9 Best Professional Flight Simulators Of 2024 | Both Software & Real Ones

Have you ever wondered about the software used by big airline companies? Or perhaps you’ve wanted to experience it yourself? If so, we’re here to help you out.

Flight simulation technology has evolved significantly since World War II. In recent years, it has become more accessible for personal use, without requiring hefty investments of money and resources.

In this article, we’ve put together a list of high-quality resources for flight simulation enthusiasts. The post is divided into two sections.

First, we’ll introduce three top-notch flight simulation software options that you can run on your home computers. These programs can also assist you in setting up your own basic flight simulation setup.

Then, we’ll explore five professional-grade, full-motion flight simulators commonly used by pilots to hone their skills.

Did you know? 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) permits pilots to log up to 25 hours of training in a flight simulator. This contributes towards meeting the total flight time requirement of 1500 hours needed to become a pilot.

4. XPlane Pro

Price: $1,000 (Digital Download)

Dubbed the most used general-purpose flight simulator, XPlane allows users to create a truly powerful flight simulator without much hassle. It provides hardware and frame-rate checks to ensure it complies with guidelines for FAA certification.

It uses spherical and cylindrical map projections, just like real-life simulators, and it’s compatible with Garmin Real Simulator Units.

XPlane has everything you need in a professional simulator: real-world terrain data, dynamic weather effects, and satellite imagery contribute to a lifelike scenario that enhances situational awareness and decision-making skills. 

Plus, it offers exceptional versatility for training purposes. From new trainers to complex commercial airlines, you can get access to various aircraft to suit your training needs. 

3. Prepar3D

Price: $350 per professional license 

Prepar3D, owned by Lockheed Martin, is a top-tier simulation platform tailored for virtual flight training. It features advanced graphics rendering technology, including high-resolution terrain textures, realistic weather effects, and dynamic lighting. 

One remarkable feature is its versatility, allowing users to select from a wide range of training scenarios, including underwater and orbital space environments.

More specifically, it includes 24,000+ airports, coastlines, rivers, lakes, landmarks, parks, rails, roads, and utility lines with texture resolutions reaching as high as 4096*4096 pixels. The simulator is widely utilized by small and large organizations, individuals, and the military to train pilots.

Prepar3D seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Flight Simulator X, enabling users to incorporate additional add-ons. The software offers three licensing options: Professional, Academic Professional Plus, and Developer licenses.

The Professional Plus license is the premium option, packed with essential features for flight learners. However, it comes at a considerable cost, priced at $2750 per license. Some of its standout features include:

  • AI implementation in different scenarios
  • Distributed Interactive  Simulation (DIS) sessions
  • Recreation of different flight scenarios with different variable

2. Redbird Flight Simulation

Price: $2,995 (The JAY)

Redbird Flight Simulation is a US-based company specializing in flight training. It offers a range of flight simulation products, including PC simulators, advanced aviation training devices, and full-flight simulators. 

Their key products are

  • The Jay, a PC-based simulator with modified FSX software
  • FMX, a full-motion advanced aviation system 
  • Alloy series, which includes rudder pedals, throttle, and an aircraft yolk

Their simulators are used in over 40 countries, with installations in flight schools, universities, and aviation training centers. 

Redbird’s simulators accurately simulate the look, feel, and performance of real aircraft. From cockpit layout to flight dynamics, these simulators can provide a realistic training experience for real-world flying. 

They provide real-time feedback and performance analysis, making it easier for instructors to track pilot progress, find areas for improvement, and tailor training programs to individual needs. 

There are a couple of exciting additions worth mentioning. One is Insight, which seamlessly integrates live video of the outside world into all Redbird simulators. Another notable feature is Parrot, designed specifically for novice pilots to practice VFR (Visual Flight Rules) radio communications.

Since their establishment in 2006, Redbird simulators have logged millions of training hours, offering pilots realistic and highly effective training experiences.

1. Microsoft Flight Simulator

Price: $60 (for the standard version)

Microsoft Flight Simulator (MFS) is among the most advanced simulation software out there. It sets new standards for graphical fidelity in flight simulation. 

It utilizes Azure’s cloud technology and photogrammetry data to generate highly detailed and lifelike environments, including realistic terrain, landmarks, buildings, aircraft models, and weather effects.  

It also utilizes Bing Maps data and satellite imagery to offer a truly global experience, allowing pilots to fly virtually anywhere on Earth. More specifically, it includes 1.5 petabytes of Bing Maps data, covering nearly 2 million cities, 1.5 billion buildings, and 2 trillion trees across the world. 

Furthermore, the simulator comes with 30+ highly detailed aircraft models, including popular airplanes like Boeing 747, Airbus A320ne0, and Cessna 172, each meticulously simulated with precise cockpit layouts, instrument panels, and flight dynamics. 

In terms of market performance, the Microsoft Flight Simulator (MFS) series has achieved remarkable success.

Total sales of the series have exceeded 22.2 million units. On Steam alone, the series has generated over $65.1 million in sales. Impressively, 78.2% of the game’s reviews on the platform are positive, with an average playtime of 247.7 hours. 

Commercial Aircraft Simulator

While many great video game-style flight simulations with state-of-the-art video rendering and 3D cockpits are available on the market, they always lack one key aspect: motion.

Yes, those video games are fun, but they are nothing compared to professional flight simulators used by airline companies and the military to train their pilots.

An industry-grade or licensed flight simulator offers much more than PC-based games. A full-motion simulation platform is the closest thing to flying a real aircraft. While these machines are generally meant to train pilots, very few of them can be rented for hours.

These simulators are not just a source of fun; they can also improve your flying skills. Here are 5 of the best full-motion flight simulators from all around the world that you can ride (in no particular order).

1. Thai Simulator Experience

Location: Bangkok, Thailand

Thai Airways is another international airline that allows the general public to use its professional-grade flight simulators via the Thai Royal Orchid membership program. Visitors can simulate either an Airbus A330 or A380 aircraft (depending on availability) alongside a professional flight instructor.

The simulation features landing and takeoff practices from some of the world’s biggest airports, including London Heathrow, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Sydney. You must book your session for at least three days in advance.

Once booked, you will be assigned an instructor who will provide expert guidance and assistance throughout your flight. These instructors are often experienced pilots themselves, providing valuable insights to enhance your simulator experience and help you make the most of it.

2. United Airlines A320 Simulator

Flight simulators in the United Airlines facility

Location: Denver, Colorado

Another commercial-grade flight simulator you can enjoy is the United Airlines A320 simulator located in Denver. Though the facility is rarely opened to the general public, anyone with the United MileagePlus card can apply whenever there is an opportunity.

All you have to do is enter an auction, and you can use your award miles for hours in the simulator. The highest bidder gets to enjoy the simulator for up to four hours along with a friend or whoever you want to take.

In 2024, United Airlines inaugurated its new Flight Training Center facility. It now has 56 full-motion flight simulators and 34 fixed training devices. Operating 24 hours a day for 362 days annually, the facility has the capability to conduct 32,000 training events per year and train up to 860 pilots daily.

Did you know?

In 1954, United Airlines was the first commercial airline to incorporate flight simulators featuring visual and sound aids into their pilot training programs. It’s important to note that these simulators were not full-motion or Level D simulators

3. Qantas 747 Flight Simulator

Qantas flight simulator

Location: Sydney, Australia

If you are a frequent flyer on Australia’s biggest airline, Qantas, you can also become one of the few lucky people in the world who have flown a Boeing 747—not the real one, of course.

You can book your 2.5-hour ride on the simulator at the Qantas training facility. During your time in the simulator, a seasoned flight instructor will provide guidance on various in-flight instruments and important instructions.

You’ll experience the sensation of engine thrust and hydraulic forces, giving you a realistic feel of piloting a 440-ton aircraft. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to simulate takeoffs and landings at real-life airports from around the globe.

4. Delta Flight Museum Simulator

Image Courtesy: EPA

Location: Atlanta

For over three decades, the Delta Flight Museum has been a one-stop destination for aviation and aircraft fans. It has so many things to offer, from historical knowledge to the future of flight. However, one of its main spotlights is the full-motion Boeing 737-200 flight simulator, which is open to the general public.

Anyone with $425 and age above 16 can gain access to the flight simulator for one hour. Actually, it’s 45 minutes, with a 10-minute pre-flight briefing and 5 minute review time.

Besides offering a thrilling flying experience, the Delta Flight Museum also offers educational opportunities for visitors. You can learn about the history of aviation, the fundamentals of flights, as well as the technology behind modern aircraft. 

It’s a valuable learning experience for students and aviation enthusiasts alike. 

5. EVA Flight Simulator

Location: Taoyuan, Taiwan

EVA Air, one of Taiwan’s largest airlines, offers its regular passengers and cardholders the opportunity to experience flight simulators, similar to Qantas and United Airlines.

To participate, individuals must submit a form one month prior to their desired session. However, it’s important to note that participants need to have accumulated at least 100,000 miles or completed 100 flights to qualify for this experience. The specific type of flight simulation and aircraft will be determined by the airline.

Furthermore, participants are required to travel to EVA Air’s headquarters in Taoyuan City, Taiwan, to take part in the experience.

Read More 

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Written by
Bipro Das

I am a content writer and researcher with over seven years of experience covering all gaming and anime topics. I also have a keen interest in the retail sector and often write about the business models/strategies of popular brands.

I started content writing after completing my graduation. After writing tech-related things and other long-form content for 2-3 years, I found my calling with games and anime. Now, I get to find new games and write features and previews.

When not writing for RankRed, I usually prefer reading investing books or immersing myself in Europa Universalis 4. But I am currently interested in some new JRPGs as well.

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  • SO much lack of research makes for a truly lazy and embarrassing article. Your lack of work didn’t even get you near the world of professional flight simulation software solutions – yet another clickbait site from morons for morons.

    • Lol are you calling yourself a moron? I’m confused because you are one who got tricked by the click, and now on this article making fun of ones on this page.
      ‍♂️ SMH

    • Before you complain about how flawed a list it, you should be prepared to support your position. I did not see any information from you, just a claim. You say this page had a lack of research, you supplied none.

  • Hi! You seem to have missed out on the UK. In the South Of England, West Sussex to be precise, you will find Full Motion Experience. They have special access to Level D Full Flight Simulators that are usually offered to professional pilots for training! Only a select few can offer experiences to the public and I can’t speak higher of FME. Sia my pilot was brilliant and these £15 million bits of kit are amazing.