Believe it or not, the Microsoft Flight Simulator series, first released in November of 1982, is actually older than the company’s most iconic product: Windows. To celebrate its 40th anniversary, today the company released a free major update to the latest version of Flight Simulator that, among other aircraft, finally brings helicopters back to the game.
Microsoft Flight Simulator has benefitted from a few major updates this past year, including the Top Gun: Maverick expansion that arrived back in May and let players climb into the cockpit of an F-18 fighter and try their hand at the challenging missions featured in the blockbuster sequel, including aircraft carrier landings and flying to the edge of space in the fictitious hypersonic Darkstar.
Today’s free update—the biggest since the game’s initial release—was first teased back in August and is one fans have been excited for since 2006, as it marks the return of helicopters and gliders to the long-running series. Unless you’re into military combat, there haven’t really been a lot of great helicopter simulators available for PCs, and nearly none for consoles, which is more a symptom of helicopters being challenging to fly and even harder to accurately simulate. Assuming most gamers will be piloting the update’s new Bell 407 and Guimbal Cabri G2 helicopters using a gamepad (will someone please release a good wireless flight stick for the Xbox!) Microsoft has added quite a few assistive settings to Flight Simulator for the new aircraft to help ensure novice pilots spend more time in the air than on the ground.
In addition to the two helicopters, today’s update brings 10 additional fixed-winged aircraft, including an incredibly detailed and accurate Airbus A310-300 and a pair of gliders: the DG Aviation LS8-18 and DG-1001E neo. For those looking for a more leisurely simulated adventure, seven planes of historical note also join the game’s lineup: the 1903 Wright Flyer, a 1915 Curtiss JN-4 Jenny, Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis, a 1935 Douglas DC-3, a 1937 Grumman G-21 Goose, a 1947 Havilland DHC-2 Beaver, and Howard Hughes’ 1947 H-4 Hercules. That last one’s better known as the Spruce Goose, which was the largest wooden aircraft ever built.
The 40th Anniversary Edition also adds four airport updates: Hong Kong Kai Tak, Meigs Field in Chicago, Princess Juliana International in Saint Maarten, and the First Flight Airport at Kitty Hawk, where the Wright Brothers first took to the skies, as well as new pre-planned flight adventures and additional tutorials and missions for gliders, which require their own set of skills for take-off and staying airborne.