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Choosing an X-Plane Aircraft

Choosing an X-Plane Aircraft

, par Alex Myastan, 14 min temps de lecture

A look at all the factors to consider when choosing an aircraft in X-Plane 11 and 12, and a recommendation of the best aircraft from multiple categories, including airliners and single-engine pistons planes.

Last updated: 14 January 2024.

Soaring across the Atlantic in a detailed Airliner and ATC in your ear, or doing a low pass in a classic Cessna Skyhawk, or mastering gravity-defying aerobatics in a fighter jet – these are just a few of the gameplay options in X-Plane. An important part of your enjoyment, however, is choosing the right aircraft for your needs: one that fits your flying aspirations and skill level. Seatbelts on and set your course…

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Choosing Your Aircraft

There are many factors to consider, but if the following overwhelms you, then just remember the default planes in X-Plane are perfectly fine to use as a beginner. You’d likely also want to start with a small aircraft as they are generally less complicated and less challenging to fly.

Purpose and Skill Level:

  • Purpose: What kind of flying do you want to do? Long-haul flights, sightseeing tours, bush flying, aerobatics? Each requires different aircraft capabilities.
  • Skill Level: Are you a beginner, intermediate, or experienced pilot? Choose an aircraft that matches your comfort level with complex systems and flight characteristics.

Aircraft Features and PC Performance:

  • Range and Payload: Consider desired flight duration and passenger/cargo capacity.
  • Systems Depth: Do you enjoy in-depth system simulations or prefer simpler aircraft?
  • Flight Model: How realistic and challenging do you want the flight characteristics to be?
  • Performance: Frame rate, stability, and compatibility with your system are crucial.

Visuals and Sound:

  • Exterior and Interior Modeling: How important are high-quality textures and detailed features?
  • Lighting: Does accurate and immersive lighting matter to you? How well is night lighting handled?
  • Sound Design: Realistic engine sounds and environmental effects enhance the experience.

The cockpit of one of the planes in the e-jets family made by x-crafts.

A detailed cockpit from one of the E-Jets in the X-Craft E-Jets freeware series released in 2023. This series was also the winner of X-Plane Review's 2023 award for "Best Overall Aircraft." Impressive for freeware!

Category

  • General Aviation: Enjoying widespread popularity, general aviation aircraft cater to a broad audience of flight simulation enthusiasts. These versatile planes are suitable for various flying experiences.
  • Airliner: Airliners stand out as highly popular choices, providing an immersive experience for those who prefer commercial aviation. The detailed systems and large-scale operations make them a favourite among virtual pilots.
  • Turboprop: With a high level of popularity, turboprops offer a balance between the complexity of airliners and the versatility of general aircraft. They are favoured for regional flights and diverse flying scenarios.
  • Vintage / Biplane and Warbirds: Moderately popular, vintage and warbird aircraft attract enthusiasts seeking a nostalgic or historical flying experience. Their unique characteristics and historical significance contribute to their appeal.
  • Business Jet and Military Jet: While less popular than other categories, business jets and military jets provide specialised experiences for enthusiasts interested in high-speed and high-altitude operations, e.g. _________.
  • Other (Gliders, Helicopters, Ultralight, etc.): These categories have a lower popularity level, catering to niche interests such as gliding, rotary-wing flight, and ultralight flying experiences, seaplanes etc.

Additional Factors:

  • Price and Value: Compare features and performance to justify the cost. Freeware is sometimes the best option, but with payware you usually get more detail.
  • Documentation and Support: Clear manuals and reliable developer support are important.
  • Developer Reputation: Consider the developer's reputation in developing aircraft for X-Plane and flight sims in general. Also consider whether they lean towards detail, or to developing for beginners.
  • Community and Add-ons: Does the aircraft have a thriving community and compatible add-ons?
  • Personal Preference: Choose an aircraft that appeals to your taste in terms of appearance, size, and historical significance.

Know The Developer

Developers range from hobbyists with time on their hands and development skills in their hands, to fully-fledged outfits that can afford details across the board, because they charge you. Just to give an overview of the landscape, I’ve profiled a couple of developers below. These are just some off-the-cuff selections, and there are many developers who also deserve attention.

High-fidelity Simulations

The A319 by Toliss, isometric view in flight.

An exceptional airliner made by the well regarded Toliss, the Airbus A319, part of their Airbus A320 family of planes.

Among the industry's standout contributors are Toliss, FlightFactor, and IniSimulations, each renowned for their unique expertise in aircraft simulation. Toliss is celebrated for its precision and depth, prominently displayed in their Airbus A320 family and A340 creations, marked by intricate systems, high-performance capabilities, and meticulous attention to detail.

FlightFactor, on the other hand, has earned its distinction through the crafting of Boeing aircraft, including the 757/767 and 787, featuring highly sophisticated systems, immersive cockpits, and challenging flight models. IniSimulations, with a specific focus on Airbus models like the A310 and A300, stands out for its commitment to accurate flight dynamics, detailed systems, and exceptional performance optimization.

General Aviation and Smaller Aircraft

Key contributors to this realm are FlyJSim, Just Flight, and SkunkCrafts Simulations. FlyJSim boasts an extensive lineup featuring high-quality general aviation aircraft such as the Q400, Mooney Bravo, and Beechcraft King Air, striking a balance between complexity, visual accuracy, and reasonable pricing.

Just Flight also presents a broad spectrum of aircraft, ranging from piston singles like the Piper Arrow to regional jets like the CRJ series. Their focus is more on user-friendliness, smooth performance, and value for money. Meanwhile, SkunkCrafts Simulations specialises in the niche domains of vintage and military aircraft, showcasing masterpieces like the Lockheed Constellation and B-25 Mitchell.

Other Worthwhile Developers

X-Plane.Org has a developer portal featuring numerous creators with individual offerings, ranging from freeware to payware models. It’s a great place to find diverse aircraft types and unique projects.

Laminar Research are the X-Plane default aircraft creators. While their default aircraft might not be as complex as some add-ons, they offer decent flight models and visuals, ideal for beginners or looking for an affordable, well-developed option.

Top 10 Payware Aircraft in X-Plane 12 in 2024

This list is based on opinions from various forums, notably from posts on the X-Plane Reviews and X-Plane.org websites, including X-Plane Reviews awards for best X-Plane aircraft in 2022 and 2023. I’ve included a spread across the various categories, with a focus on general aviation and airliners as these are the most popular types of planes generally flown. This list is by no means absolute, but all of the aircraft here are worth it!

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Name Developer Category Price Description
Airbus A320 Family Toliss Airliner $89.99 each Unmatched accuracy, depth, and flight model fidelity for Airbus fans.
Boeing 757-767 Professional VMAX Airliner $79.00/$92.00 Highly detailed and immersive simulation of the Boeing 757 and 767.
Q4XP (Updated DHC-8-400) FlyJSim Turboprop $79.95 Popular for its user-friendliness, smooth performance, and realistic systems for regional flights.
Cessna 172 NG AirfoilLabs General Aviation $49.95 Popular single-engine piston aircraft for flight training and recreational flying.
Cirrus SR22 TorqueSim General Aviation $64.95 High-performance retractable gear piston aircraft for experienced pilots.
Diamond DA42 Twin Star Aerobask General Aviation $39.95 Unique multi-engine piston aircraft offering diverse flying missions and challenges.
Eurocopter EC130 B4 HCF Helicopter $27.95 The Eurocopter EC130 is a single engine light utility helicopter developed from Eurocopter AS350 Écureuil.
F-104 Starfighter FXP Colimata Military Jet $45.00 The F-104 is an American single-engine, supersonic air superiority fighter.
McDonnell Douglas MD-11 Rotate Airliner $83.95 An iconic tri-jet wide-body airliner launched in the late 1980s.
Cessna Citation 560XL AirSim3d Business Jet $79.95 An American midsize business jet in the Cessna Citation family.
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Top 13 Freeware Aircraft in 2024

These aircraft are the top freeware aircraft from X-Plane.org. A special mention goes to the E-Jets Family Series by X-Crafts, as this won the award for Best Overall Aircraft, despite being freeware. Most of these aircraft are for X-Plane 12, with a few being X-Plane 11 compatible as well.

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Name Developer Category Downloads Description
Airbus A318 by X-Bureau jacob914 Airliner 17,813 A detailed A318 for both experienced and beginner pilots, featuring accurate flight dynamics and a high-fidelity cockpit.
Cessna 172N with Carb Heat (X-Plane 11 compatible) DHC8Jockey General Aviation 8,245 A classic Cessna 172 with enhanced realism, adding carb heat simulation for even more immersive flying.
F-86E-6 (Sabre 2) mtosi mod Mtosi Military 2,702 A highly-rated freeware version of the iconic F-86 Sabre fighter, offering exceptional performance and flight characteristics.
Free E-Jets by X-Crafts | E175 & E195 v2.5 X-Crafts Airliner 18,347 A popular duo of Embraer regional jets known for their smooth flight model and detailed cockpits, ideal for short-haul flights.
Virtavia C-17 (freeware) (X-Plane 11 version available) alpeggio Military Transport 5,231 A capable and versatile cargo aircraft, offering unique gameplay with its large hold and ability to land on rough terrain.
Tupolev Tu-154 by Felis nicolas Airliner 15,875 A classic Soviet airliner for experienced pilots, providing a challenging and rewarding flying experience with its unique systems and demanding flight characteristics.
Canadair DHC-515_XP11 jpb63 Utility Aircraft 2,611 A versatile amphibious plane capable of taking off and landing on water or land, perfect for exploring remote areas.
L.A.R.S - 777-9X (incomplete pre-release version) l.a.r.s Airliner 5,122 A promising work-in-progress Boeing 777-9X with stunning visuals and impressive features, although still under development.
Antonov AN-12 henkfix Transport Aircraft 4,563 A large and powerful Soviet-era cargo aircraft offering a unique flying experience for fans of historical planes.
Fouga CM.170 Magister Julian-does-a-lot Jet Trainer 1,508 A nimble and responsive jet trainer aircraft, providing an exciting introduction to jet flying for experienced pilots.
Edgley Optica JohnBray General Aviation 2,415 A quirky pusher configuration aircraft with excellent visibility and unique handling characteristics, perfect for those seeking something different.
AH-64 Guardian Update alpeggio Helicopter 1,741 An improved version of the popular AH-64 Apache helicopter, adding new features and enhanced flight dynamics.
Antonov An-26 Community Edition - Improvements and fixes Santi Blánquez Transport Aircraft 2,588 A community-driven improvement project for the classic An-26, enhancing its accuracy and overall flying experience.
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All Default X-Plane Aircraft

The developer of X-Plane, Laminar Research, also includes a set of default planes to choose from. Although these are not as high fidelity as the payware, and even some of the freeware, they are a more than sufficient place to get started on your x-plane journey.

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Name Developer Category Downloads Description
Airbus A318 by X-Bureau jacob914 Airliner 17,813 A detailed A318 for both experienced and beginner pilots, featuring accurate flight dynamics and a high-fidelity cockpit.
Cessna 172N with Carb Heat (X-Plane 11 compatible) DHC8Jockey General Aviation 8,245 A classic Cessna 172 with enhanced realism, adding carb heat simulation for even more immersive flying.
F-86E-6 (Sabre 2) mtosi mod Mtosi Military 2,702 A highly-rated freeware version of the iconic F-86 Sabre fighter, offering exceptional performance and flight characteristics.
Free E-Jets by X-Crafts | E175 & E195 v2.5 X-Crafts Airliner 18,347 A popular duo of Embraer regional jets known for their smooth flight model and detailed cockpits, ideal for short-haul flights.
Virtavia C-17 (freeware) (X-Plane 11 version available) alpeggio Military Transport 5,231 A capable and versatile cargo aircraft, offering unique gameplay with its large hold and ability to land on rough terrain.
Tupolev Tu-154 by Felis nicolas Airliner 15,875 A classic Soviet airliner for experienced pilots, providing a challenging and rewarding flying experience with its unique systems and demanding flight characteristics.
Canadair DHC-515_XP11 jpb63 Utility Aircraft 2,611 A versatile amphibious plane capable of taking off and landing on water or land, perfect for exploring remote areas.
L.A.R.S - 777-9X (incomplete pre-release version) l.a.r.s Airliner 5,122 A promising work-in-progress Boeing 777-9X with stunning visuals and impressive features, although still under development.
Antonov AN-12 henkfix Transport Aircraft 4,563 A large and powerful Soviet-era cargo aircraft offering a unique flying experience for fans of historical planes.
Fouga CM.170 Magister Julian-does-a-lot Jet Trainer 1,508 A nimble and responsive jet trainer aircraft, providing an exciting introduction to jet flying for experienced pilots.
Edgley Optica JohnBray General Aviation 2,415 A quirky pusher configuration aircraft with excellent visibility and unique handling characteristics, perfect for those seeking something different.
AH-64 Guardian Update alpeggio Helicopter 1,741 An improved version of the popular AH-64 Apache helicopter, adding new features and enhanced flight dynamics.
Antonov An-26 Community Edition - Improvements and fixes Santi Blánquez Transport Aircraft 2,588 A community-driven improvement project for the classic An-26, enhancing its accuracy and overall flying experience.
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Conclusion

Choosing the right aircraft for your X-Plane adventure is quite the task, but hopefully our guide is as useful as a veteran ATC. From categories and additional factors to developer profiles and community resources, there’s a lot to choose from, but sometimes you just need to say “screw it” and take-off, no clearance! It can be about breaking rules just as much as it is about following the rules… Have fun!

If you are curious, we have a similar article for the best aircraft in Microsoft Flight Simulator.

If you are interested in buying any flight simulation gear, check out our store. We stock items from the top brands in both flight simulation and sim racing, and we ship globally.

Useful X-Plane Resources

  • X-plane.com: The official X-Plane website.
  • X-plane.org: The go-to place for all add-ons, from aircraft and airports, from scenery to utilities, and with extensive forums.
  • Xplanereview.com: They create highly detailed reviews for all the various add-ons in X-Plane, especially for aircraft.
  • Simmarket.com: Another store for various add-ons.
  • Aerosoft.com: Another store for various add-ons.
  • X-aviation.com: Another store for various add-ons.

Mots clés

SIMPLACE KNOWLEDGE BASE 

We aim to create a comprehensive repository to help you make your sim racing gear decisions. Check out some of our other detailed articles:

> A Beginner's Guide to a Sim Racing Setup: This article provides an overview of your entire setup.

> Best Sim Racing Cockpits: This article recommends the top ten cockpits for all budgets and compares ~70% of all the cockpits on the market in a simple table.

> The Wheel Base Guide: A comparison of every single wheel base on the market. We show the torque, platform compatibility, price and other relevant information in tables. We also have an article that analyses the value of entry-level direct drives, and one that recommends Xbox wheel bases.

> The Steering Wheel Guide: See types of wheels and the other considerations when buying one. We also have one that ranks the 12 Best F1 Steering Wheels.

> The Wheel Compatibility Guide: See the bolt patterns and QR Hubs of all the major wheel and wheel base brands.

> The Shifter and Handbrake Guide: A comparison of every sim racing stick shifter and handbrake on the market.

> The Pedal Guide: A comparison of all the budget and entry-level pedal sets, and the most popular mid-range and high-end pedal sets on the market.

> How to Earn Money in Sim Racing: An overview of the various ways in which you can get income from your favourite hobby.

We've started a series of posts where we spotlight different brands. To start off with, check out our spotlight on Moza Racing, and our spotlight on Simons Gaming Solutions, an up-and-coming manufacturer.

We also publish sim related news, like analysing the value of the Fanatec ClubSport DD, reviewing the Fanatec QR2 or looking at the latest WRC updates. You can also find articles about us, like this article about our visit to the recent ADAC Sim Racing Expo.

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