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FSE, OnAir, Neofly, AirHauler, FSPax

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So many choices of addons to offer a reason to fly but which one is right for you? I'm a long time simmer and user of many of these addons as well as looking to use others if they are what I am looking for. So this is just an off the top of the head topic that hopefully others can share their input on as to what they use or like or find helpful for them.

To start I am a seasoned user on FSE and have been using FSPassengers and FSPassengersX for about as long. I own but dont use AirHauler2 and recently got into OnAir. Since I am waiting on MSFS to get VR support have only looked into Neofly but excited to use it. Other addons I have used in the past was FSCargo which was my introductory into this kind of addon. Each addon has their strengths and many share a common feature but maybe implemented differently or with their own spin. So a couple of things that seem to be corner stones for these types of addons.

Cost- Theres a mixture of freeware (donations accepted), payware and subscription.

Sandbox- This is the world in which the user will exist in during play. The trade off of the amount of openiness can result in being so open there is no feeling of challenge and reward and too structured or restricted will have the user feeling like it demands to much time and or effort to enjoy to the way or timeframe the user wants. In doing  so some of the addons have created a one style for all as balanced as possible while others have taken a variable or multiple worlds or rooms approach to find the one(s) the user likes most.

Purpose- As an addon to give reason to fly, the idea is to create places to fly to and from. Most have taken the Pilot For Hire/Charter  Pilot role as oppose to a scheduled airline service or route. In doing so there are all kinds of flight options available from flying passengers or cargo to flying missions based on an array of different circumstances. 

Features-Various items that make the addon 

Interactions-How it works with other users

I'll start with FSEconomy which is a free addon that I have been part of for almost 15 years and have watched it develop over the years by its volunteer coders and Board of Directors. As a new user everyone starts off with no money, no pilot hours and no assets. Just ground up. The sandbox has a great balance to it by design. It allows users to start out flying whatever plane they want from where every they want to fly with the ability to jump around and has little restrictions or bonus on things like weather, time, use of time acceleration and ownership of assets. The roles of Pilot and business owner which can operate a Fixed Based Operation (FBO) are in play. The FSE world while on the surface might look to memic real world when it comes to prices and such are really based on its own world. Player interaction is strongly designed into the addon and its forums as well as discord and other avenues are social and very active. 

So whats is it about and pros and cons. The idea of FSE came about from the creator named Marty almost 20 years ago when VAs were really the only thing to give flight simming a reason to fly. Its solely based on Pilot For Hire ops yet over the years certain features have allowed for users to shoe horn in scheduled air service routes. However, any changes to game play with new features will always favor its roots and as long as the user plays to that role of small Mom and Pop FBO Ops and Pilot For Hire flights will really have no impact on their game play.

Since its early days of just small GA prop only planes, the game world has developed to offer jets and heavies with an array of all kinds of planes available. The world airport database is based on FS9 airports and it works for FS9, FSX, All P3Dv's, XPlane10&11 and MSFS. All in all its a greatly balanced addon for users time, ease of use and self reward that has the user being part of an interactive world amongst other users. That to me is one of its biggest strengths is its community. Each plane starts at zero hours on engine and airframe and each plane has a complete logbook show what players have flown them and where. To be able to look back on any planes history is really a great feature to give a sense of history within the community.

While not exactly a closed world as to where the users both create and consume the funds to keep the economy turning, it is heavily designed for players to buy, sell, rent and use services and assets from other users. The website which is hosted on its own servers and funded by users help during donation drives is a easy to use UI layout as well as its client(s). Just make sure to always start the client before you fly 😉 Overall the balance of FSE is nicely tuned as it has with stood the years of active use.

That said it does have its cons.  Being volunteer based has only allowed for slowly rolling out new features with a features request list 100s of pages long. However, I would say one of its more serious down sides is the fact that prior to new code to fix exploits where in a way money print presses were available to which those funds stayed in play as well as long time players who have maintained ownership of the the limited FBO available lots, new users might have a hard time break through to own and operate their own goal operations. Over the years asset prices have gone sky high while the ability to earn the money need to ever buy those assets have been restricted if the user is just getting into FSE from the ground up making it more of a world for veteran users. One last con is that it still uses the FS9 database for airports so with each new sim, the virtual world becomes little by little offset from what a user might expect.

Next I want to talk just a bit about FSPassengers. While this payware addon only supported FS9, FSX and P3Dv1-3. It did offer some of the fundamentals of what the other addons provide. It gave purpose, offer pilot/airline management, offered different pilot roles ( A to B flights, air tours and aerobatic flights), provide random failures as well as so many more features. It really was a nicely done addon that had a big sandbox for the user to create the way they wanted to use it while at the same time was just simple to use. One thing I use to really enjoy doing was setting up a warzone where the user could create the likely hood of the amount of flak fire as well as the amount of damage it could create and then fly my A2A warbirds like the Spitfire or B17 (bomb drops not aerobatic flights) etc over them doing an aerobatic flight. For aerobatic flights the user had a virtual passenger that provide a rating for the amount of fun they were having . So I would consider their fun % as success to a mission or sortie. By flying over the war zone trying avoid getting too much damage while trying to achieve 100% from the passenger, I saw it a a great way to use the A2A planes in a non combat role with a feeling of using the planes for how they were to be used.

The other feature that no other addon really has offered is the ability to age the plane with the option to have a random failure. As the plane gets used the % of newness goes down and depending on how the user had random failures set by chance of based on % and type ranging from small to major, each next flight increased of having something fail until the plane got serviced  As a private pilot in RL, I really enjoy having that out of the blue chance of something going wrong to keep me current on practicing for it in real life as well as keeping me in the cockpit during all phases of the flight. It is because of FSPax that P3Dv3 remains on my hard drive. 

OnAir is my new obsession. In a way OnAir and AirHauler have a lot in common. However, you will see that in my findings OnAir just does almost everything way better. OnAir is a subscription based addon with a big and growing user base. It is available for XPlane, P3D, MSFS and I think FSX/FS9 but check to be sure. I'm using it soley for Xplane11.5 myself. When I first starting looking into it, I saw it as FSE on steroids. It had everything that I've always wanted in FSE all wrapped up in a nice UI package. By being subscription based, I feel the developers/coders stay active in keeping it running smoothly as well as introducing new features and any need fixes/improvements. The user can play in various worlds ie sandboxes with each world having a theme for being more focused on realism in play and use. The user can jump from different sandboxes (worlds) for play but the worlds and assets dont overlap so you have to start fresh in each one. The user can also restart in each world as many times as they want. So by offering the various worlds and the ability to restart in any of them is a great design for the end user to find the worlds and ways in which best suits them.

In those worlds pilot, employer (of AI pilots, mechanics and flight attendants) and FBO owner/operator exist and the user can take on any and all roles with some worlds not even need to be a pilot to at all. The jobs are solely based on pilot for hire work flying various cargo jobs and passenger types. One feature I like is the ability to break up cargo and pax to shuttle them in multiple legs instead of having to find a plane big enough to do all the job in one. There is a skill tree to allow for reward and goal in various areas of play. Real time is forced but allows the user to offset the time as so they are not forced to fly only during real time. Airports have operating hours which is a nice feature as that is the case in real life but that does not mean one cant fly in and out of them when closed. While there is a Survival Mode which is basically a way to play most realistic that is optional in some worlds and mandatory in others, customizing of play is really well thought out and available. There are plenty of real world fees like parking fees, rental deposits, 100 hr, annuals and even type ratings that must be done once a year with check flights. All the stuff that gives a feeling of purpose and based on real world airline ops.

With so much praise there are some areas to note. The worlds are mostly users combined but individually used. Meaning unlike FSE, what one user does really doesnt affect others as so there is not general community feel. As an example, FBOs can build and have tiedowns and hangar space which remove the cost of paying to park a private plane at an airport. However, users can not rent those spots out to other players. If you are coming from FSE, then there is no limit to the amount of FBO lots at an airport (FSE has limits). There are some user overlaps as fuel can be sold to others as well as mechanics can work on other players planes. OnAir was released in the middle of 2019 so it is still added new features so who knows what to come in the area of finding ways to allow more cross use amongst users down the road. It would be nice if they would add some extra sounds like the loading and unloading of pax and cargo, perhaps some dispatch calls could be considered since the user has to input their destination as well as offering some of those random failures features only seen in FSPassengers. The UI is nicely done but the individual pages for some pages could be designed to allow for a better flow. Overall OnAir is a wonderful addon for various sim platforms if the user is looking for paying for the service.

Neofly for MSFS is freeware that is blowing up and allows donations. It offers its own take on many of the pilot features found in the other addons. There is little to no airline/FBO operation or ownership features as it is focused mainly on flying missions and does what it does great. I've only watched videos of this addon in use and look forward to using it when I start to use MSFS as it is only for MSFS. Unlike the other addons in also provides airline schedule jobs with the user needing to start the flight at a certain time for the flight to work. It also offers humanitarian flights which has the pilot flying into a semi war zone in certain places of the world to do airdrops once the plane reaches below a certain altitude. Night only flights, VIP flights, fragile cargo, express, cargo, passenger, off airports...the list just goes on! So a lot of fun in the various kinds of flights can be made as well as having to do check flights to use certain planes and the ability to hire AI pilots. With two worlds (one sandbox having full use with no restrictions to the other having user defined restrictions) that allow the user to create multiple different pilot avatars to use, the end user can enjoy this addon has they like from moment one.  With MSFS being the new kid on the block and as a freeware addon, this is a great tool to give some mission feel to the sim with way to have the user explore the beautiful new world that MSFS offers.

lastly to talk briefly about AirHauler v2. I have owned this payware product back when it was released for P3D as early access. It offers many of the features found in OnAir with a even deeper focus into the ground side of operating a flying service. Including beyond air operations by expanding into factories and goods. It really offers a lot for those who want the option to run a more in-depth business then any of the other addons with the ability to still fly cargo and passengers as a Pilot In Command. For me one of its strong selling points over the others is its ability to best set up a routed schedule air service. The tool sets for that in this addon are really not seen in the others which solely rely on the more traditional Pilot for Hire roles.

The addon does have its cons though. First is the fact that its payware with a rather high when compared to the others price in which a user has to buy two different version to use on Xplane 11 or FSX, P3DV1-4. There is no support as of now for MSFS or P3Dv5. Additionally, the UI is IMHO the most involved that could use a better since of streamline. Overall for the user who is wanting to spend more time flying then doing logistics and really not a big fan of learning so much setup, this is probably the last on the list of the above mentioned for them.

Personally, I'm going to revisit it for use to do more airline flying and consider replacing my use for that type of flying in FSE where I have a nice PMDG JS41 route from Denver to Eagle. So thats my thoughts on some of these addons if you are still reading this. It was raining here today and I needed a break from real life (who doesnt these days right?!) as well as having just spent a couple days finishing up a job mission in OnAir, a break before I start my next job there. Feel free to share your thoughts on what I've said and other addons that I havent mentioned in this area.

Edited by Ident
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Thanks for this.


Richard Chafey

 

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MSFS 2020, P3D 5.1, DCS

 

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Hello Ident,

great topic and an excellent post. I have been looking into this myself lately, and I can offer my own perspective on various programs. Let me start with what you have not mentioned:

- FSCaptain (disclaimer: I am affiliated). Similar to FSPassengers but more in-depth. Focuses on proper flying but also simulates interaction with your company's dispatcher and your passengers, and includes an economic model. Not the easiest simulation to master, but, IMHO, the deepest.

- FSAirlines. An economic model for VAs. Emphasizes scheduled flights and has some charter flights available. I personally did not find it flexible enough. Cargo charter flights appear to be limited to 20kg, 200kg, 2t, or 20t of payload, which makes some airplanes (e.g., B350) non-competitive.

- PACX and Self-Loading Cargo. Focus on simulating the interaction with passengers. (I only tried PACX, but from what I've read both programs appear to be similar)

- Fly The World. Similar to FSEconomy with a larger variety of airplanes.

- A pilot's life: I haven't tried it, but it appears to focus on job creation from the perspective of a pilot.

 As for the programs you discussed above, my personal opinion is as follows.

- FSEconomy. I really enjoyed it (in fact, I was almost addicted for a while), and it is free. However, two things made me stop using it. First of all, time compression. I like to fly realistic, but the fact that FSE allows time compression made me cut corners, just to make more virtual dollars. I departed from the active runway (rather than from a stand) at 4x compression; I flew in remote areas where P3D looks really barren just because that's where the most lucrative jobs were; I ignored mandatory fuel reserves to maximize payload; and I switched off weather so that I could fly from A to B at 16x time compression on a straight line. The second reason was that you can essentially only spend your virtual $ on airplanes or FBOs, and it is practically impossible to get an FBO at an airport of your choice.

FSPassengers: I used it before I started to use FSCaptain. I never looked back.

- OnAir. I would rank it fairly low in the list of programs in this thread. Nice user interface for sure, but I experienced so many inconsistencies that I would wait for at least a year before giving it another try.

- Neofly . I am not using MSFS regularly (for now), so I don't know it.

- AirHauler v2. Very good economic model, maybe the best out there. However, the job creation is very inflexible. You can get stuck for days at a remote airport without a job offer. You can do ad-hoc flights, which is very good, but it would be better for the immersion if you were offered more jobs from airports where your fleet is located.

Peter

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(MSFS 2020, P3D v5.1, i7-10700KF, GTX 3080, 32 GB ram)

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Thanks Peter for your post. Totally wasnt thinking of those other ones and some are new to me so thanks for adding them with an idea of what they are about. Yes, yes, yes the ole FSE "Lawn Darts". The act of finding yourself no longer flying to enjoy flying but chasing the virtual buck instead. I feel into that rut as Im sure many other did. I feel that is why the addons that allow a user to start with the funds they want or quickly allow them to get the plane they care to fly reduces that. Thing about FSE is a user needs cash on hand incase something comes up they want to buy as to where in say OnAir, there is no feel of true urgency as a user can build a FBO at any airport at anytime as there are no limits on lots.

I've taken what I've learned on FSE and applied it to my OnAir flying. My goals are simple as far as what I want to own in time and the business I want to build so each flight is its own reward and I fly all of them on PilotEdge and treat each flight as I would in real life. Thats one thing I like about these addons that offer a skill tree as future goals to unlock as my character develops.

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NeoFly is currently the best one for MSFS at the moment, at least until Air Hauler becomes compatible with the new sim. At which point it will be Air Hauler all the way, simply because it is vastly superior to all other offerings of this kind of career mode ilk, so if you fly XPlane or FSX or P3D, then it's a no brainer - Air Hauler is the one.

Those still flying FSX have another good choice incidentally, and that is Aerosoft's African Airstrip Adventures, which is really excellent if you want an interactive bush flying career in African. Featuring some really good scenery of a load of challenging bush strips, African animals (way before MSFS ever managed it), lots of cool zebra paint jobs for the default FSX aeroplanes and probably the best stab at an interactive adventure-like GUI out of any of these kind of career add-ons. It was way ahead of its time when it came out, so it still stands up quite well these days in spite of its age.


Alan Bradbury

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21 minutes ago, Chock said:

Aerosoft's African Airstrip Adventures

Hmmm with how great the scenery is there now in MSFS and how Aerosoft has a really good working relationship with Asobo, I wonder if down the road they will ever revisit that addon and bring it into MSFS. I had a lady friend pilot who went over to Africa and got Bush Pilot certified in some degree. Loved the pictures she sent back.

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Thanks for the list of 'career' addons. I was looking for an overview since I am looking for something like this.
While some kind of career -or virtual airline- addon gives one purpose, I doubt we are all looking to emulate real life to the letter, because we would end up doing the same return trip for most of our time. Personally I am also not interested in managing an airline, I just want give my virtual flying a sense of purpose.

I used FSPassengers a lot in the old days, and I liked it for the same reasons as Ident; The virtual wear and tear makes you try to treat your aircraft with respect since otherwise you'd have to pay for repairs more often. The chance of a random failure was also nice to keep you on your toes.
Since FSPassengers is no longer maintained and a MSFS version isn't in the cards I just started to use FSEconomy. I couldn't care less about my virtual bank account, but I like the added immersion of having to decide which flights to take and not make me lose money. I doesn't have the immersion that FSPassengers had though.


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My "replacement" for FSP into 64bit is the FSCaptain, I really love it, I don't want care some build-in semi-controllable airline managment like FSP, so FSC works better for me.

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As someone who flew OnAir for 3 months, every day, I can tell you as a CEO of my own company, it was very much like running my own company.  I considered it my "other" job. It got to a point that I rarely flew because I was buying planes, pilots, flight attendants and spending my time managing and directing my airline. It became an obsession until one day I just quit.  What was I doing all that for.  It's not real money but the program makes you obsessed over it as if it were.

Then I found NeoFly. I can sum up NeoFly with one word, "fun". I got back in my plane and I was flying my own missions.  I got a loan and bought a Barron G58 which is my favorite plane to fly.  There are a dozen or so different types of missions. Flying cargo to an airport without breaking the bottles is among my favorites. Flying medical staff to a nearby traffic accident, taking passengers sightseeing, and several others.  And they provide the sound for cargo and passengers loading in and out of your plane.  The dispatcher let's you know what is going on. With the Events addon which is very cheap, it adds on more sounds and more missions.  And then all of a sudden the dispatcher gets on there and redirects you to another airport, because one of your passengers is wanted by the law.  It's a ton of fun, flying with a purpose.  And you can donate to the program if you like.  I already have enough stress with my real CEO job.  NeoFly is fun!

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Honestly, I personally find Air Hauler in some ways to be too much of a good thing.  What I like about NeoFly is that I can dip in and out of it whenever I want, and then put it aside for a couple weeks and not worry about keeping a business running in the background.   When I want to play a detailed and time consuming management simulation, I have a Steam account full of everything from Rollercoaster Tycoon to Football Manager I can fire up.  When I want to fly, I want to fly, and NeoFly lets me do that then gets out of the way.

Air Hauler is a fine product though, and I bought AH2 when it came out just to support it.   And you can certainly play it as a singleton, if you want, but that's leaving so much of what it can do, and what you've paid for, untouched that it seems like a shame.  Even though I own it, I start up NeoFly a lot more often.

Everyone's tastes differ, though, I'm not trying to yuck anyone's yum.  🙂


Rob Jones, Lead Developer🆆🆃Working Title Simulations
(Except where stated, all opinions are mine, not those of my employer.)

 

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