While our recommendations focus on software add-ons that can be purchased and downloaded, there are a few excellent pieces of hardware that we recommend for serious simmers.
To fly on BVA’s server, you need to have an at-home simulator (such as FSX or P3D), a joystick or yoke to control the aircraft, and a headset. While most of our members use Microsoft Flight Simulator X (FSX), we recommend new users purchase Prepar3D (P3D). Prepar3D is an FSX-based platform that supports almost all FSX-based add-ons, but also takes advantage of the latest developments in computer hardware to produce a much more realistic visual environment.
The computer that you’re running also makes a difference. Generally, the more powerful your computer is, the more impressive the game will be—and the more add-ons you will be able to run. Ideal computer configurations are beyond the scope of this page. However, you can find numerous recommendations on our forums and on elsewhere the web.
Aircraft Control Hardware
Saitek makes some of the most realistic and accurate hardware for at-home flight simulation. We recommend purchasing hardware from Saitek. Most BVA members recommend either the Pro Flight Yoke System (including throttle quadrant) or the Pro Flight X52 joystick, and a set of rudder pedals. You can find the range of Saitek products on the manufacturer’s website.
In-Game View Controls
One piece of hardware that is often overlooked but can make a big improvement to the simulator experience is TrackIR. TrackIR is head-tracking hardware and software that interacts with the sim. The setup is simple: a small clip attaches to your headset and a receiver sits atop your computer monitor. Together, the system tracks your head movements and interfaces them with flight simulator. As you move your head to the left, your view pans left (you have full control over the sensitivity, so moving your head half an inch can move your viewpoint across the cockpit). Three dimensions of movement are tracked, meaning you can lean your head forward to flick a switch or read a small display. VFR flying, conducting curved RNAV or pattern-entry visual approaches, taxiing, and operating in the virtual cockpit (particularly important with developers moving away from 2D panels) all become much easier and more enjoyable with TrackIR. The manufacturer’s website provides more information about TrackIR.
Connecting FSX to ForeFlight
If you have ForeFlight for the iPad, you can use a $5 app from www.fsxflight.com to connect FSX to ForeFlight just as you could connect an aircraft’s GPS to the iPad app for flight planning. You’ll see your aircraft moving on ForeFlight, georeferenced with charts. This app is strongly recommended for anyone who uses the ForeFlight iPad app for real-world flying.