Online charts, flight planning, and numerous other aviation aids for flight simulators have become prevalent in recent years. Sites like Sky Vector, Air Nav, Sim Brief, and many, many others are available to help you create, save, and execute a flight plan, and the vast majotiry of them are free of charge, although some may require registrati
Let's start with some of the obvious add-ons.
First on the list is a fairly new addition to the simming community entitled Little NavMap. LNM is a very comprehensive piece of software, fully compatable with nearly all current simulators, including Microsoft Flight Simulator. It even incorporates Navigraph AIRAC cycles (requires subscription to Navigraph) into its own database. It has a complete flight planning capability, can display moving maps, and even export flight plans to your favorite flight simulator or other software, such as RealityXP's Garmin add-ons. Best of all, it's freeware!
Next up is Flight Sim Commander. This is a payware add-on, and it is failry well compatable with everything FSX and up, and can be connected with and used in X-Plane 10 and 11. It appears to be a little archaic in form, but functions quite well, and in my opinion is well worth its meager cost. You can create and save flight plans in a vast array of formats, although it doesn't do very well in creating FMS plans and will not create X-Plane flight plans.
FS Tramp is absolutley amazing, and will be incredibly familiar to anyone who used FSNavigator for earlier Microsoft-based flight simulators. It was definitely one of my favorites. Flight plans are just as easily created and saved now as they were 10-15 years ago, and can redily be shared among pilots connected to a multiplayer session with a few mouse clicks. The only drawback, and the only reason I no longer use it, is that they have moved to a subscription-based payware system. I'm not sure what they were thinking when they did this, but it turned quite a few people off their product. The subscription is meager, and it is a fantastic add-on, but remember that it will not work with any of the X-Plane products, and may be limited with P3D functions. I welcome more input on this on our forum...
Plan-G is as close to a complete, free, planning and tracking solution as you will find. It is still being developed, uses free and current maps, and imports data from whatever simulator you choose to fly, with the exception of X-Plane 11. It is mostly intended for VFR, but you can use it for an IFR plan if you know your route. Unlike either of the above add-ons, there is no automatic route generation. Your best bet is to import a previously-created plan, such as is available with our multiplayer sessions or drag and drop to create your own. It's a little sluggish right out of the box (download), because it has to load each map the first time you use it. After that, though, it becomes more crisp and responsive.
The last add-on I will discuss here is Navigraph. It is your complete chart, approach, and enroute solution, although it is NOT a planner. This takes the place of a suitcase full of chart books, like the set our dear departed Dave Arnold sent me from Alaska several years ago. It is cinstantly kept up to date and even runs in the background, performing updates as needed to ensure you always have the most up-to-date charts.
Here is a brief list of sites you can use for planning and charts;
In the end, we are moving towards less controlled routes, allowing the pilot to be more creative in making and flying their flight plans, and to that end, these are just a few tools that are available to assist in planning and executing a route. As usual, I welcome any input.