Minecraft Flight Simulator Is One Seriously Ambitious Minecraft Mod That Actually Delivers
When it comes to flying in Minecraft, there aren’t many mods to choose from. Archimedes Ships allows for zeppelins/ blimps. MCHeli has a small assortment of planes with sometimes-wonky handling. And you of course have Flan’s Mod, which pound-for-pound is the king of the flying mods. But there’s a new contender stepping into the ring — Don Bruce’s Minecraft Flight Simulator — and holy cow, does it pack a serious punch.
Minecraft Flight Simulator isn’t just an airplane mod: its obvious goal is to be the most realistic, accurate, and wildly ambitious airplane mod available in Minecraft (simulators are more advanced traditionally than games like GTA that have flying added in as an afterthought). Unlike most highly ambitious mods, this one actually delivers on those goals in ways few other mods in its weight-class actually do.
The idea behind Minecraft Flight Simulator is to bring realistic flight simulation into Minecraft in a fashion similar to popular flight sim games like Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-Plane. The mod features realistic flight mechanics and physics (as realistic as Minecraft’s code and design will allow, anyway), and presents flight to blocky aspiring pilots in a way that really makes sense in the world of Minecraft. It also introduces several different aircraft to choose from, including both small Cessna-like planes and the larger iconic Ford Trimotor.
Right out of the gate, players need to do something no standalone flight simulator game has ever asked players to do, but should be all too familiar to Minecraft fans: you have to actually gather up resources and build your airplane from scratch. Don Bruce made this work difficult enough to be truly fun; airplanes are cheap enough to build that you actually want to go for it, but expensive enough that you’re careful with your airplanes and unwilling to take too many unnecessary risks while flying around.
One of the coolest features of this mod is the fact that you actually get to configure your airplanes in ways every other flying mod should try to emulate going forward. Minecraft Flight Simulator allows you to set up assortments of seats and chests so you can personalize your airplanes, whether you want to build a cargo hauler to move goods between airports or a passenger plane so you and your friends can hop to another town. You can even configure your dashboard with different instrumentation, putting gauges and panels in whichever locations are the most convenient to you personally. Pretty snazzy!
When it comes time to actually get into your plane and fly, Minecraft Flight Simulator offers players a realistic experience that is more accurate than the cartoony flight of Flan’s mod or the bonkers, borderline-uncontrollable flying in MCHeli. The planes in Minecraft Flight Simulator actually fly like real planes, as much as Minecraft itself will allow them to anyway, and apart from some lagginess (particularly when you’re running lots of other mods) and a few small bugs that will surely be worked out over time, this mod’s flying feels much closer to the real deal than any of its contemporaries will likely ever get.
Oh, and did I mention joysticks? Yeah… Minecraft Flight Simulator actually allows for joystick and gamepad flight! I don’t know how Don Bruce actually did it, but yes, it works, though it does require quite a bit of fiddling and configuration to make it happen, and in my experience, joystick configurations are lost whenever you need to reload your game, though I’m sure this too will get fixed in later updates.
Another thing this mod does better than the competition? Fiery explosive crashes! In Flan’s Mod, crashing into the ground will destroy your plane often without breaking tall grass or flowers, and without doing any damage to the pilot, either. I’ve literally crashed planes into people on the ground and seen them walk away without a scratch. In MCHeli, crashes cause explosions, but sometimes the aircraft will simply lag out or get stuck in trees. This happily isn’t the case with Minecraft Flight Simulator: crashes feel like proper crashes, spreading fire and death and mayhem all over the place. It can make early flight training a bit frustrating, but the cool factor is still undeniable.
Of course, no mod is ever without a few bugs, and Minecraft Flight Simulator isn’t an exception. Flying, especially with a joystick, can oftentimes feel jagged and a bit laggy, particularly when you’re using lots of other mods. And whatever you do, don’t use this plane to explore new chunks, either, as the lag (at least in 1.7.10) will likely result in a major crash… either for your plane, or for your game itself.
The joystick controls are impressive, but could benefit from a bit of fine-tuning. For instance, there’s no trim, so you’ll end up holding the stick at an awkward angle for lengthy flights. And with my Saitek X52 Flight Controller, the throttle is Y-flipped; pushing forward should be acceleration, but it’s actually deceleration. I can’t tell however if this is an issue with the mod itself, or if it’s just another of the X52’s legendary technical issues with unsupported games.
Also, it would be nice if the planes could reverse (pushback/ rollback) on the ground, allowing for them to properly use hangars, but that’s more of a feature request than a real issue. When asked about this feature, Don Bruce explained that he had no intention of adding pushback due to its lack of realism (in real life, planes need to literally be pushed backward with a ground vehicle, and can’t actually be reversed on their own. Reverse thrust from a jet engine would blow out windows and kill people. Generally not a good idea to use it, wouldn’t you say?).
The biggest issue I’ve found is that the planes all suffer from having far too low a fuel capacity, gobbling up lava (or a configurable other liquid, like Buildcraft fuel) at a rate that makes planes unsuitable for super-extended flights — a pain when your airports are 10k to 20k blocks apart. Also, manually filling up the planes with buckets feels like a bit of a chore; it would be awesome to see a future update where planes could be refueled more easily, perhaps using some sort of handheld fuel pump, or maybe a block that loads your fuel when you park on top of it (the pump idea would be more challenging technically, but ultimately more realistic than a Railcraft-esque loader block).
Are those bugs and other issues mod-breaking? Absolutely not. All told, Minecraft Flight Simulator is hands-down one of the most awe-inspiring mods ever made for Minecraft, and even in its current, unpolished state, I would be willing to go so far as to say that it belongs in the upper echelon of great mods, alongside Buildcraft, Pam’s Harvestcraft, and Journeymap. Given some tweaks, bug-killing, and time to add new features, Minecraft Flight Simulator is going to be giving Flan’s Mod a very serious run for its money.
Simply put, if you’re a fan of flight and want to see realistic airplanes in Minecraft, this mod is an absolute must-have. It’s already miles ahead of its main stylistic competitor, MCHeli, and while it may not have the huge selection of airplanes or the aerial combat that Flan’s Mod boasts, Minecraft Flight Simulator offers a truly exhilarating method of flight that is technologically superior to Flan’s Mod in nearly every way.