It gives me great pleasure to finally be able to speak with you all freely! All of us at Fenix Simulations have been waiting for the right time to show our creation off to the world. Today, after what feels like years of waiting, we’re finally happy lifting the covers off our A320.
A quick word on us, Fenix Sim has assembled some of the most experienced and talented developers in flight simulation, with a goal to prove that a high-fidelity simulation of a modern airliner in Microsoft Flight Simulator can be achieved without compromise.
To the meaty stuff, then. To start with, I will say this – Nothing here is a “planned development”, every feature showcased here or written about works, in-sim, and is complete!
Moving on to what this A320 is… Well, we believe this to be the most comprehensive and complete A320 simulator available to desktop consumers. Not just for MSFS, but across any platform. We have all the usual suspects you’d find in a full-fidelity simulation; 100% custom ground-up code, a bespoke (and complete) autoflight suite, ARINC424 rendering, full “physical simulation” of fluids and pneumatics (the air-mass simulation is a lot of fun, can’t wait for the update post specifically covering the pneumatic systems!), and a completely custom navigation environment that ensures reliable operation for the autoflight system (more on this later).
Our MCDU also has everything you know and love from A320 representations in the past, but with so much more; lateral offsets, ETPs, RTAs, and step climbs – features as yet unavailable in even the most complex X-Plane or ESP-based Airbus add-ons to date.
A core focus of ours was to not only ensure that our systems logic and behaviour was true to the real aircraft, but that you feel like you are operating an incredibly complex machine, quirks and all.
As part of this objective, we’ve enriched the MCDU with features that have not existed in scope for any developer, before today. For example, the A320 uses a GPS-aided inertial navigation system. GPS being satellite based, when coverage is low or non-existent, degraded navigational accuracy is to be expected. This has never been represented in a consumer simulator due to the immense amount of work required for such a small part of the aircraft. However, we have introduced and implemented NORAD algorithms for determining satellite location and velocity in Earth orbit by downloading GPS ephemeris data on startup, so if you fly in an area with degraded coverage in real life, our airplane knows this and will degrade your navigational performance accordingly in sim. Your RNP and ANP are now relevant and important to keep an eye on, especially when shooting those RNAV approaches. The airplane is therefore not simply the same aircraft you flew from A-to-B in your simulator. Instead, it is a constantly changing environment based on real-world influences, much like the real thing.
This brings us on to the navigation environment for this aircraft. To ensure that you can trust the airplane, and that it reliably and consistently does what you need it to do, the Fenix Sim A320 is rather different to many other add-ons. We synthesize our own navigation signals from all radios (hello, cone of silence!), ARINC424 data, and navaid data from Navigraph. These come together with the WMM (world magnetic model) that’s inside a modern FMS to ensure you get that last bit of fidelity, allowing us to calculate magnetic variation based on lat/lon/alt/date/time, so your magnetic variation will technically be different each day. All this essentially means that we are completely independent from internal MSFS navigation. This also represents one of the most complex navigation environments in any addon aircraft, let alone simply for MSFS.
If that wasn’t enough, we’ve also created an entire air-mass simulation, with pressure and temperature modeled. The air masses exchange heat between one another as they move through heat exchangers. Pressure goes up or down through a turbine or compressor, and temperature is modelled to the highest degree (sorry), and includes adiabatic and friction heating as the air mass moves through the airplane. Every single mix valve, recirculation valve, compressor, decompressor, pre-cooler and cooler is modelled. We’ve taken into account everything from the heat output of the passengers, down to the metal in the seats giving off residual heat to the air as you attempt to cool the cabin.
Additionally, we’ve simulated the cargo heat option, and in keeping with our standards, we had to find out the composition of “luggage”, and mixed the specific heat values of fabric, leather, and metal buckles to come up with a little algorithm that ensures that a full, laden belly will retain heat better than a half-full, or empty cargo compartment.
On to failures, a very popular topic amongst the forum threads and Discord channels after I’d mentioned “170 failures” a few days ago. In reality, there are actually 383 different triggerable faults, issues and emergencies. Please be aware that this number might appear huge but certain failures are duplicated as they appear on both the right and left side of the airplane – so you do indeed have roughly 170 unique things to break on the Fenix Sim A320. This doesn’t include circuit breakers as some hypothesised. As a preview – I have attached a failure list here for you to peruse, should you find yourself curious about what exactly you can and cannot break on this airplane. Quickly touching on the circuit breakers however, we have modelled 280 of them for you to explore if you so choose – but we’ll review that deeper in a separate post that dives deeper into the A320.
You may be wondering what the value is in simulating obscure systems and failures. For us this ties in with the ethos of what an Airbus is: a deeply complex airplane, with dozens of computers, and hundreds of mechanical components leaving you with a great sense of there being plenty occurring behind the scenes to keep it doing what you ask of it. This is a feeling we can’t easily provide without there being a great deal going on in your simulator too. So we went for it – because it adds an immense amount of gravitas to every one of your actions. For some, this may not matter, but for others, this attention to detail is essential. It is a testament to the love and attention lavished on this project.
Quickly covering the autoflight – we’ve put significant effort in ensuring LNAV and VNAV are fully and faithfully represented, and that the airplane behaves exactly as you’d expect: reliably. When it comes to autoflight, showing is always better than telling, so in the coming days, I will release a video of an autoland on our Discord so you can get a first look at the automatics in action. There are even newer flight modes such as FLS (FMS Landing System) – wherein the FMGS places a point near the selected runway, and uses this to calculate and render a virtual glideslope and localiser using the aircraft’s internal navigation database, to aid in non-precision procedures.
This is just a taste of what’s to come over the following system spotlights, where we’ll dive much, much deeper into our A320.
For now, I will wrap this up by covering the gorgeous visuals (which are still a work in progress!) – because this isn’t just a model put together with some reference images off the internet. It is scratch-built for MSFS, based on 3D scans of 5 different A320-family airframes, for utmost accuracy. This significantly elevates the visual fidelity we will be able to deliver – as seen in the images and short videos (shameless plug: more on our Discord, come say hello!) – I will leave a lot of detail out of this as some of the work done in this department is extraordinary and worthy of it’s own post. Dirt, grime, oil streaks – we’ve recreated the look of an in-service airframe that is the backbone for many airlines across the world. This extends to the interior; wear and tear takes its toll on aircraft that are constantly running cycles, switches gradually loosen and sit at different angles to new (accurately recreated using the 3D scan from the real thing’s overhead – check out the landing light switches!). One of my favorite features of the flight deck is the LCD simulation we’ve created for this airplane. Apart from just matching the resolution to the real A320, if you get up close and personal with one of the screens on the Fenix Sim A320, you will start seeing individual pixels instead of a single blurry texture. To top it all off, we absolutely had to simulate the horrible off-axis backlight bleed you get when not viewing the panels head on – so these displays behave just like the real deal, with simulated viewing angles.
As a reminder, everything I’ve told you about, is working. I’m not talking about an ambitious plan.
Being so feature-rich, one would be forgiven for looking up the value of their left kidney, and whilst we can’t reveal the exact price just yet, we think you’ll be happy with it.
I look forward to having you guys pop by and say hello on our Discord, and I already can’t wait to go through the MCDU deep dive on Friday!