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Chris Bell

Flight Simulation and Optimizing Night Time Flights

Flight Simulation and Optimizing Night Time Flights  

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Flight Simulation and Optimizing Night Time Flights

Generally speaking out of the box fresh sim install is mainly geared towards day time flights; With very little regards to night flying,

Setting up for a proper day time flight requires allot of attention to detail; from setting up controls, weather conditions, scenery complexity, vehicle, and visual add-on’s

This process could take one few months to get comfortable with his environment settings and gear, it’s a tedious task many of us take to extreme (to say the least!),


your day time flight environment is balanced perfectly for the day; at the same time is also consuming the same resources at night; not leaving much room for night time add-on’s,


There is a misconception that when night falls its dark anyway; what’s there to see? Optimize…? What’s there to tweak different then day time when you barely see anything?

The last statement is the general concept most have when it comes to night flights; bear in mind that up to not long ago, night flying didn’t really exists to the extent it’s been developed in the past several years,

the original developer never envisioned such transformation that it never was an area of much interest; but recent developments allow us now to fully have VFR night flights; while looking out the window at real world vector data,

before we continue deeper into this article; remember the first few sentences I started with; the sim's night environment deserves now as much attention as day time does to fully enjoy todays night add-on’s,



many day time element are not visible at night, to redirect resources; some settings can be adjusted towards an optimized environment for night flights,

if we start by going through the settings in FSX/SE/P3D configuration tabs;


let’s have a look at Weather Tab,

consider that a normal human eyes can perceive natural lights in the real world (depending on conditions and alt) 60-100 miles away in optimal conditions,

adding clouds at night beyond the minimum slider potion is pointless at night; as well as drawing high detail clouds; and every other related daytime eye candy,


moving to the Scenery tab,

Mesh complexity and Mesh Resolution both can be significantly reduced,

you will not see the added vertices drawn at night or a fine mountain contours and subtleties,

A mesh complexity of 30 with mesh resolution of 76-38 should be more than sufficient for night flight,


Texture resolution… at night? Do I need to extend on this one? Same goes for Water Effect,

These are not visible at night; there is no need to extend resourced for these features at night,


Scenery Complexity and Autogen Density shouldn’t exceed Normal for night fight,


In Aircraft Tab,

Shadows aren’t really visible at night; it is recommended to turn shadows off, but to each his own,


In Graphics Tab

I personally like the visuals at night with antialiasing switched off


These are just few very basic guidelines for optimizing your night time flights

The goal behind this is to free resources that aren’t used during night; you can dig more and find many creative way to conserve resources at night,

Many third party add-ons can also have their day time settings optimized for night; using the same logic,



Believe it or not, your unused aircraft adds up to the global VAS usage regardless of day or night,

I keep my unused aircraft in a folder I make called “hangar” with the same structure that’s inside SIM\SimObjects\ ;

I keep this folder under SimObjects folder, this where 99% of my aircrafts are in (including default),


If you only fly in a predefined area like US, or UK etc…

There is no need to load the whole world every time you go for a local flights!


The last two advisories will decrease your sim load times significantly; as well as reduce your initial VAS consumption in general!



Before we go into more technical detail; no one is expecting you to manually go through each and every one of these setting each time you go for a flight,

Yet… It is unreasonable to assume that with today’s add-on’s our sim’s should work regardless what we install in it;

we have HD textures, as well as HD Photoreal, and HD mesh and so much more than what initially thought of,


one must remember that we are still bound to 3.6GB usable VAS memory space allowed by x86 (32bit) application platform;

the name of the game here is balance; you have to balance your memory consumption to accommodate everything you want in your current flight,


This is the time to mention SimStarter By Developer - Peter Rosendhal.

i highly recommend using SimStarter to create various startup profiles; to speed up your fsx load times; and general performance tweaks;

you can create many profiles that launch you right into your preconfigured flight without wasting time;


you can customize all the above settings and much more from a single GUI interface;

you will have complete control over all of Sim’s elements; , scenery.cfg, fsx/se/p3d.cfg as well as many third party add-on’s settings,


save your setting to a profile on your desktop, and with one click; SimStarter will put you on the runway with all the preconfigured environmental settings you selected for that profile,

SimStarter is a free and can be found here – ; there are many tutorials on how to configure SimStarter to hook into third party add-on’s;

please don’t forget donate to help Peter continue his development on this magnificent irreplaceable tool!


Note that these guidelines should be used for day time flight as well as night time flight to maximize your Sim potential and VAS pool,

if there’s something I neglected to mentioned please feel free to discuss; this is an open discussion about this topic;

Looking forward to hearing some feedback from you guys,


Happy Flying

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Believe it or not, your unused aircraft adds up to the global VAS usage regardless of day or night,
I keep my unused aircraft in a folder I make called “hangar” with the same structure that’s inside SIM\SimObjects\ ;
I keep this folder under SimObjects folder, this where 99% of my aircrafts are in (including default),


Did not know that.

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how to make out what these xxxx.Base folders in scenery editor correspond to?

When selecting which scenery to keep active from the default scenery list; a common question that will come up is…

how do I know which areas to deactivate from the default scenery list, they are named with no distinction?

Here how…


the world is divided into a grid, and the scenery for each grid rectangle is stored in a separate folder, named rrcc Base,

where rr is the row in the grid (from 0 to 7), and cc the column (from 0 to 11).


first image showing FSX scenery grid, the second showing corresponding folders in Sim\Scenery



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Hi Chris,


Thanks for the explanation. So, if I am interpreting the information correctly, given that I only fly short commuter type flights from the UK to Europe and USSR, I should only leave horizontal grids 5,6, and 7, and vertical grids 0,1, and 2 active.


Does that sound correct? I have already excluded Asia etc.




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That is correct Andrew,
for your profile id keep the tiles you mentioned on; while the rest of the world remains off,
your Sim and add-on scenery will thank you for that ^_^

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Few Sim corks to be aware of
Starting a daytime flight then switching to nighttime through sim controls will cost you precious RAM space,
In the first image below, a random flight was loaded with daytime Simstarter profile,
The following image shows the same flight same position; switched to night time from within sim controls;
Yes I know the image is dark; the point is to show RAM usage between the first two, and the third one
In the Third image we start a preconfigured nighttime flight through a customized Simstarter profile
Note: the last two images have the exact same settings; they were simply loaded in a different way!

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I just read your very informative guide to night flying, thanks for taking the time to do this for the community.


There are a couple of questions I have in regards to your guide;


  1. You mention that in the "Graphics Tab" you personally like the visuals at night with anti aliasing switched off. Question is - how is this done effectively with Steve's DX10 Fixer?
  2. You stated that "your unused aircraft adds up to the global VAS usage", how does this happen when they are not loaded? Excuse my ignorance, this is the first I have heard of this.

Just wanted to point out a typo;


"The last two advisories will increase your sim loads times significantly; as well as reduce your initial VAS consumption in general!"


Should read;


"The last two advisories will decrease your sim's load times significantly; as well as reduce your initial VAS consumption in general!"


Just trying to clear any confusion one might get from that.


I have to say, you are probably one of the most conscientious developer I have ever seen and I have been gaming for over 40 years, yes 40. Pong when I was 12 years old. Keep up the good work and thanks for making night flying come alive.

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Thank you for pointing that out Ric, corrected! :blush:

in fsx graphic tab, right under buffering, un-tick antialiasing,

regarding the added VAS from aircrafts, they will be read and used since they are in the active hangar;
they won’t take up as much as if you’d actively be flying a PMDG; but their textures and models will be read and indexed for autogen use or general,
if you find yourself flying with a single aircraft (like i do) with different variations; removing the unused aircraft will reduce your start time and leave additional free VAS space,

how does this affect your VAS, lets brake VAS vs RAM myth once and for all,
there are few aspects to this; the first, are you working from RAM or Page? (Page is a physical file used to store and read data from)
there is a big difference working from RAM vs Page file, we all know RAM is the faster route; while a physical file placed on the hard drive is slower!(Paged)
Why is this tidbit important? Because 32bit application can use up to 4GB of RAM or VAS if you will;
a PC can physically have more than / or less than physical RAM the application can use;
the amount of memory the application can utilize out of the global memory availability; that is VAS!

Wait… it’s not over yet; everyone knows FSX can only use effectively 3.6/3.8 GB,
What most are not aware of is… that any 32bit application which is limited to 4GB RAM; can only use the first physical 4GB RAM,
It’s called FIFO in technical terms; you could have 16GB of available RAM; but for 32bit only the first 4 are visible, They can only use the first physical 4GB!
If a 64bit application already filled up that space prior; your 32bit application will be paged (run from the disk file system instead of directly from RAM)

if we go back to loading unused data; aircraft models and textures will inhibit the same 4GB space if loaded prior to your flight!

thank you for noticing; as the pioneer of reviving night environment for our sim’s; you’re right i do care allot!
Night Environment was and still a passion baby for me; it started few years ago as an unachievable goal; a mirage if you will,
the technical complexity of producing a region forced me to take the commercial route in order to share this development with the community,
i am an engineer (systems architect) by trade; walking through walls is part of the job for me,
walking through the wall of FSX was a challenge i wanted to share with everyone; i could have published a tutorial and call it a day,

i who’d end up supporting small very complex projects over and over; with a new developer each time,
we would prob end up have small coverage area done for free; nothing close to the full state coverage we have now,

there's a reason why so many try to imitate; but none could implement ^_^

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