X-Plane & Flight Instruction (A CFI’s Favorite Features)

A Flight Instructor’s Review of X-Plane 11

There are many features built into X-Plane 11 that make it an ideal tool for flight training, whether you’re a student pilot, getting your instrument rating, or just looking to maintain proficiency. Let’s take a look at those features and how you can use them to your advantage to become a safer and more proficient pilot.

Pause

All flight simulators have a pause feature, and X-Plane 11 is no exception. This is a hugely useful tool because it will give you extra time to think and prepare for what is coming next to do it correctly, instead of rushing yourself and practicing bad habits.

Replay

Press ALT+R on your keyboard to enter the reply mode, or use the dropdown menu (Flight -> Toggle replay mode). From there, you can use the slider to go back in time and review any point during the current flight. This is an incredibly useful tool for practicing without an instructor, allowing you to debrief yourself and analyze how you could have improved a particular maneuver, instrument approach, etc. To exit the replay mode, you can press ALT+R again.

Depiction of the replay mode in X-Plane 11

Map

Press the letter M on your keyboard to display the map, or press the pinpoint button in the upper right of the menu bar. You will find the features here useful for two reasons:

Debriefing

Did you just try flying a turn around a point or S turn across a road, and want to see how accurate your ground track was? The map lets you do just this, showing a complete history of your ground track.

Depiction of the map mode in X-Plane 11, to see aircraft ground track

Precise repositioning

If you find and click the aircraft labeled “You”, it will reveal a menu that allows you to instantly adjust the position, altitude, heading, speed, and pitch attitude of the aircraft. To reposition, simply drag the aircraft to the desired location on the map. This is especially useful when you want to practice VOR navigation from a particular point.

Depiction of the position adjustment mode in X-Plane 11

Scenario files

Related to the previous tip, once you position the aircraft in an initial condition (position, flap configuration, etc.), you can save a scenario file, that way you can quickly return back to it for repetitive practice without having to reset all the different parameters. Go to File -> Save Flight, then change the slider to “Situation” and choose a relevant name for your scenario. Finally, save the file.

How to save situation files in X-Plane 11

When you’re ready to load the scenario, go to File -> Load Flight. While you can load any of your scenarios by just clicking the corresponding row and pressing “Load Flight,” it can often be quite useful to assign a keyboard or joystick command, allowing you to reload the scenario with the press of just a single button for the ultimate efficiency.

Failures

Learning to manage failures is a critical part of flight training. X-Plane allows for great flexibility in what failures can be activated and how they may be triggered. The best part is that you can configure failures to randomly occur after an average duration of flying time. In this way, before you start up a solo flight, you could select one or two failures you would like to practice, yet still introduce the important element of surprise regarding when the failure will be triggered.

Setting up failures in X-Plane 11

In this case, an engine fire will occur on average 30 minutes into your flight (the exact time will randomly vary). It’s also possible to trigger a failure based on your manual keyboard command, or upon reaching a particular airspeed/altitude.

Mike Catalfamo
Mike Catalfamo
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