - please do submit them to our file library here.
Antonov An-225 "Mriya"
Perhaps a good place to start is with a port-over from a previous FSX release to Microsoft Flight Simulator and the Antonov An-225 “Mriya”, which is available with many changes and adaptions that make it a perfect fit for the new Microsoft simulator.
This huge cargo place, which is Russian built, is as unique in the virtual world as it is in the real one (there was only one ever made) and features no less than six engines ensuring that virtual pilots of all levels will need all of their wits and skill to take this monstrous vehicle to the skies. It is worth noting that, much in FSX, the limitations within the sim mean that only four of the engines are controllable.
Also featured is a cockpit that is currently based on the 747-8. However, over time with updates this cockpit with becoming a fully functional An-225 cockpit. Sounds use the default A320 Neo sounds due to their compatibility with the sim.
We should further note that, according to the developer, the current model is a “beta” version, with the hope of future updates and upgrades being made available.
Edgley EA-7 Optica Freeware
Developer Jonx has made the Edgley EA-7 Optica available for MSFS, based on the original model from developer Craig Richardson for FSX. And rather than just a quick port-over, this add-on has been painstakingly developed to be fully compatible and remastered for the new sim. It is also fully VR compatible which results in a truly unique virtual flight experience.
In the real world, the Edgely EA-7 Optica first took the skies in December 1979, with only 22 ever being built (in Great Britain), some of which were used by police forces around the UK. Designed to carry a maximum of three people, the aircraft is almost a cross between a light aircraft and a helicopter and is certainly unique.
The cockpit is realistic, lifelike, and detail-heavy, with information being displayed if you hover over any of the gauges, making it easy to use and navigate.
This release features several new features and effects, including dynamic and realistic landing effects (such as snow, rain, dirt, etc.), and there is even a “dog” button that will ensure a Labrador appears in the cockpit with you during your flight.
In short, the Edgley EA-7 Optica is a unique aircraft offering a unique virtual flight experience.
Fokker Dr.I Triplane
This classic German fighter plane from the First World War era – the Fokker Dr.I Triplane – is a great freeware add-on, a plane that is almost universally associated with the World War One pilot Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, also known as The Red Baron.
At the time the plane first took to the skies in 1917, it was drastically ahead of its time, and gave Germany an almost instant aerial advantage. This iconic aircraft from the early years of aviation has been stunningly recreated by mykrode and will be appealing to both newcomers to flight simulation and grizzled veterans.
The add-on features wooden propellers, radial engines, and gun turrets and guns. Various animations in the plane also add further realism and truly bring this exciting, basic, vehicle to life. The cockpit is 3D virtual and fully animated and the base model itself is also 3D.
There are also six different liveries featured, including Red Baron (of the Red Baron himself), Dazzle, White Raven, America 1930s, and BF109.
Bombardier CRJ-700 Freeware (Port-Over)
Based on the FSX release and made compatible for MSFS is the Bombardier CRJ-700, which comes with a working cockpit that utilizes the default Citation CJ4 3D VC.
As well as an original livery from the developer, the three default liveries from the FSX version (Orbit Airlines, Pacifica Airlines, and White Paint) have also been included.
The user should note, however, that while the add-on is very much worth grabbing, it is a port-over from the default FSX model – consequently, there will be certain issues and bugs that will need to be tolerated while the developer manages to address them.
Mykrodian MX1 (Experimental) Ultralight Aircraft
Another freeware add-on from developer mykrode for Microsoft Flight Simulator is the Mykrodian MX1 Ultralight aircraft that has been developed completely from the ground up exclusively for the simulator.
Although there is no real-world version of this plane, the Quicksilver MX-1 is perhaps the best real-world comparison, and the Mykrodian MX1 is an aircraft that should be appealing to both veteran virtual pilots and newcomers to flight simulation.
The aircraft is completely VR compatible, and the large, open canopy ensures that the pilot can take in the scenery of their virtual flight with comfort and ease. To say this aircraft is unique would be an understatement.
The Mykrodian MX1 is a mod that is simply too good and exclusive to pass up.
Air Creation 582SL Ultralight
Developed by Alex Marko is this recreation of the default FSX Air Creation 582SL Ultralight, a unique aircraft that offers something to virtual pilots of all levels and capabilities.
Perhaps one of the things the virtual pilot might wish to do is exactly what Marko himself suggests – “fly around your house”, adding that to do so, “ a trike is what you need”, before proudly presenting what is the “first ultralight aircraft in MSFS”.
The aircraft is based on the original low polygon model from FSX and uses the original WAV sound pack. It is also realistic in its weight, specifications, and dimensions, while the engine power is also highly accurate. It is fully VR compatible and features a dummy pilot/passenger.
The Air Creation 582SL Ultralight is another unique freeware release that all virtual pilots should take full advantage of.
De Havilland Canada Dash 8 Q400 Package
This De Havilland Canada Dash 8 Q400 is a port-over conversion from FSX (although many modifications have been made in the process).
The virtual cockpit is the default CJ4 (by ASOBO) while the engine sounds are the default KingAir350 (also by ASOBO).
There are also no less than 11 liveries included - Base/White C-GKUK, ASky Airlines ET-AQD, Air Baltic YL-BBV, Flybe G-JEDI, Croatia Airlines 9A-CQB, Westjet Encore C-GENU, Qantas Link VH-QOU, Eurowings D-ABQT, Alaska Airlines N448QX, ANA Wings JA841A, and Scandinavian Airlines LN-RDI.
Although there are several known issues (such as inaccurate VC, engine sounds, and a missing taxi light on the front center gear strut) this MSFS freeware release is very much taking the time to explore.
After the aircraft themselves, the scenery is arguably the next most important aspect of virtual flight – after all, you need somewhere to take off from, land, and fly over. Whether it is a group of small airports in the green landscapes of northern Europe or one of the many metropolis locations around the world, the scenery is something that can make the difference between an average flight to a breathtaking one.
Here, then, are some of the best freeware scenery add-ons for Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Paris Scenery Pack
One of the most impressive cities in the world, and one that all virtual pilots will surely wish to explore from the air is Paris in France. And now, thanks to developer Thalixte, users of Microsoft Flight Simulator will be able to do just that.
The entire city and surrounding area have been recreated using 3d building data, photoreal imagery, and real-world data. The developer stated that “the scenery has been extracted from Google Maps” and generated with the “Google Earth Decoder tool”. Needless to say, it is highly accurate and authentic.
As well as the entire city of Paris, the Paris La Defense and Paris St. Denis are also included. This add-on is essentially all of the Paris pack files in one easy-to-use package.
It is recommended that the user lets the scenery load fully before attempting to use it, as well as lowering the “Terrain” level of detail, ideally to 120. It is also recommended that flights over 1000 feet will result in the best performance for the user.
Swiss Airfields Scenery Pack
This collection of small GA airfields and airstrips in Switzerland replaces, adds to, and in some cases, builds upon what is already available in the default scenery.
Each of the airfields and airstrips has been meticulously and accurately recreated, with “function and accuracy” being the primary objective of the developer (Swiss Airfield Crafters).
This package will be of interest to all virtual pilots, and particularly anyone with an interest in this particular part of the world.
At the time of writing, there were 13 airfields included in the package – Sitterdorf, Winterthur, Kagiswil, Lommis, Speck, Fricktal-Schupfart, Les Eplatures, Bressaucourt, Ecuvillens, Bad Ragaz, Yverdon-les-Bains, Gruyere (LSGT), and an improved version of Birrfeld.
Users should note that each of the airfields and airstrips is included in a singular package for easy download and installation.
Oostwold Airport (EHOW)
Although the release is still a work-in-process of sorts (in that there will be further updates and upgrades expected in the near future) this recreation of Ootswold Airport in the Netherlands is still worth examining by users of MSFS.
Located near the town of Windschoten in the real world, the airport features a grass runway and two taxiways, each of which has been accurately recreated here. The virtual version features accurate lines and signage on the runway, realistic airport barriers, and real-to-life fuel parking.
The streetlights, airport lights, and other general lighting add further realism, as does the airport apron and new hangar. The release also features accurate reproductions of the roads and roundabouts around the airport itself.
Italy 20 M Terrain Mesh (DEM)
Covering all of Italy and the surrounding areas, including such picturesque locations as Lombardia, Tuscany, Sicily, and Veneto, this scenery release brings a 20-meter resolution date which increases the resolution of the default MSFS DEM scenery and is a must for any virtual pilot.
This increase in resolution means that such features as mountains, valleys, and shorelines appear much more realistic and lifelike than before. Because of the extensive use of the DEM data (or mesh) the heights, depths, and general dimensional details of the terrain are highly accurate and authentic.
This add-on – which is fully compatible with MSFS – brings the country of Italy and the surrounding areas much more to life.
Finland 20 M Terrain Mesh (DEM) Scenery
Another replacement terrain package that is fully compatible with Microsoft Flight Simulator is the 20 M Terrain Mesh for Finland, which covers almost the entire country, adding essential depth and detail.
Developed by Morko, mountains, cliffs, valleys, and hills come to life even more with this photorealistic scenery add-on, and the fact that it is entirely free makes it even more enticing for those who wish to fully explore this part of northern Europe.
Real-world data has been taken from several different free-to-use sources, including the National Land Survey of Finland and Copernicus data, as well as EU-DEM layers, and Earth Observation Research Center.
Ameland Airport (EHAL)
Developed by SinusJayCee, Ameland Airport, a small GA airport located on the Frisian island Ameland in the Netherlands is available as an add-on and is a significant improvement on the default version (which lacks detail, to say the least).
Custom textures and 3D modeling have been employed on all of the buildings in and around the airport, including the Tower Building, the Hangar Building, and the Solar Park Ameland.
The runway and taxiway layout are highly accurate and realistic and marked with white and blue pylons. The dynamic night lighting further brings this airport to life and adds yet another layer of realism.
The airport also features a helipad and multiple parking locations, as well as custom fences with special signs.
Monument Valley, Arizona (Utah Border)
Covering the entire Monument Valley region of Arizona in the United States, this freeware add-on package is easily one of the best such packages currently available and will be of interest to virtual pilots across the board.
Developed by Jeppeson2001, this add-on will overwrite the default scenery resulting in a much more vibrant, realistic, and lifelike recreation of the Monument Valley region, one of the most iconic and picturesque in all of America.
There are also numerous landmarks and iconic areas to locate and view. These include Merrick Butte, Sentinel Mesa, Stagecoach, Three Sisters, Big Hogan, and Artist’s point, to name but a few.
If you wish to find and view these locations, it is recommended that you set off from Monument Valley Airport and head east.
Users should note that version 3.0 of this add-on is compatible with MSDS USA World Update meaning that this pack blends seamlessly into MS’s updates. There are two options available to people who wish to install version 3.0. The first – the scenery blended into the World Update (All Butte’s) which features all three files (monumentvalley, monumentvalleyvc, & monumentvalleytiles), and the second - the New USA World scenery butte's along with my extended scenery, which installs only the monumentvalleytiles file into your community folder.
Dubai, UAE City Building & Scenery Pack
Bringing a substantial upgrade and reworking/replacing of the default version of the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (including Jebel Ali Airport is this freeware release.
The package contains replacements for over 250 buildings, landmarks, and iconic objects around the city, including The Gervora and the JW Marriot Marquis, the world’s tallest and second tallest buildings respectively, and the Dubai Frame, the Burj Al Arab, and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, to name just some.
In fact, so many buildings have been recreated and enhanced, that night lighting and reflective glass textures were only completed for around 30 to 40 of them. It is the hope of the developer that these night lighting features will be extended and upgraded in future updates of the release. For now, though, Dubai is perhaps best fully appreciated during daylight hours.
Like in the real world, the virtual city of Dubai is now a must-see for all virtual pilots, something this add-on allows them to do.
Developed by Thalizite for Microsoft Flight Simulator is this accurate, detailed, and authentic replication of Nice in France.
After using real-world data from Google Maps, the finer detail has been hand-finished for a truly precise and realistic completion.
Should you wish to take off from Nice Cote d’Azur Airport, you can then fly over the Promenade des Anglais, during which you can see the array of accurately reproduced buildings and landmarks below. And while it is not included in this package (it is available in the default sim), you can either choose to fly east down the coast or visit Monaco.
Zion Canyon National Park, Utah
Without a doubt, one of the best and detail-heavy add-ons is an overhaul of Zion Canyon National Park in Utah in the United States. The package combines externally sourced photorealistic textures as well as many manual tweaks to vastly improve on the default scenery and buildings.
The user can also look forward to enjoying the following improved landmarks, including the Zion Canyon Overlook, Angels Landing, Zion National Park Lodge, The East and West Temples, the Mountain Of The Sun, and Canyon Junction Bridge.
One thing that users should note is that due to the scenery package being “heavy”, users of low-end machines may notice a slight reduction in frame rate.
Switzerland Scenery Packs
Several Swiss cities have been reworked and improved in this mod bringing some much-needed life and authenticity to the regions. The areas of Switzerland that have been reworked and sufficiently improved are Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Lucerne, Sion, and Zermatt.
These improvements feature improved textures and details, improved ground textures, and new 3D building shapes. Particularly impressive is the Matterhorn Mountain in Zermatt, which is also included in photorealistic detail and is a sight to behold for virtual pilots.
Although, as per the developer's own admission, the package will “never be anywhere near as good as a photogrammetry cityscape or a 3rd party payware scenery”, it does appear to be a drastic improvement on the default scenery at the moment.
Yosemite Valley, California
The Yosemite Valley in California is one of the most scenic and picturesque areas of the United States, and this release brings the virtual world version more to life than ever before.
The ground textures, rock textures, and general terrain and layout of the area have all undergone drastic improvements making this part of the west coast United States all the more appealing to virtual pilots whether they be regular flyers or just take to the virtual skies occasionally.
All of the major landmarks and recognizable features have also been improved, including El Capitan, Half Dome, Glacier Point, Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite Falls, and Vernal and Nevada Falls. Several other waterfalls have also been included, with some hand-mastered so they appear in the highest possible detail. There are also planned upgrades and updates set for future releases.
Washington D.C. Landmarks & Scenery Pack
This release is absolutely packed with scenery and buildings, including over 30 custom generated and manually placed landmarks from Washington D.C., and is without a doubt one of the most impressive freeware mods available.
This package also features the use of the brand-new Blender2MSFS toolkit to create the 3D models, while it also benefits from the use of physically-based rendering (PBR) and has an overall authentic and lifelike feel throughout.
As we might imagine, there is an abundance of landmarks that have been recreated in stunning detail. These include such iconic buildings as the KDCX National Mall “airport”, the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court Building, the Library of Congress, as well as several Smithsonian buildings, including the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, the Smithsonian Air, and Space Museum, the Smithsonian Arts and Sciences Building, the Smithsonian American History Museum, the Smithsonian African American History, and Culture Museum, and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.
You can also see the National Gallery of Art (both the East and West Building), and of course, there is the Washington Monument and the White House. As a bonus. Obelisco de Buenos Aires in Buenos Aires, Argentina is also included in this ample package.
Basically, this mod is simply too good an option to pass by and would be of great interest to all virtual pilots.
Meteora Valley, Greece
This full replacement and fix for the Meteora region in Greece is the result of multiple hours of work in order to ensure the differing terrain matches the default landscape without issue – something that it manages excellently.
While there may be a few issues that still need to be ironed out, this free scenery add-on is very much worth the time of virtual pilots who wish to view these most scenic and historic parts of southern Europe, perhaps not least the Meteora Valley.
In order to find Meteora Valley, teleport there using the coordinates (39.694091, 21.629288) into the "Search Airport" box on the map. Then, take off from LGMA (Myrini - Karditsa) and head north-northwest.
Utilities & Tools
As well as the aircraft and the scenery, being able to actually navigate around the world of flight simulation in the first place. Whether it is accessing the menu or controlling the aircraft itself, know what keys and commands do what is of great importance. And so, our last add-on section is perhaps underestimated in how it will make your flight simulation experience that little bit easier.
Controls/Keyboard Commands Guide
Whether you refer to it as Microsoft Flight Simulator, MSFS, or even FS2020 (by long-time users of the Microsoft Flight Simulator team), this offering contains the full and complete final keyboard commands.
Using these commands, you can navigate your way through almost all aspects of flight simulation while drastically reducing the need to click the mouse.
Users should note that these command keys are set at default mode and, wherever possible, are as close to the keyboard commands of previous releases (such as FSX or FS2004) and should be beneficial to both newcomers and long-time users. If users wish they can customize these commands to their own liking.
These commands refer to all aspects of flight simulation, covering everything from the main menu to the flight instruments, the cameras, autopilot, landing gear, lights, radio, and much more. An invaluable source of quickly accessed information for all virtual pilots so as to enhance the virtual flight experience and make it an altogether smoother ride.
More Mods & Expansions
The selection above is just a snapshot of what we have in the official Fly Away Simulation file library for Microsoft Flight Simulator. We expand the library regularly and are always in contact with new freeware developers who wish to list their add-ons and mods in our file library. All of the mods and add-ons featured above are our current selection of the "best of" of what we have so far. This article will be updated regularly as new releases are announced and listed. We may even remove some obsolete un-updated mods in order to give room for newer more advanced and better releases.
To view the entire range of MSFS mods we cover, visit the official Fly Away Simulation Microsoft Flight Simulator freeware mod section here.
If you're looking to take your simulator to the next level and have money to spend - we've got a whole article dedicated to payware mods for the new sim here.
Your Thoughts (Please!)
We'd love (and really appreciate) your feedback on all of the mods featured here. Have you used any of the above? What are your thoughts on them? Do you think we've missed anything - if so - what else would you like listed in this article? Are you a freeware developer that wants to list your works in our file library? If so, details can be found here.
Don't forget... We have a huge selection (over 24,000 files) of free mods and add-ons for MSFS, FSX, P3D & X-Plane in the file library. Files include aircraft, scenery, and utilities All are free-to-download and use - you don't even need to register. Browse on down to the file library here.