Cloudy's SuperTips for FS2004

This is a collection of my best tips for better installing, handling and flying FS2004. I have found some online, others I have concocted myself. I have tried and included the main "annoyances" and how to circumvent some.
A few of the tips below have already been circulated in the PC Pilots Ireland mail group.
I have fully tested my recommendations in my PC/FS installation, built in March 2004:
  Pentium 4 3GHz, 1Gb RAM, ATi Radeon 9800XT, 2 SATA hard disks.
  Disk 1: C: Windows XP Pro 32bit SP3, E: giga-sceneries: VFR England, FS Global 2005 and the likes.
  Disk 2: S: FS2004 including most sceneries, Z: virtual and temporary files.
I have lately retested most of the tips below in my new PC/FS installation, built in January 2012:
  Core i7 960 3.2GHz, 12Gb RAM, AMD Radeon HD6870. 2 SDD and 2 SATA hard disks, used as follows.
  Disk 1(SSD): C: Windows 7 Pro 64bit SP1 ("W7" below), F: Programs and Utilities.
  Disk 2(HDD): E: giga-sceneries: VFR England, FS Global 2005 and other VFR/Mega sceneries.
  Disk 3(SSD): S: FS2004 including all the aircraft and the remaining sceneries..
I have found absolutely no issues in installing FS2004 and all my addons in the new PC. On the contrary, on my i7 PC the stutters are minimised and frame rates are from 60 to 100 with "all the sliders max", even in the most complex scenery and with full shadows.

When the Operating System is relevant, all the entries below apply to Windows 7.x and 8.x (I have not tested Windows 10). I have now deleted all the entries specific to the old Windows XP. Entries below are sorted alphabetically. Unless otherwise stated, FS stands always for FS2004. For non-IT techies: a "bug" is a program error. Finally, should you wish to edit manually your file 
               C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\Microsoft\FS9\fs9.CFG
do it always while FS is NOT running, otherwise the changes will be overwritten by FS! As for aircraft.cfg and panel.cfg files, you can indeed edit them while FS is running, but need to "refresh" the aircraft for the changes to be effective (see below "HIDDEN COMMANDS: Refresh Aircraft").

A380 FREE DOWNLOADS - Mike Stone vs Robert Versluys
AIRCRAFT FLIGHT DYNAMICS - Improved Cessna C172SP by RealAir
AUTOSAVE - Pros and Cons
BRAKES - Standard brakes incompatible with toe brakes
CARBURETTOR HEAT - Icing not modelled
Carenado C152II - Fixing bugs
Cessna C182 - Fixing Sluggish performance of the default aircraft

CH PRO PEDALS - Calibration Curves and FS2004 Settings with Gradual Toe Brakes
CH PRO PEDALS - Windows 7 sleep issue and solution

CPU AND GPU - Stop them while not flying
CRASHES - How to prevent them

INSTALLING ADD-ONS: Aircraft, Scenery and others
MESH - Choosing and Installing Sceneries

MIXTURE - Optimal setting
MONITOR - Cathode(CRT)
or Flat(TFT)?
OVERCLOCKING - The lowdown
PANELS - Tips on Design and View
SOUND HARDWARE: 5.1 is impressive!

WEATHER - Saving a Real-Weather download

A380 FREE DOWNLOADS - Mike Stone vs Robert Versluys

Most free A380 downloads belong to either Stone or Versluys flying model. I have performed a full comparison. VISUALLY, Versluys is much more sophisticated than Stone:
- fronts slats are gradual, vs "all or nothing" like Stone
- better movement of the gear down and up
- visible elevator trim
- very detailed front turbine rotation, vs a very simplistic one in Stone
- reflections, etcetera.
: I tested the aircraft with minimum payload and fuel, to make things easier.
TAKEOFF: both behaved quite similarly.
CLIMB: put into an ascending attitude with medium trim, Stone kept the same attitude when slowing, at an altitude of around 380 FL, all through from 330 kts to stalling at 100 kts! Versluys instead lowered the nose as it slowed, eventually stabilising as any real aircraft would under such circumstances. Also, no trim would put Stone into a stable climb! With Versluys it was difficult but possible.
LAND: at slow speeds in landing configuration, Stone is almost impossible to handle: it feels like a Zeppelin (even with the low payload and fuel). Furthermore, once landed in a high-nose up attitude, with 0 payload and fuel, I was able to stop it in a ridiculous low runway (1/3 of Meigs). Versluys instead handled like a 747, and landed in the expected runway length.

TIP: In spite of our friends in Blackpool, I daresay Versluys wins hands down.

AIRCRAFT FLIGHT DYNAMICS - Improved Cessna C172SP by RealAir

Microsoft tell us that FS2004 default aircraft dynamics have been painstakingly developed by professionals and tested by pilots. Accordingly, you would think that no tinkering with the aircraft.cfg coefficients could significantly improve the careful Microsoft flight models. Think again. There are a few thoroughly-revised flight dynamics for FS2004 that beat the default ones hands down in realism. A very thorough one is a redesign of the C172SP in order to use it as a pilots-to-be training tool. It was commissioned by a fully-fledged professional pilot school, Melbourne-based Aerospace Industry Training Centre, and produced by RealAir Simulations (from now on RA). It is an enhancement: you install is by making a copy of the default C172 folder, renaming it as you wish, then copying into it a large set of modified files. The main enhancements as described by RealAir are:
     - Slide Slipping fully implemented (Crossed aileron and rudder controls)
     - Stall behaviour enhanced - further improved in V2.2
     - Spin entry and established spin motion enabled
     - Accurate climb and cruise performance
     - Ultra high fidelity flight modelling with fine control in pitch, roll, yaw and trim
     - Improved suspension movement and springs
     - Enhanced ground handling
     - Atmospheric wind and suspension sounds
     - Departure stalls and spins, and a spin out of a slow tight turn
I installed it and performed a full file-against-file comparative analysis of RA's vs the default C172SP.
My conclusions:
PANEL: The RA panel is identical to the default one except for insignificant differences.
SOUND: 4 out of the 39 files have been substituted using improved RealAir sounds. In the process however the Door sounds and a few other original details have been omitted (possibly a leftover from the FS2002 version).
AIRCRAFT.CFG: there is only 1 aircraft with no variants. This is the core of RA contribution, with MANY modified aerodynamic parameters.
I carried on flying tests on the C172SP, swapping default and RA several times:
- SLIDE SLIPS: the default behaviour is indeed a sad thing: you can balance full rudders with ailerons and the aircraft will fly almost as if both were centred! The RA C172 really slips instead!
- SPINS: in the default Cessna, stick back and full rudder will produce a strange stall, but there is no way to produce a downward spin. The RA model instead produces the spin very naturally, and recovery is as expected.
- LANDING: behaviour and noise are much improved; you can really FEEL the light-metal parts of the aircraft frame screeching as it touches down!

CONCLUSION: RA's is radical change to be thoroughly recommended, best if used with our C172SP Cloudy panel. This improved C172SP is covered by our Checklists.


TIP 1: In FS2004 Settings-Display-Hardware you should have Anti-alias turned ON, or else whatever you set the graphics card to do will be ineffective.

As for which setting to use in the graphics card control panel, I have tested it in my AMD Radeon HD6870 at 1600x1200 resolution. In most Catalyst Control Center (CCC) 3D settings, either no Antialiasing is performed, or it does but also includes the panels, 2D and 3D, both in the gauges and the background bitmaps! Not only they become blurred, but the small fonts inside the GPSs are blurred to the point of illegibility!
Having tested one by one every single possible setting in the Radeon Catalyst, find below the solution that provides BOTH the antialiasing of the scenery (aircraft and buildings) while NOT antialiasing panels or gauges. (Note: this is the 2015 solution, after Catalyst changed the manu alternatives"!)

TIP2: With a Radeon graphics card you normally install the Catalyst software and drivers. My experience with alternative software is negative. Once you have decided about the card's settings in the Catalyst Control Centere (CCC), you can decide not to run anymore, but this will leave you with no control to know the settings and to restore/change them if need be. If your CPU can run FS2004 decently, leave CCC starting by default: having CCC running will use virtually nil CPU and RAM and you will at all times be able to check the card status before flying. To check whether CCC is running, look for the Radeon mini-icon in the Windows tray: it is a group of white bubbles with a red bubble in the centre. Right-click it and the first choice will be "AMD Catalyst Control Center". This will not show if CCC is not running.

TIP3: Open the CCC screen and select Gaming-3D Application Settings. A screen shows four groups of settings, with arrows to "open" them and enter the parameters as suggested below.


  • Anti-Aliasing Mode: Override application settings
  • Anti-Aliasing Samples: 4X
  • Filter: Standard
  • Anti-Aliasing Method: Multisampling
  • Morphological Filtering: Off

Texture Filtering:

  • Anisotropic Filtering Mode: Override application settings
  • Anisotropic Filtering Level: 4X
  • Texture Filtering Quality: Standard
  • Surface Format Optimization: Off

Frame Rate Control:

  • Wait for Vertical Refresh: Off, unless application specifies
  • OpenGL Triple Buffering: Off


  • Tessellation Mode: AMD Optimized
  • Maximum Tessellation Level: AMD Optimized

TIP4: Finally go to Presets and record a Preset (name it "FS" for example), which will save the above settings and also a keypress to restore them (for example Control-Shift-Alt C): with this, before starting FS, you can quickly ensure that your Radeon CCC settings are as above. (You do NOT need to open the CCC screen for the Preset to work, but CCC must be running in the background: we have explained above how to verify this.)

TIP5: With the above settings, once in FS the card will anti-alias scenery but not panels, in both windowed and fullscreen mode. Notice however that you cannot start FS and then introduce changes on the spot in CCC. For some strange reason, to see the change in FS you have to exit it restart it.

[I assume that Nvidia graphics cards 3D settings will behave similarly, but I have not tested them.]

AUTOSAVE - Pros and Cons

Autosave is a utility that can be downloaded from many places, e.g. mine is and contains Autosave.txt and Autosave.dll. The txt file of the latest version reads:
     "AutoSave: Automatic flight saving for FS98, FS2000, FS2002 & FS2004
     Version 1.50, 24th November 2003

V. 1.491 (identical except for a technicality) is also available from
Have been using it in both FS98 and FS2004 for ages with no effect in frame rates and no problems except the ones stated below. I find that the Pros certainly overcome the Cons.

PROS-1: If your FS2004 or your PC crashed or you wish to repeate a bad landing, you don't have to remember to save a flight every few minutes.
PROS-2: Unlike a manual flight save, Autosave goes unnoticed with NO stutter even in full 3D window.
CONS-1: If you crash and the autosave was performed just a couple of seconds before, you will find yourself in a loop: crash, flight restart, crash ... eventually FS2004 might crash as well. Solution: as soon as the flight restarts, press P to pause, then EITHER select another flight OR avoid the crash by slewing.
CONS-2: If you crash and the autosave kicks in during the recovery, the autosaved flight is recorded in error. You realise that rather than restarting after the crash, FS2004 hangs. You have to abort it with Ctrl-Alt-Del where the Task Manager will show that it is "Not Responding". When restarting, do NOT use the defective Autosaved flight or FS2004 will hang again! This is an annoyance only: nothing gets damaged or altered in your FS2004 installations.
TIP: Due to the CONS-2 above, I found
the most practical time between savings to be 5 minutes. The following is my AutoSave.cfg file:

BRAKES - Standard brakes incompatible with toe brakes

BUG/FEATURE:If you have pedals with toe brakes - like the popular CH Pro Pedals - and you assign, as you should, the toe brakes axes to the corresponding axes in FS2004, the standard brake action - normally performed with the period key - no longer works. Now, whenever you press BOTH pedals in parallel, Flight Simulator detects this and, instead of applying identical - or minimally different - "Differential Brakes" it automatically applies "Brakes". This feature is helpful in both steering and braking the aircraft on the ground.
It is unfortunate that in order to achieve such an effect they had to disconnect the period key. Also, and as in many other instances, I feel that all this info should have been included by Microsoft into the FS2004 documentation, rather than letting users like myself find it out by means of painstaking experimentation.

CARBURETTOR HEAT - Icing not modelled

Carburettor icing is not modelled in FS2004. Set the local temperature to -40 degrees and you can still start the Piper Cub's engine with no roughness. If an aircraft has a Carburettor Heat control in FS2004, its only effect is to reduce very slightly the engine's power.

Carenado Cessna C152II - Fixing bugs

The following advice is abridged from the author's detailed Review published in PC FLIGHT, June 2009, Dublin.

VC ZOOM. In the VC the panel is zoomed too close, and the user has to zoom back to see even the main gauges. This is easy to fix by the user.
TIP 1: Edit the aircraft.cfg file: find the line
and replace it by

COCKPIT VIEW. In the 2D panel you do not see the scenery horizon, as the view is directed to the sky! This also easy to fix by the user.
TIP 2: Edit panel.cfg. After the line "Window14=RMI" insert the following lines:
          VIEW_FORWARD_DIR=7.000, 0.000, 0.000 // 7.0000 is the eye height

PRIMER WRONGLY LABELLED The Primer button reads "PUSH" but actually "pulls".

VOR1 HAS NO ILS. The mouse tooltip reads "Condition Lever" and more importantly, unlike most other FS2004 gauges, does NOT double as an ILS gauge Though admittedly many real-life C152's do not have an ILS, this is certainly bringing realism too far.
TIP2a: The advanced FS user can easily fix this by editing panel.cfg and changing the "C152!vor1" gauge in both 2D and VC, using instead any of the default VOR1 gauges.

DEFECTIVE AI GAUGE. This important gauge moves only between +10º to -5º and is quite defective even within that limited range, e.g. showing +5% with the aircraft perfectly horizontal.
TIP 3: In panel.cfg edit the line "gauge02=C152!Attitude, 453,454,129,133" using instead the default "Cessna!Attitude" or better, if you have Carenado's C182RG installed, the "CessnaRG!attitude_indicator" gauge.

NO AUDIO CONTROLS. They appear to be in their correct place in both the 2D and VC, above and slightly to the right of the Radio stack, but they are just pictures in the background bitmap: there are no FS gauges there so, not surprisingly, nothing happens if you click on them.
TIP3a: The advanced user will find it relatively easy to add an Audio control gauge borrowed from a default Cessna.

RADIO ON/OFF ISSUE. Two on/off switches are shown within the radios, one in the COM/NAV receiver, another in the ADF one. However, only one is operational.
TIP3b: Just mind that only the upper Radio switch is operational: it switches both the COM/NAV and the ADF.

SWAPPED OIL AND FUEL GAUGES. The rectangular Oil and Fuel double gauge are placed the wrong way around with respect to the real aircraft. A minor issue anyway, and easy to fix because the two FS gauges are identical in size.
TIP 4: Open panel.cfg in Notepad and edit the following lines
          gauge03=C152!fuel, 716,809,165,41
          gauge08=C152!oil_gauges, 450,808,165,41
swapping the numerical parameters on the right hand sides.

RUDDER TRIM ISSUE. The real aircraft has a ground-operated rudder adjustment: this is not pilot-operated and therefore is not really a trim at all. Clearly a rudder trim should not be included in the aircraft model. Carenado however did include it, but failed to include a gauge showing the trim's position. The unfortunate result is that if the pilot inadvertently uses it, the aircraft will show a tendency to bank, and the trim can only be re-centred by trial and error.
TIP 5: Disabling the rudder trim is easy: edit in aircraft.cfg the following lines, substituting zeros for the "ones":
          aileron_trim_effectiveness = 1.0 // just precaution: this is not modelled anyway
          rudder_trim_effectiveness = 1.0

FUEL TANKS ISSUE. The real C152's mostly had one tank only, fitted with a fuel cutoff valve. Carenado's C152 II has instead two tanks L/R, but no valve! If you change to the C152 after flying another aircraft, you may end up drawing fuel from one tank only, and are left with no means to correct the weight imbalance. The usual Fuel Selector gauge should have been included in the panels: luckily this is easy to fix.
TIP 6: To add the default Cessna fuel selector to the 2D panel, simply open panel.cfg in Notepad, then search for the lines
and immediately ABOVE them add the line
          gauge40=Cessna!Fuel_Selector, 749,366,39
to position the new gauge above the Attitude Indicator, or else the line
          gauge40=Cessna!Fuel_Selector, 1114,719,39
to position it below the Radio stack.

DEFECTIVE PARKING BRAKE GAUGE. When set, the knob should show in the back position. Yet, whether you set the park brake on or off, the knob moves back and forth again! You cannot tell the Park Brake position by looking at the knob! This glaring error is Carenado's XML code, which reacts to the mouse click but not to the FS status variable.
TIP 8: For the VC there is no user solution because the gauge is not separate but instead embedded in the panel. Things are better for the 2D where the advanced flightsimmer can resolve the issue in a few minutes, producing a new gauge based on Carenado's bitmaps. You need to find out a working Parking Brake gauge in .XML format (compressed into a .CAB file): they come included in some FS addon aircraft. You also need a CAB compressing utility. You should first copy into an empty folder the files parkingon.bmp and parkingoff.bmp from C152.CAB, then copy your Parking Brake gauge XML file there as well, rename it say Park_brake_C152.xml, open it in Notepad, substitute in the XML text the file names for the on and off images with "parkingoff.bmp" and "parking.on.bmp" (yes, parking off for ON and parking on for OFF, as Carenado named them the wrong way around!), replace the line
       <Area Left="..." Top="..." Width="..." Height="...">
with <Area Left="5" Top="15" Width="70" Height="70>,
save and close the file, pack the contents of the folder into a Park_brake_addons.CAB file and move it into the \Gauges folder. Finally in panel.cfg edit the line "gauge24=..." replacing the "C152!Parking Brake" with "Park_brake_addons!Park_brake_C152". Couldn't be simpler ... :-)

DEFECTIVE BEACON LIGHT SWITCH. The cause lies in issues in the effects file installed.
TIP 9: In aircraft.cfg edit the line "light.2 = 1, -17.43, 0.00, 4.35, fx_beaconalabeo152" : just delete the "alabeo152", and you will have the standard effect "fx_beacon" that works fine.

INSTABILITY. The model is unstable during climb, certainly not reflecting the real-life 1º wing dihedral: during flight it needs constant aileron correction or else it will progressively bank left or right, quite annoying in a model without an Autopilot's Wing Leveller.
TIP 10: Edit aircraft.cfg. Leave unchanged both the line "wing_dihedral line = 1.2" (to which the simulation is insensitive) and the line "roll_stability = 1.1" (changing it would make rolls difficult). Increasing the "yaw_stability = 1.0" to 3.0 resolves the problem.

PERFORMANCE ISSUES. In the list below, for each item 3 values are shown:
                                         real-life / aircraft.cfg file / performance in FS2004
          Maximum horizontal speed: KTS 110 / 106 / 98
          Cruise speed: KTS 107 / 90 / 83
          Range: NM 414 / 320 / 500
          Service ceiling: FT 14,700 / 14,700 / <10,000
          Takeoff roll: 725 ft / - / 1,000 ft
          Rate of climb: fpm 715 / - / 650
The above shows how, compared with the real-life aircraft, Carenado's model is clearly underpowered. Cruising at 5,000 ft there is no way to reach the specified speed performance: at almost full throttle with 2,400 RPM you get a paltry 83 KTS. Full power only increases it up to 90KTS. The absolute ceiling is 10,000 ft. If slewed up to 13,500 ft, fully within the ceiling specs, even with full power and optimal mixture the aircraft slowly loses speed until it stalls. Luckily all the above issues—plus realistic takeoff performance—can be simultaneously and accurately resolved by means of a simple modification which does not affect any other flying parameter such as Mixture values or RPM.
TIP 11: Edit aircraft.cfg and change the propeller's "thrust_scalar": instead of the original 0.93, type 1.2. The results now match the specs very accurately: with 10º flaps the bird rotates at 50 KTS with a takeoff roll of 750 ft. Maximum horizontal speed at 2,000 ft is 110 KTS. Cruise speed at 7,000 ft, with throttle for 2,400 RPM, is 90 KTS. The Service ceiling is 14,000 ft. These data were measured in steady horizontal flight with optimal mixture setting, no wind and fuel load between 75% and 50%.

CONCLUSION. Carenado has issued a brilliant product with poor testing. Luckily, virtually all the issues can be resolved by "user tweaking" as shown above: every single TIP described above has been tested by the author. The uniqueness of the model and its many attractions certainly make it a recommended addition to the fleets of all lovers of the remarkable simulation of propeller aircraft in FS2004.

Cessna C182 - Sluggish performance of the default aircraft

Compared with the default C172 in FS2004, the default C182 which should be a higher performance aircraft is instead sluggish. I have tracked down the problem to an inconsistency of the default FS2004 aircraft:
- every time you change from any aircraft to the C172, FS2004 loads it with two front pilots, NOBODY IN THE BACK SEAT and NO LUGGAGE.
- every time you change from any aircraft to the C182, FS2004 loads it with two front pilots, TWO PASSENGERS IN THE BACK SEATS and 60 lb OF LUGGAGE!.
No surprise then that the C182 has worse performance than the C172.

TIP: Open in Notepad the file FS2004\Aircraft\C182\aircraft.cfg
Search for "station" and you will find 5 lines:
station_load.0 = "170, -3.0, -1.5, 0.0, Pilot" // . . .
       station_load.1 = "170, -3.0, 1.5, 0.0, Front Passenger" // . . .
       station_load.2 = "160, -6.2, -1.5, 0.0, Rear Passenger" // . . .
       station_load.3 = "160, -6.2, 1.5, 0.0, Rear Passenger" // . . .
       station_load.4 = "60, -8.0, 0.0, 0.0, Baggage" // . . .
Change the two 160's and the 60 - shown in red above - to zeros, save and exit Notepad. Refresh the aircraft, which will now outperform the C172 as it should. It will also ALMOST perform as per the specs, though it certainly will not stay above 10,000 FT faster than 110 KIAS, no matter what...

CH PRO - Calibration Curves and FS2004 Settings with Gradual Toe Brakes

Having your CH Pro Pedals well calibrated and set is paramount to enjoy all their benefits in FS2004:
a - Install the CH Control Manager v.3.50 as provided/downloaded.
b - Open the CH Control Manager, click on the Test/Calibrate icon.
c - Click on CH ProPedals USB (maybe the only option if you do not have other CH products installed).
d - Click Okay: there are now two tabs: Test/Calibrate and Axis Settings.
e - To calibrate, in Test/Calibrate click Calibrate and follow the procedure as indicated.
f - Finally, and most importantly, click on the other tab: Axis Settings.
g - You will see that only the upper three axes are operative. Though there is nothing onscreen to show their use, I tell you: X is the left pedal up/down movement (left toe brake), Y is the right pedal up/down movement (right toe brake) and Z is the pedals left/right movement (rudder).
h - Rudder control in FS is much improved the Z axis is LESS sensitive - thus MORE precise - for small rudder movements. This helps a lot in keeping the aircraft in the runway centre during takeoff. In order to achieve this, first ensure that "Center" is selected for the Z axis.
i - Now in "Gain" click TWICE the DOWN arrow: the curve on screen will change from a straight diagonal line to a reversed-S curve, with less slope in the centre.
j - Toe brakes axes X and Y could be left alone, but I prefer them to be also LESS sensitive, thus MORE precise, for small pressures (i.e. near the bottom left part of the curve, not near to the centre as for the rudder!). This helps to keep straight on the taxiway+runway old aircraft with no steering wheel, like the Trimotor and the DC-3. In order to achieve this, first ensure, as for Z, that "Center" is also selected in both X and Y axes.
k - Now for both X and Y axes, in "Gain" click ONCE or TWICE the UP arrow: see the response curve becoming non-linear, but in "S" shape, i.e. the other way than for the rudder.
l - Now go back to Test/Calibrate as above. Move your toe brakes and rudder and see how physical movement - shown by the large yellow circles - produces the desired less-than-proportional response, shown by the small cyan circles. Click on Done and, needless to say, you're done!

Now the assignment in FS2004. Unlike older versions of FS where toe brakes were a yes/no function assigned by default to F11 and F12, in FS2004 you can assign axes to toe brakes which will behave gradually as in real aircraft! Let's set rudder and toe brakes in FS2004, with curve sensitivities already set above for the CH Pro pedals:
m - Start FS2004 and go to Settings-Controls-Assignments-Joystick Axes.
n - In the "Joystick Type" drop-down, select " CH Pro Pedals USB".
o - The event "Rudder Axis" should be assigned to the "Z Axis":
           if it were not, do so by clicking in Change Assignment etc.
p - Assign to the event "Left Brake Axis" the "X Axis" with "Reverse" ON.
q - Assign to the event "Right Brake Axis" the "Y Axis" with "Reverse" ON.
r- Once you exit the Settings section of FS2004, the settings will be stored in the file
           C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\Microsoft\FS9\fs9.CFG
    Copy it to fs9.cfk as a backup.
[If you read the file fs9.cfg you may find that either joystick or pedals appear repeated, with different hexa codes, and that none of those hexa codes appear in the Windows Registry! Just leave those lines alone and it all with work.]

BEWARE HOWEVER 1: Once you have carried on the sequence "Install drivers then plug-in the USB joystick", first for the joystick/yoke and then for the Pedals, the PC will repeat the same USB load sequence every time you reboot and everything will be fine. IF HOWEVER for any reason you need to unplug either joystick or pedals (e.g. to install a new drivers version) always disconnect both, first the Pedals then the Joystick. When later on you reconnect, connect first the Joystick then the Pedals. This will keep the joystick/yoke as joystick1 and the pedals as joystick2. Failure to do so will scramble your assignments in FS2004 and other games as well.

BEWARE HOWEVER 2: Not only the plugging order is important, but the port used as well. If you change the USB port where you plug your Pedals or joystick, you may be forced to re-install the drivers.

CH PRO PEDALS - Windows 7 sleep issue and solution

An issue has been reported by many users of CH PRO PEDALS: when the PC comes back from "sleep", the pedals become inoperative. The obvious solution is to unplug/replug the pedals' USB connector: even better, I have installed a USB hub with 4 ports and their individual switches and it works to a charm.

TIP: If you forgot and started FS and found that the Pedals are not working, no problem. Do not restart FS, just pause it. If the pedals were plugged (or else the USB-switch was ON) unplug them (or switch them OFF) and wait to hear the "dong-dong" that tells you that a USB peripheral has been disconnected. Now plug in the pedals (or else switch them ON if you have a USB-switch): within a second in FS the Pedals will now be operational with no issues.


This has been a feature of Microsoft Windows with all versions starting with XP. You go to Control Panel, Appearance tab, click in Effects then enable the option "Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts". By default it is enabled with the Standard option: this looks much better than disabled on most modern monitors and fonts. There is another option however: ClearType.
Standard produces anti-aliasing of Windows fonts: pixels are shaded so that the fonts look really curved and not made up of single "square" dots. It makes the illusion of a much higher definition than the one the screen actually produces.
ClearType is a further refinement devised especially for flat displays (it will NOT improve things in old large CRT monitors). Each pixel is a square divided vertically in three stripes: Red, Green and Blue. ClearType
anti-aliases each stripe individually—rather than the whole pixel as in the Standard option—thus achieving onscreen a significantly better result for most fonts in most programs that use fonts extensively, such as Microsoft Office, and also when browsing the internet. You may download from Microsoft's site a tool for careful tuning of ClearType to suit your monitor, eyesight and tastes.

Windows XP issue resolved in Windows 7 & 8: Flight Simulator 2004 displays when flying mostly two fonts only: 1) a large red font on top for coordinates and frame rates which is largely unaffected by smoothing and 2) a digital type of font used in the radio stacks of propellers and in the glass cockpits of jets. This particular font, based on very narrow vertical and horizontal lines, is very adversely affected by Clearype in Windows XP, whereby the flightsimmer was better off NOT using ClearType at all. This issue has been resolved in Windows 7 and later versions, where there is no real issue in using ClearType (has been much : the vertical lines are completely blurred.


A configuration file is a text file consisting only of "assignment statements", i.e. lines in the format            vvaarriiaabbllee=ddeessiirreeddvvaalluuee .
The lines are grouped in "sections" separated by "section headers", i.e. titles between brackets.
Each assignment statement is unique in each section, but may appear in different sections.
A well-known example is in the aircraft.cfg, where the line
           ui_variation= . . .
will shown in each of the sections [fltsim.0], [fltsim.1] and so on, with different values.

Cloudy's automatic updater servers two different purposes.
If you wish to make widely available a modification to a copyrighted file, you need to ask the author's permission. An alternative is to upload only the changes you suggest, for which you hold the copyright. Once the final user introduces your changes into a legitimally-installed file, and provided he does not violate the well-known agreement to refrain from uploading changed files, nobody is infringing any copyright. Problem is the user has to introduce the changes manually . This little program in VBScript does the job (see tips below).

Let's say you wish to run a PC application - e.g. a Flight Simulator - sometimes with a set of values in a config file, sometimes with another set of values. The file could be general FS settings, aircraft properties, whatever. One way is to prepar e and switch different config files: cumbersome and error prone.

TIP1: Cloudy's automatic updater is available as a free zipped download.
You should unzip and copy it to your C:\Windows\System32 , so that its filename ConfigUpdArg.vbs is enough to run it without having to spell out the folder path.
TIP2: To use it, create a shortcut to run the following:
                      ConfigUpdArg.vbs originalconfigname.xxxx updaterfilename.yyy
Running such a shortcut will change such a config file on the spot: you also get a message box stating exactly what has been changed!

CPU AND GPU - Stop them while not flying

As is well known, FS2004 will use a significant amount of GPU power, and 100% of any CPU (in a multi-core CPU it will use only the first processor, but it will be at 100% at all times). This waste of components and electricity does not stop if you leave the flight to go to the initial menus, or if you pause the simulation. The good news is, there is a way to completely stop all processing without shutting down FS2004!:


  • Ensure that you are in flying or slew mode (this tip is NOT effective if you are in the initial menus).
  • Ensure (with Alt+Enter) that FS2004 is NOT in full-screen mode but in windowed mode instead.
  • Minimise the window. That's it! Presto! Zero use of CPU and GPU!
  • Note that this tip works in all Windows versions.

CRASHES - How to prevent them

FS2004 is not the most stable program around, and random crashes (say once for every hour of flight) are inevitable. Saving a flight every few minutes or so, there is no consequence. Crashes become serious when you cannot even start the program. We have identified the following issues and solutions: note that they always originate in the contents of the fs9.cfg file.

1. FS2004 crashes always after starting. Whether you are trying to access the initial menu or go directly to a flight, the program crashes before you can see anything.

2. FS2004 crashes whenever you try to "Create a flight" in the main menu. However, if you try other menu items, or start directly by double-clicking a .FLT file, FS2004 operates normally.

3. FS2004 crashes whenever you try to start a particular "flight". However, if you try other flights or the main menu, FS2004 operates normally.

TIP1: A frequent cause is that for some reason the default flight (or the flight you are trying to start in 3. above) is using an aircraft that has been renamed or uninstalled. Check your fs9.cfg file: open it with Notepad, go to the line that begins with SITUATION=, read there the default flight name. Once you know the flight .FLT file FS2004 is trying to start with, find the file in the \Flights folder (or subfolders), open it with Notepad, go to the line that begins with Aircraft= and check that the aircraft name is reflected in one of the installed aircraft (its aircraft.cfg should have a line beginning with title= followed by that identical aicraft name. If it is not, edit the flight .FLT file as needed.

TIP2: (I once set as default a flight that had a name with spaces on it. The line in fs9.cfg was stored without the necessary quotes around the name with spaces and, inevitably, FS2004 crashes when trying to start it. Adding quotes resolved the issue, but after closing FS2004 the quotes were gone, causing crashes from then on! Solution, do not set as default flights with spaces in the name. I have also found that some flights cause a crash if used as default, for no apparent reason. Definitive solution: do NOT change the default flight. Use as default the original FLTSIM. If you wish to jump-start FS2004 in a particular flight, simply double-click the .FLT file.

TIP3: After selecting alternatives in the main menu, or even during flights, fs9.cfg acquires some values which, though not looking abnormal, cause FS2004 to stop functioning. Have always at hand a copy of the "last good fs9.cfg" and restore fs9.cfg using it. (Yes, you may try to compare and one by one change parameters, but this is often less than successful).


Some scenery installers set MipMapping quality to the maximum (8). Since MipMapping is usually carried on by the graphics card hardware, there is no frame-rate penalty involved. HOWEVER, many users - include myself - report shimmering/flickering of textures in the mid-far distance which has been found to be due to the less-than-perfect MipMapping of today's hardware/software.

TIP-XP: The shimmering/flickering is reduced to a minimum - and without ANY loss of visual quality! - by just setting the value down to 5.

TIP-W7: The latest graphics cards are much improved in this respect, and a MipMapping quality of 7 can be used with excellent results


Feathering is a feature of aircraft with variable propeller pitch, whereby they not only have a lever to control it but also to put the propeller in a neutral angle. In case of engine failure, the pilot "feathers" the propeller: this sets it to a position yielding the minimal drag. Indeed a feathered propeller after a short while stops rotating in FS2004.
However, feathering is only partially implemented in FS2004:
     1. Propeller rotation eventually stops as expected.
Drag-reduction effect is NOT modelled: so in FS2004 by feathering a propeller you only get the visual effect, not the aerodynamic one. (Tested this with a few aircraft: a short shake while feathering is all you get!).
     3. Once feathered in flight (manually or auto) with a dead engine, a propeller remains stopped, even if one unfeathers it and dives at full speed. The only way to enable the propeller again is to restart the engine.
In spite of the above shortcomings, you will be willing to use the feature to feel-and-see the propeller feathered. So you need to have a quick way to do it in case of engine failure. The best way in FS2004 should be to assign a key to the unassigned command "Propeller feather". Unfortunately that command does not seem to work!. As for dragging down the Propeller lever with the mouse, it is slow and does NOT work for all FS2004 aircraft.

TIP: Press Control-F1 to set Propeller RPM to minimal, then Control-F2 repeatedly (14 times is OK even in the most stubborn cases) to feather it. The sequence is easy to program for a special joystick-button or control-box button.


This is a convenient feature of most multiple-engine turboprops, whereby if one engine fails, its propeller is automatically feathered. In advanced turboprops like the real-life Beechcraft KingAir, the propeller is autofeathered whenever its engine falls to < 10% torque AND the other engine is producing > 17% torque. Our Cloudy Checklists include directions as to when to arm the Autofeather.
Problem is, only a simple autofeathering function is implemented in FS2004:
Autofeather does not work by torque difference: it only feathers a propeller once its engine is dead.
     2. Accordingly, in pre-flight tests the PC pilot can only arm the Autofeather, but cannot test it, because that would require killing the engine.

NOTE: When you arm the Autofeather prior to takeoff, the green annunciators will only show once you have applied full power.


It is handy to have some basic flights that load without changing the aircraft you are flying. E.g. you are flying the Beech Baron over Dublin and you wish to restart in Chicago Meigs, without changing to the default Cessna included in the default Meigs flight.

TIP: 1) Save a flight or alternatively copy and rename its files: be careful to change to exactly the same new name both the .FLT and the .WX file. 2) Open the .FLT file in Notepad. 3) Find the lines
          Aircraft=<the aircraft name will show here>
4) Delete everything to the right of the "=" sign so that the line just reads
5) Save and exit the file.

GOOGLE EARTH: FSX airports and navaids

This addon is useful for FS2004 as well. Instructions:
- Connect to the Internet, go to
- Download the Google Earth FSX overlay:
- Unzip the contents into any subfolder: produces the file fsxge.kml
- Open Google Earth
- Go to the menu File-Open: browse to the file fsxge.kml, select it, click OK
- Especially if you are using Google Earth often, you will have scores of places in the "Places" list. You will probably not have noticed, but searching you will find that the above has created a new place named "Flight Simulator X" (it includes subtrees to unselect any continent). It is by default un-selected: select it.
- Now the earth will be covered with blue little squares with a X inside. Those are the airports and navaids: click on any and you get the info stored in FSX (and mostly in FS9 as well).
- When you close google earth it asks do you want to save the data as a regular myplaces: answer yes.
- Note that from now on Google Earth will need about 1 minute to open. If you do not use this feature regularly, just unselect it in "Places", or just unselect the continents you usually do not fly on.


In order to reproduce long-haul historical flights a tool is handy to compute the compass heading needed to fly from A to B. Nick Dargahi´s masterwork "The Ultimate Flight Simulator" book of 1998 included Chapter 14 "Great Circle Navigation" and a fully-fledged spreadsheet by Alan Parkinson was included in the CDROM. Unfortunately:
- Parkinson's spreadsheet is not available nowadays online
- even if accurate and very complete and complex, it computes magnetic headings based on earth's magnetic variations of 1995, considerably different from the values used in FS2004
- I am not happy with present-day spreadsheets available from the web. Besides, none of them includes a handy calculator for wind drift (well, you can use the back of your E-6B calculator for that, can't you?).
So I decided to produce my own spreadsheet. It has been written from scratch based on Great Circle mathematical formulae. The results have been checked with Parkinson's spreadsheet and they fully co-incide. My Great Circle Calculator - download - does not compute intermediate waypoints, but it is orders of magnitude simpler than others, and it includes automatic calculation of heading correction due to wind drift. It also includes full instructions and a version with special formatting meant for pocket Palm OS devices with Dataviz's Documents-To-Go. It is meant to be used in conjunction
with a World Magnetic Declination Map such as the one provided in


If you don't have a Map icon in your panel and are flying in full screen mode, when you need the Map you use Alt+menu, which temporarily switches to windowed mode. This is slow and distracting and, if too frequent, perhaps not too good for your monitor's health either.

TIP: Go to menu Options-Controls-Assignments-Button Keys-All Commands: search "Display/hide map" and assign it a unused key or key combination like Control-Q. This will produce the Map immediately and within full screen mode.

HIDDEN COMMANDS: Refresh Aircraft

When you work on an aircraft - say on its panel, textures or aircraft.cfg file - you are typically working on file(s) with some program or utility outside FS, while also watching the progress within FS. Once you change something however, there is no menu function to reread the aircraft files and update it in FS. The traditional workaround is to load any other aircraft and back, a cumbersome affair.

TIP: Again, go to menu . . . All Commands: search "Reload user aircraft" and assign to it a unused key combination like Control-K. From now on, every time you change something in an aircraft from outside FS, back to the FS window just press the assigned key for a quick refresh. [Beware that, as shown in another tip, there is a bug: the refresh sometimes fails to update tail-number format changes!]

HIDDEN COMMANDS: Refresh Scenery

When you start a new flight or go to another airport, FS will load the new scenery before starting the flight.
HOWEVER, if you got somewhere by slewing or by flying in accelerated time, the scenery may take several minutes to load, especially if it involves complex mesh or VFR textures: sometimes it will not load at all! A way out, but annoying, is to save a flight and restart it.

TIP: Go to menu . . . All Commands: search "Refresh scenery" and assign it an unused key, e.g. Tab. From now on, every time new scenery is not loaded immediately, just pressing Tab will do it, showing the customary black screen and progress bar. (This tip is from Computer Pilot, Jan'04,p.38.)


Let's say you have carrier-with-arrestor-cable scenery, carrier-aircraft-with-hook and - first and foremost - a payware arrestor cable utility. For all that to work, you need a way to quickly operate the hook while flying. A panel switch may not be handy: it may not even be there at all.

TIP: Again go to menu . . . All Commands: search "Tail hook on/off" and assign to it a unused key or key combination like Control-K.
[Does anybody know a freeware arrestor cable utility? All the related files you can download from Avsim or Flightsim STILL NEED a separate arrestor utility for the cables to work!].


For many commands normally accessed by panel switches or menu items, it may be convenient to assign them to key combinations, mostly to be able to program them via a programmable joystick or special hardware. Other than the above, my favourites are:
- All engine fuel valves open/close
- Autofeather arming on/off
- Auxiliary fuel pump(s) on/off
- Avionics master switch on/off
- Crossfeed open/closed
- Generator(s)/alternator(s) on/off
- GPS's 17 functions
- Master battery switch on/off
- Master ignition switch
- Propeller sync on/off

INSTALLING ADD-ONS: Aircraft, Scenery and others

Addons, whether freeware or payware, sometimes are VERY invasive in that their automatic installers change fundamental items in Flight Simulator (any version). After installing an add-on you may find that some original gauges, sceneries and even program modules have been modified, and that an uninstall may NOT bring your FS back to its former state. Even worse, sometimes your FS will no longer run at all!

TIP1: Let us assume you have your FS installed in the path X:\FS. Have also an empty folder X:\fff, copy to it the root files from X:\FS and when running an add-on installer, choose to install to X:\fff instead of the main folder. Then, after you have inspected which new files have been created by the installer, you can easily move them manually to your main X:\FS installation (No matter how large the files, this will NEITHER take a significant time NOR defragment your disk. This is because moving files within the same drive does not actually move the files: only their location tags are changed in the file system).

TIP2: You better produce a backup not just of your \FS folder but of all your PC before any involved install. Read the following story.

TIP3: I have a 7-year-old Pentium 4 PC, a bit too slow to run FS2004 with "all the sliders up and all the addons installed", but good enough as a "sandbox". I install stuff there first, take note of what the installer did, and only then repeat the install in my present intel i7 PC.

STORY: Be very careful with what you install. Back in 2006, having read on the Computer Pilot magazine praise of the freeware 2006 Canarysim VFR scenery for Canary Islands, I downloaded it. I found that it had a complex installer and that, even worse, it did NOT allow the user to select the install folder. I aborted the installation, I renamed my \FS folder as \FSI, then created an empty folder \FS and re-run the installer. Once I was able to read the documents produced by the installer, I realized that the scenery is very intrusive, changing many basic items everywhere within FS9. So I uninstalled the scenery, deleted the new \FS and renamed \FSI back to \FS. I had done similar things in the past with no issue. This time, however, when subsequently I tried to fly FS9, nothing would happen: the fs9.exe process would remain dormant in Task Manager, no matter what! I first checked the contents of \FS and found that, incredibly, the CanarySim installer had worked in BOTH \FS and \FSI, changing the original Scenery.cfg and even other files! I had a recent backup of the \FS folder: restored everything as per a week ago. FS9 would still not run. At this stage I could feel my heart pounding ... I now looked into my Windows Registry and found many orphan entries by CanarySim. Even more incredibly, my old trusted "registry cleaner" failed to detect them! So with patience I searched the Registry, first for FS9, then for CanarySim, and manually deleted all the entries that related to the CanarySim scenery. After rebooting the PC, my FS was now back alive and well.

TIP4: After the above Story, I suggest to avoid the Canarysim VFR scenery for Canary Islands . . .

MESH - Choosing Sceneries to Install

The elevation mesh in FS2004 sceneries comes with different precision levels, mostly:
      Mesh 1200m - LOD5 - most of the default FS2004
      Mesh 76m - LOD9 - a few selected parts of FS2004, all the world in FS Global 2005 and later
      Mesh 38m - LOD10 - some local sceneries, both payware and freeware
      Mesh 9.5m - LOD12 - some local sceneries, mostly payware

Not surprisingly, the difference between default FS2004's LOD5 and a LOD9 is remarkable: 16 times more detail! The difference between FS Global 2005 and payware LOD12 sceneries like FS Genesis Grand Canyon is also noteworthy: 8 times more detail. The difference between two consecutive LOD's is instead negligible. Therefore:

TIP: Be careful with what you install. After installing a large LOD9 mesh like FS Global 2005, you should avoid adding on local LOD10 sceneries (typically the European countries downloads): you will hardly see any improvement, but you will notice instead how much slower is your PC in starting a flight.

MESH - Installing the Sceneries

Whenever I install a new mesh, I take before-and-after screenshots: after all, that's part of the fun, to SEE the improvement on the spot! But here and there I noticed how some improvements "come and go". In his famous Tips, Tricks & Recommendations for FS2004 Part XII - Mid Summer Issue - July 05, 2005, David "Opa" Marshall recommended:
"Everything you ever wanted know about Mesh ". That is a site with a very complete treatment of the matter by Steve Greenwood. Through most illuminating pages and subpages, I eventually found the following tip:
"FS2004 rules for mesh with the same LOD: Mesh in the folder/layer having the LOWER Priority in the Scenery Library will be used. (Unlike scenery, where the HIGHER Priority folder is still given precedence)."
Note that the above refers to mesh with the SAME LOD. But I thought: could this also troubleshoot problems with DIFFERENT LOD as well? I immediately changed the order of my Mesh sceneries, which now reads as follows
                  Mesh72m-FSGlobal2005-North America
                  Mesh72m-FSGlobal2005-South America

According to perceived wisdom, the reorder should be either irrelevant or counterproductive, but it actually works!
I just compared screenshots from flights, which I had saved recently, before and after, in both Grand Canyon and Hawaii: very obviously improved detail is seen now.

TIP1: When you install Mesh Sceneries, in FS2004 Settings-Scenery Areas, put them together, with their Priority immediately above the default continents (Africa to South America) and label each scenery with the mesh size as shown in my example above.

TIP2: Since FS2004 processes mesh priorities in the reverse order, fix the problem by setting the most detailed sceneries BELOW, again as shown in my example above. Thanks David "Opa" Marshall and Steve Greenwood for the information!

MESH - Vertex level

This advice is included within some mesh scenery documents, but is easy to forget and it is terribly important. In order to ensure the best frame rates, FS2004 processes mesh scenery only up to a level of precision determined in the fs9.cfg file by the TERRAIN_MAX_VERTEX_LEVEL parameter:


19) If you only have the default mesh FS2004 mesh scenery and your PC is at least a Pentium 4 3.0GHz with an ATi 9800 graphics card or equivalent AMD/nVidia, leave VERTEX at its default value of 19 to enjoy the full detail of the default FS2004 mesh. This value is also preferable if you have also installed 76m mesh covering large sections of the world, like FS Global 2005. This VERTEX default value of 19 is also needed to fully enjoy 38m mesh sceneries, e.g. most of the freeware Europe ones.

21) A VERTEX increased value of 21 is needed for the full detail in 9.5m mesh like FS Genesis's Grand Canyon and Hawaii, as well as many parts of North America and Europe improved in FS Global 2010.

22) A value of 22 and greater is allowed in FS2004, but it will NOT give any visual benefit (I have tested it!), it will only decrease frame rates, so don't use it.

MIXTURE - Optimal leaning

In piston-engine aircraft, for optimal performance (or for the engine to run at all especially at high altitudes) the Mixture control has to produce the correct mix of petrol and air: this control is called "leaning" and internally in FS2004 is a percentage. The optimal leaning depends on altitude and is almost completely independent of the aircraft user: if you have an optimal leaning while cruising with an aircraft, changing the aircraft should not change the leaning. At every altitude there are two main alternative settings: Maximum Power and Maximum Fuel Economy.

TIP1: If you have an EGT gauge, the following is the recommended procedure, used by real-life pilots:

LEANING FOR POWER: This is needed for takeoff, climb, approach and landing. During takeoff below 2,000FT of altitude, it is safer to use FULL RICH mixture. During climb, approach and landing, you should lean for maximum EGT temperature: remember that EGT needs a few seconds to react to a change in the Mixture control. (Unfortunately, some FS2004 aircraft are not meant for an EGT gauge, and if you add one to the instrument panel, it will not work).

LEANING FOR ECONOMY: After the climb stage is over, and before the final approach and landing, an economy setting is desired to save fuel during cruise and descent. For this, Lean for Power, then move the control about 5% leaner.

TIP 2: Obviously Leaning for Economy is not difficult, as it is performed during stages where the is lots of time to find the optimal setting. Leaning for Power is more difficult because, although an EGT gauge will help, it is done in flight stages where fast changes are needed. In FS2004 a solution is to add to the panel the small digital mixture gauge, available for both single engine (engine 1) and twin engines (engines 1 and 2). Once you install it in your instrument panel, you can experiment and write down best settings for your aircraft at different altitudes.

TIP 3: Since the best settings depend on altitude and hardly on aircraft (my measurements show that the discrepancy between any aircraft and their average is normally about 1% and never exceeds 2%, thus insigificant in this context), it is handy to have a simple table for MAX POWER LEANING:

             FT          MIXTURE

               0          78%
           1,000          67%
           2,000          61%
           3,000          57%
           4,000          54%
           6,000          48%
           8,000          42%
          10,000          37%
          12,000          32%
          15,000          26%
          20,000          19%
          25,000          17%

TIP 4: If you have a Saitek Throttle Quadrant, I have good news for you. Although it is good to have the EGT gauge, the Digital Mixture gauge and the above Table, you no longer need them! You just glue on your quadrant Cloudy's ready-made scale: if you use the PowerPoint version, print it at 95% size. It should work on any other quadrant by suitably printing it larger or smaller. The three lines on the right hand side should coincide with the quadrant lines for 25%, 50% and 75%.

MONITOR - Cathode(CRT) or Flat(TFT)?

In October 2005 I wrote here that, unless you had the very deep pockets then needed for a high resolution TFT monitor with less than 16ms of latency (provided you could find one that is), you were better and cheaper with a CRT monitor. Three and a half years later in February 2009 a high-resolution TFT with 8ms latency was alreadys a much more affordable proposition. Remember that for good image quality in a TFT monitor you have to run FS at the native monitor resolution. If you are flying FS2004 in 2D, go for 1600x1200 pixels.

OVERCLOCKING - The lowdown

I am well known to be very obsessive with my PC, selecting with the utmost care its components and assembling them fastidiously, then trimming out any unnecessary running program or service. That said, when it comes to overclocking, I have my reservations. If a PC was assembled with the main components meant for overclocking, a few incredible achievements can be read online ("I overclocked 50%!"), but chances are that the weakest link of a PC will not overclock any more than 25%, and since there is always a hidden weak link that has not been overclocked, we will be lucky if we get a 20% increase in overall game speed and frame rates. In most PCs the increase will be smaller, and even 20% is not that significant in computer terms, or in Flight Simulator either: for example, if you are unhappy with the 15fps you get in your favourite scenery with your favourite aircraft and panel, you will not be happy with 18fps either. For many years now overclocking a PC has no longer been risky, but to get stable overclock a careful thought and experimenting is required. Overclocking will inevitably raise the temperature of some important components: not the CPU, where the overclocker always fits one of the excellent recent coolers, but in the graphics card and Northbridge, where cooling is normally not under control of the user. Of course, all cooling issues can be resolved by liquid cooling, but the installation is not for the fainthearted: also, personally I am happier using my money to buy faster components instead.


2D panels—whether default, mine or others—are meant to show best when flying FS in full screen. In windowed mode they have shortcomings which are not immediately apparent but seriously detract from the flight sim experience:
- the gauges are distorted unless the window keeps scrupulously to the 4:3 size ratio
- all the gauges show a noticeably reduced sharpness (no longer so under W7)
- some gauges may even show inaccurate results: typically all rudder-trim gauges!
Some fellow PC Pilots have reported better frame rates in windowed mode: this may be so for some video cards. However, I have tested the matter in different PCs with different CPUs and graphics cards, flying through some heavy scenery like downtown Chicago or Manhattan, and I always get the SAME frame rates.

TIP: it is advisable to fly mostly in full screen mode for best viewing of both panel and scenery. I only use windowed mode when doing also some work outside FS, e.g. working on panels or on the aircraft.cfg file.

PANEL BACKGROUND: Why is it in 8-bit colour?

The 2D Panel view in FS2004, regardless of your Graphics Card capabilities and your FS2004 Display Hardware Setting, is displayed in "adaptive 8-bit colour": why? Only Microsoft knows. If you design/redesign your own panel background and save it in 24-bit colour (RGB) it will work but with some issues.

[You can make the experiment. Copy a panel background and rename the file. With a good bitmap editing software—e.g. Adobe Photoshop or The Gimp—convert it into 24-bit colour (RGB), change general luminosity and a few colours and details: now the image no longer has the low number of original colours. Save it, make a copy, convert from RGB to Indexed colours (use Diffusion if the image has more than 256 colours) and save with another name. Organise your files to have two otherwise identical panels for the aircraft, one with the 24-bit background, the other with the 8-bit background. Run FS2004, load the aircraft with one of the panels, capture and save the screen, then repeat with the other panel. Now compare the two screenshots: surprisingly, the 8-bit panel looks significantly better, with much lesss "colour banding"! This is because Photoshop, The Gimp or any other specialised bitmap processing software have all their time and CPU at their disposal, ask valuable colour-rendering information from the user, and finally make a much better job at colour indexing than FS2004, which is geared towards speed more than accuracy.

TIP: Whenever you develop or modify a panel background, which is best done in 24-bit colour (RGB), after the work is completed, save a copy for future use, then convert it to 8-bit colour (Indexed), check and fix any "transparency dots" (nearly black pixels converted to transparent black by the Indexing) and use the 8-bit version in your FS2004 aircraft panel. (Note: as far as I have been able to find, the above does not apply to Virtual Cockpits).

PANELS: Edit the 2D background to your usual resolution.

Dedicated flightsimmers often fly full screen in a fixed resolution, yielding an optimal image quality. Problem is, most 2D backgrounds are 1024 pixels wide and the related panel.cfg definitions are described in terms of a 1024x768 pixels screen ("size_mm=1024"). If your resolution is different, e.g. 1600x1200, FS will enlarge everything to the window (or the screen) size. However, the background will have the inevitable loss of sharpness because of the enlargement. You can improve this significantly and easily.

TIP: Edit the 2D panel background bitmap in a program such as Photoshop or The Gimp, convert to RGB, increase its size to your fullscreen size (e.g. 1600x1200), process it (maybe adding a few details and sharpening) and finally redraw the limit between the panel and the "transparent" view: this will minimize the dreaded panel-border "jaggies". Now Index colours and save. You do not need to modify panel.cfg at all: FS2004 will fill the whole screen with the gauges keeping the original proportions. The new background will also be automatically—and separately—stretched, so that not only it shows your improvements but also, and most importantly, every pixel in the bitmap is now univocally represented by a pixel on screen. The improvement is remarkable and really worth the effort. I have done it for all the aircraft I usually fly.

PANEL DESIGN: Automatic and Perfect gauge shadows!

You wish to use an existing background - possibly including gauges and/or their shadows - to place upon it new gauges with their special new shadows. Rejoice! You don't need to draw anything with the mouse! (or, God forbid, move and reshape one by one the existing shadows in the background bitmap for hours on end!). The following method will yield perfect results and take only 30 minutes or so. Remember to backup the result of each step below - with a different name or numbering - before proceeding to the next step. In this procedure all the bitmaps should be saved in uncompressed .BMP format. At the end, only the panel background will be preserved. You will need a PC with 512 MB RAM minimum (better 1 Gb ) because you need to have several open windows: FS2004, a panel design utility, a bitmap editor and Notepad. Note that, by insisting in having its default panels compatible with resolutions down to 640x480 pixels, Microsoft forces fuzziness on panels at high resolution (even when using 1024 gauges and bitmaps). Also, 8-bit colour makes it impossible to work with textures. So in order to avoid those problems, we are going to work only on 1024x768 24-bit colour (RGB). (But you may opt for an even higher resolution, as per the preceding tip).
         1. To begin with, open your default 1024 background with a Photo Editor software (PE) like Photoshop (any version from 4.0 on) or Paint Shop Pro (no, MS Paint will not do . . .) and simply convert the original bitmap to "True Colour" 24 bits per pixel (RGB).
         2. Now comes the only hand-paint job: with patience using the PE tools - rubber stamps and other texture copiers - get rid of all the existing shadows, replacing them by nearby textures. You may wish to preserve original screws. If you wish instead to get rid of all the screws and markings as well, just select all the panel except the upper rim, and fill it with a colour or paste in any other texture. Just remember that colour 0,0,0 will be seen as transparent in FS and is meant to be used only above the rim. Save your re-texturised background with the same name as the default one.
         3. Without closing the PE, open a panel design utility like FS Panel Studio, then design your panel by positioning your gauges over the background as you think fit, finally save the panel.cfg file. If FS was not running, start it now and check the panel: it should be OK, just the background does not have any shadows yet!
         4. Keeping the three windows open (PE, Panel Studio, FS), open explorer or any other file manager and make a further copy of the background bitmap (call it "texturised.bmp" or similar) and also of the panel.cfg file and store them for future use.
         5. Go back to the background bitmap in the PE, select the texture area and repaint it to full green colour (RGB:0,255,0). Save and backup as always and leave the file open.
         6. Back to the panel utility, close the panel there. Open panel.cfg in Notepad and rem out (adding // at the beginning of the line) the gauges that you do not wish to cast a shadow in the final panel (e.g. inserted radio stack, recessed gauges).
         7. Ensure that your monitor is set to 1024x768, in 24- or higher colour mode. Ensure that FS is running in full screen mode and refresh the aircraft. Only the gauges that should cast shadow will show now, against the plain green background.
         8. Capture the screen by pressing PrtSc. Back to the PE, paste into the bitmap: you have now a background layer and a Layer 1. Move around the latter, sometimes switching its view on/off, until it exactly overlaps the background.
         9. Always in Layer 1, select the green background, then add to the selection the rim and transparency above it, and finally reverse the selection. With a few amendments if necessary, you will achieve a selection which covers EXACTLY the gauges, complete with their screws.
         10. Set the main PE tool colour to a very dark grey (32,32,32). You may use another dark colour if necessary to agree with a coloured panel (e.g. for a wooden panel use a dark brown like 64,32,00).
         11. Enlarge the selection, typically by 3 pixels, and feather it by the same amount.
         12. Repaint the selection with the main tool colour (in Photoshop press Alt-Del): this will produce a full set of gauge shadows, with very smooth borders thanks to the selection feather!
         13. Open the bitmap copy which you saved in step 4 above.
         14. Go back to the other window, copy the selection and paste it into the true panel, then move it about 3 pixels down and 2 pixels to the right for a left-seat panel (or to the left for a right-seat panel).
         15. Flatten the image: the shadows have now become part of your texturised panel background. Convert to 8-bit (Indexed) colour, save and backup the bitmap, close the PE.
         16. Restore the panel.cfg file which you saved in step 4 above. In FS refresh the aircraft and you will see the panel with all the gauges and their shadows.

PATCHES FOR FS2004: Microsoft's 9.1 and No-CD

As is well known, Microsoft's patch fixes many things, it is not proven that it ruins anything, it is a free download from Microsoft, so it SHOULD be installed. As for the No-CD patch - which changes the fs9.exe file and avoids the need for the CD 4 to be inserted - it is of course unofficial and there have been different versions around.
If you wish to check either what you have installed or what you have downloaded, here is the list of the 4 fs9.exe versions known to me:
           Version                 Size bytes  Version
           Original in the box     1,394,631
           No-CD patch for v.9.0     516,096
           Microsoft Patch 9.1     1,394,659
           No-CD patch for v.9.1     516,096
The latter can be downloaded from either
Either download gives the last of the 4 versions above, tested OK for a long time now.
Beware however, if you JUST installed Microsoft Update to FS9.1, you should run it a few times before installing the NoCD patch! If you tried the NoCD immediately after install of the update, there could be problems with the install even if it ended OK: the Update may fail to update protected Modules etc.


Under Windows XP an advice about RAM became common folclore: due to hardware and software architectures, you achieved optimal results with 1 Gb of RAM. Having 2 or 4 Gb under XP made FS2004 run with slower frame rates, not faster. With the CPUs current from 2011 onwards (i5 and i7 being particularly popular for FS2004) and Windows 7 or 8 managing much larger memory, having 4Gb or more RAM will not slow down FS2004 at all, on the contrary, it will make loading complex aircraft (like modern jet liners) faster, because FS2004 no longer needs to use the virtual memory.


If you have only one hard disk drive, FS2004 will run better if you have it partitioned and software installed in at least four different partitions as follows:
     - Windows operating system and Office applications
     - Large FS2004 Sceneries (Gb in size like FS Global and VFR)
     - Flight Simulator 2004
     - Temporary files and Virtual memory
Also, if you have two hard disk drives, FS2004 will have less stutters if you install it as follows:
     Disk 1 - Windows operating system and Office applications
     Disk 1 - Large FS2004 Sceneries (Gb in size like FS Global and VFR)
     Disk 2 - Flight Simulator 2004
     Disk 2 - Temporary files and Virtual memory
With more disks you can further improve things, for example using an SSD Disk 3 for Flight Simulator 2004.

If you have installed something in disk X: (where FS2004 is) and wish to move it to disk Y: (which has more space or is faster), you can do it in two ways.

TIP 1: To move Scenery to another drive, simply move the folders, then suitably edit with notepad the relevant entries in scenery.cfg (after a backup copy just in case!).

TIP 2: If the files are NOT Scenery you can not move them, because FS2004 expect them to find where they are (e.g. aircraft folders should be inside \Aircraft and nowhere else). Solution: move them anyway, then place a "junction" in \Aircraft (or else) pointing at the new location. (Find directions here I have now automated the process using Total Commander, some DOS batch files and some VBScript files: I have the destination in view in the right window, click the folder to be moved in the left window and click an icon: my VBScript program does it all in a split second. ) I have successfully moved with junctions the aircraft installed by MyTraffic 2006: now in a SSD, FS2004 flights start significantly faster.

SOUND HARDWARE: 5.1 is impressive!

Quite a few Flight Simmers are happy with a "standard stereo" 2.1 sound setting: Left Speaker, Right Speaker and a Subwoofer to boost the bass. After all, FS2004 only produces a standard stereo output, so why bother?

Think again. Most PCs come today with built-in audio with optional "5.1" output, that is 5 speakers (Left, Front, Right, Rear Left, Rear Right) plus subwoofer. Even better, cards like the Creative Audigy 2ZS come with hardware and software very adept to simulate a 360º sound environment out a simple stereo signal.

I have a Creative Audigy 2ZS in my PC, and during our recent Fly-In in Swords(North of Dublin), just across the road in PC World I purchased the very affordable (€89) Creative Inspire T6060 set of 5.1 speakers. Once at home install was very easy following the clear diagrams, I then performed the idiot-proof Creative Speaker Calibration, and finally set up the Equaliser (this is a bit trickier as it needs pink-noise sounds compensated with audibility curves, but it's well worth the effort, sorry not to upload, files way too large!). Orchestral music acquires a very natural new dimension!

As for FS2004, I set up the sound via Creative EAX Console, setting CMSS 3D at "CMSS 2". Then I placed my aircraft near to the "numbers" in default Seattle Tacoma, so that every AI plane that took-off had first to go around me. Killed my engines and with the volume control at maximum I listened in astonishment as I could hear every jet coming towards me, then turning around my back, then getting lost in the distance as it took off ... An incredible experience, not to be missed!. [For cabin sound with your own engine(s), woofers can be a bit loud for the neighbours, but that can be easily adjusted on the spot with the separate bass control.]


Everybody knows that in FS2004 the tail number can be changed at will by opening aircraft.cfg in notepad and editing the line atc_id= . . .   Less known is perhaps that not only the reference number in FS dialogues is changed, but also the number actually depicted in the aircraft exterior. Most interestingly, you can also edit the font and colour of the tail number as displayed on the aircraft! Proceed as follows.
FONT: insert or edit the line
         fontname can be Arial, Verdana or any other standard Windows font
         -hh is the font size (try between 01 and 99 till you find out the right size)
         vv is the font "boldness" of the font
         i is 0 for normal, -1 for italics
COLOUR: insert or edit the line
where rr, gg and bb are respectively the Red, Green and Blue hex values.
The following are the most typical RGB colours:
                Black 0x000000              White 0xffffff
         Dark Grey 0x404040        Medium Grey 0x808080      Light Grey 0xc0c0c0
         Dark Red 0x800000         Bright Red 0xff0000       Pink Red 0xff8080
         Dark Magenta 0x800080     Bright Magenta 0xff00ff   Orange 0xff8000

Dark Green 0x008000       Bright Green 0x00ff00     Fluorescent Green 0x80ff00
         Dark Blue 0x000080        Bright Blue 0x0000ff      Purple 0x8000ff
         Sky Blue 0x0080ff         Dark Cyan 0x008080        Bright Cyan 0x00ffff
         Brick Brown 0x804000      Olive Brown 0x808000
         Yellow 0xffff00
                   Light Yellow 0xffff80
Beware however of the following bug: if you have assigned a key to "Refresh Aircraft", more often than not, the refresh does NOT include the tail number! So, when changing it or its format as above, instead of simply refreshing the aircraft you have in view, go to another aircraft or variant and come back, thus forcing FS2004 to refresh it.


Some users complain that the Caravans taxi around even with Throttle idle, Condition Low Idle and different propeller settings. This is strictly realistic however! At idle settings, the real-life Caravan tends to taxi and to do so at quite a high speed. So in FS2004, as in the real aircraft, you have to use brakes and parking brakes to control that. Some addon aircraft panels carry a taxi gauge that sets the throttle to a desired fixed taxi speed.


This value can be set either in fs9.cfg or via the Settings-Display-Hardware dialogue in FS2004. If left to 0 (Unlimited), FS2004 will try to achieve the highest possible frame rates, leaving less processing power for other functions and thus producing frequent visual interruptions known as "stutters" and also sometimes less than perfect rendition of the scenery. So there is a consensus that the framerate should be limited (except for VFR scenery, see below). Normally any value above 20 is acceptable for comfortable flying including curves. If however you are using a CRT monitor, rather than using an arbitrary value, for optimal display refresh your FS2004 upper framerate limit should be a sub-multiple of your screen refresh rate in Hz, as in the following table:
          Hz    Recommended framerate limits
          60     60  30  20  15
          75     75  38  25  19  15
          85     85  43  28  21  17  14 
         100    100  50  33  25  20  17

W7: with current i5 or i7 CPUs, leave the framerate limit at 100.


This scenery needs a careful "ad-hoc" optimisation of FS2004 settings, in order to avoid the usual problems:
- slow load: up to 5 minutes or more just for a FS "flight" to load and start.
- blurries: especially if NOT flying "low and slow", detailed ground textures are slow to load and display, and sometimes they just do not show at all.
- decreased frame rates and stutters.
Optimisation will reduce the above problems to the best your PC can achieve, which will be always significantly better than your original default FS2004 setting. Though there are countless online opinions, by and large the following ones are based on the original VFR documentation and confirmed by our personal exhaustive tests. One of the
uncomfortable conclusions is that there is NO WAY to have your FS2004 optimally configured for flying BOTH inside and outside VFR. Let's state it in detail:
- in standard sceneries your CPU and graphics cards are struggling to display 3-D buildings and autogen objects
- in VFR the main workload is for your PC to read texture files from disk and for the CPU and graphics card to display them.
Accordingly it does not come as a surprise that the optimal parameters are different. The followin
g is a review of the parameters normally changed in this context. We show in italics those that we consider irrelevant here.
1) UPPER_FRAMERATE_LIMIT. The recommendations in our "UPPER FRAMERATE LIMIT" section above apply to standard sceneries but NOT to VFR where, counter to common sense perhaps, textures load MUCH FASTER if the framerate is left Unlimited (=0 in fs9.cfg)
2) TERRAIN_EXTENDED_TEXTURES. You turn this ON or OFF in FS2004 Settings-Display screens, which set the fs9.cfg value to 1 or 0. For normal sceneries is should always be set to ON, otherwise the ground textures will stop repeating at some distance and there will be an unnecessary un-texturised "green belt" between that distance and the horizon. In VFR instead no PC can load all-different textures up to the horizon: if you try you get lots of "blurries" not only far away but even just below yourself, as the detailed textures fail to load at the same rate as you fly around. So better leave this parameter OFF for VFR.
3) TERRAIN_AUTOGEN_DENSITY. Some PC Pilots may like higher values, but I am happy with a middle one (=3 in fs9.cfg). In VFR it should be not greater than 3. In VFR London they recommend 2, but my tests show no problems in using 3. Accordingly I suggest the use of 3 as a good average value for all sceneries.
4) TERRAIN_DEFAULT_RADIUS. This is the value changed by the "VFR Terrain Range Tool". Not selectable in FS2004 dialogues, it specifies the distance after which FS2004 mipmaps or blurs faraway textures. In standard scenery with repeating textures, the default value 4.0 is OK. For the unique textures of VFR they recommend a higher value of 7.5.
5) IMAGE_COMPLEXITY. For Visual Flight London the manual suggests a value not higher than Dense (=3). My tests however show that VFLondon is no different from other high-density sceneries. If your PC has reasonable framerates and stutters in Manhattan with a given Image Complexity, it will also work OK in VFLondon with the same setting.
6) GROUND_SHADOWS. For many mid-density sceneries like default Chicago and New York, most modern PCs can cope and produce beautiful building shadows. This is not true however with the thousands of objects in VFLondon, where Ground Shadows should be disabled or else your FS2004 performance will be abysmal.
7) TEXTURE_BANDWIDTH_MULT. The default value is 40. I read somewhere that 120 was better, a 2004 Computer Pilot issue recommends 400 but not higher. This should be irrelevant of whether you fly inside or outside VFR.
CONCLUSION: Use the four special settings suggested above and VFR - and VFLondon if you also have it - will run much better in your PC. Problem is, how do you change all those values back to fly in other parts of the world?. Certainly changing manually every time - or using different fs9.cfg files - is a bore. Solution: read on below.

Core i7 under W7: You can use Very Dense Scenery and Ground Shadows with no issue.


Read first my section on CONFIGURATION FILES - AUTOMATIC UPDATER . My updater is the ideal solution here. We just need two updater files, and the corresponding two shortcuts. They should be run before starting FS2004, one to fly inside VFR, the other outside. The changes thus obtained follow our section above "VFR ENGLAND & WALES & LONDON - OPTIMAL SETTINGS" and are as follows:
                                   VFR settings
                                   OFF   ON
     UPPER_FRAMERATE_LIMIT         28     0
     TERRAIN_DEFAULT_RADIUS        4.0   7.5
     GROUND_SHADOWS                 1     0
Find here zipped the two updater files for you to download.
You should edit the VFR-off file and change the "28" to whichever framerate limit fits your PC.
1) Download and install the AUTOMATIC UPDATER.
2) Find out where your fs9.cfg file is located. It will be a path like the following:
     "C:\Documents and Settings\YOURNAME\Application Data\Microsoft\FS9"
3) Unzip and copy the downloaded updater files to the above path.
     For brevity's sake I will refer to it as "XXX" below.
4) Within the folder where you have your FS2004 shortcuts, create the following new shortcuts:
     Shortcut Target                                             Shortcut Name
     ConfigUpdArg.vbs "XXX\fs9.cfg" "XXX\fs9-VFR-off.cfu"         VFR off
     ConfigUpdArg.vbs "XXX\fs9.cfg" "XXX\fs9-VFR-ON.cfu"          VFR ON
5) Copy your fs9.cfg file to fs9.cf0 as a backup just in case.
6) That's it! For each of the shortcuts you created, run it and see what happens on screen.
Then run FS2004 and see the results. You can also check the changes in the Display Settings.


Once Terrain Detail is set to Land Only or Land and Water, the result of the Water Effects setting is as follows:

None: dark stationary immobile waves.

Low: same plus strong reflection if looking towards the sun.

High: as above but the waves "move". Not a perfect effect, but certainly better than stationary waves like in a picture! Using some of the Water Textures and Reflections addons bring on some additional improvement.

I read in Computer Pilot 9,5 May 2005, p.50, that the High setting uses CPU rather than the graphics card, thusbringing down the frame rate. I tested all the possible alternatives in heavy Chicago port scenery (enhanced with a Chicago City addon), and I got very different results: there was absolutely no frame rate penalty (measured under unlimited frame rates setting), and no increase in CPU use either (monitored via a LCD display).

WEATHER - Saving a Real-Weather download

Guess everybody and his dog knows this one, but just in case ....
When you download weather, the weather station you select just tells FS which weather to START showing. FS loads into its memory the parameters for ALL THE WORLD weather at the time. When, just after downloading the weather (and before FS has some minutes to change it at random) you save a flight, you will notice that the flight's .WX file, instead of being the usual 200Kb in size, is now about 3,300Kb in size. Actually, you have automatically saved ALL THE WORLD weather that you downloaded! If you start that flight months later you get that day's weather, all around the world! (I have a flight with the weather of the famous Dublin fog of 24th April 2005).

TIP: To transfer a world weather between different installations of FS2004, just copy the flight's two files, with extensions .FLT and .WX. This way you can even produce a collection of real world weathers to be used at different times or even by friends or PCs without access to the Internet.


Page last updated:   20-Jan-2017