Software Recommendations
In our opinion, there are two critical payware add-ons that every at-home flight simmer should have: ActiveSky and Real Environment Xtreme (REX). Beyond that, your individual preferences will determine the best add-ons to purchase. To help determine what makes the most sense, we have put together a list of five "must have" add-ons that we think you should consider before any others, as well as a list of other top developers to consider.

To expand each of the sections below, click on the blue arrows on the right side of the page.

This page was last updated on August 21, 2015.
Must Have Minimize
ActiveSky and REX
ActiveSky and REX work best together. Both products are functionally similar. However, ActiveSky’s weather engine is superior to that of REX, while REX’s add-on textures are richer and broader than those offered in ActiveSky. The ideal configuration is to use REX’s textures (run REX once to select and install those you wish to use but disable its weather engine), then run ActiveSky every time you start FSX to benefit from more realistic weather.

ActiveSky
Manufacturer: HiFi Technologies
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What It Does:
ActiveSky (the current version is ActiveSky Next) is an exceptionally realistic and accurate weather engine that offers a substantial improvement to the default weather in FSX. 180-degree wind shifts at altitude, “popping” clouds, and generally inaccurate weather become a thing of the past.

In addition, ActiveSky also includes over 16 GB of high-definition graphics textures that can be custom-configured or weather-influenced.

Why You Need It:
Realistic weather—whether your FSX flights take you on long-haul airliner flights or in the traffic pattern with a C172—is as essential to flying online as it is in an airplane. ActiveSky’s weather engine not only improves the accuracy of weather but also contributes to a more engaging and immersive visual experience by placing more accurate cloud types in better places.
Real Environment Xtreme 4 Texture Direct and Soft Clouds
Manufacturer: REX Game Studios
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What It Does:
While Real Environment Xtreme does include a weather engine (and it is a substantial improvement over the default), REX’s real value is in the incredibly rich and diverse set of texture enhancements it allows you to configure and install into FSX. The over 20GB of high-definition textures include almost every texture in the game, including the sky, clouds, runways, taxiways, water, and waves. If you’ve ever seen an FSX screenshot and wondered why it looked so good—REX is probably the answer. The "Overdrive" texture packs add additional texture options that further enhance the REX experience.

Why You Need It:
Look at the screenshots and you’ll understand why REX contributes more than any other add-on program to an immersive and engaging simulator experience. When the color of the sky at sunset changes a little bit every day, the clouds on the screen look exactly like they do out the window, and you can see the cracks in the HD runway and taxiway textures, FSX is a more enjoyable place to spend time and practice

The Next Purchases
Once you have purchased the first two recommended add-ons above, the next set of add-ons we recommend depend on your preferences and reasons for using an at-home simulator. For most users, we suggest you continue with:

  1. At least one add-on aircraft from the list in the "Our Suggestions" section below
  2. FTX Global Base
  3. FTX Vector

FTX Global and Vector work very well together. Most users purchase both (FTX Global Base is required for FTX Vector).

At least one add-on aircraft from the list of recommended Add-On Aircraft in the "Our Suggestions"  section below
What It Does:
The quality of default aircraft is variable. Some aircraft, like the default Cessna 172, Beechcraft Baron 58, or even CRJ700 are considered to be “not bad”. However, no default aircraft can compare to the physical realism, accuracy of simulation, and visual appeal of high-quality payware aircraft.

Pick an aircraft that fits best with the type of flying you like to do. If you regularly fly piston aircraft, we’ve recommended a few manufacturers you might want to look at. You’ll find most payware aircraft improve the flight dynamics, instrumentation, and visual realism associated with General Aviation aircraft.

If you prefer jet aircraft, payware add-ons offer a major improvement in functionality over default aircraft. All include Flight Management Systems (FMS), the computers that control the autopilots of most modern airliners.

Why You Need It:
The value you can get from the simulator—either as an aviation enthusiast interested in simulating real-world airliner flights accurately or as a private pilot looking to train in an aircraft that flies as closely as possible to the one you operate in real life—increases exponentially with add-on aircraft. Any of the add-on aircraft listed below offer excellent value, so pick the developer that has an aircraft type you like and get learning!
FTX Global Base
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What It Does:
FTX Global (FTX) upgrades the default non-airport ground textures for FSX. Cities, roads, farms, forests—anything that is considered ground-based “autogen” in FSX gets a major visual improvement with FTX. Vibrant, rich, and appealing Orbx textures are a substantial visual improvement over the default. Compatible with 3rd party landclass and mesh products, the software also includes 3D night lighting for the entire planet. Best of all, there is almost no impact on frames.

Why You Need It:
FTX Global provides a much more realistic and visually-appealing set of off-airport ground textures that make flying in the simulator more enjoyable. Unlike add-on scenery products which only improve the scenery at an airport, FTX improves everything—from cities to countryside, day and night.

Please Note:
Ground Environment X (GEX) is a similar program that updates "autogen" items. GEX is limited to specific regions (e.g., North America) but is much less expensive than FTX Global. In our experience, FTX Global tends to produce a better visual environment than GEX. However, both are solid programs that will offer a major improvement on the default "autogen" items, and will perform better (i.e., no reduction in frames) than default FTX "autogen".
FTX Global Vector
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What It Does:
If you’ve ever been trying to follow a road you can see on your sectional in the simulator and had it disappear—you need FTX Global Vector (Vector)! Vector adds the little textures and details that make flying VFR in FSX actually possible. Bridges, roads, rivers, streams, railroads and railyards, beaches, cemeteries, small islands, and the embankments on the side of highways are just a few of the details you’ll see installing Vector.

Why You Need It:
If you fly VFR regularly and like to use pilotage (e.g., looking at the sectional and cross-referencing landmarks), you can only do that properly with Vector.

If you regularly fly airliners, UTX may not be as beneficial. However, you’ll still appreciate excellent improvements to coastlines and major roadways, landclass and waterclass files, night lighting, and other ground textures.
Our Suggestions Maximize
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