All About Flights

Selecting, creating, and saving flying scenarios


Selecting a Flight
Flying a Flight
Creating and Saving Flights
Changing the Default Flight
Flight Categories
Flight and Category File Structure
Creating a Briefing (Advanced)
Creating New Flight Categories (Advanced)
Sharing Flights
Frequently Asked Questions


Any time you go flying in Flight Simulator, you're on a "flight." The Select a Flight dialog box lets you choose one of more than 100 preconfigured scenarios. The Create a Flight dialog box allows you to easily configure a scenario of your own, specifying the aircraft, location, weather, and time and season in which you'll start your experience. In this article, you'll learn everything you need to know to select and complete preconfigured flights, and to create, save, and share flights of your own.

The Ford Tri-Motor at Santa Monica, California,
 at the beginning of the first Maddux Air Lines flight.

Selecting a Flight

The Select a Flight dialog box is your gateway to aerial adventure. With just a few clicks of the mouse, you can enjoy a sunny flying vacation in Hawaii, take kayakers to the foot of an Alaskan glacier in a floatplane, command a jetliner on a multiday journey across Europe, or recreate dozens of historical journeys. In addition to the flights that Flight Simulator provides, you can also create flights of your own and share them with other Flight Simulator pilots (see the Creating and Saving Flights section, below).

Browse through the categories and flights. When you find one you're interested in, click Fly Now.


To select a flight

  1. From the main screen, click Select a Flight on the left side of the screen.
  2. In the Choose a category list, click the name of a flight category, and read its description in the Category Description field.
  3. In the Choose a flight list, click the name of an individual leg of the flight category, and read its description in the Flight description field.
  4. Click Fly Now to read the briefing (if applicable), and to start the flight.

The Select a Flight dialog box

Historical Aircraft and Flights

Flight Simulator 2004: A Century of Flight includes many historical flights that let you experience some of the most significant and interesting flights of the last 100 years.


To fly historical flights

  1. From the main screen, click Century of Flight on the left side of the screen.
  2. Choose an aircraft.
  3. After reading the article about your chosen plane, click Fly <aircraft name> Historical Flights at the top to display a list of flights for that aircraft.
  1. From the main screen, click Select a Flight on the left side of the screen.
  2. Choose one of the historical categories (they all have dates in the name).
  3. Choose a historical flight.

Flying a Flight

The flights included with Flight Simulator vary in difficulty. Some, like those in the Scenic Wonders and Short Flights categories merely place you in the air or on the ground with some short instructions in the flight description itself. Others, such as Barnstorming with Tex Marshall, 1920 and Hawaiian Vacation include detailed briefings that walk you through an entire journey that you can fly just as you would in the real world.

Flight Simulator includes a variety of resources provided to help you complete these flights.

The Kneeboard

The Kneeboard is your in-flight reference library. On it, you'll find valuable information that can help you complete a flight.

Press F10 to display the kneeboard.


To display the kneeboard

  • Click the kneeboard icon on the instrument panel.
  • Press F10.
  • On the Aircraft menu, point to Kneeboard, and choose one of the six kneeboard pages.

The Kneeboard includes six pages:

Briefing page: Displays the briefing for the flight, if available. Many of the briefings are quite detailed, and the briefings for historical flights also include a link to an overview that explains the story behind the flights. Before you start flying, look through the briefing. You can refer back to it in flight, but, like a real-world pilot, you should be prepared before you take off.

Radio page: Logs the last 10 Air Traffic Control radio transmissions to your aircraft, if you decide to use air traffic control during the flight.

Navigation Log page: Provides a list of waypoints, headings, and other information from the flight plan. Not all flights have associated flight plans.

Key Commands page: Provides a complete list of keyboard commands.

Checklists page: Lists step-by-step procedures for the aircraft you're flying that (when used in conjunction with the speeds on the Reference page) make for a more realistic Flight Simulator experience.

Reference page: Lists recommended speeds for the aircraft you're flying: how fast to fly during each phase of flight, and what the limits are.

Additional Resources

In addition to the information on the Kneeboard, Learning Center articles explain everything you need to know about Flight Simulator. Articles that may help you complete the flights include:

Starting Out

Many flights start on the ground, at a gate or parking spot. To make it easier to determine your location and taxi to the runway you can:

Saving Your Place

If you're flying somewhere in Flight Simulator and want to postpone the current flight, you can save the current situation as a flight. On the Flights menu, select Save Flight. When you want to continue where you left off, you'll find the flight in the My Saved Flights folder.

Finishing a Flight

There is no scoring in Flight Simulator flights. Only you will know if you've successfully reached the destination specified in the briefing. To end a flight, press ESC.


Even complex flights that include a briefing are really just starting situations. Once you're in the flight, you can change anything: the aircraft, the weather, the time of day, or the season. If a flight seems too easy or too hard, change it to your liking.

For variety, try re-flying a flight with a different aircraft (on the Aircraft menu, choose Select Aircraft), at a different time or in a different season (on the World menu, choose Time and Season), or with different weather conditions (on the World menu, choose Weather). For maximum realism, use the Real-World Weather feature.

Saving Flights with Briefings

If you save a flight that has a briefing, the briefing will not be available on the kneeboard when you load the saved flight. Because briefings are associated with particular flight files, if you save a flight in progress, it's no longer the same flight file. So, before you save your place in a flight with a briefing, be sure to print out the briefing from the Briefing page that appears after you select the flight, before the flight begins.

Creating and Saving Flights

Technically speaking, a flight in Flight Simulator is "a saved situation." Once saved, you can use load it again and again, starting with exactly the same situation each time without having to set things up manually. Flights include many saved parameters, including:

Flights can start on the ground at an airport, or in the air.


To create a flight that begins on the ground at an airport

  1. On the main screen, click Create a Flight.
  2. Follow the steps on screen to select an aircraft and starting location; set the weather, date, and time; change fuel settings (optional); set failures (optional); and create and save a flight plan (optional).
  3. Click the Save Flight button.
  4. Enter a title and description for the flight.
  5. Click OK.

You can find the flight you've saved in the My Saved Flights category.

The Create a Flight dialog box


To create a flight that begins in the air, or to save a flight after you've entered the simulation

  1. Set everything up exactly as you want it (for example, on final approach to O'Hare with a challenging crosswind).
  2. On the File menu, select Save Flight.
  3. Enter a title and description for the flight.
  4. Click OK.

You can find the flight you've saved in the My Saved Flights category.

Changing the Default Flight

Tired of always starting at the same place? You can change the flight that automatically loads on the Create a Flight dialog box when Flight Simulator starts.


To change the default flight

  1. Create a flight, as explained above.
  2. When you save the flight, select the Make this the default flight checkbox.

Flight Categories

Flights are organized into categories. Some categories contain flights related by subject matter (such as Scenic Wonders and Chopper Pilot), others contain flights that are linked together into a story of sorts (like Desert Adventure and Frontier Airlines). Flights you create yourself are saved in the My Saved Flights category. You can create new categories, and move your flights into them.

By creating your own flights and categories, you can:

Flight and Category File Structure

Before you start creating your own flights and categories, it's helpful to know a little about how flight files are organized.

Within each category folder (and in the Flight Simulator Files folder) you will find:

A Note for Advanced Users

A flight (.flt) file contains hundreds of parameters; some are easy to understand, some are complex. If you save a flight, then realize that you want to make a change (for example you saved the flight with the landing light on, but you want it off), you have two choices:

  1. 1. Load the flight, make the change, then resave the flight.
  2. 2. Open the .flt file with a text editor like Notepad. Search through the text (which is organized into logical sections) until you find the relevant line (for example, LandingLights=True). Change the line (to, for example, LandingLights=False).

Creating a Briefing (Advanced)

Many of the flights included in Flight Simulator have briefings. Because flights are really just starting situations, briefings are a great way to tell your flight's users what to do once they start flying. You can also use briefings to connect a series of flights into a story. Creating a briefing for a flight you've created is easy.


To create a briefing

  1. Find the flight (.flt) file in the My Documents\Flight Simulator Files folder.
  2. Create an HTML file (using Notepad or an HTML editor like Microsoft FrontPage) that contains the text you want to appear in the briefing.
  3. Save the HTML file in the Flight Simulator Files folder using the same name as the associated .flt file (but with an .htm extension, not .flt).

The briefing will appear when you select that flight from the My Saved Flights category and click the Fly Now button, as well as on the Kneeboard (click out of Select A Flight then back to reload the list, if necessary).

Creating New Flight Categories (Advanced)

It's useful to organize the flights you create into categories, so they'll appear together in meaningful groups on the Select a Flight dialog box.


To create a category

  1. Create a new subfolder in the Flight Simulator 9\flights folder using whatever name you want.
  2. Create a text file (using Notepad or another text editor) that contains the following text:
  3. After Title= type a title for the category that you want to appear on the Select a Flight dialog box.
  4. After Description= type a description for the category that you want to appear on the Select a Flight dialog box.
  5. Save the file in the new folder with the name desc.txt.

After you've created a new category, you can put flights you've created into it. Just move the relevant .flt, .wx, .pln, and .htm files (they should all have the same name, but different file extensions) from the My Documents\Flight Simulator Files folder into the new category folder you created. The flights will be listed on the Select a Flight dialog box, in alphabetical order by title within the category (be sure to first click out of Select A Flight then back to reload the list).

You can rename the files at any time. Just be sure that they all have the same name (but different extensions).

Sharing Flights

It's easy to share flights with other users. Just send all of the files associated with the flight (.flt, .wx, .pln, and .htm files) from your My Documents\Flight Simulator Files folder. Your friends can then put the files in their own My Documents\Flight Simulator Files folder, and your flights will appear in the My Saved Flights category on the Select a Flight dialog box.

Because all of the files for a category of flights are located in a single folder, it's easy to share an entire category with other Flight Simulator users: just provide them with a copy of the category folder and all of its contents. To install the category, all they need to do is put the folder into their Flight Simulator 9\flights folder. The new category and its flights will appear on the Select a Flight dialog box.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I use flights to help me practice my skills?

You can create libraries of flights that make it easy to practice particular flying or navigating skills. For example, you could create a category called Approaches that contains flights that begin in the air, heading toward the beginning of an instrument approach. Instead of choosing an aircraft, setting your location, taking off, and flying all the way to that point, you can simply select one of your saved flights. Similarly, a category called Landings could contain a series of flights that begin on approach to various runways at your favorite airports.

I run a virtual airline. How can I use flights and categories?

Instead of publishing pilot schedules, you can create categories that contain flights for your routes. For instance, a category called Denver Hub could contain all of your airline's flights out of Denver. Instead of having to set up the flights themselves, your pilots can just choose from a list. Flight 213 for example, would begin at the gate with the flight plan already loaded, and the weather defined (or, the pilot could use Real-world weather). The briefing can tell the pilot all about the flight and what to expect.

Your Virtual Flying Career

There are dozens of virtual airlines on the Web. Once on board, you'll download the airline's aircraft, scenery, and training materials, and then use Flight Simulator to complete assigned flights. You'll send reports of your flights back to the airline and work your way through different routes, aircraft, and ratings. Participation is usually free. To learn more, see Expanding Your Hobby.

How can I use weather to enhance the flights I make?

Not only does weather affect what a pilot does, it affects what he or she sees. Use cloud layers, visibility, and precipitation to "paint" the scene. Weather is also an easy way to turn a simple flight into a challenging one. It's fun to get familiar with a route in good weather, and then try the same flight in different conditions. You could create a category that contains multiple versions of the same flight, but with different weather conditions. For more information on weather, see Introduction to Flight Simulator Weather.

Can I make multileg flights with landings at more than one airport?

Yes and no. VFR flights can have multiple legs, but remember that flights are just starting situations. What the pilot does after loading the flight is up to him or her. For multileg or round-trip VFR flights, you can create one flight and explain the multileg nature of the flight in the briefing, rather than creating a flight for each leg. Some of the flights included with Flight Simulator do just this.

For IFR flights that use the Air Traffic Control Feature, each leg of a multileg flight needs its own flight plan, and thus needs to be a separate flight. Be sure to note in the briefing that the plane won't necessarily be in the same location where the pilot parked it at the end of the previous flight.

Do I need to include flight plans with my flights?

Yes and no. Just like in the real world, you need a flight plan to fly under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). Flight Simulator's Air Traffic Control feature won't recognize IFR flights without a plan. Use the Flight Planner to create the flight plan, then load it, set weather and other parameters, and save the flight.

VFR flights don't require a flight plan. In fact, some VFR Flight Simulator flights (like the historical flights) are more challenging without a flight plan. Pilots have to rely on using pilotage and dead reckoning.

Note that the Navigation Log and GPS in Flight Simulator use flight plans. If a flight doesn't have an associated flight plan, the Navigation Log on the Kneeboard will be blank, and the GPS won't have the flight plan loaded or display a course line. If you want to provide this information, then include a flight plan along with your flight.